Imagine you could travel back in time and apply the knowledge you’ve accumulated from trial and error, failures and successes, to your first years as an entrepreneur. Sean Beers led OEN’s second workshop on launching an apparel company, and did just that. He focused on wisdom gained from personal experiences, in the form of a top 10 list, touching on points he wish he’d known in his first years as an entrepreneur.
His tips are invaluable for innovators, creators, and entrepreneurs looking to set their ideas in motion and launch their own companies. Here are nine key points he touched on:
1. Knowledge is Power
It’s crucial that you have an understanding of your product and its industry in order to properly move forward. If you don’t have knowledge and experience, it’s time to gain that knowledge through trial and error.
2. Build it Already –but don’t expect an immediate following
Beers argues that ideas are a dime a dozen. Rather, it’s the execution of those ideas and physical creation of products that lead to success. “Talking about going into business and actually going into business are worlds apart,” he says.
It’s time to invest in prototypes and set your idea in motion.
And just because you build it doesn’t mean they will come. You can have the most incredible product in the world, but if it’s priced wrong, or you haven’t built your brand and developed relationships, it won’t sell. “Product is king, and it is more important than all else initially,” he says. The product should define the brand.
Beers used Carrie Atkinson, CEO of Sock-it-To-Me, to exemplify this process. She started small, sewing socks and selling them solely at Saturday Market. As her product grew in popularity, people started asking if they could buy her product whole sale and sell it through their businesses. By developing relationships and building her brand, Atkinson continued to expand her business. Today, Sock-it-to-Me has evolved into a multi-million dollar business that people buy all over the country.
3. Make Realistic Goals: Keep it Simple
“You don’t need to take over the world in one season,” says Beers. Many entrepreneurs define success by instantaneous growth and expansion — and this isn’t realistic. It’s important to focus on a goal that is achievable. Start small and remember that if you’ve created a product that customers like they’ll tell their friends and you’ll gain a following.
4. Planning is essential — make a Business Plan Based on Your Vision:
Creating a business plan is essential — even if you don’t follow that plan. “Formulating a plan around an operating cycle for your business will help you to understand how to properly scale in the developmental stages of your business,” says Beers. Often people put a lot of energy into business planning but fail to commit. It’s important to keep it simple and focus on your vision. At the launch stage you can skip a lot of the details and focus on the immediate future and small goals.
5. Business Plans will fail without Financial Plans
“Even the most well thought out business plan/product idea can run you out of business without a financial plan,” says Beers. It’s crucial that you attain capital, through investors or loans, and chart out supplier payments versus weekly operating expenses. A financial plan that supports a business plan is key.
Find people who believe in your product and will work for next to nothing to help you launch. “If you find people who believe in you and remain believers in you, you’ll make progress,” says Beers.
7. Focus Focus Focus! and Follow Through!
Rather than adding to your plate, focus on what you have planned and execute it. This means following through with current projects rather than pushing them aside to pursue new ideas. Maintaining focusing and doing an excellent job on current projects will position you to reach your next milestone and succeed in future endeavors.
8. Make Sure you Understand the basic Law of the Land:
Have a basic understanding of the legalities behind what you’re creating and the agreements you’re making. It’s okay to reduce your agreements to a piece of paper — The standard professional agreement will protect you.
9. If it Can go Wrong it Will go Wrong:
You should have a plan but “have the knowledge that everything that can go wrong will go wrong,” says Beers. This means you need to solve problems fast and “have a contingency for every plan on every front in your business.”
Sean Beers, President of Portland Product Werks
Sean Beers is the former CEO of Korkers, and is currently President of Portland Product Werks, a firm he co-founded. He previously served for 11 years at Columbia Sportswear Company. Under his leadership, the Sorel brand grew from bankruptcy at the time he assisted Columbia in its acquisition to approximately $50 mm in revenue. Sean is the proud father of three boys, and serves on the board of directors of the federally funded National Crime Victim Law Institute. He is also a licensed attorney and Certified Public Accountant.