10 tips that have helped us survive 10 years in business

With just 50% of businesses surviving the five year mark, to celebrate an entire decade is an impressive feat for a small business owner.

So it’s no surprise that Anne Wall and Rachael Kilby-Tyre are proud of their success with My Interior Design School.

Running a business isn’t for the faint hearted. And as you can imagine, with all the success they’ve enjoyed over the past 10 years, there have been plenty of moments that have required grit and determination to navigate.

10 tips that have helped us survive 10 years in business

So what exactly does it take to survive (and thrive) for 10 years in business? Here are 10 hard-learned tips from Anne and Rachael.

1) Go for it!

It was probably a bit ambitious to run a face-to-face workshop so early on – just four months after our first meeting, but we learned so much by actually doing it.

There is a lot to be said for just getting on with it. Don’t think you have to be 100% ready, because you probably never will be. Have a go, but learn from any mistakes along the way.

2) Listen up

It’s vital to listen to your customers and any mentors or advisors who you might be lucky enough to have on-board.

It can be quite daunting to keep asking ‘how am I doing?’ and ‘how can I improve?’ as you may not want to hear any negatives in those early days. But in the long run, it really pays to take on board any positive criticism.

3) Try, try again

We did spend a lot of time looking into ideas for courses and workshops which didn’t always work out. For example we were convinced that we could transform the market for styling weddings and parties. But it wasn’t our core business.

At the time, we were really disheartened and thought we had wasted so much time and effort. But looking back, it was good to recognise that sometimes you should just stick to what you do best. And in our case that is inspiring our students to create beautiful homes – for themselves or clients.

4) Start local

Anne’s background in PR and marketing had given us a good head start on how to promote ourselves to the Press. Our courses have been featured in lots of national and international publications now, but we would advise anyone starting out, to try your local paper or radio station first.

They might be interested in your story and love anything ‘new’. After that and when you’re feeling more confident, try the regional glossies and if your business is a national one, give it a go. You are your best PR!

5) Get out of your comfort zone

We are quite confident in what we do. This may come down to our personalities, our 25 years’ experience, loving our jobs and the success we’ve had with our business. Probably a combination of all of those things.

But we still get nervous and at times have to remind ourselves it’s good to get out of our comfort zone. The best example of that is being asked a few years ago to appear as experts on stage at the Ideal Home Show.

We are very used to public speaking – we do it all the time in our Design Lectures and workshops. But anyone who’s been to the Grand Hall at Olympia will know, as well as being a fabulous, iconic landmark building in London; it is also huge.

To stand under that enormous domed roof in front of hundreds of visitors, hanging on your every word, gave even us a few sleepless nights. We are now invited regularly as experts to the show and have had the added pressure of live broadcasts. But we feel a lot more confident and really enjoy the challenge of delivering a great talk to interior design fans.

6) Love your clients

Whatever your business, it is crucial to be in tune with your customers or clients. We are genuinely inspired by our students and are passionate about our company ethos of ‘unlocking their creativity’.

It is so satisfying to see where one of our courses leads them. Our students enrol on a course for lots of different reasons. And we love to see them follow their passion and help make their design dreams a reality.

Over the decade of delivering our courses, we’ve seen students start their own consultancies, open their own retail business, become property developers, fabric designers, bloggers, home rental stylists, colour consultants and hotel designers, to name but a few.

When they start a course with us, they never think they can do it. The best part of our jobs is to help them on their way and see what a difference to their lives, one of our courses can make.

7) Surround yourself with talent

We have been really fortunate to have almost the same team working for us as when we started in 2009. So our technical team, marketing, branding and tutors have all helped with our success. But probably more importantly, they are a joy to work with.

We realised early on that with just two of us launching the company, it would take a lot of effort and hours. We made a conscious decision then to surround ourselves with a team of people we liked, respected what they do and then let them get on with it.

A fabulous admin manager has recently joined us and so we are feeling very happy and confident of moving the business forward for another 10 years.

8) Keep evolving

The business plan we wrote back in 2009 (albeit very quickly and reluctantly having to address some of the thorny issues of financing and forecasts) bears very little resemblance to the business it is today.

Initially we had plans to run interior design workshops up and down the country – inspiring future designers from Hull to Hemel Hempstead! In reality, there simply weren’t enough days in the week to deliver enough courses to make it worth our time and effort leaving our children and lives back in Cheltenham.

Once we realised that students were prepared to come to workshops in our beautiful Regency spa town, we could offer a range of courses throughout the year, and that’s what we still do.

9) Think big

If you’d asked us back in 2009 if we thought we’d end up teaching students in every continent, we would never have believed it.

Thanks to our online courses being available anywhere in the world, obviously our market has opened up massively. This may not be an option for everyone, but we still encourage our students who are planning on changing career to ‘think big’.

Create a vision board and put on there some fabulous, inspiring images to represent how you see your lifestyle and career in one or two years’ time. Then get any skills you need to succeed, immerse yourself in your chosen business, work hard, enjoy it and make that dream a reality!

10) Find the perfect partner

We realise that we have been very fortunate in working well as a partnership and that we bring different skills to the business.

Working with someone else or in a joint-venture can be a fabulous way to share the ups and downs of running your own first venture.

If you are considering a partner, look for someone who can add a different skill or way of contributing to your enterprise. Consider running a small project together before you make any commitments, to make sure you are a good team and work well together.

We’re looking forward to the next 10 years!

Launching My Interior Design School 10 years ago has taken a lot of grit and determination to get to where we are, but it has been the most rewarding journey.

To see how our students flourish, the way our courses are now enjoyed around the world and together with our own personal challenges and achievements, shared with our fantastic team – launching My Interior Design School has been the best job ever.

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Anne Wall is Course Director and Rachael Kilby-Tyre is Design Director of My Interior Design School. You can call them on (01242) 252 477 or email them here