An Interview With Ken Babcock
Take an inventory to ensure all internal and external communication channels are operating at the highest capacity.
Startups usually start with a small cohort of close colleagues. But what happens when you add a bunch of new people into this close cohort? How do you maintain the company culture? In addition, what is needed to successfully scale a business to increase market share or to increase offerings? How can a small startup grow successfully to a midsize and then large company? To address these questions, we are talking to successful business leaders who can share stories and insights from their experiences about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business”. As a part of this series, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Maureen Edwards.
Maureen Edwards is an award-winning branding, marketing, and business strategist, and 2x inventor. She is a keynote speaker, national instructor, and consultant to startups and small businesses, teaching and guiding them to launch, turn around, or scale stronger. She has built six profitable companies from scratch and is now on a mission to use her mistakes and successes to mentor and empower entrepreneurs how to simply build a sustainable business and enjoy the journey along the way.
Thank you for joining us in this interview series. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
Becoming an entrepreneur was never part of the plan. I was a corporate girl all the way. I was one of those who loved leading my team, dressing in business suits, and working 12-hour days making everyone else rich. It was not until I had an aha moment, inventing and patenting a pet product, that my career took another path and forever changed the course of my life.
After walking away from my 6-figure corporate job and all its perks, I leveraged my home, 401k, and kid’s college savings to launch my company. And then, almost lost it all. I was ready to become the 20% of businesses that fail their first year; not the club I wanted to be part of, nor does any entrepreneur.
I turned around that first nightmare startup (that’s another story), and in 12 months I had 1100 customers and created an international brand. I won Best New Pet Product that first year and won it again when I launched my second invention. But the mistakes, fear, and hardships were brutal, and could have been avoided.
Five startups later, I figured out a simple, methodical, and effective process that drives revenue, acquires profitability, and secures sustainability. I have conceptualized, launched, and/or overseen over 35 brands, products, or companies across numerous industries and worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs to start, turnaround, or scale their company.
I embrace and embody entrepreneurship and want to empower others to do the same.
You’ve had a remarkable career journey. Can you highlight a key decision in your career that helped you get to where you are today?
Realizing that regret is worse than fear, I bravely left a big executive job in corporate to become an entrepreneur. My career was never the same — for the better.
What’s the most impactful initiative you’ve led that you’re particularly proud of?
The initiative I am doing now is allowing me to multiply my message at a level I never thought possible. My mission is to impact one small business a day to thrive and survive by implementing simple business process and avoiding the typical business mistakes that take you down. 2739 new businesses went out yesterday, today, and will tomorrow. If I can prevent it, I will. Even if it’s just one. Doing what you love is non-negotiable.
Sometimes our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a mistake you’ve made and the lesson you took away from it?
I’ve made many. The biggest was I thought I knew it all and could do everything when starting my first company. I learned quickly that just because you were successful in corporate, it doesn’t mean you will be in owning your own business. There are so many moving parts and so much to know.
It took me too long to admit I wasn’t good at something and needed help from those who knew more than me. Bottom line — I learned there is no ego allowed in entrepreneurship if you are going to succeed at it. I couldn’t YouTube my way to building a company and expect things to get better. I finally got help from those who walked the journey and had wisdom to share. My regret is I hadn’t done it sooner.
How has mentorship played a role in your career, whether receiving mentorship or offering it to others?
Before I almost lost everything, I finally swallowed my pride, admitted by limitations, and reached out to someone who could help. It made all the difference from being in business or not. I made a conscious decision that when I could give back, I would pay it forward to small business owners, so they never experience what I did. Years later, I became a volunteer SCORE mentor and now a SCORE national speaker. My first business experience shaped my passion, mission, and what I am doing today.
Developing your leadership style takes time and practice. Who do you model your leadership style after? What are some key character traits you try to emulate?
I am fortunate to have worked for amazing female bosses. The first, Sandra W., hired me in my first job. I worked for her in several capacities and at different times. She is still my mentor today, almost 30 years later. Her advice to me when building my team of talent was to interview each person as if they were my replacement and hire people better than myself. Then guide, develop, and empower them to do it. Never “manage” or “supervise.” I listened. My teams won numerous awards and accolades. I have promoted more leaders than not. Many years later, Sandra came to work for me. She practiced what she preached, and so did I.
Thank you for sharing that with us. Let’s talk about scaling a business from a small startup to a midsize and then large company. Based on your experience, can you share with our readers the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business”? Please give a story or example for each.
There are 5 questions I would want every business to ask and answer before they take the leap into scaling. This will reveal whether they are ready to take the next steps in their business regardless of size.
- Is there enough demand for my product or service to warrant the risk? If you are not making financial goals, have steady cash flow, and are profitable, wait. Making money doesn’t get easier the bigger you are. And the last thing you want is to have to answer to investors or the bank when you can’t pay your bills.
- Have I solidified my core strengths and value for my right fit customer?
Refining and improving successful products or services always win. Once your core business, brand, and customer base are established, then move to the next stage.
If your existing customers are loyal advocates, consistently paying your bills and ready to support your scaling endeavor, this is a sure sign you are ready. If they are telling you something different, listen to them. You may need to uplevel nurturing what your business does for the customer, not spending time, money, and resources opening new channels of distribution with new services or products. Be in love with your customers more than your product/service.
I made this mistake in my first company. I wanted to launch a new product line extension that I believed my customers would want. I spent time and money launching it, only to discover my customers where still getting to know what my core business was. I distracted and confused them. I scaled too fast without securing the trust for my original product and company brand that was driving the revenue. The line was a failure, and I pulled the plug quickly before I lost any more. I never made that mistake again.
3. Do I have the right team in place? If you are still involved with the day-to-day minutia, controlling all the decisions, and struggling to trust others, time to get past it. This is ego creeping into your business, clouding your judgement, and losing out on growth opportunities.
You cannot scale without a top team of talent you can delegate to. If you do not have it in place, create a plan to do so before diving into scaling. Ensure that you, your partners, and your team members will be happy in the workplace. They will support your mission, vision, and especially you.
4. Am I updated with the latest tech platforms? If you are expanding personnel, business development, sales, and marketing to achieve new financial growth targets, upgraded CRM, marketing automation, and project management systems will ensure building stronger internal and external partnerships. The data analytics provided will identify gaps, opportunities, and insights too.
Take an inventory to ensure all internal and external communication channels are operating at the highest capacity.
5. Is my infrastructure nimble, stable and, reliable with efficient processes and streamlined execution? Build and simplify communication, inventory, IT, logistic, and finance processes to avoid inefficiencies and errors, resulting in lost productivity and revenue. Gaps in any of these will only become exacerbated when you scale.
Can you share a few of the mistakes that companies make when they try to scale a business? What would you suggest addressing those errors?
2/3’s of businesses who scale too fast fail at it and go out of business. My suggestion is to be patient and strategic when taking the business to the next step. Make sure you have a reliable infrastructure, efficient processes, financial cushion, and solid brand trust and loyalty.
Do not scale because it is “sexy” to scale and looks good when you add employees, locations, and board members. That’s ego scaling, and it’s a losing proposition.
Scaling includes bringing new people into the organization. How can a company preserve its company culture and ethos when new people are brought in?
First, ensure the core culture, on-boarding process, and HR policy is well established. Design specific HR policies to avoid employee confusion, dissatisfaction, and turnover and create a culture that aligns with company values and mission that strives to reward and retain top talent.
Second, align new hires with an employee mentor to ease the transition into the company. It builds relationships, comfort, and goodwill in the company. It is also an excellent opportunity to develop a future leader’s skills.
Third, be adamant that brand identity is reenforced at every touchpoint by both outside and inside hires. This can be done with a detailed brand book that all employees become familiar with.
Fourth, listen to all your employees and implement. They are in the trenches everyday with what is happening. You will get a real pulse on reality. And it’s great for morale and productivity.
In my work, I focus on helping companies to simplify the process of creating documentation of their workflow, so I am particularly passionate about this question. Many times, a key aspect of scaling your business is scaling your team’s knowledge and internal procedures. What tools or techniques have helped your teams be successful at scaling internally?
I like the Bob platform because it is simple and incorporates Slack to manage projects, so you don’t need to have another platform for that. I also think their engagement opportunities allow for building a more transparent, authentic, and communicative culture. The user-friendly platform incorporates the learning style of both mature and younger generations.
I also incorporate quarterly workshops on various business and personal development topics that reflect learning and doing as a team. I am adamant that monthly meetings with C-suite decision makers are conducted with all employees involved to receive updates, share ideas, and get feedback.
What software or tools do you recommend helping onboard new hires
Because of your role, you are a person of significant influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most people, what would that be? You never know what your ideas can trigger.
I would like to see a formal entrepreneurial program implemented into the public schools. It introduces kids to opportunities other than college and traditional jobs. It allows for creative and critical thinking, building confidence muscles, and developing adaptability, flexibility, and a strong work ethic. Even if they do not want to own a business, these skills are critical to succeed in employment and life. Having a mandatory entrepreneurial course/semester can broaden their outlook.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
My website is www.8simplesteps.net
Social platforms include:
This was truly meaningful! Thank you so much for your time and for sharing your expertise!
About the interviewer. Ken Babcock is the CEO and Co-Founder of Tango. Prior to his mission of celebrating how work is executed, Ken spent over 4 years at Uber riding the rollercoaster of a generational company. After gaining hands-on experience with entrepreneurship at Atomic VC, Ken went on to HBS. It was at HBS that Ken met his Co-Founders, Dan Giovacchini and Brian Shultz and they founded Tango.
Maureen Edwards Of 8 Simple Steps On 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.