February 25, 2017
The Best Small Business Advice We've Received

The best small business advice we received while starting up

Through every stage of starting this company (ideation, concept evaluation, launch and now growth), I have sought out as much advice as I could possibly get from whoever would talk to me. So I thought I would compile my list of the tidbits I have found most applicable to our process. 

This list is and will always be incomplete, and my ears are always open! Please share any reactions or new thoughts you have in the comments. 

You're already behind. 

I spent a long time in the should we / shouldn't we stage of starting Hi Little One. Was there truly a market need for this? How much would it cost to start? Did I have the time? Could I make the time? Is this worth leaving my career for? So many questions. I could have spent years evaluating this decision, and left to my own devices, I might have. 

I hopped on the phone with a second (or third? The Ryan's roll deep) cousin, Jessica Rolph, who co-founded Happy Family Organics to pick her brain on getting started and was pretty surprised at the fire she lit under my butt! She told me of the story of she and her partner starting Happy Family, and how they were not the only horses in the race. She helped me change my perspective from "is this the perfect opportunity for me" to "how quickly can I get a viable product out in the market to test and improve". 

In essence, good ideas don't come in a vacuum, so if it's worth doing, chances are someone else is thinking it too. Better get moving. 

Create one exceptional product and promote the hell out of it. 

I will be the first to admit, this has been the most difficult advice for us to follow. I don't think we've really made a concerted effort at it yet. This gem comes from my Aunt Christy (Bullets' twin). She was one of the founding members of Club Monaco, a clothing store that made it's name for having the best basics. The perfect white button down. The perfect pencil skirt. It's easier to make a name for yourself if you focus your efforts on making one thing really, really well. Become known for one thing, then show your customers everything else you can do. 

Focus. Focus. Focus.

After my dad passed away, I reached out to once of his closest friends and business advisors, Lloyd Sigel, for career and now business advice. He is someone who has built and sold several successful companies, speaks extremely frankly, and cares a lot about my family and I, so I take his advice very close to heart. Especially since he's an unlikely seller as I (he's a Jewish man selling pork products, until very recently, I've been a childless woman selling baby clothes).  I digress. We have met several times to discuss the position and strategy of HLO and the number one point he drives home each time is to focus on one market, one product line, one strategy. Drive your efforts toward one goal instead of spreading yourself thin across many. Everything we do now is new, no need to make it unnecessarily complicated too! 

Learn to let go. 

This is probably the most frequently reiterated advice I get, becuase it comes from my amazingly supportive husband—usually when he sees me spending way too much time on tasks that could be delegated. Mick started 5280 Exteriors with one of his closest friends right out of college. It's a residential exteriors company, they do everything from roofing to siding to painting to window replacement. When they started, Mick and his partner Bryce were doing all the labor themselves. Part out of necessity, and part out of wanting to fully understand the process. But they quickly learned that they would never and could never grow, if the two of them continued spending all day installing windows. They began hiring subcontractors and managing multiple projects instead of laboring on a few.  

It's such a simple lesson on the economics of time, but I find it so difficult to internalize for some reason. It's so hard to put my name on something without checking every last detail before it goes out into the world. But we will truly never grow unless we learn to set up processes, train a support team, and scale. 

Seek out a lot of advice, then ignore most of it. 

This final nugget came by way of my older (ball-busting, very impressive) sister, Molly, who pulled it from a talk she heard by Spanx founder Sara Blakely. (Side note: If you want to hear a great interview of Sara, check out her out on How I Built This.) This has been particularly helpful to me as I entered an industry—children's apparel—I really know nothing about. Even still! It's easy to hear what has worked for someone else and think that will be our golden ticket. But I need to constantly remind myself that we built this company becuase there was a need for it. No one else is doing it the way we do, so of course not everything that has worked for someone else will work for us. 

So have I missed anything? (Yes, the answer is yes.) Can you share any advice with us? We promise not to ignore all of it ;) 

Nell Lindquist