John Tabis is the founder and CEO of The Bouqs Company, a cut-to-order online flower delivery service. Connect with John and @TheBouqs on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

Entrepreneurship in Bloom

Some of the best stories of entrepreneurship come from a place of frustration. At least that's how my story began. I was ordering flowers online and could not believe how complicated this simple action had become. Giving flowers is a joyous, beautiful gesture of love. But ordering flowers is often a hellishly twisted maze of upselling, false promises, cheesy teddy bears, and hidden fees.

So my co-founder, JP Montufar, and I started thinking about ways to improve the online flower business. Our company, The Bouqs, delivers flowers fresh from the side of a South American volcano anywhere in the U.S. for $40 dollars flat. The business has grown almost 10 times its original size and the team is growing as well. We've been featured in Thrillist and Oprah Magazine, and on ABC's reality hit Shark Tank.

Still, it hasn't always been a path full of roses, ladybugs, and candy. I've learned plenty along the way, and avoided some pitfalls thanks to great advice from some very smart people:

1. Know What Story You're Telling

I come from a branding background, having worked in brand and marketing strategy for Disney, ESPN, ABC, Marvel, ShoeDazzle, and Gerber Baby. With the help of some amazing mentors, I learned the importance of storytelling when it comes to imparting your vision to others. Before you start getting buy-in for your vision, make sure you've clearly articulated what it is you want to say. This requires iteration and a lot--I mean a lot--of testing. If you think you have it figured out, test some more. When your audience's eyes light up and they lean in time and again, you've got it.

A lot of startup founders and entrepreneurs are big dreamers or technical wizards, but they may not be natural storytellers. Your company's story is how you get your first customer in the (often virtual) door, your first employees to jump in headfirst, and your first investors to turn the page on that initial pitch deck. You're the person with the most passion for your company and you need to find a narrative to make others just as passionate. If you tell your story and don't get that lean-in, light-up reaction, you need to keep practicing, pitching, and iterating until you do.

2. Be Better Today Than Yesterday

In high school, my father saw how big my dreams were and how much bigger they grew every day. The most crucial piece of advice he gave to me, which I've referred to time and again while building The Bouqs Co., is "Be better today than yesterday."

It's easy to let your dreams take flight and try to jump over all the hard work in between an idea and a profitable reality. The best way to get from A to Z is to start with B. That means becoming just a little bit better today than you were yesterday. Your destination is always ahead, but it's what you do right now that matters most.

We've adopted this mindset at my company when trying to make the best product, the best working environment, and the best customer experience we can--today. So long as today is a bit better than yesterday, we're on the right track. We focus on the small stuff today in order to achieve the big stuff down the line.

3. There Is No Silver Bullet

Have you ever seen that South Park episode about the underpants-stealing gnomes? Wait, stay with me--seriously. In the episode, when confronted by the South Park kids, the gnomes outline their business plan. It's the following:

Step 1: Collect underpants.

Step 2: ?

Step 3: Profit!

It would be great if business worked this way, but unfortunately for us (and the gnomes), this is not how great companies are built. You need a solid plan to get your idea from conception to reality, and it all comes down to execution. You can't jump over everything in the middle while building your business, or you'll just be building a house of cards.

It's human nature to look for the grand slam and the quick-and-easy solution. But sometimes you just have to get on base and play the game, blocking and tackling your way to victory. As Ben Horowitz writes, there's no silver bullet that's going to turn your idea into a Fortune 500 overnight. What will work, however, is a lot of elbow grease and passion. You have to make opportunities for yourself and your company before you can make a profit.

Building a company and being an entrepreneur is all about constant improvement and sharing your story. This improvement isn't always instantaneous--it's often gradual and incremental. If you put in the work, tell your story, and focus on lead bullets rather than the silver, you'll be amazed at what you can accomplish simply by being a little better today than you were yesterday.

Published on: Sep 26, 2014
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