Four Lessons in Business Development from a Start-up Agency

By Greg Cunneyworth, Co-founder and Creative Director, We Make Nice Websites

It’s no secret that many start-up companies struggle to get off the ground. Many aren’t even able to make it past the 2-year mark, with 30% closing in that time frame according to the Federal Small Business Administration. In January, the digital design agency I co-founded in 2010, We Make Nice Websites, will be celebrating its 3-year anniversary.

Bobby Gaafar, co-founder of a successful social media agency in New York City says “it’s best to start a company when you’re young.” He states young people are a little bit more “reckless” and have less to lose. I think that statement is true, but for our company, early success was about a combination of many things. Good timing, our lifestyle, our work ethic, the ability to learn from others, and passion for design came into play. As we continue to grow, we invest in our ideas, our creativity, and believe in ourselves. We can only hope that others will too.

By no means has this accomplishment come easy to my partners and I (especially because all of us are first-time entrepreneurs), but we have found a way to do a few things right and achieve this milestone. In this post, I share four lessons we learned after we started our business, and how we achieved the goals set for our company and ourselves.

Investing Time

Like many start-ups, we began ours in a home-office with just a couple of desks, a few computers, and most importantly plenty of time to spend building the company. Luckily for us, in our industry, there isn’t much of a need to invest financially. Instead, we worked hard at establishing our own brand, learning the business of design, and learning how to complete a project from beginning to end. We not only invested in our company, but we invested in ourselves. Start-ups who don’t have the resources to invest enough man-hours into establishing their company, often close their doors soon after they open. Or worse, never have a chance to open them.

Building Relationships

After six months, we left the suburban home-office and rented a loft studio in downtown Rochester, NY. Making this commitment was one of the most important things we did as a young company. It not only made us more credible and dedicated to our work, but also allowed us the opportunity to meet other companies and business leaders. People began to notice our work ethic and most importantly talked about us to others. From that, we gained exposure and thus relationships that would have otherwise been impossible to obtain solely working from home. Networking and relationship building is crucial to the success of any business. You’re more likely to win business if people trust and connect with you.

Work Distributionsmall business start-up agency business development

Another important step my business partner and I took towards building the company was adding a third partner soon after we started. At the time, distributing part of the work to a third person, may have seemed like it was taking a hit to our bottom line, but in reality, it did the opposite.  It allowed everyone to focus and commit to a particular part of the business that they were best suited for. Taking responsibility for our own tasks created a sturdy tripod which also allowed for a solid checks and balances for the business.


Being honest with yourself helps open up the opportunity for everyone to ask the question, “how can we do this better?” And to consistently self-evaluate and take action as needed is critical to a start-up. It’s critical because the failure to evolve over time can be detrimental. Start-ups must quickly learn from their flaws and work towards making changes that help better the company as a whole. Failure to do this can often result in a slow and painful demise.

This advice can apply to any industry and business of any size. Share with us in the comments section how you move forward to achieve your career goals?


The content shared in this blog post is the author’s opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of Xerox. Greg Cunneyworth is the co-founder and creative director of a Rochester-based design agency called We Make Nice Websites and participated in the Xerox Future of Work Dreaming Session in June 2012.

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