Get Out Of Your Cave
The title came from Matt Owen of US Rodeo Supply and he just happens to be the person I decided to interview for this post.
He and his brother Nathan have built quite a business and their story is one that needs to be told. His comments are in italics.
Question 1 - As a small business and an entrepreneur, you and Nathan have been fighting a hard battle. Can you describe how plugging into outside resources and networks have helped to ease the pressure on you two operating the business? i.e. can you outsource certain things like financials, etc.
Initially it was difficult to embrace the concept of seeking outside resources. Each attempt we made tended to be a dead end or required unrealistic amounts of capital to have "expert" advisers. We became extremely frustrated and found ourselves reluctant to proactively look for outside advise. However once we had exhausted all of the traditional forms (Bank, SBA, SBDC, SCORE and others) it was a cross-roads and we needed to find a trusted source that could assess our situation and be able to advise us to either "Kill It" or "Double Down". Fortunately we were able to find this in part through a connection made during the SBA FastTrac Program. Kreamer Law offered us our first real "realistic" look at our business. We mapped out our plan and indicated that we did not believe at that stage that we could secure traditional financing. We needed to connect with resources that we could vet the Model to and see if we had a realistic shot at securing Angel Investors or Venture Capital. In hind site this was the first "networking" effort that we had engaged in. Since then we have been able to find numerous external resources to "outsource" expertise.
Question 2 - Could you briefly describe the benefit of accessing a mentor and/or vetting your business model to someone who has successfully exited a like kind business model?
We have been able to remove the "emotion" and drive the business based on facts. The confidence gained from being plugged into people who have done it before (failing or succeeding) has totally changed our use of time. We have since moved beyond the starting line and we are seeing traction with the business. The amazing part is we stopped being focused on securing capital and focused on driving the required changes internally and the sales doubled since the initial networking started.
Question 3 - Have the presentations/connecting you've done with SEMEE and the local universities prepared you for future presentations that involve direct capital growth for your business?
ABSOLUTELY. The opportunity to share our story and learn from others has been an amazing early stage proving ground. This exercise has allowed us to clarify our vision and define what steps we need to take to move the business to the next level. The personal confidence gained through a non-threatening "resource" environment positions us to bridge quickly into a "Road Show" if/when we do have a need to secure venture capital.
Question 4 - Looking back, what would you say the turning point in your business was, after you started your networking process, that validated your business model?
Finding others that can see the vision of creating an Enterprise Model has been difficult. However once plugged in, we have found an array of respected Executives that do see it. When you start to have resources align with the same shared vision (not blinded by capital~however interested in creating something impossible) I think that is when it starts to gel and gain traction.
Question 5 - If you had one piece of networking/collaborating advice for small business owners in Central Iowa... What would that be?
Opportunities are only wasted if you let them be. Get out of your cave. Be proud of what you do and share your story with others. Iowans want to help Iowans. Businesses enjoy helping other businesses. Go to events...even when they have nothing to do directly with what you do. Odds are someone there knows someone who can directly change your business. Don't go out looking to make Sales, go looking to find ways to help others.
Many thanks to Matt for taking the time to answer a few questions. I recommend that everyone take the steps necessary to get plugged into the community. We live in an ever changing world and it will be our networks that ultimately cause us to succeed.