12 Lessons I’ve Learned In My First Year Of Business: Anna Anderson, Kindred | sheerluxe.com
Anna Anderson is the founder of Kindred, a members’ club in Hammersmith. A shared workspace by day and sophisticated event venue by night, Kindred has a restaurant, café and bar for non-members, too. As the club celebrates its first birthday, we sat down with Anna to discover why the first year of business is often the hardest, and what she's learnt along the way...
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Name Your Values

Everyone holds a set of values intrinsic to who they are, and if you’re building a business it’s natural you’ll be building these into the framework. Don’t assume people will automatically be aligned with your values, no matter how natural they feel to you. Name your values: write them down and explain how they should play out in practice.

Define What Your Version Of Success Looks Like

For Kindred, I wanted to tangibly prove that building a community-focused space could be profitable. Two key versions of success for us are “Are we building community?” and “Do people feel less lonely than they did before they found us?”. These are hard to measure, and it takes an element of holding your nerve, but I’ve found focusing on these kinds of success goals first, even before looking at your bottom line, means the money often follows. Our customers and members are much more willing to spend their money with us if they can see and feel that we genuinely practice what we preach.

‘Purpose’ Is More Than A Buzzword

I heard this word a lot in 2019. But people are getting pretty savvy to businesses that talk the ‘purpose’ talk but are inauthentic in their actions. Everything we do is centred around benefiting our community of co-working and social members: whether that’s collaborating with SheerLuxe for its annual Entrepreneurs’ Day or the live recording of The TED Interview podcast with Es Devlin (stage designer to Beyoncé, Adele and Kanye West) one of our missions is to offer members thought-leading events and experiences.

Community Is Something People Will Pay For

No matter what your business is, building a loyal tribe who will sell you and what you’re doing to their friends is the best you could hope for, and far more effective than the flashiest marketing strategy. If people are excited about something, they naturally want to share it with their friends – and if what you’re selling is the opportunity to join an active and exciting community of like-minded people, even better. Whatever it is your business does, there’s always room to build a community around it.

Stay Flexible

The business plan I had in place before we started bears almost no resemblance to the business plan I have now. My slightly naive initial set of assumptions of how I thought our members and customers would behave were blown out the water early on. So instead, I decided to listen carefully to what our members wanted and allowed them to build Kindred with us. We built flexibility in early, never setting anything in stone until we are absolutely sure our customers loved it. We’re always willing to be proved wrong.

Allow Yourself To Be Held Accountable

Build in practices of accountability in your team rather than leaning too much on a top-down hierarchical approach. It’ll bring out the best in your people. Just because you’re the boss doesn’t mean you’re always right (in fact you’ll often be wrong and knowing this makes you a better leader). Create safe spaces for your team to be able to hold you accountable for things you’ve committed to. Building this culture from the top down will allow the whole team to be more productive, trusting of each other and committed to your cause. 

Check For ‘Blame Culture’

When everyone cares about what you’re building, it’s tempting to assert blame when something goes wrong. If you find there’s a culture of blame building in your team, aim to stamp it out as quickly as possible. Check that it hasn’t come from you without you realising. If everyone feels safe and assured that they’re not going to lose their job for the occasional small mistake, they will be quicker to inform you of when something hasn’t gone to plan. 

Look Under That Rock

We’ve all had the feeling – the knot in the stomach, or something that keeps us awake at night. Maybe the numbers don’t seem to be working, your favourite team member just isn’t right for the business anymore, or a project you’ve introduced isn’t working the way you thought. It’s tempting to bury your head in the sand in the hope that whatever it is resolves itself, or at least improves a bit. But if it’s bad enough to stress you out, it probably won’t go away – and more likely will fester, or grow into a bigger problem. Don’t put it off any longer. Look under that rock and I promise it won’t be as bad as you think. 

Hire Like-Minded People

When you’re building a business, it really does pay to recruit people with a shared set of values. As much as you might be seduced by that person who seems to know everything about that one area you know nothing about, if they’re not on board with your vision, it can be an expensive mistake to make. I’m confident that I’ve got a team of people who care as much about real-life connection as I do, and this gives me one less thing to worry about at night.

Find Your Allies

It’s important you don’t carry everything by yourself. Running a business is intense, and can be heavy work. Find someone to lean on and bounce ideas off – and don’t employ them. You need time and space to be vulnerable and honest about your scariest thoughts, which might not be appropriate to share within your team. 

Say Goodbye To 9-5

Someone once told me that if you want to be successful, you have to compromise. It’s unrealistic to spin the plates of family, relationships, hobbies, social life and #fitnessgoals alongside realising your vision. I’m incredibly lucky to have a strong and tight-knit support network that understands what I want to achieve. There’s no such thing as an average working day, and the hours reflect that. In the early days, I found it challenging to strike a work/life balance. But find whatever patterns and routines work for you – and don’t be made to feel guilty if you let the other stuff (relationships, exercise, sleep) drop for a while. You can pick them up later once your business is on its feet.

Find ‘Balance’ When The Time Is Right

When I was in year one, I made a rule with my partner that on some weekends we weren’t allowed to even mention Kindred. I knew I needed to reset my brain to be able to think creatively the following week. I started to build swimming into my routine, which for me acts as meditation as well as exercise. I gave my team more autonomy and in return, regained some of my personal freedom. While I’m an advocate for allowing entrepreneurs to live the wild no-sleep, stress-eating start-up life when it’s appropriate, we can’t – and shouldn’t – keep it up forever. Balance is there in whatever form it works for you. You just need to be ready for it. 

Kindred Social Memberships are free for a limited time. Co-working packages start from £150 a month, with a 20% discount on annual subscriptions until March 2020. Kindred’s on-site restaurant, The Cellar, is available for non-member reservations and walk-ins from 8am to 11pm.

Kindred, Queen Caroline Street, Hammersmith, W6 9BW

Visit WeAreKindred.com

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