Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Van Goodwin, Owner of Van Allen Strategies, located in Washington, DC, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
We manage large technical programs for our clients, like helping organizations integrate systems after a merger or roll out a new piece of IT infrastructure to sites worldwide. Our customers tend to be Fortune 500 corporations or government entities, though we have some smaller customers looking for help building organizational maturity to manage growth (and those can be the most fun).
Tell us about yourself
I’ve always had an entrepreneurial tendency and first tried to go out on my own with a firm supporting financial institution immediately before the 2008 financial crisis unfolded. You can imagine how that turned out.
My second try was about nine years ago when I realized I wanted to help customers the way I wanted to help them rather than go by the Big 5 Consulting playbook. I created the legal shell of a business while working with my network to get my first clients, and fortunately, a friend in my network connected me with an executive at Marriott International who needed help. They became my first big client, and the rest is history.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Being able to deliver on projects at our clients’ scale, given the relative size of our company, has been an incredible achievement. Without giving away a client list, if in the past several years you’ve stayed in a hotel room, booked medical care through the web, or enrolled in college classes online, you’ve likely used a product that our team helped design or implement. That feels good.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
For me, it’s not having the sounding board of a partner or leader to help keep me motivated. Even for an introverted person like me, that gets lonely, and I have difficulty motivating myself to do everything that helps the business grow, but it isn’t a short-term need like meeting client deliverables or maintaining operations.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- You have a unique opportunity to optimize your business for the way the world is now instead of the way it was a few years ago. Any multi-billion-dollar, decades-old company would kill for that opportunity. Don’t discount it.
- It’s a bit of a cliché but find you're guiding North Star and write it down. It might be a mission statement, a future press release, or the vision of the organization you want to sell one day. Whenever you have a big decision to make, ask yourself if it pushes you in that direction.
- Remember you’re accountable for the consequences of your choices, not a boss. That’s both scary and freeing, but if you’re the type who wants to start a business in the first place, you’ll probably love it.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I’m in the middle of planning my second company, this time with a partner. It’s definitely an “I wish I knew then what I know now” situation, and I haven’t felt this excitement for a new venture in a while. Wish me luck!
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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