Go Solo or No Go Solo?

I am not sure if I am a serial entrepreneur. I have had three businesses. Years ago I teamed with a partner to sew clothes. When I launched my strategic planning firm and law office in 2005, I grappled with whether or not to partner again. I met with 3 or 4 people and decided to go solo after I realized that I would be the one doing most of the work. My sewing partner worked hard, but we had a lousy business model. We really needed to let go of our love for sewing and focus on marketing and sales. We should have hired seamstresses. With labor intensive work, you will burn out fast.

Whether you go solo or make the “no go solo” decision, it is best to get as many hands on deck as you can afford. I counsel and network with a lot of small businesses and they all struggle with where to find funds to hire professional help. Well, you have to play the hand you are dealt. Try family, friends, neighbors, retirees, commission only professionals, and student interns. In order to guard your cash flow, try to get folks to agree to work with you with the understanding that they will get paid when you get paid.

Also, whether you decide to go solo or not, be sure to target your marketing effort. Although it is certainly fine to respond to any opportunity, in order to get the most “bang for your bucks” in terms of time, you need to target. Decide whether you will target men or women; people of certain color or cultural backgrounds; people within certain geographic locations; people that are engaged in business in certain industries; and businesses that are at a certain success level so as to not waste your time.

A friend recently told me that she enjoys the INC 5000 list of firms for prospecting. I have found that business trade journals and magazines are good sources for prospects. With respect to B2B sales, I have also found that I have more success in certain technology industries with businesses that are no longer startup but not quite midsize – still small.

No matter if you go solo or not, you need to be tech savvy beyond the bare minimum – or hire someone who is. Years ago, my son set up my social media sites and turned them over to me. Using Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Constant Contact was outside of my comfort zone, so I did not use them. The accounts just sat there stagnant. When my son went to college in combination with the down economy, I had to increase my networking in an affordable way. So, I had to learn. Social media marketing is great because you really can do it as a solo operation if you are organized and have a strategy. My strategy is to micro blog daily, blog weekly, and send out newsletters monthly. I chose a consistent theme targeted toward the importance of strategic planning. That’s my routine. With patience and consistency, it has been easy to build a great support network.

If I had to make a choice between “going solo” or “not going solo” in a startup, I would choose to not go solo. I would be the solo leader that I am. But, I would be sure to have a team helping me from day one. The rationale is plain and simple. You can get a lot more done with a team than you can alone.

For women owned small businesses, and in particular single moms, it may be difficult to let go of doing the creative work. It is very hard to wear the marketing hat, sales hat, and be the labor. Put plain and simple, you can expand a lot faster if you delegate this work. Get as many hands on deck as possible. It is best to do this before hanging your shingle because once you are well on your way, it is harder to stop and look for help. Without the discipline to really manage your time, you may find yourself delegating the search and hire to someone else.

I watched the all day marathon of the show Hoarders and was awe struck by hard difficult it was for these people to let go. But, a similar strong hold can be found in many small business owners that really need to begin to find help, delegate and let go.

Clovia founded Lemongrass Consulting in 2005 with 25 years of government work experience and serves as a procurement counselor in the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC). Lemongrass Consulting provides strategic planning solutions including government contracting strategic marketing plans. Visit us at: http://www.lemongrassplanning.com – Follow Clovia on Twitter @lemongrassplans and LIKE Lemongrass on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/6cuu28o


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