Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Ian Richardson, Co-Founder of Richardson & Richardson Consulting, located in Mason, MI, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Richardson & Richardson is a strategic planning and account-based marketing organization that aims to change the world by assisting entrepreneurs to plan and achieve their mission. There are three pillars of entrepreneurs that we serve:
- Emerging Entrepreneurs: These organizations have the business owner(s) and a core team of support staff established. Up until now, it has been the "muscle and feels," or grit and instinct, of the business owner that has grown and scaled the business until now. There is a tension and scale issue starting to resonate in the organization, and the entrepreneur is recognizing they will need to scale up a leadership team, as well as implement processes to allow their organization to reach the next level.
- Established Entrepreneurs: These organizations have created a leadership, cadence, metrics, process, and management style that serves them well. The entrepreneur is recognizing that there are multiple directions that the organization could go and is having a question around which strategy is the right one for their team.
- Exiting Entrepreneurs: These entrepreneurs are looking at their organization and pondering how they can liquidate their equity while respecting their customers, team, and legacy. They are wondering how to create an exit strategy that lets everyone involved win.
Tell us about yourself
I founded Doberman Technologies in November 2005 in Lansing, Michigan. Originally Doberman was a break/fix I.T. provider of residential and small business I.T. Support, done primarily on nights and weekends while I attended and worked full time at a vocational college. In 2010, I left my job at the college and focused full-time on Doberman. My journey took me from year 1 of full-time focus to operating a multimillion-dollar MSP, ranked consistently as a leader in the field by both industry and state/local publications, associations, and governing bodies. I started as many I.T. providers, primarily as an engineer with a vision of delivering a better service experience. Doberman rapidly evolved from a primarily break/fix and product installation company to a Managed Services Provider with a specialized focus on Healthcare and I.T. security.
Over time, I shifted from an operator, performing I.T. installations and delivery, into an executive and ownership role. In 2016, Doberman and I joined into the HTG peer groups (Now ITNation Evolve), gaining exposure to other I.T. business owners nationwide and accelerating the redevelopment and strategic process focus that continues to drive me today. In 2017, through my HTG peer group facilitator Israel Lang, I was introduced to the Paterson Center and the StratOp™ methodology of business planning and management. Doberman adopted StratOp that same year, focusing on the core idea that process, strategy, and customer experience were paramount in a rapidly consolidating and commoditizing field. Using strategy and process, combined with sales and marketing acumen, we were able to continue to command a leading presence in their local market and differentiate themselves from a wide berth of competition.
In 2020 – I took the next step of becoming a certified StratOp Guide, diving deeper into strategic planning and coaching. I achieved final certification in October 2021 and completed a successful transaction on Doberman in December 2021. Today, I serve as Managing Partner for Richardson & Richardson Consulting, a strategic management and marketing agency, and CEO for Managed Sales Pros, a technology-specific business development firm. My work supports my mission of helping enough entrepreneurs in enough ways that the world is a fundamentally better place.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I believe that my biggest accomplishment as a business owner was being able to recognize that the time had come for me to exit my I.T. company as a leader and owner for the health and wellness of my customers and my team.
My engagement level had plummeted, and I was not passionate about the organization and its journey anymore. That recognition allowed the company to rebound and recover with fresh leadership and newly energized team members and for myself to recuperate and regain passion around what I was doing as a professional.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Personally, I've found the management of variables, initiatives, and offerings to be the biggest struggle - I tend to tip into stress when there are too many items going on in my world. Also, being able to keep a positive mindset while doing the hard work of setting up a new business, having infrastructure and other costs create a negative cashflow situation, and continue moving forward with an unclear sales cycle and offers that are evolving. Making sure that you have faith that by planning your work, and working on your plan, your plan will work is incredibly challenging on difficult days.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Figure out what recharges your internal battery and honor it. Starting an organization is hard. Anyone who says otherwise is painting a rose-colored picture of the world. You will get overworked and overwhelmed -- being able to recognize this and rebound effectively is critical.
- Limit your scope -- don't fall victim to distraction. The most powerful skill I've developed is the ability to say "No" to an idea or direction.
- Set expectations early and clearly: for yourself, your business partners, your spouse, your team, and your customers. Missed expectations blow up relationships.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
The most success I've found has been from focusing on what my customers value, as well as what my customer's customers value. Figuring out how to speak to those needs creates space for differentiation and delivers ROI on their investment with my organization.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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