There are many steps to building a business. Each moving part has its own purpose in the beginning. Your plan is never the same as other entrepreneurs or business owners, so forging your own path takes a lot of planning and a lot of balancing. That’s there the idea of a business foundation comes in. Planning for your business is usually evolved from the ground up and much like a house it begins with a strong foundation to forge ahead on. And for any foundation there may be a lot of parts going on to make sure it’s rock strong. Just as there is a variety of different reason to begin a business, the foundation might be part of this reason. It might be the jumping off point. To begin 2014 off in a strong way we decided to ask a few entrepreneurs about what their methods were for building a strong foundation. Whether it stems from a powerful personal story or it’s created from small reasons, a solid foundation is the perfect start for any business.
One of the biggest words we associate with starting a business is risk. The risks it takes to go off on your own and the risks you take in generally getting the business going. For Audrey Darrow of Earth Source Organics, the risk was fiscal and the focus was all about knowing the industry from front to back. “I needed to build a strong foundation because I was using my parent’s life savings to build the business. I made sure I knew my industry inside and out and made predictions regarding trends within the industry so that I could stay at the forefront of my niche. I made sure I had all the certifications possible before I launched my product line. I also made sure every penny spent was accounted for by having a bookkeeper and a CPA firm watching over my books. My focus was on staying number one within my industry niche so I went beyond what my competitors were doing by selling to the masses rather than staying within their region.”
Another foundation builder can be inspecting exactly what kind of business you need to be running. For Workfolio owner Charles Pooley, creating an institution was the right foundation. “I look at building my company Workfolio into not just into a business but into an institution. Institutions create more value and make more money than companies. They are more difficult to compete with than companies. Institutions last longer than companies because the community it serves won’t let it fail (think TED, Apple). There are several “pillars” for us in doing this. These are research, education, philanthropy, and good corporate citizenship. Sustainability, or profit is simply the base layers. We have found that this resonates very well with customers, investors, employees, and business partners.”
Other foundations begin by asking some simple questions about your business and what you expect. Gabby Fludd, creator of Gumdrop Swap Kids & Maternity Boutique, started with questions. “When I started my business in 2010, I was solving a problem. I saw how kids consignment and resale stores were failing the true needs of moms like me. When I opened Gumdrop Swap Kids & Maternity Boutique I made decisions by asking myself, “What would I want as the customer?” Sure, that may mean that I may be less profitable almost four years in business. But I’m positive that those choices make for customer loyalty and priceless word-of-mouth referrals. My business continues to flourish so I know I’m doing things right.”
Finally, in the case of Southeastern Laser’s Andy Brasfield, it all comes down to people. “People. It’s all about the people. First, we built solid relationships of trust with our customers. We visited them in person. When there were problems, we worked to find solutions that satisfied the customers. They know we will work hard to keep them satisfied. Then we hired extraordinarily loyal staff members. Our current team of 10 employees has accrued 128 years with our company alone (including my business partner and me who, together, founded the business 25 years ago). I know. It sounds cliche, but it works for us.”