It’s been just over a year since we launched FirstSeven Consulting. We thought this would be a good time to take a look back and take note of what we’ve learned and how we’ve evolved.
When we think of where we started, in some respects we feel like we’ve come really far in just a year. That said, we can only chuckle when we look back at the original draft of our year one sales projections (boy were were naively optimistic!).
When we started we were so passionate (we still are!) about what we were going to offer. We had the background and collectively, we had many (but certainly not all) of the skills we thought we needed to launch this company. We identified a need in the market and believed we offered a solution to an existing problem. We were confident in our ability to craft and deliver our message to groups of professionals. We truly believed that our training sessions would really make a difference in the careers of many men and women. We still believe this, in fact our belief has only been reinforced by the successful training sessions we’ve held this past year and the positive reviews we’ve received!
What we didn’t anticipate was how challenging it would be to a) identify the decision makers and b) convince these decision makers of our value. Every company has a different structure, so identifying the right department, and contact within that department, is key.
Once we identified who we thought to be the best contact, our pitch was generally really well received and we left these initial meetings energized and pretty optimistic. What we failed to take into account early on was the lengthy approval processes many companies require prior to signing off on a new “vendor’ or expenditure. We learned that when we could be involved in speaking to all of the individuals along the way, we had much more successful outcomes.
Another key challenge was actually raising awareness of the problem we solve. In an earlier life, Stacy spent many years in advertising and media strategy and she often referenced her days launching pharmaceutical or luxury skincare and makeup products. These new products filled a consumer need state or solved a problem (to put in simply). Companies invested lots of money raising awareness of the problem or need state, prior to launching the specific product. To circle back to FirstSeven, we learned that setting up our conversation around the need for our service was a successful approach. We continue to try to raise awareness via our blog and social media (we definitely need to increase our reach and scale on these platforms though). It's a priority for year two!
We also learned that our message could be misunderstood. We were very close to finalizing a contract with a blue chip corporation here in New York. Our contacts at the company were looking forward to our presentation and were extremely supportive. Our contacts needed final approval from a senior leader (who had not been present at any of our initial meetings) and the senior leader would not approve the proposal and said it felt ‘frivolous’. It hurts me to write this, we took this comment so personally, but we also were able to learn from it and evolve our message accordingly. That experience caused us to take a hard look at our entire approach. We learned that talking about the benefit that investing in employee learning and development programs, in general, has for both companies and employees was something that really resonated with most people. From there we were able to show how working with FirstSeven fills in key gaps that most companies have in their career development programs. Also weaving in research and data into our story is compelling as was talking about the role that appearance plays in executive presence.
Lastly, when we launched FirstSeven we were focusing on female professionals. While we have experience styling men, we felt that women would be much more open to our content. However, we have conducted a few training sessions with men and they were fantastic! The men were very engaged and they felt they learned something new that they could implement in their daily lives. This was a huge learning and it allow us to expand our target market!
We hope to be writing another ‘year in review’ post next year with lots of new updates (and hopefully lots of new readers too!). Launching our own business isn’t easy but we’ve learned so much and cannot wait to see what next year brings!
Our very first session!
Women's networking event for a finance company, in Brooklyn Heights
Global law firm
Women's Leadership Conference