Our business development consisted of 3 people: a retired architect, a rocket scientist, and an artist. All as individuals are extremely capable. All as businessmen and entrepreneurs would have limits. We had over 5 years of planning and designing a new product and it was ready for the launch. We officially launched Eni Puzzles in the fall of 2010 at the Toy Fair in New York City. We were gaining accounts and getting the product into store. Everything was going in a great direction.
Then in 2011, I started to notice that the numbers did not add up the way we had anticipated. We all worked harder with more determination. We had a great work ethic and a great attitude that was submerged in tunnel vision. As a small business owner, we are a lot of times the CEO, the Reception, Customer Service Rep, the Sales Rep, the Book keeper, the Fulfillment Service and every other job title that you can place at any given moments time in the middle of a busy work day. It was great being busy. Our growth was more than what we anticipated starting off. The biggest problem was that we were too busy to take a step back and see why we were seemingly working so hard to barely break even.
We had set up streamlined operations that had little to no dead weight. We were a small and modest operation on a modest budget. I knew that when we started that we lacked experience in some areas and would never be able to completely plan for every little problem that would come along. We had made a five-year plan at the start, and even though our growth was busier than what we thought it would be, we were falling behind in what we expected to gain in capital funds. I started seeking business development programs to see if I could get some answers or a finger that pointed in the right direction. With a whole lot of effort and luck, I was accepted into the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program.
The first day, we were asked to envision our companies five years down the road. We were also asked to place a vision on our personal lives five years down the road. We were asked about what opportunities we could foresee to get us in that direction. We dreamed, we envisioned, we wrote, and we spoke about the hours of sleep that each and every one of us was not getting at the time.
It didn't matter what business we were involved, we all had the same problem. We were working so hard on daily duties, that we all had not taken the time to step back and even be sure that the vision we laid out for ourselves when we started was in line with the direction that our businesses were headed. It was a few months every other week. We all got together and hammered out a growth plan. We filled out missing items that were in line with culture, our vision and our opportunities. We looked at the numbers of where our businesses were.
For the first time, I started seeing excitement in those depressing numbers because I was being forced to work on my business on a scheduled time. I could quickly get back on track and see how those numbers were more like the pieces in our puzzle and we had to start arranging them differently. The vast network in the group allowed me to make a connection with InGroup marketing to streamline our operations even further. We were able to seamlessly switch our factory from Korea to BAMKO so we could handle the increased volume and still get the expected quality we promise to the clientele. I even decided to go with a program that I had been putting off in LettuceApps, which made the whole streamlined operations flow over into our trade show booth with the assistance of an iPad.
Every Friday, I continue to streamline our operations and keep costs minimal while our business continues to grow. I do this by scheduling a time at the end of the week to take a step back and look at my business and be sure that what we wrote in those classes at Goldman Sachs matches what was done in the previous week. My margins are now looking better and the balance sheet is coming around. I just graduated last February 2013 and am excited about our opportunities that are out there for us. We are accomplishing all of this and working a little less than last year. Tunnel vision can be a fatal flaw to any business. By actually scheduling time to work on our business, we can actually see Eni Puzzles all over the place in our peripheral vision.
This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.