Want to know how to grow a million-dollar business? Pull up a chair and grab your favorite beverage, because I have a lot of great information to share with you.
A couple of weeks ago, I had the distinct pleasure of listening to Jen Bilik, Founder and CEO of Knock Knock, talk through all the hard parts and big mistakes she made on the way to success. She is hilarious, so it was way more fun than it might sound.
I can pretty much guarantee that you’ve seen Knock Knock in stores – and you might even own their very funny, witty and sometimes snarky products (I took notes on their Crap notepad). Knock Knock, which was founded in 2002, is in 6,000 stores in 45 countries and enjoys yearly revenue of $12 million.
Here’s what I learned from Jen:
Bring something new to the marketplace
While working in publishing, Jen was getting frustrated that she couldn’t find note cards that shared her irreverent sensibility and distinct point of view. Everywhere she looked, she saw note cards that lacked sophisticated humor and a modern, contemporary design. So, she filled what she saw was a gap in the marketplace. And she was right, because now her company is 13 years old and going strong.
Understand whether you are a leader or a manager
Jen learned the hard way the she is a leader – someone who is visionary, who looks at the big picture, who is very happy peering down the road – not a manager, who is more comfortable focusing on day-to-day stuff. Figure out what you are, and hire (or partner with) someone to take on the other role.
More isn’t always better
“More” could be product, revenue, capital, time, or confidence, and having too much could actually derail your growth. Growth is very hard to keep up with, and if you end up expanding too quickly, your business could implode (in Jen’s case, they were not liquidating current inventory before adding more, and they were losing a lot of money as a result).
Follow time-honored business practices
As Jen pointed out, time-honored business practices got that way because they work! Get everything in writing – have contracts with vendors, partners, and employees in place. Learn how to negotiate. Ask to see original invoices and paperwork. Don’t work with friends. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
Don’t be scared of money
If you’re a creative like Jen (and me!), you might shy away from money – accounting, profit and loss statements, bank statements, quarterly reports. Don’t. Learn how to read everything and understand which numbers are most important to your business. Ask your accountant questions. Learn, so you can lead.
Organization and process are keys to success
“We are rewarded for things in life that are not rewarded or taught in school,” Jen noted. Organization and process are two of those things, and they are key competencies that every business must master if it wants to grow. Jen’s team at Knock Knock runs a very tight ship – and they are regularly told, “It’s so great to work with people who are so organized!”
From my own personal experience, I can tell you that this is very, very true. The more processes I’ve put into place in my company, the smoother things run and the happier our clients are.
Which of these tips resonate most with you? Why?
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Photo Courtesy: Knock Knock