Nowadays, there are multiple businesses serving almost every market. The internet has made production, distribution, and promotion cheaper and more accessible than ever before, thereby stimulating innovation, the creation and sale of products and services by countless businesses from tiny entities operated as hobbies to multinational corporations. So how are you supposed to start a new business that stands out from all the existing competitors? How does someone build a differentiated business and connect with the customers who match that business’s unique selling proposition?
With the difficulty in finding valuable advice that is actionable backed by real results-3 Entrepreneurs share their lessons that allow a company to scale to 7 figures and beyond.
Brian Cunningham is the Executive Director of CVG Consulting Co.- a business consulting and marketing agency. His 2 lessons from working with multiple high-end brands to implement operational processes that scale companies:
1. Aim to create more than just a brand when building your company; create a culture around your business. There needs to be an initiative and purposeful pursuit behind why you started your company. When you clearly communicate these things to the people (your target market), your intentions will resonate well with them and they’ll get behind it. Run with them; that’s how you create REAL brand equity.
2. Everybody wants to make money in their business, but the focus should be on what you KEEP. You have got to be so secure in your business model that when you scale, you can manage the change in volume. Focus, emphasize, prioritize or whatever another word you want to call it; at the end of the day, your business model should have no Grey areas. These are keys I look for in unlocking a business’s potential. Your customers are loyal to you because of your message. You are loyal to them by building something sustainable.
Skyler Christensen and Kyle Moffitt, both millennial serial entrepreneurs knew that they had a gift for creating systems, and companies that generated a lot of profit; but as Skyler started his family, and Kyle started to re-evaluate his trajectory, they both simultaneously realized that money and business were no longer enough.
Going into business in a joint partnership can be tough, and usually discouraging, but, when Skyler and Kyle realized their mutual passion for the environment, they both realized they needed to work together to have maximum impact. Since 2017, Zoetic Solar has already wiped tens of thousands of pounds of CO2 off the face of the planet, and their efforts as a company are the equivalent to over 6,000 trees planted every year for the next 20 years. When measured in dollars, their revenues have exceeded $20 million since their inception, and they have created a team of over 50 consultants that go door to door to give homeowners the opportunity to “go solar”. According to them, they’re just getting started.
1. My biggest tip to a budding entrepreneur is to flex and exercise your decision making muscle as much as possible. Decide, commit and succeed! Skyler says, “A lot of entrepreneurs get stuck in ‘analysis paralysis’. When Kyle and I were starting out, there were many decisions that had to be made quickly and if we spent time contemplating we would have never gotten far. We had to learn to trust our gut and prior experiences to make those key decisions. We would follow through on what we had decided, trusting that it was the right thing at that moment, and do everything in our power to make it right. This takes vision, influence, and a lot of confidence… It’s a muscle, like anything else.
2. Kyle added, “For me, when starting a business, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the variables that can influence an outcome. With so much going on at all times, it’s easy to get frustrated with all the things that are outside of your control. That’s why I’ve made it a habit to keep my mindset on ‘controlling the controllables’.” He goes on to say, “‘Keep the ball in your court,’ growing up I loved extreme sports, from wakeboarding, sports bikes, to skateboarding, hiking, skydiving, skiing even the extreme sport of salsa dancing! My favourite part was not necessarily the rush, it was the ability to stay in control of my controllable despite the circumstances, that was so exhilarating to me, and it transferred over to my experience with sales and entrepreneurship.”
In entrepreneurship, Kyle suggests, that instead of trying to control how many solar panels they could sell in any given week, that they put your focus on controlling how much they prospect.
“When we put all your focus on how many people we talk to every day, versus how many people we can get to say yes, we put more power and control in our hands. The sales start to flow and fall on our laps because all the focus is making sure that the faucet stays on. Coupled with the decision making axiom that Skyler has adopted, these two tips could propel any entrepreneur to the next level of their own personal success.
Dr John Jaquish is a serial entrepreneur and the inventor of many fitness related products, including X3 Bar; even one that renowned billionaire motivational speaker Tony Robbins invested in.
Even in the relatively low tech and highly crowded space of fitness products, my team and I have been able to rise above the noise and build a multi-million dollar business with almost no starting capital that wasn’t spent on our investment in intellectual property (full disclosure, we spent a lot on IP protection, about $400k, but that was a long term investment and not required for our initial success). I believe two factors were most important for our initial success and rapid growth:
- A very in-depth focused knowledge base (subject matter expertise).
- Multivariable market intelligence and strategy.
My business was founded based on observations I made while trying to master one specific area of human physiology. The idea came from these observations but I would never have gotten to that conclusion were it not for a lot of time invested in research. When I was just finished with undergrad, I became fascinated with the biomechanics of impact absorption. This was because my mother had just been diagnosed with Osteoporosis and my research into that condition had shown me that gymnasts are subject to incredibly high impact forces.
I was sure this was related to the impact absorption, and I was developing a medical device to permit more controlled osteogenic loading. To maximize my understanding of the technology I was working on, I decided I needed to invest in further education. The goal here was to get the most specific and focused knowledge possible about the field I was working in, and to that ends I found a PhD program (Rushmore University) that would permit me to undertake a course of research and study that was as specific as I wanted, with my dissertation focusing specifically on the science of impact absorption in the human body. It was in the course of this research when it became apparent that people who exercise by lifting weights overload joints, especially in weak ranges of motion, but they simultaneously under-load muscle compared to its maximum safe capacity.
A device had to be developed so that force applied could be increased to stimulate muscle growth, but also restricted so as to protect joints when in a position of mechanical disadvantage. For all the depth of research, and time spent studying to uncover this information and reach these conclusions, it turned out to be (relatively) simple for my team and I to develop a new strength training product that leveraged these obscure biomechanics facts to provide an exercise stimulus that is outrageously more effective than weight lifting. This sort of investment in mastering a body of knowledge sets you apart based on your super-familiarity with that body of knowledge and thereby help you think creatively and develop ideas that other people haven’t had yet.
This next point is more of a cautionary note. “If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door” and I feel obligated to note that this is one of the most dangerous ideas that could be accepted by a startup founder.
This is not to say that it is impossible to succeed without marketing, but counting on luck is not a business strategy at all, and history shows that a superior product can easily fail because an inferior competing product was marketed better. And even more relevant to the new business is the fact that a superior product can fail even in the absence of competition if there is no effective marketing strategy for profitably growing the sales of that product. Using Marketing intelligence to develop and iterate a marketing strategy, even (especially) before you launch your product, is the only way to reduce the risk of such marketing failures. But while that made for a simple unique selling proposition, it did not simplify the market intelligence.
Even with a “better mousetrap”, my team and I had to be prepared to reach out to a cold audience, raise awareness of the product and keep people’s attention while we provided education, spoke to how our offering resolved pain points, built trust and credibility, etc..
This is not easy and I worked to understand every nuance of successful strength training products, and educational programs for strength, with an emphasis on learning how they were marketed and how they related (or didn’t) to the pain points of the consumers in this market. By the time we launched the product, I thought we had an effective marketing strategy in place. Issues were quickly revealed and we made an enormous continued effort to create and test new materials, especially when those materials were in direct response to data, such as from customer polls or Google Analytics.
Very little from our original marketing strategy has survived to the present day, but we are better for that.