When I founded my business in March 2010, I knew I needed a mentor. Lucky for me I had one in my father. (Who happens to be the CEO of one of the most visited locations in all of Ohio, Young’s Dairy)
Not only did my father help me throughout my youth in understanding how a small business should be run – but he also has a great understanding of how to grow a business from scratch. Something his father had taught him.
Once we had decided that this business was a worthwhile venture, he made an appointment for us to meet at Aileron in Dayton. Aileron was founded by Clay Mathile and was built to “help America’s aspiring entrepreneurs of today and for generations to come.” It is a superb facility with small meeting rooms, medium sized classrooms and larger conference halls. They have a great library of books that were written by some of the great entrepreneurs over the years.
Our first meeting was one of organization. I needed to establish the values that my company was going to stand on, how I was going to find clients and most importantly, how my company was going to set itself apart from the vast competition in my sector. Having an already established, successful businessman to bounce ideas off of and get advice was crucial. Hearing ideas from someone who you know has gone through infinite combinations of successes and failures makes the what if’s of starting a business not seem so daunting.
We have met every 3 months since – each meeting adding a new piece to the puzzle. And as I am growing in confidence (and in size) having an ally in a fellow business owner is something that I’m not sure how I would have done without. I will look to add members to my board – based on qualities that I find that I need help on the most. Every 3 months I set goals for my company, and if they fall short – I look to see how I can grow.
What my father and I established early on was, during the early part of my business, I need to surround myself with smart business people. If there was a gap in what I can offer my clients, I need to fill it. For example, being an artist. While I feel that I have a great eye for what looks appealing, it doesn’t translate into me being able to draw a logo for someone. So what have I done? I’ve got several trusted graphic designers on call – ready to take on a project for a client of mine.
And same goes for my business as a whole. If I feel that I am weak with a certain aspect of my business, I will find someone in that is strong and experienced with that aspect. And if I can trust them, I will ask them to be a part of my board of directors. I think that this is one of the best ways for me (and other budding entrepreneurs) to grow as business owners. Just as experience is one of the most valuable tools a business owner can have, having a group of trusted advisers can be equally as helpful.
Every three months, I take a step back from the day to day operations of Shout It Out Design. I see what has worked – I scrap the things that don’t. My board and I discuss what things I plan on doing over the next 3 months, 6 months, a year and five years to sustain growth and set goals to ensure I’m continuing on a good path. It’s things like this that set small business owners aside from small business failures – and I’m glad I had an ally to get me started right. (Thanks Dad – happy late Father’s Day!)