Consistency is at the heart of business growth. Your customers will want to know what they can expect every time they interact with you and your product. This consistency has to built from the beginning through systems that don’t feel mechanical but create a good result every time. This will become your brand. At Indiegrove, every member knows that when they walk in the door they can expect to find a clean, comfortable and professional space to run their business. They know they will be greeted with a “good morning” or “hello.” They know that if they approach me I will turn my attention towards them and listen to them. And they know that every staff member will do the same. Everyone in your organization has to understand their role in the bigger picture and expectations for their output. Being a startup is not an excuse for anything. If you decide to expand or franchise down the road it will be extremely difficult to create consistency at that point. It has to be there from the beginning and it has to be good.
Simplicity in everything. Your marketing, accounting, financing, operations, customer service….everything should be as simple as possible. I test myself constantly on this principle. If I can’t explain something in my business using simple words and concepts, then it’s too complicated and it will lead to problems. This is also true when it comes to technology. A lot of people think technology is an excuse for complexity. Actually, technology is supposed to simplify things and make it easier to do something. If it doesn’t, it is not serving its purpose.
As a startup, you can’t afford to reach everyone so you have to find the people who will be your most productive customers and keep them coming back. Today’s technology allows us to track everything. For a business this is an amazing and powerful thing. You can post something online and see who looked at it, where they came from and what they care about. You can send an email with different subject lines and see which one sticks. The options are endless. Your job is to set goals for everything you do; that way you know whether something was successful or not and it’s not a guessing game. It will help you focus you resources and build loyalty with your customers. The more you measure, the leaner and more productive you will be as a growing business.
There are a lot of options for financing a business, but none of them are easy. I was rejected by every major bank before I took my plan to community lenders and was approved. The process was painful. They poked and prodded into every detail of my life and it took months. In the end it was all worth it. I had what I needed to build my space and get myself to breakeven. Investors are another increasingly popular option, but you have to be willing to give up control of your business. You have to decide what you can handle and know what the other party is looking for. Whether you go with debt or equity financing you will be accountable to another party or parties. My goal is to get to a point the business itself can finance its growth. For most businesses this is the best option and will allow you to maintain your independence. For others you have to go after outside financing. Just make sure you never lose sight of why you started the whole thing to begin with.
Cashflow is the lifeline of your business. It’s not just about what you bring in and what you take out. But, most importantly, it’s about when you do it. I use my cash flow statement to know exactly where I stand and decide the next step of growth for my business. My cash flow projections are my peace of mind. Read More
As an entrepreneur, having financial control of my business makes the difference between me managing my business or my business managing me. One of the main reasons I became an entrepreneur was to be independent and have more control over my life. Read More
I use my business plan every day. It is a living document in my business. It is a tool that helps me stay focused and make decisions, while considering the implications the decisions will have on other parts of the business. A lot has changed since the first draft of my business plan, but it has remained a constant check and balance for me. Read More
It’s often said that the customer is always right. I don’t know if I agree with that, but the customer is who will determine if you will make it or not. You have to have customers to have a business. Friends, fans, likes, followers are not the same thing as sales. You have to find and interact with the people who can and will buy your product or service. I spend a lot of my time getting to know my customers. What they like, where they go, what they read, who they listen to, where they live, how much they make… All of these things help me anticipate their needs and create a relationship with them. A good product is not enough anymore. You have to figure out what makes you different and special to your customers.
Leadership is at the heart of every successful business. There is no doubt that every business will have its successes and failures. Being someone who can stay focused on the vision and lead employees, customers, partners, vendors…whoever is on board, through the ups and downs is what differentiates a leader from a manager. I knew I was a good manager before I started my own business. I was organized, focused, hardworking, outspoken. I knew how to get the job done. Now that I’m an entrepreneur, that’s not enough. I have to lead. I have to see how all the pieces come together, put them in the right order and, most importantly, inspire people to join me. A business plan will help you put and keep the pieces together, but your gut and willpower are the secret sauce.
To be a successful entrepreneur, you have to be honest with yourself. Do you have what it takes? Are you willing to put in the hours and discipline needed to build a business? I find myself working as many hours, if not more, than I did when I worked for someone else. I carry the weight of the success of my employees and the happiness of my customers on my shoulders. I stomach the ups and downs in cash flow and endless commentary of naysayers. But because I’m willing to do those things I have the freedom to choose my path and create my purpose every day. It’s a very cool thing, but not for everyone. That’s why knowing where you stand in the market and what is needed to get to your goals is so important. It will help you stand your ground and push forward.