As of a few days ago, I have been a business owner for four years! This makes me an expert right? (Well, at least an expert in managing stressful situations!) All joking aside, I have learned a few things I would like to share with you. When I look back on the past four years of business ownership, I see each year as a stage or fulfillment of a mission. Follow me on this flashback…
Year 1 – Designing and Planning – Learning While Doing
Year 2 – Survival – How to Manage Cash Flow
Year 3 – Process – Perfecting What We Do
Year 4 – Growth – New Opportunities
Whether you are a start-up or purchasing an established business, Job 1 is designing and planning what your company will BE: its reason for existing and the business exchange that will occur between you and your customers. Perhaps more importantly, how will it make money to sustain itself and grow? Although you have to start somewhere, this “plan” must by dynamic. Markets change, customers change, needs change – YOU change. You must be able to adapt the plan to take advantage of opportunities. I really enjoy this aspect of being a business owner. I like to constantly look at improving so this fits my style perfectly.
We all know that one doesn’t start a business knowing everything and having all the answers. Many answers come from living and learning. One of my struggles was understanding the cash flow process. Everyone has their own way of paying their debts and it may not always line up with yours. Everyone doesn’t take credit. Small companies are more vulnerable when payments aren’t made on time, as agreed. And if, as a business owner, you are also your company’s accountant, money issues can make for difficult conversations with the customers you’ve come to like and appreciate. You must learn your customers’ accounting policies and if at all possible, adapt. Always keep in mind, there are emotions attached to being paid late.
The next stage we experienced was perfecting everything we do well in order to work more efficiently and seamlessly. I was approached several times by others who wanted to purchase my company. As a responsible business person, I had to take these offers seriously and consider them. It wasn’t enough for ME to understand what we do. I had to be able to articulate it in writing and justify any value I might attach to my business. This is a great distraction when you are supposed to be focused on daily activities and growth strategies; but it forced me to go through this stage sooner rather than later.
Determining your company’s Value Proposition for customers and potential investors is not as easy as it sounds. Even very large corporations struggle with this aspect of marketing. Regardless, I needed to know what benefits EP brought to our customers. I am lucky I had a meeting with Susan Fant! She asked me what it is we do that is better and faster than anyone else. This was easier for me to think about… I can connect and share news better and faster than most. So we explained our Value Proposition simply: Connect. Inform. Educate. Once you’ve figured out the process and know exactly what you can offer efficiently and seamlessly, you’re poised to grow.
I found planning for growth to be challenging, especially since we cover so many markets and products. I now look to grow with strong relationships and reciprocal partnerships. My customers have always been most important to me and I credit them with my success, both in my corporate career and with my business. They direct my growth. I listen to their needs and try to support them. I look for ways to use my connections and platforms to grow for them.
We have a unique brand and are thankful we have been able to partner with so many media companies, associations, trade show organizers, pump trainers, end users, and consultants. Our most recent growth idea was partnering with Pump Engineer to bring you Pump Summit Americas in June 2016. This event will be a beautiful display by our partners and customers. I hope you can attend!
If you have a similar story, I’d love to hear from you! We can all learn from each other!