No one can be prepared for everything. But how you approach the endeavor from the start makes all the difference in how you weather the storms and how efficiently you get where you’re headed.
“Method management” offers a proven, practical, actionable guide to the entire entrepreneurial process. It brings structure to all the passion and big ideas that fuel you, focusing them—and you—for real-world success and continuing sanity amidst all the craziness you’re bound to encounter. Learn more about the elements of method management here.
Christy Wilson Delk’s first book, So You Want to Be an Entrepreneur? How to Develop and Grow a Successful Business and Retain Your Sanity, is your complete guide to method management and achieving all your goals as an entrepreneur. Read in-depth about method management, the many ways it benefits the entrepreneur, why it works, and how to wisely apply it to starting and running your business.
While you can’t be prepared for everything that comes your way, you can set yourself up to minimize risk, maximize your resilience, and protect the big picture from getting lost in the details.
Read an excerpt from Christy’s upcoming book here, So You Want To Be An Entrepreneur? How To Develop and Grow a Successful Business and Retain Your Sanity.
This is what it had come down to.
I was sitting across the desk from Al Ruggiero. Al is a serious-minded, mild-mannered accountant and has been my CPA since the mid-80s. It was 1996. There he was. All 6’4” of him, standing up, not looking very mild at all. Things had definitely taken a turn for the dramatic and Al was visibly upset. He was making arm gestures and noises as if he were flushing some giant toilet in the middle of his office in response to what I had just told him.
Al was reacting to the news that I was about to cash out my 401K plan, all $165,000 of it, as a partial down payment to secure a $1.6 million SBA business loan. The flushing gestures were to emphasize that I would be facing a hefty pre-penalty payment. He said and I quote:
“Christy, you can not be serious. You will literally be flushing f-o-u-r-t-y t-h-o-u-s-a-n-d dollars down the toilet. That is the pre-payment penalty for withdrawing that money!”
I could certainly understand his concern. In a previous meeting, I told him I was selling my house for the equity. He didn’t like that either.
Finally, he sat down, shoulders slumping a bit. “Please, just think about it. That’s your retirement fund.” I pushed my professionally bound business plan across his desk and said in a soothing tone, “Al, this is my retirement now. I’ll make the money back.” Al, almost pleading now said, “Can’t you get a partner… or find an investor… or something else?” I distinctly remember my response, and how good it felt to say it. “No Al, I want to do this on my own. It’s all right here,” I said nodding to the navy blue plan with the gold embossed hot air balloon franchise logo printed on the cover. “I can do this.” He sits back in his chair, arms behind his head and said, “Alright then,” and gave me a slight smile, saying without words, that he knew there was no turning back.
Breaking this news to Al was a huge step. At that point, my dream had been a secret. I didn’t want any outside influence undermining my razor focus on the research and the numbers. I was not in a good place in my personal life and focus was what I needed. My husband had stepped up his drinking, my infant son had just turned one and was starting to show some significant developmental delays and I was pretty sure my job at Right Associates was on the line.
Getting up at 4 a.m. to work on the business plan for two hours before getting ready for work had been a wonderful diversion. Doing fieldwork on my lunch breaks and weekends with my son in tow was something that kept me hopeful. Hopeful that constructing a building, owning and operating a business that served the community’s families would allow me to have the career and financial stability that I desperately needed. I wanted to be successful and no matter how hard I worked or how much education I got, I just couldn’t seem to find another way.
At 35 years of age, I made a decision that changed my life; the decision that it was time to start my own business. How I came to that decision, at that point in time, is vitally important if you are reading this because you too want to start your own business. Start-up businesses fail at an alarming rate and your success, and your sanity depends on detailed planning and a process driven execution.
Now, let’s fast forward to 2013. I sold my business for $6,000,000 in the summer of 2012 and dissolved the company nine months later. This book is all about what happened in between those years. From the time I met with Al in 1996, to turning over the keys to the new owners in 2012. The chapters outline the concepts and tools I used to implement what became the most important elements of my success including:
Method Management- The processes to run your operation efficiently and profitably so that you can have a life outside of your business.
Risk v. Reward- An analyze tool for growth and expansion, so you avoid the big mistakes and thrive.
Competitive Advantage- Strategies in a competitive market so that you maintain your position as a market leader.
Entrepreneurial Loyalty- Tools to engage clients and staff to help grow your business because you will need all the help you can get.
Why read this book?
Frankly speaking, (which is something I’m known for) I’m not special, nor gifted in any meaningful way that qualifies me to advise you on how to be successful in business. I used to believe anyone with a college degree, an honest assessment of their experience and skills, and the ability to be disciplined could develop and grow a business that provides great personal and professional satisfaction. Just work hard and use your wits, guts, brain, and heart.
I don’t believe that anymore. Not entirely. It takes more than all of that, a lot more. After I had sold my business, I reflected on many of the things I did the previous fifteen years to grow the business successfully enough to sell it for such a sizeable amount of money. I began reading more and more about start up businesses and talking to fellow entrepreneurs and business consultants heavily involved in enterprise growth.
It was their questions and observations that led me to believe that I have something important to share. Something that will, at the very least, be a useful and practical guide for anyone who is in the early stages of growing a business. Here is a snapshot of what you’re going to learn if you commit to reading this book:
Chapter 1 will help you to decide if this is the right time for you to “Take the Leap.” It’s a complicated decision that must take much more than just your passion into account. Chapter 2 will also help you to figure out if you have the leadership ‘chutzpah’ that will be required to stay strong and be successful. The chapter also contains one of my favorite early stories.
Chapter 3 gets to the core philosophy of what I used to run my business – Method Management. More than just processes, Method Management instills security in the workplace and includes suppliers, clients, and staff. Method Management is what gives you time to reflect, act and lead your business strategically so you can (Chapter 9) Thrive during the Peaks and the Valleys.
Meetings are a dirty word in our corporate culture, but I show you in Chapter 4 how you can build your entire year, and your revenue goal, based off of one meeting and managers love it. We did it every year and almost always met our targets. Loyalty is critical for small businesses, and I’ll show you in Chapter 5 how to instill Entrepreneurial Loyalty so that your clients and your staff will want to participate in your success.
Being competitive in today’s market is vital. If you do not review your strategy annually, your business will begin to erode. Three strategies are outlined in Chapter 6 so that you can Maintain a True Competitive Advantage and continue a meaningful growth trajectory. There are few things that you can truly control. How you communicate to all of your stakeholders, including your community is one of them. In Chapter 7, I will explain why I found this to be one of the most effective ways to mitigate risk, grow my business and have a very positive and balanced work environment. It’s a huge differentiator not to be overlooked by the savvy owner.
Towards the end of my ownership, I learned that I had become one of the largest franchised early childhood centers in the country. I was shocked. Chapter 8 covers Timing and Knowing When to Grow because of the huge risk that is inherent when a business expands. It’s tempting when you are doing well, but it’s not always the right strategy. I do my best here to keep you out of harms way.
The very nature of our economy is to have cycles that bring economic peaks and valleys. I don’t think any business is completely immune to them. However, you can choose one that is not so closely tied to Wall Street. I’ll review those in Chapter 9 as well as my methods and tips for Thriving During the Peaks and the Valleys. It can be done, but you have to be prepared. Developing Stellar Employees that have your back and help you grow your business is something that comes naturally to some business owners. The rest of us need some specific strategies and methods for doing it. In Chapter 10, I’ll help you figure out how to do that for your business in a way that is manageable and highly rewarding for you, your employees and your organization.
I know many people who would not dream of starting a business because of their fear of the risk that goes with it. I’m sure you have some fear too. Chapter 11 tackles that fear talking about What to Do if Bad Things Happen. It contains many personal stories of bad things that did happen in my workplace. Nothing evil, thank goodness, but I did have 3 cases (that I know of) of employee theft totaling approximately $45,000. I also had news crews at my door on more than one occasion and a few other things that I’ll share. I survived and so will you. And, it gets easier because you get smarter. It’s vital because bad things will happen.
The final Chapter, Chapter 12, discusses what you should consider before exiting your business – if and when that is what you choose. The key is to plan ahead, and I’ll share how I planned early on in ways that saved me a small fortune and allowed me to gain more when I did decide to sell. The franchise industry talks a lot about the importance of helping franchisees exit well. It’s a rather new discussion that is bringing out some great ideas. Most of us don’t think about that when we get started, but I will point out some important aspects that you will find very helpful when and if that day comes for you.
Use this information not so much as a ‘how to’ manual, but as a real-life entrepreneurial case study replete with personal accounts of humor, despair, and joy. I know you’ll laugh and relate to some of the things that I went through. Perhaps you’ll ponder what you would do if you were in my place. Nothing would be more pleasing to me. And if you decide you would do something different than I did, then all the better! It got you thinking about the aspects of running a business that aren’t found in textbooks or on-line, and you’ll be better prepared for having done that.
My most sincere wish is that you will derive enjoyment, motivation and a framework for your success story by reading this book. And, if you have any doubts about whether or not business ownership is for you, it should serve as a catalyst for taking the leap, or the realization that this may not be the right time.
What do I believe today? I believe that if I can do it, you can do it too. Life as a small business owner, whether you are a franchisee, a market disrupter or are filling a market need as an independent, is like being on the biggest and best roller-coaster you can ever imagine. Here’s to hanging on for the ride!