You know that old musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying? Well it’s a misnomer. Sometimes you really do have to try to make your business succeed. This is a case study of our client Adelyn. She’s an amazing example of how 3 simple steps can lead to your small business to succeed. Starting a business is hard. Making it successful is harder. But there are a few hacks that can help when you start your small business.
Adelyn started life as a fitness instructor, and she quickly saw a need for affordable, versatile, and fashionable workout tights for women. Most are those kinds of tights have ugly monotones, are unflattering physically, and are questionably breathable. She hated how she looked in them, and she knew other women did, too. So she took three steps when starting out.
There are plenty of platitudes about ‘following your dream’, etc., which are terribly cliché and generally unhelpful. Rather, it’s better to focus on what you know AND what you are good at doing. Everyone knows how to sing. Few are good singers. If you want your business to succeed, it’s better to find how you excel vs. not.
For Adelyn, she knew design. She became a fitness instructor because she was struggling with finding work after graduating from the Fashion Institute in New York. Well, rather, finding a job that would pay enough to live in New York. She loved fitness and was a good instructor and had the background in fashion, and therefore she could successfully marry the two.
The great thing for Adelyn is she could still teach while she was developing her line. It also provided her with a showroom, where she could model what she made. It was brilliant. She was able to reach her audience immediately. She didn’t have to do anything unethical, like steal clients, or some of the other shady things some people do. It was legit. Women say what she wore. Liked it. Asked her about it. And, boom, she had a sale. Others would wear what they bought to her class. More people saw it. And—cha-ching!—new customers.
Having a steady source of income while you get started can help manage the uncertainties of going off on your own. It allowed her to try out new ideas and designs, without risking being able to pay rent.
I hate the adage: “fake it, ‘til you make it”. There are people who do shady things like:
take calls from prospective clients in the kitchen of my tiny apartment. I'd answer the phone using a fake voice, ask the caller to please hold, wait for my pretend secretary to transfer the call to my pretend office, then jump back on the line with a hearty hello as if I'd been doing this for years instead of weeks
While some people have been successful with this, many don’t. This generally leads to an unsatisfied client and a bad review. One bad review early can be deadly.
Adelyn did have to fake it, but she did need to learn quickly how to act like a pro. She was used to a very casual style, which worked well in the gym and with her clients, but not so well with banks and investors. She knew fashion. She knew fitness. But she did not know business. That’s where we came in to help. We quickly go her up to speed. Her presentations in order. Her financials up to par. Once she had the fundamentals in place, she was set for success.
After 12 months, Adelyn was able to quit her fitness instructing and focus full-time on her fashion line. She was ready. We built a transition plan with milestones. Once she hit those milestones and had the funding in place, she was ready. She’s been operating her business full-time for 12 months now, and it’s been a total success. Her business is even looking to grow in the future. Now that’s how to succeed in business.
Brian Cairns, CEO of Prostrategix Consulting. Over 25 years of business experience as a corporate executive, entrepreneur, and small business owner. For more information, please visit my LinkedIn profile
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