Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Steven Kaufman, Founder of Red Fender Consulting, located in Portland, OR, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I consult with clients of all sizes, from startups to Fortune 500 companies, in three areas: operations, finance, and marketing. I help them set their strategic goals, then create the tactical plans needed to realize those goals.
Tell us about yourself
I've had a broad, storied career in small and large companies, culminating as CEO of a troubled firm that I worked with an amazing management team to turn around. Using that base of knowledge, I'm helping other companies tackle challenging, complex projects. Watching these firms prosper as they move beyond their obstacles and learn how to solve their issues is a huge motivator for me.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I was a founder of a tech startup that grew and sold to a VC firm in 2018. That company has now gone global. I am so proud of that accomplishment that I had a hand in creating a company that continues to transform an industry.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
I can think of two. The first is the tug-of-war between doing the work your clients assign and making time to market the business. The worst thing is to finish a big project and have nothing in the pipeline because you were too focused on the work to line up the next piece of work. Referrals are wonderful, but they can't be your sole source of business development.
The other challenge is self-motivation. As a business owner, the weight of the company is on my shoulders. It's my responsibility to help others solve their problems. It's so important to have a network of people with whom I can confer if I run into a roadblock, including motivating myself when it feels like I'm stuck in a rut and can't get myself loose.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Do your research. Is there really a market for your product or service? Have you independently and honestly verified that demand? I've brought several ideas to the brink of launch, only to pull back (thankfully!) when I realized that there wasn't a true need.
- Hire your weakness. Entrepreneurs have a blind spot. They may have a brilliant idea, but translating that into the tactical plans necessary to launch a company may not be a skill in their wheelhouse. That's okay! You don't have to know everything. Don't be afraid to hire someone who knows more than you in certain areas. That highlights your strength and commitment to build a successful company.
- Relish failure. I had just taken on a very public project and received a call from a reporter. I was rushed and answered his question flippantly, which was printed on the paper the next day. I nearly torpedoed the project before it was even off the ground. I learned so much from that gaffe, namely, owning my mistakes and doing whatever it takes to learn from them.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I tell people that I can help them in three areas:
- Develop the strategic vision to reach their business goals.
- Develop the tactical plans necessary to achieve those goals.
- Do the work needed to execute the plan.
I can move easily between 30,000-foot strategic to in-the-weeds tactical, which gives me an edge when helping my clients.
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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