Growing a Business

Starting and growing your own business

Michelle DeClerck is president of Conference Event Management.

No matter what stage your business is in, business ownership is not a venture you go into alone. That’s not to say you need to be in business with someone else, as many times those relationships disintegrate over time with one owner blaming the other for not doing their fair share of the work. 

For your business to succeed in challenging times as well as to thrive, it’s essential you rely on partnerships to help you grow and offer the best services possible. These partnerships come in many forms, with a key component starting with personal coaching. As an owner, it’s not often possible to divulge all of your information to your staff and while it can be lonely in this role, a coach is the perfect complement to your business success. While my coach lives in Chicago and consults mostly with Fortune 500 executives, our relationship allows me to consider big company practices and meld them into my company’s culture as appropriate. It also provides me with reassurance when I need a boost or want to run a new idea by someone who is going to be objective with their feedback.      

Another key partnership can be a coach aligned with your business operations, someone who focuses on helping your team grow and on the logistics of your company. You can also lean on the expertise of trainers to come in and work on specific projects, such as with client relationships, or sales, or any area where your team has a passion to take it to the next level. 

Key relationships among a trusted group of other business owners may also prove to be one of the best investments you can make with your time and is perfect for those on a tight budget who aren’t able to presently hire coaches. Being purposeful in setting up one-on-one meetings before you start or end your workday often offers you a chance to learn how that business owner is addressing challenges, and can be very motivating as you realize you are not in this alone – someone else is actually experiencing many of the same challenges you are. This free opportunity to share best practices is truly a priceless benefit you don’t want to overlook.

We also rely on many other strategic partnerships with other like-minded or complementary companies. This can allow you to ensure you can provide the best services possible for your clients, while gaining even greater expertise without a financial stake with these organizations. As partnerships are hotter than ever in today’s small-business world, aligning with other organizations nearly always results in more business, more referrals and more opportunities. 

And of course, when all the partnership conversations have taken place, picking up a great self-help book on business ownership, leadership, or best business practices is always a great way to consider new ideas and inspire you to try something new in your business. Whatever you decide, I hope you’ll decide to include others and turn it into a business success story.

Five questions to ask before transforming your hobby into a business

Michelle DeClerck is president of Conference Event Management.

On a recent trip, I was invited for an after-dinner drink with a new acquaintance and couldn’t say no when I discovered she had an interest in starting her own jewelry business and we could therefore talk about business ownership for the evening.

I learned some of her friends had encouraged her to consider selling her jewelry instead of giving it away to friends for special occasions or donating it to high-end charity auctions in Los Angeles. I admired the pieces she was wearing and knew she could have a profitable product line. This was the moment I was waiting for, as I was able to share with her some wonderful resources — including the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) Los Angeles chapter — that could help her jump-start her business.

During our enjoyable conversation, we deviated to other past business experiences, and I regret I didn’t ask all the right questions during our conversation to really get to know whether this was something she really wanted to do, or if her friends just thought she had a great product that others would want to buy. I’m curious how she is going to make that decision and what her deciding factor will be, as money is not her driving factor. 

If you’re thinking about converting your hobby into a business with a strong revenue stream, it’s essential to identify the real reason you want to go into business, and what it will look like for you and your family.

Begin by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Am I prepared to give up the “enjoyment” factor of my hobby and change my focus to filling orders and meeting deadlines?
  • Am I excited to handle the marketing/social media, order fulfillment, purchasing, sales AND accounting side of the work? If the answer to any of these is no, and the revenue won’t allow you to outsource it to others, you may quickly be able to determine that it’s best to stay in hobby mode.
  • Am I willing to invest the time and money necessary to market my product?
  • Do I have a plan for what will happen if I can’t sell enough product?
  • Am I prepared to invest the time necessary to create a strategic vision, seek input from others and listen to their constructive criticism?

While your hobby may be intriguing enough for small requests, do the market research to ensure you can take it to the next level. Friends are great at giving advice and even telling you why something won’t work when you tell them you are open to constructive feedback.

In many cases, if your hobby brings you complete enjoyment, I recommend that you keep it a hobby. But if you really want to take it to the next level, be sure to answer the hard questions first, to seriously probe whether transforming it into a business will deliver the results you desire.

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