|We’re building a startup – one step at a time!|
When The Rubber Hits The Road: Notes From A Startup Launchpad: When we launched our house-detailing service Shack Shine last spring, it was a time of champagne and celebration. The ribbon was cut and we were ready for business! Since writing last, reality has set in: turns out, the launch is actually the ‘easy’ part. Managing expectations, jumping through hoops, and staying ahead of the stress associated with startup life can be downright dirty – but thankfully, this isn’t my first rodeo.
In this second installment of Notes From A Startup Launchpad, we share some of the bumps we’ve hit early in the journey and some of the awesome moments too. Going through these early stages reminds me of the value of investing time, heart, and just a little bit of grit to get a startup off the ground – right.
Hurdle 1: The Collaboration Games
After 10 years building and operating a multi-million dollar commercial painting business, Dave Notte wanted a new challenge. He approached me in 2014 hoping that Shack Shine, a window and gutter cleaning company, could join the O2E Brands family, leverage its systems, and create an international brand through franchising.
Going into business with someone is always a gamble. Author of The Founder’s Dilemma Noam Wasserman says founders feel a great sense of ownership over their “baby” and may be resistant to change, even when it’s what’s best for the company.
Since partnering with us, Dave has had to transition from lone-wolf entrepreneur to a collaborative, managing director of a startup. He’s had to grind it out in a competitive marketplace, while doing things ‘our’ way.
“Collaboration totally slows down decision-making processes – every department at O2E Brands is involved in everything! The end results are better, but I’d be lying if I said it was an easy adjustment from making quick decisions and acting on them immediately,” Dave says.
When we encounter collaboration-related issues, we go back to the vision we created for Shack Shine at the beginning of our journey. A clear vision, or Painted Picture, mitigates some of the challenges of working in a partnership by forcing stakeholders to focus on the road ahead – rather than getting bogged down with how to get there.
Hurdle 2: Reality Can Bite
Most problems in business partnerships arise from the partnership itself, not from operations or external forces. The next issue we encountered on this startup journey had elements of both.
“I assumed the systems were dialed, documented, and replicable,” says Dave. “In reality, the launch of Shack Shine was a project that built a system to launch future brands for O2E Brands. Documenting each step was a time-consuming, expensive process.”
It’s been proven to me time and again that Michael Gerber was right when he said, “people don’t fail, systems do.” After launching You Move Me in 2013, I learned the value of doing the heavy lifting up front: we grew very quickly, launching 25 franchise locations in one day. Just as quickly, we realized that many of our processes and operations needed tweaking (or in some cases total overhauls). Retracing our steps to make up for imperfect systems was an expensive time suck and it curbed our momentum.
Although it was arduous for Dave, I insisted on going slow with Shack Shine. It’s a totally unique business in a new category – house detailing. We’re not building the system for just one business – we are creating a model than can be replicated in over 250 locations. To scale successfully, we had to fine-tune and test our systems before taking the brand public.
Dave has worked hard to create solid systems and I’m certain we’ll see that the extra effort was well worthwhile.
Hurdle 3: Every Business is Risky Business
No matter how much experience you may have, a constant feeling in any new venture is the fear of failure. “I’m concerned about having a sophomore slump. We’re taking a lot of risks,” says Dave.
Some days seem more troublesome than others, like when we have to deal with bureaucratic red tape and banking regulations for our U.S. expansion. We know that more obstacles are ahead: it’s on us to legitimize house-detailing as a new category. And to find a younger crowd of franchise partners, we’re foregoing typical recruitment methods to focus on digital channels and social media.
We’re not in our comfort zone and it’s a vulnerable feeling, but I’m encouraged by the Shack Shine’s franchise partners, who are spirited, young entrepreneurs. Despite his understandable worries, Dave is an intuitive businessman and we have a strong, well-balanced partnership. And we have experience and proven systems to fall back on.
The honeymoon period is over and the realities of startup life have set in. But there are plenty of small wins that keep us thinking about the next bottle of champagne. Stress, anticipation, and the exhilaration associated with risk-taking are all part of the entrepreneurial journey – and what make launching a new brand worthwhile in the end.
I’m the founder and CEO of O2E (Ordinary to Exceptional) Brands. I’m passionate about helping others grow small to medium businesses and corporate culture. Tweet me @brianscudamore