Sunbird Brand Bites: Episode #6

Sunbird Brand Bites is a podcast where we answer real questions from small business owners and solopreneurs around building an irresistible brand.

As a strategist and graphic designer who have worked with over 100 small businesses, Bianca and Mara have decided to share their best advice for solopreneurs in these bi-weekly episodes. In the sixth episode of Sunbird Brand Bites, Mara and Bianca talk about the biggest mistake they made starting their business, as well as one simple discipline that every business owner needs to get better at.

Episode #6: What's the best and worst advice we've received as entrepreneurs?

The Worst Advice: To write a full, formal business plan.

*Cue gasps* Yes, we’re aware of how controversial this sounds. Usually, the standard advice for all small business owners is to immediately sit down and write a business plan. Here’s why we don’t think that’s such a good idea:

  1. It doesn’t help you answer the right questions.

Writing a formal business plan includes coming up with a lot of financial projections. When you’re creating this plan, you’re encouraged to benchmark yourself against other similar businesses. But in our case, it’s incredibly hard to find other two-person local creative agencies with all of their numbers published. So a lot of those questions about projections can only be answered through experience. You can’t decide those numbers right away.

2. It limits your creativity.

One of the reasons Mara didn’t like the idea of creating a business plan right off the bat is that it’s very inflexible. While creating their business plan, Bianca and Mara felt the pressure of attempting to put themselves in the format of “business people.” It felt like they had to fit a certain mold to be considered “professional.” The process didn’t really encourage them to have the creativity and flexibility to test and iterate certain things that would work for their specific business.

So what were their takeaways from their experience?

  1. If you’re a product-based business who needs funding, you should definitely write a business plan.

Although this wasn’t the best advice for Sunbird specifically, Bianca and Mara recognize that it is good advice for some types of businesses. If you need funding, a loan, or venture capital, you need to understand your financials very well. The people giving you money need to know that they’re giving it to someone who has it all figured out, so a business plan may be a necessity for you.

2. Create a flexible plan that allows room for testing and growth.

Bianca recommends using a tool like the Business Model Canvas. The Business Model Canvas is essentially a one-page business plan that lays out all the important pieces of information for your business. It’s one page to suggest that this is at the core of what you’re trying to do, and it can be adjusted as you’re moving forward. It’s not locked in stoneーit’s more of a hypothesis that you then test. This eliminates the pressure of being a “perfect” business, but at the same time reminds you of the importance of being focused on what really matters. Speaking of being focused…

The Best Advice: To focus on what you’re best at doing and who you’re best at serving.

When you’re first starting your small business, the possibilities seem endless. Although it’s important to explore those possibilities, try not to lose sight of that very specific reason why you started your business in the first place. Here’s why we think this is good advice:

  1. Focusing helps to refine your brand.

The longer you do what you do, the more you understand about yourself, your business, and your customers. Along the way, you collect tons of information on what works and doesn’t work in regards to your offerings, how to communicate with your clients, and your operations. All this information can help you refine your brand down the road. Bianca says that you should be focused as much as possible on what you’re great at, because your brand and business strategy should always be aligned.

2. It upholds your commitment to your target market.

You started your business because you saw a need to help a very specific group of people who would most benefit from your product or service. Don’t lose sight of that just because you think there’s money to be made in other markets. Bianca admits that this is a discipline that’s difficult to maintain, but getting sidetracked by attempting other opportunities can sometimes wear you and your resources thin.

Here are some tips for how to get and stay focused:

  1. Stay within your capacity.

Like most entrepreneurs, Mara and Bianca have an enthusiasm to serve a lot of people very well. That can be both a blessing and a curse. A few months ago, they realized that Sunbird offers way too many things in a well-intentioned attempt to best help our target market. As a result, our operations had gotten way too complex. They weren’t able to serve our clients at the level that they wanted because they were switching their tasks too often and offering more types of services than we were realistically able to handle as a small service business.

2. Hone in on what makes you great.

Instead of learning a million new things in an attempt to help everyone, focus on the one or two things that you’re already great at and know can help certain people. Work on perfecting that offering as best as you can. At the end of the day, you’ll be better serving your clients with the most effective product or service. And you’ll be known as the brand that’s best at that one thing.

Have any advice for entrepreneurs that you’d like to share? Comment below and let us know!


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