How To Build a Solid Growth Plan For Your Start-Up Business

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business growth

As I mentioned in my last post, I was recently hired on as an investment partner & strategist for a concrete countertops construction biz in Charlotte, NC. I think it’s safe to say I’m pretty excited about it…

My main task for the last two months has been helping my partner (and the owner of the company) build a solid growth plan and marketing strategy for the next two years. I’ve learned a lot in the process, and as promised I’m giving you access to my brain here in this blog. Most of what I’m about to share is stuff I already knew from my previous experiences, but I think (and hope) you’ll find it valuable if you’re trying to build a business of your own.

Also, since this is a blog post, I’m going to keep it brief. These are just some basic steps to building a solid growth plan and marketing strategy for your start-up that should help you get going. But once you do get going, if you’d like additional help, feel free to leave a comment below this post with any questions.

1. Begin with the end in mind. This requires that you think ahead, and it’s a vital first step for any large project. Identify what your goals are, write them down and create deadlines to keep you moving forward.  You may want to start by answering questions for yourself such as:

  • Where do I want to be in 1 year, 2 years, 5 years, 10 years?
  • What is my goal for profit in year 1, 2, 5, 10, etc.?

With specific goals and deadlines in place, you’ll be much more motivated to stay the course. Without a specific path, you’re more likely to veer off and end up right back where you started.

In our case, we are starting with concrete countertops right now. Our goal is to add at least 5 new services and projects to our portfolio each year, outside of just countertops.

2. Identify your target market(s). Who is your audience and who are you looking to help by offering the services you’re offering? Be as specific and as descriptive as possible, using criteria such as age, gender, location and income to help you identify exactly who it is you want to appeal to when marketing your products and services.

For concrete countertops — at least in our case — the target is mid-to-high-income male or female homeowners and/or business owners who are looking to renovate their space.

3. Make a list of marketing tools. Now that you’ve identified your target market(s), you need a way to connect with them. There are various marketing tools that you can utilize, such as a website, social media, list building/email marketing software, local networking groups, lead generation services and more. This is when you should revisit step 1 and think about which tools are most likely going to help you reach the goals you’ve set for yourself.

We have already built a website and social media pages and just recently hired a lead generation company to help us hit our targets for year one. (See step 5 for more on outsourcing help for your start-up.)

4. Write your budget & plan. Before you can really lay out your plan, you must have a budget in mind. Having a budget will help you avoid unnecessary spend and keep you on target to begin profiting as quickly as possible. This is where a lot of companies go wrong. Of course you have to spend money to make money — that’s a given. But you should be smart about exactly how you spend your money, and having a detailed budget written out will keep you on target and keep you from going broke within the first year.

Once you’ve established a budget, write out a plan that includes your goals, the tools you’ll use, and the timeline for execution. (Another benefit of having a budget is that it can help you determine which tools will be the biggest bang for your buck in helping you meet your goals!)

5. Hire some help. You can’t do this all on your own. Adam (the guy who owns the concrete company) was smart to approach me and get help creating the growth strategy for his business, and I’d encourage all business owners to outsource help wherever possible. If you can’t afford to hire people, there are other options. You could offer an unpaid internship, or you could offer a percentage of sales and/or equity. Don’t be afraid to get creative when it comes to hiring help.

Make sure you include additional employees in your budget. If you do this right, your business will begin to grow at a rapid pace, and you’ll need more people to help you do the things you’re not so good at. There’s a danger in thinking you’re good at everything and can do it all. I see so many executives screw themselves over time and time again by thinking they need to control everything. Like all of us who are human, you have weaknesses. Recognize what they are and seek help from others who are stronger than you in those areas and can help you fill in those gaps. Even if that means giving up equity — wouldn’t you rather have 50% of something than 100% of nothing?

There you have it. A quick 5-step reference guide to get you on track. Now go out there and build your business! And let us know how these tips work for you by leaving a comment below.

It’s Been a While… Here’s What I’ve Been Up To

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I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted. Just wanted to give you all a quick update on what I’ve been doing lately.

In my last post, I mentioned that my dad owned a tree service company. He was out in an upscale neighborhood working on a landscaping job about two months ago. The owner of the house came out to the front lawn and they started talking. Turns out, the guy owns a concrete construction company and was looking for a business partner. He asked my dad if he knew anyone, and he said, “no, but I’ll ask my son — he’s pretty business-savvy.”

(Thanks, dad.)

Long story short, I ended up becoming an investment partner for this guy’s business. Right now, he mostly builds concrete countertops for people in the Charlotte, NC area, but he’s looking to grow it into a large-scale, full-service concrete construction company in the next year or two. He hired me to help him in exchange for equity and part-ownership.

So for the last 2 months, I’ve been working on a business growth strategy and marketing plan with a few of my colleagues and haven’t really had as much time to post on this blog; but I do plan to get back to it soon. Wanted to give my readers an update, just in case you were wondering where I’ve been… I figured all 3 of you deserved an answer, especially since my website analytic reports are showing that you keep coming back looking for more. ;) That means you’re loyal. I like loyal…

Anyway, please make sure and check back next week for another post on the topic of how to build a solid growth plan for your start-up business.

Hey, I might as well write about it since I’ve been doing it for the last 2 months, right?

3 Things Needed To Start Your Own Business

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What I’m about to say might get a “duh” reaction from most of you who are reading this, but please bear with me. Starting a business is no easy feat. And we are living in an age where almost anyone can become an entrepreneur, thanks to the Internet. Which means almost anyone thinks they have what it takes. But you have to have more than a desire to own your own business. There are resources that most of us don’t have, which prevents us from really becoming successful, no matter how strong our desire is.

So this is a gentle reminder to self and to anyone reading to consider your own situation. If you’re trying to start a business and finding difficulty, consider whether or not you have what you need to take off and land smoothly on the ground in the right time-frame.

Here are 3 things you need, that you may be lacking, in order to start and run a successful business:

1. Money

Excuse the “duh” moment, here. But seriously, most people don’t realize what this means. My wife and I recently went through the process of taking inventory of everything we have and everything we’d need to start and run a business, and we learned so much. Namely, that you need a lot of money. And the reality is, that’s not something most people have.

Without investment capital, you can’t spend the money required to market your business, acquire customers, hire employees and operate successfully. It just can’t happen.

We knew we’d need money; I just don’t think we realized how much until we sat down and really looked the numbers hard in the face. And I suggest you do the same. Find out how much money you’ll need. Once you know the answer to that question, you can craft a strategy to help you acquire it. That strategy may include investors, your life savings, early retirement, or a combination of all three. Or it may require that you scrap your whole business idea altogether and come up with something more cost-effective and sustainable, like an Internet-based business where there is no overhead.

Whatever the case, you need money, and you need to know exactly how much will be required to get off the ground and stay afloat.

2. Time

Yet another resource that you should never underestimate.

There are 24 hours in a day. If you spend 8 hours sleeping and 8 hours working a day job, that leaves another 8 hours for you to dedicate to time with family and your entrepreneurial efforts.

Never let one second of your time go to waste. If you do work a job, this is even more important, as it can be very tempting to leave work, go home and sit in front of the TV until you fall asleep. Don’t let that happen! Your family is more important than another episode of Grey’s Anatomy, and your business efforts are what will allow you to spend more time with them in the future.

We all know we need to use our time wisely, but still, day after day, we find ourselves watching television, perusing Facebook and making excuses about how we just don’t have time to build a business.

Well guess what? You do have time. You’ve just been wasting it. Now, get off your butt, and start moving forward.

3. Passion

Sounds like another “duh” moment, but again, hear me out.

When I talk about passion, I mean much more than a simple desire to be an entrepreneur. People with desire are called “wantrepreneurs.” People with passion are called entrepreneurs.

What’s the difference? So glad you asked.

Passion is a drive to succeed. It’s what motivates you to stop making excuses and start doing what you love. It’s the fuel that keeps you going and instills a positive outlook in you when you look toward the future. Passion is you not only doing what you love but loving what you do. Passion kicks desire’s ass. Passion moves your work ethic forward, and ensures no time is wasted. Passion puts heart before money. (So I guess I should have made it my #1 point, then, right?)

Here’s an example. My stepfather owns a tree service company that he manages in the afternoons and on the weekends when he’s not working his day job. He does it for extra money, but he’s just not passionate about it. We’ve tried convincing him to make it his full-time work, and he doesn’t want to. He prefers the stability and security of his current job and doesn’t have the passion for pruning trees that other full-service tree care companies do.

That’s not necessarily bad. He just does it on the side for extra cash. But if you truly want to be an entrepreneur and own your own business, you have to take it seriously. You can’t treat it like a side job for extra money. This isn’t you when you were 15, mowing your neighbor’s lawn for $20 so you could go to that concert on the weekend. Entrepreneurship is serious business.

Successful people are passionate people. Figure out what drives you to be successful, and start doing it.

Hiking Crowder Mountain: Lessons in Life & Business

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This weekend, I hiked Crowder Mountain in North Carolina for the second time. It was a walk in the park compared to my Himalayan paragliding adventures, but still, it was good exercise, and that’s mainly why I did it. That, and it gave me time to reflect and meditate on some of the decisions I’ve made over the last year.

As I climbed the trails to King’s Pinnacle Summit, I thought about where I am today compared to where I was a year ago. The lessons I’ve learned, the risks I’ve taken and the roads I’ve traveled and how they’ve shaped me as a person. And I came away with a few nuggets that I thought would be worth sharing with my readers.

1. Listen to Robert Frost. Take the road less traveled. There are two reasons why I advocate this.

First, since fewer people have walked this path, there is far less wear and tear. The tread on your shoes will be stronger and the road will be easier to grip. I realized this as I slipped on several steep hills on my way back down the mountain.

Second, since fewer people have walked this path, you get to pave the way. You get to make mistakes that others have not made. Mistakes that may be recorded in history and learned from by future generations. When you take the path that everyone else has already taken, you’re far less likely to make mistakes, because you’ve already learned from the ones that have been made in the past. You’re far less likely to fail. And we all know that in business, it’s only by allowing yourself to fail that you succeed.

2. Take time to enjoy the view. It’s easy to obsess over reaching your final destination, so much so that you forget to enjoy the journey and the view along the way. There is so much beauty in nature. Take time to breathe deeply and feel the wind as it rushes against your skin. And when you get to the top, eat a sandwich, relax, talk to a few of the other hikers and take your time before journeying back down the cliff.

As the saying goes, entrepreneurs can get so busy making a living that they forget to make a life. The same principle applies here.

3. The easy road often takes the longest. This is literally true if you look at the trails on Crowder Mountain. The longest trail is over 6 miles and it’s marked “easy”. One of the most strenuous paths I’ve walked was under a mile long, but it was a very difficult trail.

As an entrepreneur, it can be easy to let distractions get in the way of execution. It’s much easier to peruse Facebook than it is to write that blog you know you need to write or to do the work that needs to be done for you to move forward. We procrastinate. We find excuses. We take the easier trail, and it takes much longer to see the results and experience the success we long for.

4. Talk to other passersby. Build relationships. We are all in this together. We’re all climbing the same mountain, even if we take different paths to the top. If a storm hits and you forgot your umbrella, you’re going to want one to stand under.

No one ever built a business in complete isolation. If we’re going to be successful, we must be willing to network with and learn from other like-minded entrepreneurs, and to lend a hand when necessary.

5. Explore your options. When I neared the peak of King’s Pinnacle Summit, I noticed that most people were climbing those last few rocks to the top by way of one path. As a traveler with a dog, I knew I’d have to make the climb one-handed, with the pup in the crook of my other elbow, and I wasn’t sure the way that everyone else was going would be the best way for me to go.

Rather than simply following in their footsteps, I took an extra minute to look around and see if there was another way and saw two men climbing down a different path just a few feet away. The rock formation of that path was more conducive to a one-handed climb, so I went that way instead.

The moral of the story: take time to explore your options. Going along with my first point, the road less traveled is often the better one to travel.

It’s been an interesting year, and I’m preaching to the choir as I write these words. My struggles have mainly been avoiding distractions and failing to build relationships. As an introvert and a writer, I find it’s much more comfortable to isolate myself and make excuses. And when I do go hard, I get so busy that I often forget to take time to enjoy the view.

But no more. It’s time to get serious about my commitment to success. I hope this post helps encourage you as much as it has motivated me to start pressing forward even harder.

Hello world!

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WordPress titled my first post “Hello world.”

Most bloggers will delete or edit that page title, but I think it’s fitting for my first post, so I’ll keep it.

After all, this blog is all about my adventures through life, and in a way, starting it is my way of walking straight up to the world and saying “Hello!” with a big smile and cheerful wave.

I’ll be writing more stuff soon. (Check out this page to learn more about my theme for this site.) So be sure to check back soon for a more detailed post. For now, I just want to say thanks for stopping by, and feel free to contact me if you have any questions or just want to talk about life and/or business.

‘Til next time…