1. Build a Strategic Plan. Regularly review it & fix it when necessary
A Strategic Plan is going a step further than a regular business plan. It’s taking your plan and building out your goals into actionable items that come with deadlines. Have a vision on where you want your company to be in 5 to 10 years then break it down.
Example: I've always dreamt of having a house on a lake in the beautiful Okanagan. I always feel inspired and at peace when I am there. It would be truly incredible to have the opportunity to move there. That's what I truly work for every day. How do I get there? I have set out a plan to make sure those 10 years don’t flash by and I haven't achieved my ultimate goal.
The Strategic Plan is something that should be reviewed regularly by the entire leadership team.
2. Have a Vision. "All leaders must have two things: they must have a vision of the world that does not exist and they must have the ability to communicate it." Simon Senek.
A vision ensures that everyone knows what the ultimate goal of the company is and what everyone is striving towards. Goals and deadlines are essential in all strategic planning to ensure everyone on the team is motivated, proactive, and accountable. They also help measure and evaluate progress, therefore providing the team with a sense of accomplishment. This will all help in your communication process as a leader.
3. You want your goals to be attainable, but not too attainable. Challenge yourself because you might surprise yourself and reach that goal. Like Michelangelo said, “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” Aim high, and if you don’t reach your mark, evaluate it, and adjust. When aiming high, even if you come close to your mark, I’m confident you would achieve a lot more.
4. Roles and Responsibilities: Even if it’s just you.
I can not emphasize enough how important this is for any business in the beginning. At the beginning of 2019, our CEO, Jesse Galvon, was running this business on his own, and out of his condo. In February 2019 I joined him because the only thing holding G-Tech Apparel back was that he needed help. At that time, he was doing everything on his own. He and I sat down and decided who was going to do what, but we made one big mistake - we didn’t draw anything out or write anything down. Jesse was running this company for so long that he just had everything in his head. It was totally fine when it was just him and me, but then it became hectic as we started adding more people to our company.
Thankfully we read this book called The E-Myth, by Michael Gerber. I highly recommend this book as a must-read for any small business owner (shout out to Jared Sarbit with Picture Perfect Cleaning for the recommendation). Gerber explains the importance of building out an organizational chart based on where your company will be in 5 years (even if it is just you and you put your name down in every job laid out in the org chart). After that you build out a full job description for each role, all of the responsibilities that come with it, and a rough training manual (this can evolve, be improved on, and added to overtime); even if it is just you. Then as your business is growing you will have the ability to
(1) Know which roles you should hire first. Typically, this would be something that you are not good at or do not enjoy doing. Make sure you hire someone that can do it better than you (this is expanded on further down);
(2) Spend a lot less time training because the person will know what they are supposed to do;
(3) The business will run efficiently with you being there or not.
Of course, in any small business, you need people that are willing to lend a helping hand when someone else on the team needs it. These will be things that are outside of their job description.
By building out a job description for each position you will go through the process of understanding your business in its entirety, not just in the present moment. You will be forced to envision where you would like it to be in 5 years and beyond, whom you will need to hire to get there, and what exactly you need them to do. Then when it comes to hiring you will be one step ahead because you will already have a job description to post online. You will thank yourself greatly for this while running a business because those single little steps can add up quickly. Then lastly, you will ensure your hiring process goes smoothly to find the best candidate possible.
I want to shed some more light on the importance of job descriptions. I worked in the recruitment industry for 6 years, as an account manager (shout out Randstad). If you have seen Friends with Benefits, starring Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake, it is what Mila Kunis does in the movie. I was not quite at that level yet and definitely didn't make it look that cool, but I have to say it was an incredible job for anyone that enjoys being outside of the office and meeting a ton of people. Back to my point...I have seen a lot of job descriptions. Being an account manager my job was to meet with different managers at the various clients that I managed. It was essential to develop relationships with them to understand who they were as a person and understand exactly what their hiring needs were. Then at that point go out and seek out top talent with my team of recruiters. I worked with some phenomenal recruiters during my 6 years, who helped me find some awesome talent for our clients. The biggest benefit we had was when we were provided a detailed job description of the specific job, as well as personality traits that the manager was looking for in a person to fill the position. The more specific the manager was, the better we were able to do our job. This in turn made for a much smoother hiring process for them. There was nothing more frustrating for me when a manager would not grasp this concept. Sometimes we would get lucky, but the managers that we consistently found good hires for were the ones that took the time to work with us and listen to our expertise.
FYI if you have a job description built already, always be willing to tailor it as your company grows because each need along the way could be a little different. Be specific. It will help you throughout the hiring process.
The combination of an org chart and specific job descriptions will allow you to make better decisions on when to hire, and who to hire along the way. Without good talent that fits your company culture, you will never progress as a company. You also want to be clear with expectations and responsibilities. The best talent is passionate about what they do. If they aren't able to work on their craft while they are at your company, they will find someone else that will. Talent is not everything though. The team that connects and works efficiently will win just about every time.
A perfect sports reference is the New England Patriots: Tom Brady is one hell of a quarterback, but everyone knows Bill Belichek's systems and attention to detail had a lot to do with all the championships. I guess we will find out this year in Tampa!
An org chart and detailed job descriptions will give you confidence in knowing what positions you should hire and when. These are typically the jobs that you dislike the most, you are not good at, or are falling to the wayside because you are too busy now to do them yourself. As you grow and are making money you will know when it is the time to hire. The solution is not, 'Oh I will just do them myself for now.' This solution will result in 16 hours days, and you are just burning the candle at each end. Don't get me wrong, some long days are necessary as an entrepreneur, and we've had our fair share here (just ask Jesse), but your business will never grow to its potential if it can't run without you being there. You might as well do that sooner rather than later, or else it will never happen. Throughout the book The E-Myth, Gerber references a lady named Sarah, who runs a pie shop. Her business is not growing, and it is because she does everything by herself. Even at one point she had employees working for her, but she got frustrated that they quit so she decided she would just do everything on her own. She hadn't had a vacation in years and had never reached her goals of expanding. I wonder why??
5. Hire experts in areas, where you aren’t one.
"If you do not know how to do it, hire someone that does." Gary Vaynerchuk. This is Gary V 101. His reason for this is it will take you longer to learn it and put you further behind. Ask yourself, what are the areas of the business that I am strong in? What are the areas that I am comfortable managing…for now? Then anything outside of that you are better off finding experts to either hire on full-time or as a consultant. Hire a consultant when you need someone to provide expertise in a specific area, but only require them on a need-to-need basis.
*This is where the organizational chart will help you make decisions and successfully grow.
At G-Tech we are good at Sales and Marketing. We are not supply chain experts by any means so we went out and found ourselves a supply chain expert. The global marketplace is a beautiful thing in this world, but it is quite complicated at the same time. Language, culture, and business practices are completely different from country to country. You will be much better off if you find a trusty advisor that understands those things and have established relationships with manufacturers. Then what else is important is if they (or have a team around them) understand areas like sourcing, quality control, and international shipping.
That being said, I highly recommend finding an advisor that has experience in the supply chain of similar products to what you are looking to manufacture. Our first supply chain consultant came highly recommended to us, who also had quite the resume. Our project was somewhat complex because we have to put electronics into garments. This person had no previous experience with overseeing the sourcing and manufacturing of electronics. This proved to be an issue. We were forced us to find someone else partway through the process. This caused us to have to physically meet with the manufacturer ourselves (who was located overseas), a lot more often than necessary. Unfortunately, this resulted in the manufacturing of our product taking a lot longer then we planned. Exactly what Gary V preaches not to do. We made it work for the time being, but we won’t be going against what Gary instructed ever again. We have gone out and identified the experts we need to scale our supply chain properly.
*JASON AND JESSE'S LAST DAY IN MEXICO AFTER NEARLY 100 DAYS
Make sure you educate yourself on a topic before hiring an ‘expert’ consultant. This will give you the ability to ask proper questions to ensure that they are the ‘expert’ that they say they are.
Never take anyone for face value. Do your homework on anyone you are bringing into your business. I’m talking about everyone! That includes new hires, consultants, brand ambassadors…everyone!
Everyone is going to tell you that they can do the job. The beautiful thing with the internet is no one can hide. You should be able to find a website, a LinkedIn, Instagram, or Facebook profile, or maybe YouTube videos. The less that person or group has online, the bigger the red flag.
Do not just rely on their references because there will always be someone that will talk highly of them. Clearly that's why they are providing those references to you. Do some additional homework to back these references up. Do some research on clients that they have previously worked with. Call the company and find out whom they dealt with directly then have a conversation with them. I should have known better with my recruitment background.
What might be the most important thing to understand out of this is to ‘Check your ego at the door, you are not that good at hiring, but no one is. Get good at firing.’ Gary V . You can do as much homework as you think is necessary, but at some point, a person will surprise you by not being, whom you thought they were going to be. Ray Dalio, arguably the world’s most successful hedge fund manager, states in his book Principles to ‘Fire and promote quickly.’ If an ‘expert’ is not doing what you hired them for; FIRE THEM. The longer you drag it out, the more emotionally attached you become, and the harder it will be for you to fire the person.
6. Document everything!
When we started dealing with a new manufacturer overseas, we went and visited them in person because we had some issues with the first few run of samples that came through. We figured it would be best that we go meet them in person to see how the next samples were being made and walk through the process with them. As we were reviewing the samples and making some critical points, I noticed that no one on their end was writing anything down. No wonder there were issues with the samples. At that moment we made sure, (1) Both sides are taking notes; (2) Compare notes after to ensure we are all on the same page; (3) Add them into the Tech Package (see below); (4) Follow up with an email with the meeting notes and make sure all parties confirm the notes are accurate.
7. Ensure you understand the supply chain process.
What is required to get a product manufactured to (1) The highest quality possible at, (2) a cost that will allow you to sell the product, and (3) at a price that is profitable for your business?
Make sure you have a complete Tech Package – hire an expert if you aren’t comfortable doing this yourself. A Tech Package at a bare minimum should include the following:
- Technical Drawings
- Bill of Materials (BOM) Very Important!
- Garment Specifications (Measurements and Tolerances)
- Construction Details
- Packaging Details
- Sample notes (Add every deficiency at each stage of samples then make sure it is dated and timestamped. Then a new copy of the Tech Package is saved to your files for every new sample).
8. Make decisions quickly. Don’t rush the process to get there.
- Do the proper fact-finding.
- Involve the right people in the process.
- Once you have done the first two steps this will give you confidence in the decision that you decide to make. Make the decision, put it into action then don’t second-guess your decision. Evaluate it and make changes if necessary, but if you second-guess yourself, you will never get anywhere with your business. This is where anxiety, stress then procrastination set in.
9. CELEBRATE THE WINS. BIG OR SMALL!
You will face a lot more challenges than experiencing success in the beginning. Celebrate all those successes when they come along. Also, what is extremely important is how you face those challenges.
Don’t face the challenges alone. If you have team members, involve them. You will be surprised at how much easier it is when you have someone to support and bounce ideas off of.
It is important to reflect on each day. Write down what you are grateful for, what you accomplished, and what is something that you could have done differently that day. This will make the journey a lot more enjoyable.
10. Make Mistakes. You will learn from them. Just make sure you do learn from them!
If you aren't making mistakes, then you are not pushing hard enough. "'I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed." Michael Jordan.
Be okay with your people making mistakes too. Make sure you help them along the way but don't end up doing it for them just because you know you can do it right or better at that time. This way you will be astonished at how quickly they grow. Get out of their way. You will thank yourself for this one. Do not try to do it all yourself.
11. Systems and Processes are essential to any business.
This was another topic that is emphasized in The E-Myth. Gerber goes into great detail on the importance of proper systems and processes for any business. The absence of systems will never allow any entrepreneur to grow their business. They will just get in their own way.
Gerber refers to the franchise model as the most successful business model out there. Companies like McDonald’s have perfected this model. These are businesses that are successfully built on proper systems and processes that are put into place to ensure a consistent product is delivered to their customers every time.
For us, we found that there were 4 essential systems that our business should have. We understood that the only way we could take the next step in our business that we would have to put these in right from the start.
1. Relationship Management System (CRM). Make sure there is a funnel created and automate things often as possible. This will only solidify a reliable process by minimizing human error. This also puts the client first because consistency will ensure reliability, which in the end will result in a better overall product or service that you deliver. We use HubSpot as our CRM, which is easy to navigate and has a ton of automation functions.
2. Administration Systems. The fun stuff! Let us speak from experience, do this from the beginning! It makes it a lot easier when you add new people to the organization. They can get up to speed a lot quicker. Or else, you are pulling stuff from old files, or even worse...memory. Remember; reduce human error.
3. Marketing Systems. This is the fun stuff for sales and marketing people! We are an e-commerce business, so we are working hard to make sure people know who we are on the Internet (don't hear that word much anymore. I'm aging myself a little). We made it a whole lot easier on ourselves when we started working smart. Some of the things we have implemented are,
- HootSuite to help us manage the social media platforms we use.
- Smile.io for our customer loyalty program.
- Klaviyo for our email marketing campaigns.
- Sezzle for no interest installment payments (You'd be surprised how many people utilize this option. This has been a great addition for us that we have marketed out. Shoutout Ryan Boonstra at Sezzle).
- Candy Rack is a upsell app that we plugin at the point of checkout.
- Aftership Returns is a 3-step return process app that is also plugged in.
All these things are essential tools within our eCommerce business and help us market to the online consumers.
4. Payment System. Every business needs to be in the business of making money. If you don't have an effective way of taking payment, especially online then you will be in BIG BIG trouble. It sounds simple, but the best thing to do is get one of those experts I referenced earlier. Someone who can put in a proper accounting and bookkeeping system (one that takes online payments) that manages it for you throughout the process. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. It took months for us to get our books straightened out solely for lack of systems and processes. It worked in the beginning, but was not set up to scale.
12. Did I say Document Everything? I mean everything!
Now more than ever, consumers want to feel connected to the companies they buy from. Give them a sense of community, which will lead to customer loyalty. This results in repeat customers. According to this Wordstream article, '77% of millennials participate in some sort of customer loyalty program.' Even more compelling in the article is 'according to HubSpot 84% of millennials do not trust traditional advertising.' It is beneficial in today’s digital landscape to be authentic and to tell a story along the way. The best way to do that is through storytelling on multiple social channels. Documenting everything along the way will give you a way to connect your community to your business, where they feel part of it. This is done by providing them with content in its truest form.
Secondly, it will really help you evaluate things along the way. It will make the journey a lot more enjoyable.
Lastly, it makes your life a lot easier when you go to write a blog, or maybe even a book one day. For me, it was quite enjoyable to go back and look at my journal to reflect on the past 12 months. It was truly fulfilling to go back and see what all we have experienced and accomplished as a team. That's what life is all about. Enjoy what you do!