Category Archives: Entrepreneur Q&A

This Solstice Marks the Beginning of Innovative Coaching

Recently, I had an opportunity to ask Solstice Group owner, Lora Crestan, about her business. “I operate a four year old executive and leadership coaching business that reaches all over North America. I focus on senior and executive business leaders as well as entrepreneurs, helping them to leverage their strengths to create lasting organizations that leave a legacy of leadership.”

The business

When asked how she came up with her business idea, Lora replied, “I have always been a coach. In my corporate life-past, my style was to coach others to help them succeed. Asking questions and allowing others to come up with solutions, set their own action steps and hold them accountable became such a natural process for me in people development. Seeing the ‘ah-ha’ moment is what drives me to coach.

The ideal customer

“My ideal customer is a business leader who is looking for support, accountability and a sounding board outside of their business. They need/want new perspectives and want a safe place to share ideas, dig into strategy and new plans. This client usually cannot seek that same type of space and conversation inside the organization as it is difficult to involve the team in those types of discussions and processes. I currently find that most of my clients businesses are going through transition and seeking change – some generational, some exponential growth – so tackling these sensitive opportunities is difficult from the inside.”

What makes Solstice Group different

“We offer private coaching as well as Mastermind Teams. The benefit of offering 2 types of coaching opportunities helps clients learn the benefits of coaching while sharing their own experiences with other business owners. Suddenly there is a place for them to vent, not feel alone in their challenges, learn that others can help them even if not in the same industry and of course, that there is always potential to grow.”

“Also, I am a huge LinkedIn and marketing fan! I offer training services to my clients and also use that as workshop opportunities to help gather more prospects.”

On being a business owner

“One of the things I love is the opportunity to use my talents and skills in new ways; to set my own agenda; to be an operator; to mentor other business owners; to make a contribution to my community.”

On the other hand, “ I miss the team atmosphere (so to solve this I participate in Leadership Windsor Essex and host Leadercast which gives me team support); I dislike all administrative work that comes along with being a small business owner and am learning to find others who can provide these services to me.”

Lessons Learned

1. Every plan you make depends on the execution – so make good plans.

2. It can be lonely so you need to seek others to share ideas and expand your thoughts.

3. Networking is key – and in-person is the only way to start a relationship. I am a huge fan of social media networks, but they are an additional way to connect with people you know and want to grow in a relationship. This is key to marketing strategy.

Advice

Lora, councils to “be ready for the ups & downs. Build your plan and review quarterly to ensure you are on your marks, adjust as needed. (Realize your plan is just that and needs to be worked regularly). Measure everything to find out what is working and duplicate it, what’s not working – tweak or eliminate. Stick to your core – be really good at what you are passionate about and work hard to keep from straying!”

To contact Lora:
http://www.solsticegroupcoaching.com/about-the-coach.html

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Twenty Year Car-eer Drives Owner to Open Used Car Dealership

Brand new business owner, David Bain, has launched his automotive dealership specializing in the sale of pre-owned cars and trucks. Essex Auto Centre, “has been a goal of mine since I moved into management in my career. Understanding more of the business throughout the years, I realized that I would rather utilize my skills to advance my own business rather than someone else’s. Of course going into business as a car dealer was a natural choice since I have been in the industry for over 20 years.”

When I say that David is a new business owner, I mean NEW. “I left my job in March and began preparing to open the dealership. I received all the necessary licenses and financing by mid-May of this year.”

Unique Ideal Customer

Reinforcing the idea that planning is key to a successful start-up, David is clear who his ideal customer is. It isn’t by gender or age; demographic or disposable income. David wants someone who “has been referred to me by another customer.” Building his business from previously cultivated relationships and then taking care of new customers is his primary focus.

What makes him different

“Customer service is my difference. Taking care of the customer through the entire experience myself makes a big difference. At a large dealership, customers may get shuffled between employees multiple times. There’s no personal attention in that. Without that continuity the customer can feel a level of distrust in the entire process.”

On being a business owner

In addition to being able to provide outstanding customer service, David also enjoys the perks business ownership brings to him. “Flexibility is number one, both personally and professionally. Personally, I am able to be there more for my family and professionally I have complete autonomy in all my business decisions.” The downside? “Risk is one of the things that initially comes to mind. Another disadvantage is not having anyone else to fall back on. At previous jobs, I always had a support staff to get the job done, but now it is all up to me! I put up some personal investment money and utilized equity in my home to fund a small business operating line.”

Lessons Learned

“Patience is something that I am developing. It can be frustrating working through processes and applications and often being at the mercy of other people to achieve my goals. I am learning how to find that balance between persistence and frustration.”

Future Goals

“Short term I am aiming to be able to cover my start up costs and build a strong foundation that will support sustainable growth. I need to walk before I can run, so the focus now is implementing proper systems and procedures. This will enable me to achieve the growth I am looking for in the future. I currently lease my office and car lot, but would like to own my own property within five years.”

Advice to others

“Don’t be afraid to take the plunge. It takes a lot of guts and it can be scary, but well worth it. Another piece of advice would be to prepare in advance. Utilize the services of a small business support service that will help you do your homework. Lastly, anticipate challenges and have contingency plans.”

A personal note

As I spoke with David, I was very impressed with the presence of his young son, who appears to be that support David might be looking for. He was articulate, knowledgeable about the vehicles, and even got me a bottle of water. Looks like David is investing in a car dealership with generational appeal.

Essex Auto Centre is located at 438 Tabot Rd., Essex, Ontario
David can be reached at: 519-776-5100

Human Resources in a Box

John Box started his unique Human Resources Consulting business three years ago after identifying a unique niche. “We provide support to small organizations in the area of Human Resources management. The basic idea is to provide assistance to those organizations that are small or are not in a position to have full time Human Resources staff through the provision of project assistance, training, and day-to-day advice on appropriate issues.”

The Business

John had experience working with and in small organizations, and noticed that while each organization had staff, they did not always have the support that they should when it came to a complicated area, such as Human Resources. In particular, he noticed that there was often only one real manager or leader in the organization, who was being asked to have expertise in a number of different areas, and that they were spending an awful lot of time (and therefore money) trying to research or make informed decisions in areas they were not familiar with. John adds that he, “recognized this as a business opportunity that matched my interest and skill in problem solving, and so I decided to go for it.”

Ideally, John likes to work with small organizations, with less than 100 staff, that recognize the importance of staff and are committed to doing the right thing.

John brings his personal background in Human Resources that spans more than 30 years, in a variety of sectors, including municipal, not-for-profit, health care, and hospitality. This duration and nature of his experience has put him in a position where he has dealt with a wide variety of issues, and therefore can deal quickly and effectively with the issues his clients require assistance on. “If I don’t know the answer right away, I know where to find it, and to give it to my clients in a way that will work best for them.”

On Being a Business Owner

“I have the ability to decide what and how I will do something, and to be able to make a difference in a number of different organizations. Wearing different hats at different times- one minute you provide the service, another you are marketing the service, and then you are billing the client for the service! Also, I am able to work from home and limit my expenses.”

The only thing he doesn’t enjoy is the uncertainty- of having enough work and income. “That is, however, also part of the challenge, and therefore part of the fun!”

Lessons Learned

1. Be patient, but don’t just sit around waiting for them to come to you.
2. Provide a unique service, based on your own personality and style.
3. Constantly review what you have done, and do it better. Try new things, even if they don’t work.
4. If it’s not fun for you, it’s not worth it.
5. Have a good support team- of friends and colleagues.

Future Goals

John would like to start providing mediation services to the public. This will give them access to cost-effect dispute resolution, on matters ranging from individual employee disagreements to settling neighborhood spats. “In essence,” John adds, “it’s like starting a whole new business!”

Advice to Others

“Timing is important. Start the business when there is a demand for it, particularly once you have confirmed that through your own research. And from a more personal perspective, do it not because you think you have to because you have run out of other options (out of work, etc.), but because you really want to do it, with the confidence and support that will be necessary for success.”

Those looking to access JMBox Human Resources may locate him at:
JM Box Consulting Services
(519) 903-5634
http://www.jmboxconsulting.com

New Internet Business Sparked by Desire and A Book

Business on the Internet

I recently had the opportunity to pose some questions to new business owner, Greg Fields. Here is an excerpt from his responses.

When asked to describe his business, Greg commented that, “Fields of Treasures is an on-line Jewelry store that creates a great shopping experience which entices the customer to make a purchase; inspiring a good feeling, self-confidence, and the desire to return for more.”

Book sparks business

Greg stated that he had read the book, “Get Rich Click” by Mark Ostrofsky. “Mark owns 8 internet based companies with revenues of over $75 million annually. His book teaches SEO optimization, affiliate marketing, social network selling, etc. My wife and I have always wanted to open a business. She came up with fashion jewelry shortly before I read in the book that jewelry is one of the easiest items to convert customers from traditional retail to internet. I had always heard that the internet had great potential.” And the business was born.

Of course, many people have attempted to develop successful businesses on the internet and have failed. Greg is confident that with great products and a solid long term plan, he and his wife will be able to grow the business and then to expand to other items. “Maybe home goods. We want to be the new Homesense or Kirklands.”

Ideal Customer Identified

Given the nature of the online business, Greg identifies his ideal customer as women between 30 to 55 who want to look great and feel good.

The Adventure of Owning a Business

In the business’s early stages, Greg already sees the benefits of being a business owner. “I love the independence of the hours. (I work long hours but when I choose). I love the challenge of applying the lessons I have learned over many years to my own company.” And the downside? “What’s not to like? I have freedom, vast earning potential and can run the company my way.”

Although his business is less than a few months old, Greg has already learned one important lesson. “Always expect the unexpected. There are many hurdles to jump but their worth it.”

And his advice for others who are thinking about starting their own businesses is simple. “Go for it. There will be many sleepless nights but the sense of accomplishment is worth it.”

Name: Greg Fields
Business Name: Fields of Treasures
Website: fieldsoftreasures.com
Location: Belle River, ON Canada

Tips For New Canadians Who Want Their Own Businesses

Kapila Spa owner Candida Layman shares her story:

“I came to Canada and opened my salon ten years ago. It was a real adjustment. I am still adapting.” Those are the thoughts of Candida Layman, owner of Kapila Salon and Day Spa in Windsor, Ontario. “In the Dominican, where I am from, going to the spa is part of life, not something reserved for weddings and graduations.”

Finding adequate resources was also a challenge for Layman. “There just weren’t that many resources, especially for us women, to get a business started. I was bringing what I knew from my own country and that didn’t work. In the Dominican, the customer is everything. It is all about customer service. In Canada, you get more of a ‘service isn’t my department’ approach. It is very hard to get used to.”
“I love what I do,” Layman continues, “in three hours I can transform a person. And it costs a lot less and is less invasive than plastic surgery.”

Layman, who has years of experience in the hospitality industry in the Dominican Republic admits she found changing professions and countries a bit challenging. And now, she has the additional responsibilities of being a wife and mother to two young children. “It is difficult to juggle everything.”

Tips for immigrant women wanting their own businesses

1. Be clear about what you want

2. Have a well crafted marketing plan

3. Set your goals based on what you know you are capable of achieving

4. Watch the response of your market

Things won’t be exactly the same as at home. You have to be able to be flexible in what you offer. Without a market willing to buy what you are selling, even the best plans have to be changed

5. Be prepared to do it on your own

Layman provides salon and spa services as well as keeps her facility immaculate, then manages the business, markets the business, and coordinates her family’s activities

6. Be true to yourself

7. Be very organized

It will help a lot when you are challenged by everything coming at you

8. Be willing to continue to develop your skills

Candida attends four trade shows per year and participates in at least six days of professional spa and styling development to ensure she is bringing new trends to her clients

9. Customers are your number one priority

Candida brings the same styles and products to her small city clients as those who have salons in New York, Chicago, and Europe

10. Accept that each country has its own way of doing business and if you bring the best of what your country offers, you will have your niche.

Candida Layman runs Kapila Salon and Day Spa http://www.kapilasalonanddayspa.com/index.php

Is ‘Once Upon a Time’ Enough to Build a Business?

As a professional speaker and storyteller, Linda Lord talks for a living. As with any service based company, describing what she does, exactly, has been a challenge for the entrepreneur now in her 16th year of business. “I bring hope to people so they are better able to handle life’s circumstances.” It is one of those businesses that just saying, “once upon a time there was a woman who could tell a good story and therefore started a business,” isn’t enough. It would make Michael Gerber cringe, but Lord has found a way to make Once Upon a Time enough.

“I have been very fortunate that clients have referred me to others. I tried advertising once a long time ago, but saw zero return for my investment. What I do is create a personal experience, so the best marketing tool I have are those I have helped, telling others. Stories bond people in a special way. Each workshop or speaking engagement allows me to create a safe community where we explore what it means to be human.”

Lord continues, “Like any other business, I solve problems. From the platform I provide a learning experience that supports individuals in their personal growth. I used to call myself a human agriculturalist and storytiller, which was clever enough, but I still had to explain what I do. Clever branding and creative wordsmithing may make great copy, but if people don’t know when to call you, then I believe I have still failed in getting the message out. It is my task to connect the words and the message to create hope for the future. ”

As a storyteller, Lord knows how important it is to choose the right words to deliver messages. As a business owner, she knows that stories can also bring businesses to life and create community between staff and clients.

Lord provides a few tips for those who want to incorporate stories into their marketing message:

1. Listen to your staff and clients’ experiences with the intention of providing support and assistance.

2. Know very clearly the benefit you bring and be able to express that to your clients.

3. Be willing to experiment with the stories you tell until you find one that personally connects you with your potential clients.

4. Remember how powerful stories were to us as children and recognize that same power is available to us as adults in business.

Linda can be reached at: http://www.lindajlord.com or lindalordonline@yahoo.ca, linda@lindajlord.com

How to find a business idea from your personal experience

Grain is a custom woodworking business founded by entrepreneur, Tom Gelinas of Windsor, ON as a result of his own experience. “It really started when I began purchasing furniture for myself. I quickly realized that everything I was buying was being imported from oversees, and often the quality reflected that. I knew that I could build something better. I had been woodworking for many years and had honed my talents by constructing built-ins and kitchens. This had built my understanding of wood and finishing. After gaining experience while apprenticing with a Master Craftsman, I was ready to offer my customers something we could both be proud of.” As with many successful business owners, Gelinas saw a gap in the marketplace and filled it with his unique and top quality products.

Gelinas offered that working with wood had always been his passion. “We manufacture custom cabinets, custom trim, dining room tables, side tables, and built-ins. There are three key things that enable me to stand out among of my competitors. Specific joinery that I use to build a quality cabinet that will last. These techniques are not commonly used among my competition. The material that I use is thicker and stronger than current standards resulting in a quality product. My business is customer focused in that we offer one point of contact; me.” Gelinas personally sees to the attention of detail from the customer to the finished product.

Although only in business for a few months, Gelinas is already seeing that he was correct in assessing his market and filling a need in the woodworking sector. You may see some opportunities to bridge a gap in business, too, but be cautious and use the following questions as a template to assess the viability of your idea.

Is the market real?

Customer analysis – Surveys or attempting to answer: Who the customer is? What do they want to buy? What price are they willing to pay for that?
Competitor analysis – Which else is in this market? What are they doing for the customers? Are they supplying a similar substitute for what idea you have in mind? Is this industry growing or shrinking?

Is the product/service real?

Is this industry growing or shrinking?

Can I be the best at this market?

What are the risks?

Are there any barriers to entry?

Financial risks?

How can you create barriers so imitation is not prevalent?

Is it worth it?

Is it an attractive industry?

Regulations that you would be subjected to?

Gelinas notes that being in business for yourself, even with a great idea, can be taxing, but he adds, “I love creating and building. It is really inspiring to see a customer say they love what I have made them. Truly rewarding.”

Name: Tom Gelinas
Business Name: Grain Woodcrafting
Website: www.grainwoodcrafting.com
Location: 1428 Argyle Rd Unit 4, Windsor, Ontario