So you want to be an entrepreneur? You sure?
I am just finishing an eBook that will be titled; 50 “UGLY TRUTHS” about owning your own business …and 5 reasons to do it anyway. I have served entrepreneurs in a variety of industries for 25 years. Some of my clients today are people passionately setting out to launch their new service or product. Some have owned their business for years and want to take it to the next level in revenues and profit.
One common area I help entreprenuers with in the start up, bootstrapping stage, is to focus on; Leveraging what you have….as opposed to making a list of what you need.
Look, I’ve been there….you’ve mentally made the commitment, you have made some investment, you’ve told your family and friends about your business… and you are all in. Very quickly what most entrepreneurs do is start making a list of what they need.
I often see lists that include; new buildings, office space, people, a new printer, fax machine, a custom showroom, new cell phone, new computer, business cards, stationary….and so on. I spoke with one entrepreneur that went out and leased a new Lexus and he has yet to open his first customer. He contacted me because he needed sales velocity because he had no cash.When I inquired as to why he leased a new car…I heard the common response when buying wants versus needs…” I needed to look successful…” Really? (So he must think I am a real loser driving my 2003 Toyota Camry huh?)
If you are about to launch your business or planning your growth, focus on leveraging what you have and not making a list of what you need. It is in this phase you build your leadership muscles.
In 2005 I was asked by an entrepreneur I was serving at the time to launch a new retail business as an independent division of his company VMI. VMI is the second largest manufacturer of wheel chair accessible vehicles in the world. I was the VP of Sales and Marketing and created a repeatable sales process and adjusted our messaging to be more specific to the problems we solved for our three main buyer persona’s rather than” features and benefits speak”. We modified some of our designs based on customer and user feedback and sales were exploding. The owner asked me to take on the new challenge; open a local retail store.
When we launched what soon became Arizona Mobility Products we had arguably…nothing. We did not have a business name, a building, a website, a logo, a sign; computers….you get the idea. So I too quickly went into list building mode. However I quickly learned this business needed to “eat what we killed”…we needed to be self funding.
So like my clients, I went off to think at a local restaurant as I don’t know about you, but I do my best thinking out of the office. I took inventory of what I did have;
as VP of Sales and Marketing I had worked with the most successful mobility dealers in the world for the past four years; I intimately knew best practices of market leading dealers
I have observed what dealers have done well, and the mistakes like signing leases for expensive elaborate show rooms that only erodes the bottom line
I knew our customers, our community, from the market research we did for our new corporate marketing, website, and product designs
We had over 400 finished vehicles available for sale in every configuration , ready for sale
The company had warehouse space vacant, old extra computers, extra phones
A small customer list of local consumers who have bought accessible vehicles over the last eight years or so
I had an amazing salesman named Pat with over 30 years of vehicle sales and local connections with car dealers
I know sales, marketing, and I have developed sales acceleration programs for companies for 20 years
I know that one common problem consumers who need a wheel chair accessible van have is the ability to see one, they lack transportation to get to the dealer
I personally have a network of thought leaders in internet marketing, marketing creative, and print marketing support
After making the list, I asked myself ;based on what I know from meeting with other dealers and customers, the inventory we did have, how can we… leverage this to grow this business? To make this operation a market leader?
We could give our customers what they needed, with the specific options they wanted, and we could do it same day.
We didn’t have large fancy showrooms, so we went to our customer’s homes. We did not have an ad budget so I wrote content that was picked up for free in local magazines that served the community, like; Arizona Mobility Products makes doing-good good-business…
With each unit we sold we accrued money to support a web site, ads, direct mail to past customers who’s vehicles were about to go out of warrantee, and business cards. I called my network and asked for favors. I offered to barter when possible and thanks to our service partners we launched.
In case I never said so, Thanks go out to some amazing partners;
John Scott Dixon and his team at Thought Lava for our web site
Jay Wilson and his creative team at Real World Marketing
Phil and Barry at BC Graphics
Bill at Tempe Dodge
Within months we were averaging what most successful mobility dealers sell each month, and after the first year we were in the top 10 dealers nationally in total revenue. We had five people, and we were focused;
“Serve our customers with what they need and want…we bring mobility vehicles to you”
When bootstrapping your business, focus on leveraging what you have as opposed to making lists of what you need.
Lists of what you need are good for the future but they do not fill the cash register…as a matter of fact we did not even have a cash register…smile.
Have you launched and business?
What can you leverage to serve your market?
Did you rush out and buy a bunch of office furniture, equipment, or did you learn to ;“eat what you killed”
Your leadership muscles grow in the bootstrapping stage as you learn to leverage and scale what you have. Those expenditures that add value you keep and those that do not produce your desire ROI are removed.
Although I left AMP years ago to help other entrepreneurs, Pat now running the store and continues to provide amazing service and bringing vehicles to his customers. Pat continues to serve his market as opposed to selling them, and continues to be in the top 10 mobility dealers nationally.