from INC magazine 25 Mar 15 enhanced by Peter/CXO Wiz4biz
Building a business is no easy feat. As a two-time entrepreneur, I’ve experienced the ups & downs of building a company & culture. I’m proud of the two great companies we’ve built: Like-able Media & Like-able Local. While the wildly successful tech businesses are the most celebrated ones (and what I’m admittedly working on right now), the reality is that most businesses, successful or not, are smaller, service businesses. Here are 10 simple steps I took to build our first company, a marketing agency, and a blueprint you can use to build your own business:
1. Find a Trustworthy Partner. In my early 20s, I was working in sales at Radio Disney. I was the # 1 sales person in the country until this woman came into my office and dropped me to # 2 in just four months. I was shocked and stunned by her talent and I realized two things: a) I needed to marry her and b) I needed to go into business with her. While not everyone can start a business with their husband or wife, it really helps to have a truster partner. For my second business, for instance, we partnered with my friend of 30 yrs. Who can you partner with?
2. Create a Strategy & Singular Focus. If you asked me what we did early on in our first business, I’d have told you, ‘What do you need done?” And if you’d asked me how much we charged, I’d have said, “What’s your budget?” While this may have worked early on to help generate revenue, it wasn’t sustainable. Ultimately, too many businesses fail because they don’t have a sound strategy & focus. I’ve been using Verne Harnish’s 1p Strategic Plan for both of our businesses. Our management teams meet quarterly to plan the strategy, and believe it or not, thanks to Verne’s tool, we summarize the entire business plan and strategy on just one sheet of paper – simple & concise.
3. Say No to what’s not your Focus. It’s easier to create & plan a strategy & focus than it is to stick to it. But if you’re going to be successful, it’s not just important to say “Yes” to the right things, it’s important to say “No” to the wrong things. A major turning point in our first business was when we fired our own Client, because he could only afford to pay us $500 a month–and I knew we couldn’t scale our business if we kept working with people like that. Then we focused on landing bigger clients who could better help us grow. It’s really hard to say “no” sometimes – but essential – if you’re going to really grow your small business.
4. Find Peer Support. It’s lonely at the top. Seriously, running a business is one the loneliest jobs out there, even if you have a great partner. Nobody really understands what you’re going though. A huge part of our going from $1 million in revenue to $5 million in revenue in three years was my joining Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) in 2010. EO is the world’s largest peer-to-peer network of CEOs, and it’s most important element is monthly meetings with a small group of fellow entrepreneurs called Forum. My Forum of 6 people has become one of the most important resources in my business, my closest friends, and a great support system. EO isn’t the only game in town though. Here are 5 great small business peer-to-peer organizations for entrepreneurs to consider, including BNI, Vistage, YPO & YEC.
5. Form a Board of Advisors. You can’t possibly know it all. Even with a great partner & great peers, you can use help in growing your business. While it’s great to have friends & mentors who can help you, I recommend you formalize your mentors through the creation of a Board of Advisors. In 2012, we asked longtime friends & mentors with a wide variety of experience & talent across various focus areas: finance, law, marketing, brand management, & sales. We formed the Like-able Advisory Board and instantly had a group of 11 advisors who we could call on anytime. They met with us formally four times a year to help us grow our business. We all have friends & mentors with more experience than we have. By forming a Board you can better tap into that experience.
6. Hire slow, Fire fast. 7. Build Great Values & Culture, 8. Build your Brand, 9. Ask for Referrals, 10. It’s the People, Stupid – in Premium Content.