Here are 5 Tips for Entrepreneurs Growing a Business in 2016
New Year’s is a time to reflect. A time to look back and learn from the last chapter of your life as you move forward. In 2015 I co-founded Black Squirrel Distillery, bought my first rental property, got married and helped launch a startup driven law practice. Needless to say, 2015 brought me a lot of lessons, but in business the biggest lessons came from cash flow and mops. So here are several tips for your business in 2016.
- Wearing multiple hats
Startups and entrepreneurs don’t generally have the luxury of focusing on a single task. Instead we are forced to wear multiple hats. On a Monday at Black Squirrel we might be creating a product, focusing on R&D. On Wednesday someone might be going through scenario budget planning. Friday you might be picking up a mop and cleaning the floors.
The important part is that as an entrepreneur you and your team need to be willing to do the work that is necessary. You shouldn’t feel entitled. You shouldn’t think that any task is below you. It will be an important foundation as you grow your business.
Here’s a simple rule—don’t ever ask an employee to do something you wouldn’t do yourself. So when the floor needs to be cleaned, pick up the mop and get the job done.
The life blood of an early startup is cash flow. It doesn’t matter how much traction you have, how far your product has come or how many potential customers you have if your company runs out of cash to pay bills, employees, and vendors. As a startup you often don’t have the option of going to a commercial lender for a line of credit to float cash while you wait for the ARs to roll in. Even if Greg Straus says otherwise! (We’ll save my comments about formal business plans another time Greg).
Worse yet, if cash flow isn’t properly monitored and planned for, the company can be in a precarious situation making it extremely difficult if not impossible to obtain funding from lenders or investors; making any growth very difficult. As counterintuitive as it may seem, when you are desperate for money is often the worst time to look for it.
Plan carefully. Grow strategically. Also get yourself a subscription to QuickBooks Online, talk to an accountant, and get yourself a mentor. Check out the UNY50 Network of Entrepreneurial Leaders.
- Flexibility and creativity
I know I just emphasized the importance of planning but you also should avoid planning yourself out of existence. What you thought, what you learned, what you planned for may simply not work. When it doesn’t you need shift, pivot, be flexible and creative.
This year I learned that your over-the-counter cleaning solvents and a mop won’t clean up 20 gallons of maple off of a tile floor.
I also learned that diligently following a plan would have prevented Black Squirrel from bringing a second product online—an aggressive decision at the time which ultimately resulted in increased inventory, entry into a new product market and ultimately increased sales.
Planning is important but don’t be afraid change that plan if it isn’t working or if the right opportunity comes along.
Mopping. Nobody particularly enjoys it but make sure you’ve at least had the conversation about what each team member expects from one another. Who is going to pick up the mop when necessary? Who is expected to cover what task? What happens when someone needs assistance? How are each of you contributing? You may all have different roles, but being on the same page is important.
Expectations are powerful and should be managed carefully.
Communication is equally as important as managing expectations. Cash flow analysis is meaningless if your team doesn’t know how it impacts them and your growth strategy. Expectations are meaningless if they aren’t communicated to the rest of your team. How to properly mop maple syrup off of a tile floor isn’t helpful if it isn’t communicated. It has often been my experience that the root of many problems is inadequate communication or miscommunication.
Make a point to communicate and understand how people may do so differently. Another simple rule compliments of a good friend: share what you know with partners and staff. Otherwise, you are depriving them of seeing the issue from your perspective. A good partner can see an issue from multiple sides and weigh them.
Go the extra mile. It can help avoid and mitigate conflicts.
Cheers to 2016. Now go get a mop!