Isabelle Saladin, founder of I&S Adviser, is a serial entrepreneur. Creation, growth, recruitment, failure. It tells of her ups and downs.
Has 20 years old, after a school career chaotic, and despite the level of English is poor, I decided to leave alone the United States. My student loan has been negotiated, I had to choose between college or the beach. I took the two, by enrolling in the University of San Diego to follow a curriculum in sales and marketing. Has just graduated, and here I am diving in the excitement of the first start-ups of Silicon Valley which inspired the creation of my first company in France, at the age of 28 years.
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What I quickly learned on the ground, it is that having a good idea is not enough to achieve project success. It takes much more than that : it is necessary that this idea will not result in a turnover. And with a sufficient level in terms of ambitions.Your support is essential. Subscribe for $ 1 support Us
sell, Sell, sell
A large number of entrepreneurs I meet today offer great products or promote super service ideas. But, for a business function, it is necessary above all that the revenue generated by the sales is adequate to cover the costs related to the creation and development of the company. Otherwise, even with a minimum number of sales, we may be led to stop its activity.
This is what happened to me with my first company, in 2008. Art-DV was a market place of objects made by hand, inspired by the american website Etsy. After a few years spent in the marketing department of a start-up in Silicon Valley, I was back in France with this project under the arm. A project trend because digital and disruptive. I've adapted to the French market with the idea of bringing additional revenue to the creators and to offer original products to the consumers. The concept worked ! The customers were at the appointment and I quickly recruited my first employees.
then arose the question of the next step : to make the company grow. As the amount of the average basket was limited (12€), it was absolutely necessary to extend the target of potential customers and therefore potential growth outside of France. And for that, in the absence of sufficient funding, I needed to raise funds. I looked for 1 million euros. This is where things are complicated. The idea for my business was good but, in the face of investors, the profitability was not easy to demonstrate. What I sold was intangible, it was a platform of the relationship. The calculation of margin and profitability was all the more complicated.
today, the model has opened, but in 2008, we were pioneers. Then the discussions with the fund have lasted... long... very long... too long... over six months ! Result : even if the sales continued to increase, very quickly, I no longer had the means to honor the charges (taxation and social charges, salaries, operating costs, investments to modernize the web platform, etc). I had to file for bankruptcy. I don générais not enough sales to take longer.
the trap of The perfect product
The other mistake, which is common, is to think about his offer "off the ground", to seek the perfection of the product or service. Gold this account, it is to sell. And often, this is not the offer the more successful that attracts the most customers, but the one that is best suited to its target. The important thing is to meet a need (existing or prospective), to find the right sales model and, most importantly, the target customers are willing to pay for. The key questions to ask before starting a business are simple : to what need am I going to answer ? Is it that there will be customers willing to buy my product or my service ? If yes, why ? And often, the answer is to be found in the use that a client will have of that product, much more so than in its technical perfection.
To launch my third business, so I not only made sure to identify my sources of income and better estimate my turnover - to not find myself being as with Art-DV -, but also to vary my target customers and understand the reasons why they (the SMES) and these (start-up) would invest in the proposed service. I&S Adviser group operates in the market of coaching entrepreneurs. I did not hesitate to consult with potential customers in advance to adjust my offer, to know what was essential for them and this could block a purchase of their share. For example, the fear of the "yakafokon" is great for business leaders. So I made two decisions : I rely solely on serial entrepreneurs who have themselves created a number of societies to legitimize their intervention ; and indexing the final price on the results obtained (success fees) by the team, which commits us and reassures the clients about the interest of our action.
Anticipate to regain its freedom to do
These experiences have convinced me that a contractor must give priority to three requirements :
- steer closer to its turnover and its level of cash to react quickly if the situation requires it : I for my part set of monitoring tables (dashboard) annual, updated on a weekly basis to avoid any problems, and anticipate, if necessary ;
- constantly ensure that the execution plan provided is implemented strictly to ensure that the projected revenue to be generated (if it is not, it will be for reasons that are exogenous) ; and for my part, the operational plans are made quarterly with a point each week ;
- challenger a regularly economic model to ensure that it is always tailored to both the objectives and developments of the market.
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Since then, I make every effort to adhere strictly to those requirements. This allows me to anticipate and significantly reduce unpleasant surprises. So, not only can I plan and prepare for the future of my business, but more importantly I can make decisions more bold and therefore more risky - by decreasing the size of the sword of Damocles hanging over my head. In other words, I regained my freedom to undertake !