At that point, Fivecat Studio had been up and running for several years.
We launched the firm in 1999 and had a very successful startup. As I have mentioned several times in the past, we bootstrapped the firm with no initial funding and no clients (I will share that “inspiring” story another day). With an old Dell desktop PC, a second telephone line and a small makeshift studio in the basement of our Chappaqua cottage, we jumped. A friend hired us to re-design her newly acquired restaurant and we were on our way.
One project led to another and life was good. We were tasting “success”. (Tweet That)
Seven years later, we had grown out of the basement and into our Pleasantville studio. We were employing a small staff and had boards full of projects, but we had reached a plateau in our growth. We had too much work to handle, but didn’t have the revenue required to hire more people. We were stuck in a rut with the tires spinning and I didn’t know how to move us forward.
I went looking for answers.
Through our local county business council, I discovered a program called the Academy of Entrepreneurial Excellence. I enrolled and spent close to four months digging deep into the workings of my firm.
I used the program as a checklist to confirm our entrepreneurial execution. Each week, I would listen to experts discuss a fundamental element of business. I would then compare what I had learned with what we were already doing at the firm. At first, it was a bit frustrating. I would come home to Annmarie (my architect wife and business partner) and report, “yup, we’re doing that right too!”
That was, until we reached the section on Sales.
“Sales? We’re architects, not salesmen.” (Tweet That)
We had no sales policy, at all. No system to follow. No rules. Apparently, we had no clue!
We were masters at marketing. Everyone knew Fivecat Studio and what we did. The phone was ringing off the hook. I would visit two or three prospects each week. Finding clients was my talent. The problem… was getting the job.
After graduating from the Academy, things changed. We completed our business plan, refined our marketing strategies and developed a successful sales system. We were out of the ditch and in the fast lane to success once again. We worked hard, and we were growing, but in 2007, as we were approaching the one million dollar mark, the economy collapsed and the world as we knew it vanished…
Just like that, the large residential additions and alterations market evaporated. For the past 5 years, we’ve been in “survival mode”… but if you follow me anywhere online, you know Survival is Success (Tweet That).
So, here we are, the year 2013. Take a deep breath and shake it off. The storm is over. We can come out and play again. (Tweet That)
During the next few months, I am going back to school… right here on the blog. I hope you will join me.
Through years of experience, training and self-education, I have lots to share… and way more to learn.
Consider this the Entrepreneur Architect Academy.
This list may evolve, but here’s the preliminary curriculum. Each week I will explore a single topic and suggest an action plan for you (and me) to follow. Use this list, and each post, as a checklist for your business. These are the fundamental elements of any successful small business. If we do these 12 things well, success will be right around the corner.
- Personal Productivity
- Business (and Life) Planning
- Sales (where we’ll also discuss the very popular topic of fees)
- Financial Management (Where’d all the money go?)
- Taxes (please… don’t get me started!)
- Legal Issues
- Customer Service (a.k.a. expectation management)
- Insurance (and other necessary evils)
- Project Management
My hope is that each week we will discuss the post in the Comments section below… just like a real classroom. What works? What doesn’t? Into which ideas should we dive deeper? My goal is to reboot the growth at my own firm and to inspire you to do the same.
Are you ready for the ride?
The first post, Personal Productivity, will be published this Monday (1/7/13).
Tell a friend… and see you then.