Ah, a new year. You're just on the other side of overindulgence, overspending, and just plain overdoing. You lift your groggy head to the world and it says…

Rah! Rah! Rah! 2017 is your year! OMG! Go! Go! Go! Do ALLLLLLLLLLL the things!!!!!

As good as all that New Year = New You stuff feels, the reality is that you’re a business owner. You can't do all the things. Trust us, we tried. (Then we built Admin Slayer.)

You likely have a million ideas right now (Start a podcast! Spend more time on Twitter! Run a contest!), and while you can't do all the things, you should do some of the things. What will be tough is deciding which projects to take on, and where to spend your all-too-limited budget. 

We can't tell you exactly which projects will work for you and your business, but we can share with you our method for testing new ideas - we have so many ideas - so you can take advantage of opportunities without killing yourself or your bank balance. 

The Hudson’s Bay Start

If you’re a Canadian, you know all about this illustrious company that built a legacy on trapping and hunting in Colonial Canada (and a reputation). What you may not know is that they managed to outlast other similar companies thanks to one key practice: The Hudson’s Bay Start.

Canada’s winter wilderness is not for the faint of heart. Surviving in it for months two or three centuries ago was serious business. The Hudson’s Bay Company’s competitors quite literally died out. Here’s how they stayed alive:

Before every excursion, the fur traders would pack their equipment, set off in their canoes, and camp - a short distance from home, just for one night. 

Why go to all the trouble for just one night? Why not spend one more night in warmth and safety? Given the limitations of the short trading season, this false start cost the traders precious time. But the difference between life and death could be made by that one supply item that was forgotten and discovered during this test run. Unlike other traders, the Hudson’s Bay Company had everything they needed for each expedition. Mistakes were corrected, traders survived, and business continued - thanks to this easy but time consuming risk management tool - for well over 300 years. 

Your Hudson’s Bay Start

How can you put this proven method to work? We are so glad you asked!!

Before the expedition

  • Choose an area you’d like to develop in your business.

  • Set a limit on the amount of resources you’re willing to commit. Make peace with the fact that you may lose everything you risk here. By setting this limit, you’re less likely to fall prey to the ‘sunk cost fallacy.’ If your expedition is a bust, you need to know when to cut your losses, and it’s easier to do that early on, before you get emotionally invested in a project.

  • On that note, it’s good to remind yourself that even if your experiment doesn’t turn out the way you’re hoping it will, that doesn’t mean it’s a failure. Finding out that a certain something doesn’t work is productive. Failing to recognize that it’s not working and continuing to put effort in, however, is not. 

Taking the leap

Here are some examples of projects you can try.

Business area:

  • Content marketing

Common mistake: 

  • Start a blog! And then realize how much time it takes and abandon it after your 4th post. Leave the blogs and all the announcements on your website so everyone can see how inconsistent you are.

Your Hudson's Bay Start:

  • Write one article.
  • What did you like/not like about the process? How can you improve both the process and the writing?
  • How many ideas can you come up with?
  • How often can you reasonably commit to completing an article? Is that effective enough to achieve your end goal, or is this something you can outsource?

Then:  

  • Commit to doing one original article a month.
  • Develop a content calendar* for inspiration and article ideas.
  • Book time off to research, write, and edit. Recognize which parts of this process you aren’t good at and dislike, and outsource* them.

*Yes, we do that


Business area:

  • Email marketing

Common mistake: 

  • Announce your new monthly newsletter, send out one, and then forget about it for another two months. Remember it, and start to hate it. Reflect your hatred in the low quality delivery of your product.

Your Hudson's Bay Start: 

  • Look into email newsletters you actually read. Not that many, are there?
  • Make a list: What do you like? What don’t you like? Create a clear vision of what your email newsletter is supposed to achieve, and the message you want to deliver.
  • Then send one, without making any promises. Ask for feedback in a survey, with a list of items that your audience might want to see. In exchange, offer them something nice - like a prize - for filling out your feedback.

Then:

  • Create a structure for your newsletter. A template* will help you stay consistent and on message without having to reinvent the wheel every time.
  • Develop a content calendar* for inspiration and messaging consistency.
  • Create a timeline to research, write, edit, and build your newsletter. Recognize which parts of this process you aren’t good at and dislike, and outsource* them.

*Yes, we do that


Business area:

  • Social Media

Common mistake: 

  • Open a bunch of profiles on social media channels. Follow 5 or 6 people. Post 3 things, promising more to come. Allow your social media presence to die on the line.

Your Hudson's Bay Start: 

  • Get an understanding of which social media channels your audience actually uses.
  • Which ones are you using already?
  • What does your audience like to read? Who do they interact with?
  • Ask your existing clients (or those you want as clients): what do they like to read? Which channels/companies/individuals do they interact with? Look them up. What do they have in common?
  • Start with one channel*, hopefully one you feel comfortable with, and make a commitment to read and interact regularly. Social media is just that - social. It’s not an advertising channel, and the key here is building relationships.

*Yes, we do that

Then:

  • Once you know what kind of commitment social media requires, and have examined your own involvement, determine whether or not this is (1) useful and (2) something you enjoy.
  • Using your content calendar*, develop a posting/interaction process. How often will you be posting/interacting? What part of it do you like/dislike? What can you outsource, and what should you keep?
  • Remember that messaging and branding remain important with social media, just like with your website and your in-person delivery. You must be consistent. That’s why we keep repeating the content calendar; it’s how you stay that way.

*Yes, we do that


Business area:

  • Advertising

Common mistake: 

  • You spend $X for an advertising campaign that lasts 6 months because you got a great deal on the package.  You slam out a piece as quick as possible to take advantage of the great deal. Six months later, your unfocused campaign receives no responses or clicks.

Your Hudson's Bay Start: 

  • Figure out what media your audience is actually interacting with.
  • Ask other businesses that advertise in that channel what their experience was like. Did they receive responses? Was the cost worth the business? Did they have differing levels of responses based on season/type of advertising?
  • Determine what you want to achieve with advertising. More visits to your location/website? Building a following? Actual direct sales? Get focused.
  • Craft one piece* in the best potential channel, with a specific result in mind. Make it look professional. Half-assed ads look half-assed and make your company look worse than if you had no ads.

*Yes, we do that

Then:

  • Review the results. Did the advertisement achieve the minimum result you were looking for? What can you change/tweak/adjust to make it better?
  • Trust us, this was cheaper than a 6 month campaign that didn’t work.

Business area:

  • Hiring

Common mistake: 

  • You need someone - now! You hire the cheapest person you can find, spend very little time training them, and discover they are not a fit and/or can’t do the work you needed them to do.

Your Hudson's Bay Start: 

  • Create a project*, with expectations and instructions. Give this to potential hires (and pay them to do it). Review the output - and find your match.
  • Yes, that might mean paying a few people for terrible work. But that’s a few people one time as opposed to one person many times.

*Yes, we do that

Then:

  • Really nail down what you liked/didn’t like and what you need/don’t need. Understand that most people can’t be amazing at every aspect of your business and it’s better to hire two amazing part-timers than one full-timer who is excellent at one thing but terrible at another (or, you know, you could hire our team and we can allocate the right people…)

Business area:

  • Business Partnerships

Common mistake: 

  • You met someone! They’re amazing! You partner up.
  • 1 year later, you hate them. Then you break up and it costs you money and reputation.

Your Hudson's Bay Start: 

  • GO SLOW. Seriously. Do one or two projects together, with minimal commitment. Get to know how they work. Understand what is important to them.

Then:

  • This is actually a book. There’s so much here. But take it slow. Business partnerships are marriages, and few divorces are happy.

Ready to start your new year/new you methodically, intelligently, and with minimal risk? That’s a terrible tag line, but so much better than leaping in blindly. Need some help figuring out how to create a Hudson’s Bay Start in your business? Talk to us. We’re here to help.