It was 17 years ago today that we launched our own business — Newleaf Training and Development. We moved 5,000 miles from everything and everyone we knew. We’d never ran a business before. The only way my wife and I could earn income was through this business that had just been born.
I figured it would be useful to share 10 reasons why I think we were blessed with not only surviving as a business (when most don’t) and thriving as a business all these years later. I hope this short list will be of help to anyone considering launching a business.
- Love what you do — I love staff training and leadership development as I believe it truly helps individuals, teams and organizations. Life is too short to work in a profession you don’t love. Since day one, I’ve never felt like I have a job I despise but rather a profession I love. Customers and colleagues can tell if you love what you do.
- Love where you are — I love Santa Clarita. We’d first came here in 2001 on a two-year assignment for my then-employer, Hilton Honors — when Hilton’s worldwide HQ was in Beverly Hills. Hilton rented a home for us in Valencia. When we decided to move back to the states, we stayed laser-focused on living and launching the business from here. A good home life sets a foundation for an enjoyable business.
- Know your customer — We understand the profile of our optimal customer. We call this our “red carpet policy.” Over the years, we’ve come to know who we’re meant to be of service to, and who we’re not. We attract the former and avoid the latter.
- It’s less competitive at the top — We chose to price our products and service at the higher range and for us that has led us to clients who place a high value on what we do (see No. 3 above). If you charge a lot, make sure you can back it up with the quality of your product and service.
- Hire well — In a service business your people are your differentiator and so we take a lot of care to ensure we hire right and reward well.
- Understand cashflow — Profit is just a calculation at a point in time based on accounting convention. Cashflow on the other hand is the lifeblood, the oxygen supply of a business. Yes, healthy profit margins are important but constant cashflow is vital.
- Build a brand — From day one we focused on the brand of our company — its philosophy, its programs and its processes. We never wanted clients to lock on to me personally as the sole provider of their services. If they would have done so, I would have been exhausted and we couldn’t have grown or replicated the business.
- Document processes — Over time we built an operating manual as a record for decisions we’d previously made. Not only has this saved us time in trying to remember how we did something previously but also it enabled us to open up a second office when someone could see the turnkey value in what we’d typed onto those pages.
- Take time to reflect — Each year we conduct a strategic retreat whereby we invest time to think about what we want to stop, start or continue in the business. We’ve found that a retreat keeps helping us move forward.
- Always do the right thing — One of the many aspects I love about my country of birth (the UK) and my country of choice (the USA) is they both have at their foundation the principle of rewarding you for doing right. There are many countries in the world where corruption, bribery and deception are the pathways to thrive. We’ve stood at many business intersections in the past 17 years and have had to choose which path to take and I’m so grateful that the people and processes of this fine country have always rewarded us for doing right and avoiding that which is wrong.
I hope these 10 points are of help to anyone considering launching a business. I also hope employees can see the principles at work within each of the points.
Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia (newleaftd.com). For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected].