Building a business takes a village. But how can a growing business afford it?
Entrepreneurs are highly motivated, risk-taking individuals. Despite their risk profile, they aren't necessarily risk-seeking individuals. Many "solopreneurs" yearn to build a team around them and share the risk as well as the upside benefits of building a company.
We recently heard from Cecilia Wong, the CEO of Cecilia Wong Skincare in New York. She asked us three questions:
1. I'm a solopreneur and would like to start building a team. Where do I start? Should I hire a sales assistant or a marketing assistant or both?
2. I sell my products through several avenues: my website, Amazon and at the salon. I'm trying to find ways to increase more sales online--any tips to attract more traffic or different ways to increase sales?
3. What are some no-cost marketing ideas I can implement besides social media?
At the heart of these questions, it seems that Wong is struggling with how to build a team and infrastructure around her. Growth businesses can't be built solely by an individual; they require a team of people and partners with complementary skill sets. Building a business takes a village.
In Wong's case, she is trying to build an internal team to boost her marketing and sales efforts. She needs a distribution network to put her products in front of more customers and she needs to promote her product to attract potential customers .
Finding an individual with all of these capabilities would be rare and possibly expensive. The right person is not only "smarter" than Wong in terms of sales and marketing prowess, but also must be seeking an entrepreneurial environment. The perfect individual might also be willing to take some equity in lieu of salary.
In terms of distribution and marketing partners, Wong should look to find companies that can work with her in building the business. This might mean investing alongside her in the upfront costs and reaping some of the benefits as the company grows. She may be able to find a young, entrepreneurial PR expert looking to build a track record of his or her own and is willing to partner with Wong at a reduced rate, or on a success basis.
As a solopreneur who aims to build a growing business, the best thing Wong can do is find the right partners and team members. This takes a lot of digging, and the ability to give up some of the future upside of the business. But finding the right partner can reap rewards for years to come.
KARL STARK AND BILL STEWART are managing directors and co-founders of Avondale, a strategic advisory firm focused on growing companies. Avondale, based in Chicago, is a high-growth company itself and is a two-time Inc. 500 honoree. @karlstark