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Two years ago I had an idea for a website. I decided to leave a well paying job, invest all of the money I made post college, and began to start the terrifying journey of building a company. Today, I want to share the ten most powerful things I learned about turning that idea into a business at a time when the economy was at its worst, and capital was scarce. Many of the tips I'm sharing with you were passed down from others who were kind enough to share their experiences and insight with me.
At a time when branding is more important than ever for entrepreneurs, Lillian Vernon, the doyenne of direct-mail retailing, talks about branding herself to reach her customers. In the past half century, the strategy has enabled her company to get valuable publicity, as well as more easily extend its product line and weather times of crisis, the author writes.
Marketing creatively will enable entrepreneurial retailers to prosper in difficult or changing times, writes the founder of a venerable direct marketing company. The author offers examples of creative marketing from the company's half century in business.
When you run the biggest golf resort in the world and you bring a weak game, you play. Early and often, night and day. That's what Ken Chu did when he became vice-chairman of Mission Hills Group. The company opened the first course on what is now a sprawling 12-course club in Shenzhen, China, in 1994, and is building a 10-course venue in Hainan, the southern Chinese island Beijing is backing a tourism hub.
The founders of a provider of outsourced information technology services advise that entrepreneurial companies maximize trust with vendors.
Market research results can help an entrepreneur change company behavior. To that end, this author recommends a ten-step plan for tapping the power of focus groups to conduct research that is immediately actionable.
Regularly reviewing your business plan ensures that you meet the needs of a growing enterprise. This allows you to identify key growth areas that you want to target.
Candace Fleming’s résumé boasts a double major in industrial engineering and English from Stanford, an M.B.A. from Harvard, a management position at Hewlett-Packard and experience as president of a small software company.
But when she was raising money for Crimson Hexagon, a start-up company she co-founded in 2007, she recalls one venture capitalist telling her that it didn’t matter that she didn’t have business cards, because all they would say was “Mom.”
Another potential backer, reports Claire Cain Miller in The New York Times, invited her for a weekend yachting excursion by showing her a picture of himself on the boat — without clothes. When a third financier discovered that her husband was also a biking enthusiast, she says, he spent more time asking if riding affected her husband’s reproductive capabilities than he did focusing on her business plan. Ultimately, none of the 30 venture firms she pitched financed her company. She finally raised $1.8 million in March 2008 from angel investors including Golden Seeds, a fund that emphasizes investing in start-ups led by women.
A culture of fun and respect for customers and employees pervades this family-owned furniture business that has been sold to legendary investor Warren E. Buffett, writes the author. Culture is what can't be taken away, even after a company is sold, as both the author and his brother are still actively involved, he notes.
Entrepreneurs confronting the unhappy task of having to downsize when business conditions change need to execute in a way that preserves the dignity of, and, ultimately, the relationship with, the employees, says an entrepreneur who laid off her entire staff in the wake of the dot-com crash. Downsizing well involves throwing away the rulebook and dealing with people on a personal level, she writes.
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