Small and midsized enterprises (SMEs) are the economic and job growth drivers for the world economy. But they can be hindered by complexities associated with legacy technology, business processes, and decision making that prevent them from growing. And yet some businesses are able to overcome these growth pains and thrive. How do they do it?
#SAPSMBChat is a monthly TweetChat designed to help entrepreneurs and business owners build a simpler path to growth. The format is a Q&A session co-hosted by @SAP4SmallBiz and Brian Moran, a small business expert and influencer, along with a special guest.
This month’s #SAPSMBChat TweetChat features Nathan Bond of Rifle Paper Co & Rieva Lesonsky of Grow Biz Media. Rifle Paper Co is a successful stationery and gift brand company that is expanding into wallpaper, apparel, and home products. It was founded in 2009 in a garage apartment and is now on the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing companies. Rieva Lesonsky is a best-selling author and authority on entrepreneurship and small businesses. Prior to Grow Biz Media, Rieva was editorial director of Entrepreneur Magazine.
Our discussion focused on how to succeed at growing your small business. Following is a complete transcript of our insightful conversation with Nathan and Rieva:
SAP4SmallBiz: It’s National Small Business Week (#SBW2015) in the U.S. Nathan, what is the state of business in your industry?
Nathan Bond: Since starting Rifle Paper Co., the industry has grown as consumer interest in designer stationery and gifts continues to rise. With tech so prevalent, receiving a tangible gift and a beautiful card is more valuable than ever. I’d also add that the longer something is relevant, the more likely it stays relevant. That’s why we believe in paper.
SAP4SmallBiz: Rieva Lesonsky started Grow Biz Media in 2008. Looking back, would you change anything about becoming an entrepreneur?
Rieva Lesonsky: I would have become an entrepreneur sooner. Also invested in new tech upfront. Older software and hardware slows you down. And I would have sought out strategic partners up-front as well.
SAP4SmallBiz: In 2009 Rifle Paper Co was a true startup. Today you are on the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing companies. How did that happen?
Nathan Bond: To start, my wife being incredibly talented didn’t hurt. On top of that, our growth has come from five areas: 1) A focus on profit margins from day one; 2) striving for the highest quality possible; 3) continuing to expand product selection; 4) listening to our customers; 5) and arguably one of the toughest: never being afraid to fail.
SAP4SmallBiz: What about startups today? Is it easier to start a business in 2015 than it was in 2007 or 2009?
Nathan Bond: I can only speak from our experience, but there were pros and cons to starting Rifle Paper Co in 2009. At the time it wasn’t easy to secure a loan, but some startup costs were cheaper (leases, vendors, etc.). As it happened, it allowed us to grow with the market and build a strong foundation.
Rieva Lesonsky: Think it’s SO much easier to start. Cheaper and better technology. Created JUST 4 small businesses. Also, so many more resources to help you. Need a mentor? Go to @scorementors. @SBAgovhas tons of free info and SBDCs. People are more supportive of those launching now. So MANY businesses exist now to help startups. WAY bigger market too. Thanks to tech and other factors, you can be a global biz immediately. MORE customers.
SAP4SmallBiz: You’ve both done business internationally. What do the global markets look like for small business owners?
Nathan Bond: I’m a believer in being as global as possible. Exposure to more markets is an imp. Hedge against specific market downturns.
Rieva Lesonsky: Going global is a must, I think–especially if you sell products. Easier to communicate and market globally. And if you need to source products, @alibaba has made it so easy. Check out the blog from Pitney. Lots of great global insight there.
SAP4SmallBiz: Where do you see your respective companies in five years?
Nathan Bond: We plan to push Rifle Paper Co. into more lifestyle categories by expanding product offerings and maybe more stores of our own.
Rieva Lesonsky: Hoping to launch a podcast. Maybe write a book or two. Form an agency (ahem! @BrianMoran). Figuring out how to make money while I sleep is a BIG goal.
SAP4SmallBiz: Has social media as a platform changed the way you do business or the way your market operates?
Nathan Bond: Social media allows us to have quicker, easier access to our customers and make more personal connections. It also gives us more direct feedback and insight from consumers as to what product lines to go into next.
Rieva Lesonsky: Social media is a GREAT cheap way to communicate. I found one of my earliest clients (AT&T) by “stalking” them on Twitter. I find with social media, that while it helps to post my content to all, pick one place where you can “hang out.” For me, my fave social media “hangout” place is @Twitter. Social media enables you to form relationships with people you may never actually meet IRL. You have to plan a strategy, though — social media can be a time suck. I use TweetDeck and Hootsuite every day. And be responsive on social media. Talk TO people, not AT them. I once interviewed someone over DM. That was tough 🙂 But I’ve found people to write about on Twitter.
SAP4SmallBiz: Rieva, what are the major obstacles for business owners in the next 12-24 months?
Rieva Lesonsky: Biz owners need to realize they need to invest. Stop treading water. Still a little hard to get money. Seek alternative financing when needed. Check out my client @Fundera. Going global is essential. How can you do that? Lay out a strategy. One of most common complaints I hear is entrepreneurs can’t find qualified employees. Many are creating their own training programs, cross-training existing staff.
SAP4SmallBiz: How can #technology be an ally for startups and growing businesses?
Nathan Bond: Leveraging technology means less time spent on solving problems and more time focused where it needs to be
Rieva Lesonsky: Tech is your friend. Explore the cloud. Saves you time and money. Find out what tech you can use. Don’t hesitate. Invest in tech.
SAP4SmallBiz: Can you each give followers of our tweetchat some advice on what it takes to grow your #startup into a successful business?
Nathan Bond: Know that what you’re doing matters; take pride in being a producer; be passionate and excited every day.
Rieva Lesonsky: To grow you need to invest in yourself, your staff, and your business. You need to move forward. Don’t be afraid of risk — and as my friend @brianmoran CONSTANTLY says, get out of the weeds. Take the time to strategize.
If you are a small or midsize enterprise, discover how SAP can help you find a simpler path to growth. It’s time to #runsimple!