When Laura Cleminson became a mom, her baby girl inspired her to create a fun line of baby clothes. She thought clothes should be as creative as kids, so she held drawing competitions and featured the winning artwork on her clothing line.
She wrote a business plan, got a bank loan, set up a board of directors, and hired employees. And things went great, for a time. Small, high-end boutiques and some department stores were picking up her line.
But in order to compete with the Baby Gaps of the world, Cleminson needed to invest $50,000 in the business to purchase more inventory, utilize special fabrics, and work with more designers.
It was a lot of money, and Cleminson didn’t know how to go about getting it.
She also kept this information from her employees, and when they came to her to pitch new ideas for the business, she was hesitant to embrace them.
“Since I was the boss, I thought I had to come up with plans,” she says. “In hindsight, I realize that thought was flawed. It was a combination of my ego, insecurities, and inexperience as an entrepreneur.”
In the end, Cleminson did shut the business down, not wanting to take such a large leap and invest so much money. In hindsight, it’s not the lack of money that Cleminson is upset about—it’s that she didn’t listen to her employees. She ignored their ideas.
It’s a common mistake, made by experienced and inexperienced entrepreneurs alike.
Utilize your team
Yes, you’re the boss, but that doesn’t mean you have to come up with all the answers. Utilize your staff. It’s okay to brainstorm ideas with your employees, Cleminson says. It’s something she wished she had done more.
Sometimes just talking things out is helpful. If you’re a solopreneur, bounce ideas off your family or the members of a business organization like a chamber of commerce.
Be open to new ideas
Cleminson’s team was constantly coming up with new ideas to push the business forward, but she only saw the flaws, not the potential benefits. Eventually, the pipeline of ideas slowed because Cleminson wasn’t utilizing any of them.
“Resist the urge to say, ‘That won’t work,’” she says. “Even the most far-fetched ideas can help other ideas bubble to the surface.”
Weigh the pros and cons
Take your new idea and write a list of pros and cons. What could you gain? What problems could arise? Is there cost associated with this change? If the risk is worth taking, then implement the idea for a few months to see how it works, Cleminson suggests.
This can be one of the hardest things for entrepreneurs to do, but try to remember that you don’t have to take on every task just because you’re the owner. Delegate tasks to make the most of your time. If you don’t have employees to delegate to, consider hiring a freelancer on an as-needed basis to handle some of your administrative tasks so you have more time to focus on the business, rather than emails and schedules.
Cleminson used all of these lessons to start a new company. She now owns and operates Hoist Away Bags, a company that sells purses that it manufactures from repurposed sailboat sails. She plans to utilize her team more this time around.
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