A successful entrepreneur shares her thoughts on business success and failure.

Posts published in the Goals category:

My Stake in the Ground: What I’m Building This Year

Local business It’s been just over a year since my last company failed/got acquired, and I’m excited to announce the project I’m going to be working on for the foreseeable future!

I’ve long been frustrated by the state of marketing information for small businesses. It’s what led me to start my last company, and, today, a bit more than year after that company failed, I still get the strongest sense that that’s where I want to be as a founder and CEO. What’s out there now stinks!

Small Business Owners’ Issues with Marketing

In talking to small business owners, two big issues regarding marketing come up consistently:

1) “I have no time to do any of this.” What I see here that has huge potential: A system that makes intelligent recommendations for you and then offers you the choice to do that or hire it out to a trusted provider for a fee. We can also show you how much time each item is going to take to do.

2) “I don’t know what will give me the highest ROI.” What we can do here: Use intelligent recommendations to give you the highest-leverage items to do first. For instance, if you don’t have a website with a title optimized for your SEO keywords, we’d highlight that first, as opposed to–say–adding ALT tags to your images, which is going to be a lower-value item.

I still don’t know why this doesn’t exist. It’s where we were headed previously with Whoosh Traffic as we pivoted into MarketVibe.

My best guess on why it isn’t out there today is that small businesses are notoriously hard to gather as customers, and they don’t like to pay a lot of money for marketing. Still, HubSpot seems to be doing well (they currently claim 15,000+ paying customers on their homepage), and email marketing companies like MailChimp and Aweber are also thriving.

Going Back to Where My Heart Is

When we went for this out of Techstars a year and a half ago, I got dissuaded from the small business market and I lost my focus. That was my failing–as CEO, I should have stuck to my guns and said, “Look, this is our market!” I’ve always felt most passionate about serving that market. It’s hard when you are told by investors and mentors over and over that it’s difficult to build for that market. I think they’re right–it is hard–but I should have done it anyway, because it’s where my heart is.

The other big mistake I made was focusing on the software first. This time, I’m going to build it totally differently. I’m going to build it as education first, and then gradually work my way into the software/intelligent recommendations side.

Who I’m Looking For as Beta Testers

I’m looking for Real Business Owners (small businesses with a physical presence–this could be anyone from people who have a retail store, like John, to people who are personal trainers, coaches, or massage therapists), and build a course that shows them how to market their products or services effectively.

I’ll walk through what John and I have done to grow his business from a “pocket change” business generating less than $2,000/month to a powerhouse that is on track to generate over a quarter of a million dollars in revenue this year. By the way, we’ve done that in 6 months and we’ve spent less than $2,000 on marketing. And we have an ugly-ass website. It is possible!

This is what I most want to do. This is my stake in the ground. I’m tired of people telling me that I shouldn’t work with small business owners because they are difficult and frugal. Great! I am also difficult and frugal. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I think we’ll be just fine.

Today, I’m announcing the acquisition of the domain name freedom.biz, where I’ll be building my new course for Real Business Owners. My goal is to launch the first iteration of the course by the end of June, and build a fantastic community of awesome business owners. For this first iteration, Freedom.Biz will be training on how to get more customers for a real (physical) business. Then, based on your feedback, I’ll build software, help you find done-for-you services that work, and continue adding to the course and community!

Are you a coach, consultant, store owner, or Real Business Owner who’s interested in being a beta tester for Freedom.Biz? I’d love to have you on board as a beta tester. Sign up here and I’ll keep you in the loop!

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Financial Modeling: What Is It And Why Is It So Darned Important?

Financial model Ah, the financial side of your business. If this is the stuff that makes your eyes glaze over (and yet you’re an entrepreneur)…you’re the person I wrote this post for.

I know a lot of us aren’t big fans of doing the financials, and I understand why you feel that way–after all, it’s certainly more fun to build a product than it is to work on the freakin’ numbers.

By the time you’ve read this post, you’ll be able to do a financial model yourself (without hiring a crazy-expensive CFO!), and you’ll know the following:

  • How many sales you need every month to pay all your bills.
  • How to price your products so you don’t lose money on each sale.
  • When to hire your next employee (or when to quit your job)–based on the sales goals you set.
  • When you’re going to run out of cash (or, alternatively, how much cash you’ll be able to pay yourself every month without going broke.)
  • How much capital you need to raise (if any!)
  • How to quickly assess your business every month to ensure you’re meeting the goals you set for yourself–and how to know quickly if you’re in trouble, before it’s too late.

In summary, this is the blog post I wish I had 11 years ago when I was getting started in business. Let me state this unequivocally: Building a financial model has been paramount to the success of my business. However long it takes you to build a model (and it won’t take you too long if you follow the path I’ve outlined below), it’ll be worth it. It may even save your business from going bankrupt–or enable you to quit your job or hire your next employee more quickly.

Now let’s take a look at what a financial model is and how to set one up for your business… (more…)

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How to Build a Billion-Dollar Business

Build a Billion Dollar Business There are lots of posts online about how to make your first dollar, or even how to grow a modest side business. But there’s precious little information on how to build a billion-dollar company.

Before we get into the how, though, there’s something I want to address–and that’s why. Why would you want to build a billion-dollar business?

Even if you have decided you don’t want to build a business that large, I encourage you to read this anyway…it may very well change your perspective on how large you want your business to be.

Pushing Through the FUD

There’s a lot of FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) around building large businesses. In particular, news media loves to hate on “workaholics”–people who seem consumed by their work. Reporters dish on divorces or family fallouts stemming from overworked parents or people who just can’t seem to disconnect from their smartphones.

So, the logical choice, if building a huge business causes you to be overworked and potentially lose your family, is to start a smaller business, right? One where you can work on the side to begin with and not over-tax yourself. One where you can still see your family. One where you don’t kill yourself for your business. It seems like a utopian ideal. But is it really possible? (more…)

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The Indescribable Anger

Acceptance Today I want to talk about something I haven’t mentioned on this blog. In fact, I rarely mention this in real life, either. But I have a feeling I’m not the only one with this problem–and I think it will do some good to finally speak about it openly.

Years ago, I started noticing I was in significant physical pain when I used the computer for more than a few hours at a time. I used to spend 10+ hours a day in front of a computer. Figuring it was probably just time I invested in some better chairs, I bought myself an Aeron chair (and later, a better desk.)

Except the pain didn’t stop. If anything, it got worse. (more…)

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My 30-Day No Email Trial: The Results

No email for 30 days In early June, I embarked on a radical experiment: I gave up email for 30 days. Here are my results…

When I started the trial, I felt completely overwhelmed by email, and I just wanted a way out. I was waking up every morning to an incessant barrage of PR people, sales letters, chain emails, people wanting me to write about their product, companies wanting me to promote them without compensation, and–generally–a bunch of junk. Not “spam”, really, because it was sent by real people (sadly.) But a ridiculous pile of useless crap that wasn’t easily filtered.

Since my email address is public, and my blog is popular, it seemed like every day I’d end up on some list that I didn’t ask to be on. People would sign my email address up for everything from political updates to PR posts about seemingly random companies sent from a “do not reply” address.

In short, my email inbox was a micro-Hell waiting for me every morning. (more…)

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I'm Erica Douglass.
After selling my online business at age 26 for over $1 million, I created this blog to help you grow your own business quickly.

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