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5 Keys to Sustainable Business Growth as Hyphen Turns 5

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4 min read

Did you hear that pop? Somewhere, in an alternate universe where everyone can gather for a party, we just popped a big old bottle of champagne to celebrate Hyphen’s 5th birthday.

We’re also celebrating sustainable business growth, as this has been central to our plans from the start.

If you’re seeking ideas or inspiration for driving sustainable growth of your business, read on for 5 key strategies that have helped us come this far.

To Grow Sustainably, Start With Sustainable Goals

We’ve never aimed to become huge or achieve overnight success. Instead, our aims include developing meaningful relationships, doing challenging work we can be proud of, having weekends free, and building a business with staying power.

We want to contribute to stronger communities and a healthier planet, and to have fun doing it.

We don’t claim to have all the answers, and we certainly had to navigate some bumps during our first 5 years. Yet we’re still here and still growing (no small feat given that ~50% of businesses fail to make it past 5 years).

5 Keys to Sustainable Business Growth:

1. Building Our Team Around Culture

Let’s be real: great teams don’t happen by accident. Instead, they’re built thoughtfully around a shared culture. It can take time to find the right fit – people who share your vision, values, and spirit of collaboration – but it’s so worth it.

When we hire at Hyphen, we don’t look simply at abilities. In fact, we often don’t even touch on abilities during a first interview. We focus instead on interests, personality, and understanding what makes a candidate tick. We have multiple conversations and have the candidate chat with every team member.

2. Aligning Our Goals With Those of Our Clients

When you and your clients are aligned and aiming for the same goals, magic happens. For this to occur, though, you need to ensure your business model is not incentivizing you to do one thing when your client needs you to do something else.

For Hyphen, this has meant developing a business model prioritizing long-term, retainer-based engagements rooted in offering value, delivering results, and achieving fair profitability. This allows us to become true partners to our clients. We gain a deeper understanding of their business and goals and proactively seek out ways to help them move the needle without worrying about billing codes or watching the clock.

At University of Toronto, Mississauga campus, Richard Lee is introducing Institute for Management & Innovation (IMI) to brand identity variations. With so many stakeholders involved, this process is a lengthy one, during which we ensure nobody is rushed and everyone is heard.

3. Leaning On External Expertise When Needed

As a business owner, you want to stretch your budget, especially when you’re starting out. Often, this means trying to do everything yourself. After all, it can’t be that hard to make a logo, create a video, renovate an office… right?

Although we’ve been guilty of this at times, we learned early on the value of turning to external expertise. For example, even though branding falls squarely in our wheelhouse, it took new ideas from an external partner to help us come up with the Hyphen name. Same goes for things like incorporating our business, decorating our office, and doing our monthly bookkeeping – we’ve benefited enormously from partnering with other experts on these tasks.

Trish Feistner, our amazing accounts receivables/ payables/ bookkeeper but really, our friend, confidant & amazing human we’re lucky to work with. If there’s a ‘type’ for bookkeepers, Trish smashes it and then some. We don’t like to settle for ‘the usual’ because there are people out there who want to do things differently, the right way, & it’s our aim to find them and work with them.

4. Being Creative In Putting Ourselves Out There

Growing a business takes more than simply launching a website or hanging up an ‘Open’ sign. You have to put yourself out there.

We’ve found creative ways to do this over the years, including a two-year partnership as a presenting partner at the World Trade Centre Toronto, Trade Accelerator Program. This put us in the room with businesses from across Ontario and allowed us to showcase our expertise while providing them with valuable guidance to support their international trade goals.

Nat Korol & Richard Lee at the Word Trade Centre Toronto, TAP event in 2018. We’ve met many wonderful people in the TRBOT and the TAP communities. Thanks to them, we’ve learned a lot, especially that putting yourself out there is so vital for a business.

5. Putting Our Money Where Our Mouth Is

Great businesses are propelled by a clear purpose and values, and these need to be more than just words. You have to be truly committed to them.

At Hyphen, we believe in creative as a force for good and that change must start with us. Nice words, right? Yet rather than simply talking a big game, we’re also putting our money where our mouth is. For example, as a member of 1% for the Planet, we are committed to donating 1% of our annual sales to environmental organizations with direct-action agendas related to pollution and a commitment to long-term change.

Learning As We Go

We’re proud of how far we’ve come in 5 years. Although we believe we’ve found a good formula for sustainable business growth, we’re continuing to learn as we go – from both our successes and our failures.

What has worked for us may not work for you, yet hopefully it provides inspiration for your own path to sustainable growth.

Finally, to everyone who has helped us along the way and is continuing with us on this journey: thank you!

Nat

Nat Korol

Partner | Marketing Strategy

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