By Amrita Rao (Founder & CEO, TreasureYourArt)
So you’ve done everything your entrepreneurship professor at business school taught you to do. You’ve done your numbers, run your models, spent months getting that perfect website up and running, emailed everyone you know (and many you don’t), and in your excitement, you’ve even printed Business Cards with your name, followed by that coveted Founder and CEO title.

But now what? Where is that first order? Why is it taking so long? Have I done something wrong? Should I do more?

Starting your own business has many benefits – you work for yourself, you work on your idea – something you believe in and are passionate about – and hopefully, when you start to reap the rewards, nothing feels quite like it. But it also has its drawbacks. There are no guarantees, no ready customers lining up at your door, no instant successes. It takes hard work, and a hell of a lot of perseverance.

My Story

With, it took me four months, post launch, to get my first client. And I won’t lie – they were a hard four months, full of misgivings and self-doubt. There’d be days when I’d second guess everything – myself, the idea, the business model, my team, literally, everything I was so sure about before, suddenly came into scrutiny.

But then, all of a sudden, one rainy London morning, I got an email from a Harvard Business School alum. She wrote, congratulating me on my new venture, and telling me that she had a friend, who was interested in an artist we featured on the site, and asking if she could put us in touch.

At that instant, my life changed.

We made the sale to the alum’s friend, who has since become one of our most important and valued clients. An Interior Designer by profession, she not only buys our art for her own collection, but also on behalf of her clients. Plus, she has referred us to numerous collector friends all over the world, and in doing so, has played a huge role in helping us achieve our core mission – which is to enable India’s deeply talented artists to reach a global audience. now pretty much runs itself, and instead of spending every waking (and some sleeping) hour writing unsolicited emails to every living Harvard and Wharton (thanks to my husband) graduate, I can spend my time on taking my business to the next level.

Which brings me to my second point: When you get that first client (and you will!) get it right! Please!

Word of mouth is viral. But just like it can work for you, it can work against you. So when you get that first order, get it right.

Every startup has teething problems, but first recognize, in your own head, what is minor and what is not. While people can be understanding when the minor stuff goes wrong, they can be unforgiving (and perhaps justifiably) with the big stuff. So, it’s important to get the important things right. And treat that first order like your life depends on it. Because, in many ways, it does.

Getting it right, really all boils down to a simple equation, with three possible outcomes:

  • Superior art + Poor delivery = Unhappy customer
  • Poor art + Superior delivery = Unhappy customer
  • Superior art + Superior delivery = Happy customer

Bottom line: If you don’t get it right, it’s easier to displease than to please!

Therefore, I divide my time equally between two important tasks:

  • Sourcing Superior Art: I spend a lot of time getting smarter – reading, meeting people, discovering new talent, keeping current – so I can credibly be known as an expert in the Indian Art market.
  • Providing Superior Delivery: I try to cultivate personal relationships with all my clients. After the initial enquiry email, I offer to call them so they feel heard – and more importantly – safe. I make myself available at any time for advice, whether that ends in an order or not. And as for logistics, we make payment and delivery, transparent, secure and efficient.

The idea is that for the client, all that matters is picking out the artwork they love from the website. Making sure it gets to them, and all the rest of it, is our part. All we say to them is: “Treasure Your Art!” broke even two months after our first order was placed – almost 4 years ago now – which was a huge win for us. Nothing could feel better, because winning is self-reinforcing and perhaps the best motivator of all.

But, although we’ve come a long way, in some ways I feel my work has just begun. I obsess about perfecting my client service model, because that’s where I believe I can differentiate myself from my competition. “Success” is still a far-away word, perched atop a hill somewhere, and it will be a long, hard climb up. But I’m in it for the long haul. And most importantly, in time, I believe I can get there.

I just need to hang in there and get it right!

Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.
About the guest blogger: Amrita Rao is the Founder and CEO of TreasureYourArt, an online gallery featuring Modern and Contemporary Indian Art. Prior to launching Treasure Your Art, Ami worked at Morgan Stanley for seven years in New York and London. Ami is also an avid food writer and blogs her foodie thoughts at YummYami. She holds a BA from Ohio Wesleyan University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. She currently lives in London with her husband and fifteen month old son.