Entrepreneurs who have built a business from scratch often have wise advice to share with others. In the case of Seth Goldman and Barry Nalebuff who built a brand called Honest Tea from nothing into a US$ 100 million company bought over by Coca-Cola, they believe that building a successful business can take 10 rules.
“Build something you believe in — because that’s the first step to building a great brand.”
Just as they had done, most entrepreneurs often start out with something that is close to their hearts. Something that led them in the first place towards entrepreneurship. A great brand often fulfills a need we feel or have experienced.
“Don’t aim for 10% improvement. Make it radically better and different.”
In which ways is my business better than others – what more can I offer than competition isn’t offering – those are the questions that should help build the dream business that will eventually become a great big enterprise. Often times, making a small improvement goes a long way – it can be something small but something that is thoughtful and right on the dot in fulfilling a customer need competition may have overlooked but it can help you go the longest way.
“Prepare to be copied. Don’t start unless you’ll survive imitation.”
The due believe that if your idea is truly radical and succeeds, then competition will happen right away. How do you deal with that – success often takes innovation into account. Can your business keep on innovating on a consistent basis? Can you give a lot more in service than competition? Of course, as Honest Tea, you maybe even be able to eventually sell off your business to bigger better competition.
“Build up reserves of money and energy for bad luck and mistakes.”
Goldman and Nalebuff make a good point here — stay lean and you will not waste money and time. There will always be bad luck and mistakes that are costly but being watchful helps in minimizing or reducing mistakes.
“Never, ever give up control — until you sell.”
Despite the lure of venture capital or big time investors, no true entrepreneur must really give up control. If you give that up, you will lose the vision, the culture, the identity of the company you built. If you sell, you can give up control . Goldman and Nalebuff did raise investment capital for Honest Tea from the start and they always remained in the driver’s seat.
“Don’t compromise on the big things — compromise on everything else.”
Vision. Purpose. Core values. Write these things in stone and never budge. But flexibility is key to long term survival. It is very important to be able to be flexible when it comes to changing customer needs.
“Figure out how to achieve your goals on a tiny budget — then cut that number in half.”
It usually will cost twice as much, and take twice as long as you think. But being lean helps when you are building a business ; as attractive as it may seem, the frills are not really needed when you are still growing. Maybe later but not when you are balancing the books.
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
Building a business is neither for the faint of heart or the speed demon. It takes effort and planning so don’t hurry – work on your strategy and plan.
“Take care of your family, personal and spiritual health — if you aren’t laughing or smiling on a regular basis, recalibrate.”
No matter how busy you may become, never give up on the things that matter most – your family, your personal and spiritual health. Those are the most important aspects of life and no business is worth sacrificing them, as we can see from the many business personalities around us.
“Build the enterprise and the brand as if you’ll own them forever.”
Of course, you may sell it someday but that’s not the goal when you start out. You saw a need, understand the business and have the know-how to set it on course and steer. But enthusiasm and the drive for success must be there from day one – a business that lacks vision and renewal can go down hill fast.
Building a business is not easy – but when we hear from those who have gone there before us, we can learn the way forward.