Are you building the right business for you?

Before we dive deeper into ways you can work smarter and grow your social enterprise, I wanted to start with are you building the right business for you?  We will touch on whether you are building the right business for your customer in another post, which is also a critical point to consider.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have an overly analytical mind and research everything to death - but when I had the idea for Marie Mae, I literally launched three weeks after I had the idea.  Three weeks!  After spending so much of my career in international business and reading Blake Mycoskie’s “Start Something that Matters,” I loved the idea of building a scalable consumer goods business that would allow us to provide real business training to artisan groups around the world.  

But, what I didn’t think about was did I want to build a retail business?  Did I want to spend my time going after wholesale accounts?  (And in a paper goods business where $150 is an average minimum wholesale order, I would need A LOT of accounts to make MM profitable.)  Was I ready to give up my consulting practice that I was so passionate about?  Did I want to spend my time working events and doing pop-up shops?

This year, I spent my birthday with my team setting up for and running a big event here in Dallas.  If any of you have ever done this, you know just how much work it is.  Lugging everything inside, setting up inventory in a way that will draw people in, making sure everything is priced correctly, ensuring your card reader works and your inventory list is updated, and then interacting with customers for 8 hours.  Which is WONDERFUL as we absolutely adore meeting our customers, and it’s great for market feedback on our products, but for this introvert, it’s also exhausting.  And at the end of the day, we had $600 in sales.  Once you subtract out the booth fee and the cost of inventory, that was about $300 in profit.

It was a lightbulb moment for me.  One, people don’t tend to buy paper products at events, but again, we will touch on that in the next post.  But two, I had never worked so hard in my life...and made so little.  Again, I’m not saying there aren’t advantages to doing these, because I absolutely recommend it for spreading the word about your brand, interacting with real customers, and seeing how people interact with your products.  But it made me step back and really evaluate, am I building the type of business I want to build?  

So before you get too far down your path of social entrepreneurship, I suggest you honestly consider the following:

  1. What business model and impact model have you chosen?
  2. What size of business do you want to build?  Do you want to be a solopreneur, or do you hope to grow to 100s of employees?
  3. What is your end goal for your business?
  4. Now, what does success look like in the industry you’ve chosen?  How are the bigger players doing it?  Really dive deep into this to give you a good picture of what you would need to do to be successful in your niche.
  5. Does your vision and the reality of what it takes to be successful match up?  Is this truly sustainable for the life you want to lead?  Is this what you are truly passionate about?

Taking the time to think through each of these will really help you to ensure you are building the right business for you and your desired lifestyle.  It also really helps you to focus when you start having 947 new ideas for your business, so that you spend less time going down different paths.

Today’s Takeaway:  Take the time to really think through whether or not you are building the right business for you.  Next week, we will be discussing are you building the business your customer wants?  Both of these have to be aligned in order to have a successful purpose driven business.

Discussion question:  Are you building the right business for you? Did you have a similar lightbulb moment that helped you to shift and refine your strategic vision for your company?

Do you know any other social entrepreneurs or purpose driven business owners that would find this blog series useful?  If so, please feel free to share this, and have them sign up here.