A couple of weeks ago I got to listen to Amy Boggs, under-30 founder of a Portland, OR house cleaning business called Sparkling Palaces, sharing her story. She was fun to listen to, refreshingly honest about the ups and downs of getting her business going, and funny, too. Amy Boggs Picture

Amy started cleaning houses for most of the classic reasons people start businesses, like having a loss and wanting to make a living. She confesses to being a neat freak. And the opportunity was there.

She framed her talk in five lessons:

  1. Accountability. Amy cites accountability, in her case, as meeting with an advisor regularly, even though it’s entirely her business. Obviously she doesn’t have to, but she says the discipline of talking to outside eyes helps her set objectives and meet them.
  2. Know your numbers. Amy made it clear she doesn’t particularly like numbers, and had no natural inclination to business numbers. But as her business got going, She took local classes (I think at the nearest Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to learn QuickBooks, and now she minds her numbers carefully. I liked the way she related being able to understand the numbers as her way of dealing with fear, managing the worries about the possibility of the business failing. Knowing the numbers is essential, she said.
  3. Business is a vehicle, not a destination. “My business is not me,” Amy said. “My business is a means to an end, not an end in itself.” In context she explained that she needed to get some personal distance, to be able to exhale and live her life without having every minute be taken up with the stress of running a business.
  4. I don’t have to do everything myself. “I have a bookkeeper, a payroll provider, and HR done for me,” she said. Amy never even hinted that she thought she knew everything, or wanted to do everything by herself. As the business grew, it grew into having room and revenues to have key services performed by third parties. That makes total sense to me.
  5. “It takes a vision fueled by values and passion.” Amen. I don’t like cleaning houses, myself, but Amy Boggs was clearly able to re-frame cleaning houses into a vision of doing something well, something that people needed and wanted done. She used that to build the business. She has tried to surround herself with people who believe the same thing.

Amy was a featured speaker at the community session of the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE) annual conference in Portland. It was a good meeting. Congratulations to NACCE for helping people help entrepreneurs.

Tim BerryTim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.