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Growing a Business

Growing a Business

It's hard. Like, really, really hard. And takes more emotional and physical stamina than I would have ever imagined. But it's also been one of the most fulfilling endeavors of my life. This year, Fox and the Fleur blew past $1MM in revenue. Our sales have doubled year over year since inception. Our team is now thirteen employees across two locations and our systems and operations are better than ever. We have notable national press coverage. So, when a friend recently asked me what advice I'd give to someone thinking of starting a business, I had a few things to say, and in no particular order. Over the years, I have had my ups, downs, lefts, rights, and complete fall-on-my-ass mistakes in most of these categories.

  1. Be smart about entering the market. Opening in Fox Chapel and Sewickley wasn't random. In both markets, there was a specific need for a high-quality floral shop. Once I decided to open a brick-and-mortar store, I did my market research and talked to many people who lived and worked in these neighborhoods. The demand was real and measurable. It made practical sense that we were filling a need in the communities.
  2. Establish pricing early. I learned the hard way. When you're brand new and relatively inexperienced (at least by conventional standards), you might not feel that your talent or product is worth something. There's no harm in doing some favors to get yourself out there, but at a certain point, you need to establish a price for your talent or goods. Pricing too low off the bat makes it hard to increase prices when you do have more experience and a higher demand. Don't sell yourself short. If people are wanting to hire you, you deserve to be fairly compensated.
  3. Find your team, then treat them with gratitude and compassion. I believe that good leadership comes mostly from deep listening and deep caring. Once you find your people (and that's the hard part!), treat them fairly, listen to what they have to say, and practice empathy daily. When you've made an error in the hiring process, address it as soon as possible. There are no shortcuts for building the right team. I am a people pleaser by nature and uncomfortable with confrontation. So you can imagine what managing people feels like for me! It's hard, but it's critical for success.
  4. Get the basics down. I was clueless about how to run a business when I started. And I mean clueless to the tune of not charging sales tax for several YEARS (!!). If you don't know anything about taxes, or 1099 vs employees, or S-Corp vs LLC, or P&L vs Balance Sheets, or POS systems, or wholesale vs retail, or quality control, or invoicing, or time management (or, or, or) need to learn. Ask for help, take classes, make mistakes, ask for more help. There's a lot to learn and it's pretty critical stuff to good business operations.
  5. Invest in yourself. You have to believe that you are good at something and you have to put yourself out there in a way that feels like shameless self-promotion. It's awkward and at times severely uncomfortable, especially for those of us who have a tendency toward performance anxiety, or who look like extroverts but are really introverts (who, me??!). Putting doubt aside and doing it anyway is a key differentiator between you and the hundreds and thousands and millions of other people with interesting ideas.
  6. Take in all the advice, but listen to only some. Everyone will have advice and opinions. There is plenty of it to go around!! Some from other entrepreneurs, some from mentors, experts, peers, friends, family, neighbors, your kids, and people that you find yourself next to on an airplane. And many of these people have had their own life or business experiences and have helpful things to say. But, there's a lot of noise to sort through and some of it is extremely discouraging or just downright depressing. If you are hearing this noise and thinking I "should" be doing this or I "should" be doing that, slow down and consider if your decision-making is linked to someone else's expectations. Find a few people that can listen deeply to YOU, be empathetic with YOU, and that YOU can trust and rely on for sound advice.

Finally, know that I am quietly, or quite loudly, cheering you on.