Five lessons Sara Salter has learnt from a decade of running her own business

Sara Salter

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What can you learn after a decade in business? Saltmine Design Group founder and managing director Sara Salter writes that success starts with pushing boundaries. 

After 10 years in business there are many things I look back on now and would do differently.

Hindsight is 20/20. However, there are also many things, even many mistakes, which I wouldn’t change. They have all led me here.

Here are the five top lessons I’ve learned over the last decade in business.

The most successful businesses challenge the norm

I strongly believe that without constantly challenging the norm and pushing the boundaries, Saltmine Design Group wouldn’t be where it is today. This has formed a core part of our ethos right from the outset.

Prior to setting up the business, my background was client-side as an Fast Moving Consumer Goods marketer, covering all aspects of strategic and tactical brand marketing across companies such as Snack Brands Australia, Arnott’s, Uncle Tobys, Nestlé and Coca-Cola.

In this time, I worked with many different agencies. I began to wonder if there was a better way for agencies to operate. I imagined what it would be like to have an agency which took brand design up a notch, was better able to deliver on the client brief and which offered exceptional service.

Starting out as a full service below-the-line agency in 2007, working across all brand touch points, we have more recently evolved into a specialist in the creation of visual identity, brand activation and communication for challenger brands.

Our success is thanks to our commitment to challenging the norm and evolving over time. All successful businesses must do the same in order to carve out a niche and stay relevant.

Making mistakes is actually a good thing

Fostering an environment in which you can make mistakes is excellent for innovation and progress. If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not doing things differently, and the easiest way to fail is to not evolve.

I believe that having the courage to make bold moves and trusting your instincts will take you far. Even if doing so may mean making a mistake in the short term, in the long term you’ll usually find it leads to the biggest successes.

Learning to manage uncertainty is critical

The only constant in business is uncertainty. Every day will be different from the next — full of constant challenges and opportunities, wins and disappointments. You’ll gain and lose clients, you’ll welcome and farewell staff, your priorities will shift constantly.

Learning to adapt to uncertainty is one of the biggest lessons a business owner can learn. Being adaptable and flexible is important, and is something which you will naturally learn over time.

Relationships are like gold

The relationships you develop and maintain in business are absolutely crucial for success. Great businesses foster loyalty from clients, customers and staff.

In our business, we pride ourselves on long-term relationships with clients. Our process is one of a collaborative and mutually beneficial partnership with clients.

We are still working with our foundation client, leading Australasian drinks company Frucor Suntory, after 10 years together. This is rare in the agency world where agency turnover can be high and work is completed on a short term basis.

Every great business invests time and energy into building and nurturing relationships.

It’s important to take time out for yourself

A common trap for entrepreneurs is to spend all your time on your business without taking time out for yourself.

It may seem like you can’t stop and take a break, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Without taking the time to refresh and decompress, it is impossible to be your most productive, creative and effective self.

For me that means carving out time to spend with family and on my interests. On weekends, I like to visit the local farmer’s market for fresh produce with my family and I love to cook for friends and family.

The last 10 years has taught me a lot. Business is full of ups and downs, it can feel like a rollercoaster. But no matter what, there is always something new to learn.

This article was first published by Women’s Agenda.

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