We started a business during Covid-19. Here’s what we learned.

September 21, 2020

It’s official. We have been trading for a little over 6 months. When we started out in the last week of February, little did we know what would be in store for us, or for the rest of the world. We can already see the book title “Hindsight in 2020: Starting a business during a global pandemic”.

James at the first Tenx office.

There never is a good time to start a business and there never is a bad time to start a business. There is just, a time. Our time just happened to start on the cusp of Covid-19. It’s been a rollercoaster. You know what they say about rollercoasters right? They’re a hell of a lot of fun & you get hooked easily, but the risk of throwing up at any moment is extremely high.

Honestly, it’s been one of the best things that we have ever done. Yes, It’s been tough. Yes, it’s been stressful. Yes, it’s been frustrating. But at the end of the day, it’s been great to wake up each & every day working on things that we want to work on. It’s been great being able to do things the way we want to do things. It’s actually been a lot of fun. Not many people can say that about the last six months - but for us at TenX, the last six months have been a blast. We feel privileged.

If you don’t already know what we do, allow us to elaborate. TenX is a human-centred design and technology studio, making it easy to transform your business, without the risk, or the cost. Our value proposition resonates with companies of all sizes and what we do is especially relevant in the current harsh economic climate. Our business is different from traditional consultants, and we are different too. We like that, and we hope that our client’s like that too. We work hard for them, and we have already seen that our work has a considerable impact on their business. We have “revolutionised’ one client’s business, delivered “real outcomes” for another client, and “exceeded the expectations” of another. They’re just some of the quotes from our some of our clients.

Making an impact is extremely satisfying. We tell them the hard things that they don’t want to hear, but that they need to hear. Ultimately we end up saving them time, money & wasted effort on things that won’t work, and instead allow them to focus on things that there is reasonable certainty will work. We get a kick out of invalidating things. We treat it as a challenge to prove them wrong. If it can’t be proved wrong, then we know they are onto a winner. Our services don’t cost the earth, and the return is clear from the start. It just works.

It hasn’t always been easy. After a couple of curveballs at the start and in the middle, we are finally building some momentum. Overall, it’s been an interesting 6 months. There is so much that we have learned along the way. Some things we knew we didn’t know, other things we didn’t know we didn’t know. Every day has been a learning day. This list could easily be 20 things but we’ll limit it to 6.

We started a business during Covid-19. Here’s what we learned.

It’s intoxicating.

The freedom that working on your own business provides is unparalleled. It’s actually difficult to explain: it’s beyond liberating. It’s a state of Zen.

Owning the P&L is exponentially different from being responsible for P&L.

The impact of decision making is drastically different from working in a business where you are a Product Manager and responsible for P&L. We know where every cent goes. We know when every bill is due. We know when every invoice is due. We have intimate knowledge of our margins. We know the cost of a 15-minute Zoom call. We understand the impact of a long sales cycle on our operating costs. We obsess over subscription costs. We argue over money spent. We argue because we know that each cent we spend has to be justified. We know that an error in decision making can lead to a material impact on our business. A material impact on our business isn’t something that can be hidden elsewhere or washed up in a line item. A material impact on our business means that it’s game over, and the dream is gone.

Big businesses are being left behind through their own inactivity.

At the best of times, the majority of traditional big business in New Zealand are risk-averse. In COVID times, this aversion has gone into overdrive. The challenger brands in New Zealand are smelling blood. They’re on the attack. They can sense that now is their time to close ground on the incumbents. In a lot of cases, they are making serious traction. The worrying thing for big businesses is that from what we have seen, we are not sure that they’ll be able to defend their position for much longer. They might not have the adaptability in their business to defend when the purses have been opened again. Consumers are extremely sensitive to prices at the moment and expect memorable experiences. The behemoths don’t seem to be able to cater for either. Challenger brands, with nimble operating models & closer contact to customers, are seizing the opportunity. It’s a worrying time to be a big business in New Zealand.

Always be selling.

We have had TWO long-term contracts cancelled. Not one, but two. Both within about 6 hours of each other. On a Friday. Force Majeure clause enacted for both. It’s been difficult, but it hasn’t broken us. If anything, it has made us stronger. We’ve dusted ourselves off, and we have gone again and earned more clients. There’s something powerful around the feeling of being knocked down and being able to get back up. It builds resilience. We’re cockroaches. Contracts are still important but we’ve learned that you can never rest on your laurels. A contract is a contract until it’s not. Always be selling.

No response is a response.

A tip for anybody dealing with a small business. Please don’t ask for further information to be provided to only then ghost them. It takes time & effort. If you are not interested in the service, then you can either politely or abruptly say so. Everyone's a winner in that situation. We have had instances where extremely positive conversations have suddenly gone ice-cold. We quickly learned that no response is actually a no response. The sad reality of it is that not responding says more about you & your business than anything else. It leaves a lasting taste. A taste that at some stage might come back to haunt you.

There is so much admin.

There are two full-time employees in our business, along with additional on-demand humans when required. Ultimately not a huge amount of people but on-my-word there is so much administration. It feels endless. There is so much admin in just running a business (hey IRD if you are reading this, please stop sending multiple notifications about trivial items), nevermind managing clients and planning work. You’ll know we are successful when we have someone doing the admin for us. Or maybe not, we’re automating as much as we can today. Maybe one day, everything will be automated.

To repeat. Always be selling.

Now that you’ve read this far it’s time to check out the services we have on offer: Business Transformation, Spacial Innovation, Product Development or Capability & Culture .

Get in contact to let us know what you are trying to achieve.  If you have less than 100 employees and want to hire us, you may be able to get up to $5,000 fully-funded and part-funded through the regional business partner network.

You won’t be disappointed. We can guarantee with reasonable certainty that we will save you time, save you money and reduce your risk profile.

Have a nice day day & stay safe.

Eoghan & James.

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