There are many perks to starting your own business--being able to set your own hours and working on something that you're truly passionate about, for starters. But if you want to continue enjoying those perks, you need to figure out how to make money (and lots of it).
Inc. asked several CEOs who made our 2015 Inc. 5000 fastest-growing companies list--all of whom were able to generate more than $1 million in annual revenue by the end of their third year in business--how they were able to hit the million-dollar mark. Here's what they learned on their way to building a fast-growing business.
Take the time to recruit an exceptional team.
Andy Bogdan Bindea, the CEO of No. 375 on the Inc. 5000 list, Sigora Solar, started his company because he wanted to give people access to "clean, reliable, fairly priced energy all around the world." But to achieve global reach, his company, which designs and installs solar energy systems, had to hire people whom he could trust to help run his business from thousands of miles away.
"I'm still surprised it was so difficult to assemble a really exceptional team," Bogdan Bindea says. It was critical to dedicate the time to search for the right people and to take the right steps to retain them.
Fine tune your core product.
When David Long launched No. 415, Orangetheory Fitness, he didn't want his studios to be like any other gym. Orangetheory Fitness classes focus solely on interval training--that is, providing workouts that incorporate exercises at high speed, followed by short recovery periods.
"People wanted us to add yoga classes and add different things, but we wanted to focus on being the best at interval training workouts," Long says. "That's what really helped us grow from more than a dozen studios a few years ago to more than 300 today."
Figure out who your most loyal customers are.
Aihui Ong, the CEO of No. 129 on the Inc. 5000 list, Love With Food, says that business really took off during her natural snack food subscription company's second year, when they were able to identify their most loyal customers: Millennial moms.
Love With Food created online questionnaires that customers could fill out describing what they liked about that month's snack box. The company also gave customers the option of sharing their demographic information when they first signed up for a subscription.
Ong noticed that it was predominantly women who were signing up for subscriptions, that most of them were between the ages of 25 and 40, and that many of the comments the company received were about what products the customers' kids liked the most.
So they started creating social-media posts that were geared toward Millennial moms, including pictures of moms with their kids, and touted products children with certain food allergies could still enjoy.
"With a good understanding of our consumer base, we knew where to spend on advertising and how much we needed to spend to acquire customers," Ong says.
Be open to change.
Initially, A.J. Forsythe and his pal Anthony Martin started No. 22 on the Inc. 5000 list, iCracked, as a side business when they were still in college. Forsythe tells Inc. that he grew frustrated with having to fork over $100 or more every time he dropped his phone, so he learned how to repair his smartphone himself. Forsythe and Martin passed out flyers around campus, advertising their newly created smartphone-repair business, and quickly garnered interest from their fellow students.
At first, Forsythe and Martin wanted to keep iCracked's business limited to college campuses, but they realized that there was a bigger opportunity if they marketed their company as a provider of "on-demand tech repair." They pivoted, and today iCracked employs more than 5,000 active repair technicians who will travel to customers to fix their smartphones and tablets at the push of a button on iCracked's website.
"Don't be too in love with your business model, because it can change and evolve into something better," Forsythe says.