We have decided to honestly document some of our lessons collected over the first six months of operation. We hope it helps people.
We have tried to gear our efforts towards expectation managing others who may be considering the challenge. In doing so, we will be brutally honest with ourselves and you. It’s the ‘Eighth Mile’ way.
The Eighth Mile Consulting officially launched on 01 January this year (2019). At its launch, the team consisted of just the two of us. We had known each other for 14 years in the Australian Army as Infantry Officers and we were confident that whatever happened, we could trust each other. We knew that we had very different ways of thinking. We knew our strengths and weaknesses very well.
This was a good foundation bedrock from which to launch a business. People who knows us well, know that we are also brutally honest, and we wear our reputation on our sleeve. Above all else, we also like helping good people. So here goes…
What Did We ‘Know?’
- Right platform. We needed a platform that allowed us to explore all of our crazy ideas that we had been suggesting over the years.
- Only work with good people. We would only support good people, projects and initiatives. We would outright refuse to support anything that doesn’t align with ‘Good People, Helping Good People’.
- Aim to Grow. We wanted to grow our influence in order to help more people. Secondly, we are good at making friends and we are good at what we do. We made an educated guess that there were many others that would fit into this ridiculously simple criterion, and therefore we could grow our team. We also knew that we needed people who were not like us in order to cover our gaps.
- Abort Criteria. If it jeopardised our reputations, our values or our friendship, we would turn it off.
- Strength in numbers. Consulting was a highly competitive industry, and we would grow our influence by doing what we do best; forming teams of like-minded people that support positive causes. We would leverage off their well earned reputations and networks, and they would leverage off of ours.
- Protect the brand. We would protect the reputation of the brand at all costs, even if it cost us our growth. We are fiercely protective of our brand.
- No investor funding. We would back ourselves and launch without investor funding. The risk of this was somewhat mitigated by relatively low overheads when compared to other business types. But it also meant we would have to work fast and be very targeted in our approach in order to source revenue for the company.
- Bite the bullet and operate by the book. Jonathan and I have skills and qualifications developed over many years, but we were reasonably weak at financial processing and legal administration. We knew outright that we would need to seek external help on an ongoing basis to make sure we got everything right and by the book.
What We Didn’t Know At The Time Of Launch (Top three)
- How many good people there are out there, and how many needed our help. It is difficult to measure, so we went with a gut feeling. We were right, there are heaps of them out there and we haven’t even scratched the surface yet.
- How we would be received by the market and by others. Would we be just another one of those small ‘wannabe’ firms that gets lost in the white noise. This is too early to tell. But we hope that even if this did occur, we would have left the market with a positive impact by having supported some incredibly positive initiatives.
- How powerful our existing network was. Our background was largely Defence, with a comparatively smaller commercial & corporate network from our time in the corporate environment. Turns out we had an incredibly influential and impacting community network that sometimes lay dormant until prompted.
We are eternally thankful to everyone who has helped our team. We could not have launched this without your unwavering support and loyalty.
What We Still Don’t Know
- The scope and scale of emerging industries and opportunities. We have our eye on a number of emerging industries, which I believe will have a profoundly positive impact on the world.
- How we are perceived from the outside. We imagine that there are still a number of fence sitters watching us from afar wondering if we will fall off the perch or not. Sorry to say team, we are embedded like an Alabama tick now. More LinkedIn posts coming your way about positive projects. No apologies.
Top Lessons Learnt
- Ask for help and be humble. We gained momentum by biting our pride early and seeking help from others including friends, family, and all available networks. In doing so we rekindled relationships with lost friends, and I am so grateful I did. The Eighth Mile has been one of the most positive decisions we have made as a result.
- There are bad people. Some people lose their way in life and turn to the dark side. In the short time we have been operating, we have already encountered:
- Some people steal your ideas and don’t acknowledge your input.
- Some people don’t take you seriously because you are a small firm, and therefore make assumptions about your competence.
- Not all the people you expect to support you, will. However, people you didn’t consider, will come out of the woodwork to help.
- You learn quickly who your friends are…and were.
- Understanding the context behind an interaction could mean the difference between an enduring relationship or a burnt bridge.
- Not everyone is operating by the same positive values as you.
Sometimes these events hurt at a personal level, particularly after having been so careful to screen prospects through the ‘good people’ filters.
- It can be difficult to monetise only supporting good projects. We knew early that this would be difficult, but people are now approaching us about having our positive brand associated with their projects. The difficulty lies with those organisations that are on the fence. They might have good people, but they are doing a questionable project, or vice versa. In those instances, we as a team make a judgement call and see whether we can help them in the areas they need improvement. By in large, most people and organisations are trying to do the right thing.
- You must explain when you are offering advice or it’s a paid service. In doing so, know your value.
- Find a gap. You need to become relevant… quickly. Our backgrounds have taught us to support whatever team you’re in. At times this requires learning new skills, lifting heavy things, and doing things you don’t want to do.
- Small business can be fragile. Cash flow and time are the lifeblood of small business. Making simple mistakes can be very costly. In our case, we invested too much time into the wrong people, which unfortunately drew our attention away from those who were doing good things for others.
Summary – Moving Forward
Positives. We have grown from two to six staff (in varying capacities) in the six months. We have good people approaching us for projects and for jobs. We are finding gaps in new industries that no one else has yet seen. Our brand appears to be well received and is now being associated with positive initiatives.
Focus Areas over the next 6 months.
- Changing people’s perception of The Eighth Mile from being just ‘Dave & Jono’ to a growing business that currently includes six amazingly capable individuals we are very proud of.
- Cementing our presence in a number of new industries. If you think we can contribute to a positive industry, we might not have considered yet. Please contact us for a chat!
- Cement our physical presence within the Sunshine Coast area in Queensland, Australia.
- Communicating our capabilities more effectively.
- Continue supporting our current clients in making a positive legacy.
- Continue supporting veterans, emergency services and first responders as part of an enduring effort
- Grow our staff pool and influence
- Build our support to the local community Jon
Every six months from now, we will release an article which captures our lessons learnt in an effort to help more people considering the challenge.
If you would like to see some of our other articles they can be accessed via our website: The Eighth Mile Consulting
Dave and Jono