As an entrepreneur with more than ten years of experience, I've come across my fair share of articles and tips for running a successful business. Some of the wisdom passed down to me became instrumental in my own journey, allowing me to take our organic food delivery startup from a one-bedroom apartment in Southern California to a nine-figure brand.
Today, I'd like to share some of the key lessons I've picked up on the way. My hope is that the next wave of entrepreneurs can take what resonates with them to create their own success stories.
1. There's always a solution.
One of the main things I've learned on my entrepreneurial journey is that what can go wrong, usually will. Now, on the surface that may sound pessimistic, but I see it as a threat mitigation strategy. When you hope for the best but plan for the worst, you're less likely to be thrown by unexpected obstacles.
With this mindset, it's easier to stay solutions orientated, as opposed to freezing in place when things go pear-shaped. Instead of dwelling on the negatives and passing the blame, you instead have the space to be creative and find unique solutions so you can keep moving forward.
With this in mind, whenever someone in the business comes to me with a problem, I make a conscious effort to sit with it for a little while, as opposed to making a rash decision. Sure, in some cases, decisions need to be made quickly. If a production machine breaks down mid-shift, food production stops, so we need to act sharp. Even then, I like to take five to 10 minutes of quiet time to think things through.
In my eyes, it's much better to have this pause as opposed to rushing in, acting on impulse and then regretting it later. It's about considering the ripple effect and foreseeing how a decision will impact us not just in the short term, but several years down the line.
I'll run various scenarios through my head and ask myself some key questions:
- What could be the consequences of acting this way?
- What will it require?
- What are our alternatives?
Sometimes I'll consult people close to me, but I always make sure I have some semblance of a plan before doing so. Then it's a case of coordinating with the team, taking action, and making adjustments as we go until we find the best solution.
2. Stay cool and confident.
Stress is the antithesis of productivity. When we're agitated, we enter fight or flight mode, and the brain is unable to think about long term consequences. Not a great place to be if you're trying to run a business. This was something I struggled with to a degree in the early days of Fresh n' Lean.
As a young female entrepreneur, many would doubt my abilities or ignore me completely in business meetings. I learned from my dad the value of observing and listening to take things in and read the room. I often felt that people would underestimate me, and in many cases, I would take it personally. On a few occasions, I even found myself lying about my age to gain respect.
This all changed when I started viewing the naysayers as people who were suffering, almost as if they had some kind of disease. It may sound kooky, but this switch in mindset took away a lot of the stress. I began to feel more empathetic about their perspectives on life and I stopped taking things so personally.
As opposed to feeling frustrated and having an insatiable need to prove myself, I now feel compassion for them. I realized that degrading comments and raised eyebrows were not about me, but instead reflected their lack of understanding.
With that weight off my shoulders, there's a definite sense of freedom and satisfaction. There will always be naysayers, but I have much more clarity of mind and confidence in the decisions I make.
3. Get your hands dirty.
In the early days of Fresh n' Lean, I was largely acting as a one-woman-band. In addition to studying for my degree, I handled the meal prep packaging, shipping and customer service for Fresh n' Lean too. There were plenty of long days and sleepless nights at the office.
Ten years later, we now operate out of a dedicated 55,000 square foot facility with a state of the art, gluten-free kitchen. I'm still so grateful for those tough beginnings. Because I've been there, I understand intimately the logistics of the business, and I appreciate the hard work that goes into creating nourishing meals and delivering them to people's doorsteps on time.
Even though much of my time is now spent in meetings and is split between the production plant and our retail store, I'm still not one to shy away from getting my hands dirty. There have been times where I've had to dive in and help kitchen staff with meal prep so we could ship them out on time.
I think if you're not prepared to get in the trenches, it's easy to lose touch with your business and what it really stands for. I'm fortunate enough to have a team of employees that really believe in what we're trying to achieve, and because I've been in their shoes, I'd never ask them to do something that I wouldn't be comfortable doing myself.
4. Persistence pays off.
In pursuing any new venture or a big goal, you're bound to come up against obstacles. The secret to getting through them? Good old fashioned grit.
Thankfully this is something I developed from a young age. Whenever I heard a "no," I took it as a "maybe," which then could become a "yes." This is something I've taken into my business, pursuing my goals until the end and not taking no for an answer.
Until recently, I had zero experience in retail, but that's a direction I felt the brand needed to explore. At first, we were told by the city that we didn't need a health permit, and that the previous store owners operated without one. We set up shop, but before long were informed that the health permit was in fact needed. This meant we had to close the store, liaise with the health department and essentially redraw the whole plan from scratch.
Anyone who's dealt with permits knows how slow things can be to get going. We essentially had to push our way through to the chief of the LA health department so she could sign it off. It was only through persistence that we were finally able to get government officials to see our project as a priority, and now we're back up and running again!
The takeaway? When you have your eyes set on making things happen, pursue that goal with everything you have. Expect setbacks and obstacles, and view them as an opportunity to grow, then keep moving.