Just over five years ago I launched my business as The Stylish Marketer, a marketing and communications consultant for women-owned businesses. I wrote my first article about how starting a business was like renovating: you need to double your budget, add some more, and expect it to take twice as long as you think.
Having been through three or four iterations of my business since then, I realized that much of what I wrote in 2016 still applies, but oh my, what I have learned along the way!
The pandemic threw us all into turmoil those first few weeks. While we were still reeling I advised all of my clients to call their clients. Just to talk.
I followed my own advice and discovered something I hadn’t considered before; my clients told me they felt more confident in their sales conversations after working with me, but they didn’t have time to sell regularly or consistently. They’re business owners wearing all the hats after all. A couple of them asked me if I could do the selling for them.
Hmm. Could I?
At about the same time I was introduced to an extremely smart businesswoman who runs an outsourced business support agency and realized that her model could be applied to selling for small businesses.
I tested the concept, selling part time on behalf of three clients myself, and discovered that I could build a scalable business providing part time, outsourced sales for business owners who didn’t have time to sell. There were a lot of lessons learned from those first few clients. See more below.
Then I began to hire experienced sales professionals so we could take on additional clients. Then I added a research team and an administrative assistant. Whew! What a wild ride!
That’s when it became clear to me that I needed to rebrand. I was no longer just Kim Fredrich providing sales consulting, training and coaching. This was something far bigger than me and it needed its own name and visibility.
What are the biggest lessons I’ve learned?
That my business will never be done. I’m constantly improving and updating what I offer so I can find even more success for my clients and connect with even more people.
And during this week of gratitude, I am truly grateful for the clients that trusted me to serve them, all the people who’ve supported me along the way and all of the lessons I’ve learned that have allowed me to continue the journey. I’m looking forward to the whatever the next five years bring!
Here’s an excerpt of the original article, with 2021 updates that illustrate what five years of hard, focused work have taught me.
You know what they say about renovations – double your budget, add some more, and expect it to take twice as long as you think? Turns out the same principle can be applied to starting a new business. And don’t leave your decision-making hat at home either. Whether you’re renovating or setting up shop, you’ll be astounded at how many decisions you’ll make, about things you didn’t even know you had to decide!
1 – Start with your business name – turns out the one you really, really want is probably already taken somewhere on social media.
2021 Update: I spent many hours on Google translate searching for just the right name that reflected what my business does AND that sounded good AND was available. Now I would tell you that finding a business concept that works is much more critical. Entrepreneurs are creative – you’ll always find a name that does the trick, even if it’s not your first choice.
2 – Do your research – you really need to know who else is out there doing the same sort of thing as you. After you define the problem you are going to solve for your customers, the next most critical thing is to succinctly state why they should buy from you. Pretend you’re trying to explain it to your grandmother.
2021 Update: I knew there were companies providing lead generation, appointment setting, and even outsourced sales. What makes The Ventas Group better and different? Part of it is the package – we do ALL the research to find highly qualified prospects, we contact them personally by telephone and email, and we don’t make appointments unless someone is ready to buy. The secret sauce I add is the coaching sessions I have with clients to help them manage their sales conversations and close more business. We walk the line between quality and quantity, erring very heavily on the quality side. I’m an authentic, honest Canadian after all!
3 – Have a big picture plan – you’ll be stymied and distracted more than once along the way, so it’s helpful to have your overall goal defined, as well as some reasonable stepping stone goals. You may not get there in exactly the way you envisioned (what do you mean the inspector said we need to re-do the wiring?!), but if you can be adaptable and willing to compromise on the little things, you’ll get there in the end. There’s usually more than one way to do something.
2021 Update: Oof. Running an evolving business has made this one a challenge. I confess to not being very good at taking time to work ON my business rather than IN it. It’s on my calendar every week, but is almost always superseded by something more time critical. Strategic plans are definitely a priority for 2022.
4 – Budget – seriously, double it and then add some. And the same thing for your timeframe. I didn’t actually spend that much to set up my simple, home-based consultancy, but everything took longer than I thought it would. Plus, you’re so eager to get going you’ll be 100% focused on your business, but sadly, not everyone else will be too. And who knew that a simple PO Box with a street address would cost $25 per month!
2021 Update: Oh yes. Buying or hiring anything costs far more than you really want to spend. And did I really think it would take four years to turn a profit? Of course not. I thought I’d be making four times as much by this point. But I AM making a profit and that is an accomplishment!
5 – Get good help – because you’re going to need more help than you thought. Fortunately, there are all kinds of resources available for small business owners, in nearly every community. Once you’ve identified specific tasks you might need assistance with (unless you’re a plumber, you probably shouldn’t be installing pipes!) check your own network first. Everything I outsourced was to other women in my neighborhood.
2021 Update: I still hire other women business owners whenever I can, but I have found it hard to delegate to others even when I know this would help me. I’m still working on how to provide clear instructions so that I’m not disappointed in the results. Except for graphic design. I always outsource that because I can’t even make Canva work for me!
6 – Talk to others – know anyone who’s already done it? This applies to both your business and your renovation project. Because everyone learns something the hard way; why not benefit from the experience of others? I like to call this ‘wisdom acceleration’.
2021 Update: It is no exaggeration to say that my network of other small business owners has not only helped me accelerate my wisdom but has kept me going through this journey. Being an entrepreneur can be a tough, lonely job that has the highest highs and the lowest lows, sometimes all in one day. I’m so grateful to my business besties, my LinkedIn connections and all the people I’ve met along the way that have offered support, expertise or a listening ear when I needed one.
7 – Believe in yourself – Remember all those decisions I said you had to make? You’ll second guess most of them. And spend waaaaay too long agonizing over them. But if you’ve already decided to pursue your own business, you’re already more than halfway there. Not everyone has the right blend of confidence, skills, and knowledge, not to mention chutzpah, to even dream about their own business. But you do. Just don’t forget to include a few cheerleaders in your planning for those times when you’ll need a little boost. And when everything’s in place, tell anyone and everyone! You never know if your husband’s sister’s nephew might be a potential customer.
2021 Update: Entrepreneurs are a special breed all right. There aren’t many executives who don’t have advisors for just about every challenge that will come their way. Those cheerleaders are more important than you ever knew they would be, especially when they can provide business insight too. As for marketing, I’m still figuring that one out . . .
It’s a path of continual growth and development. I’m thrilled that I can both experience it myself and help my clients on their own journeys.
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