Secret to Linda Lightman's Success: Baby Steps

01/08/2016 01:19 pm ET Updated Jan 08, 2017

In an industry that is incredibly fast-paced, (there's fast fashion for fast consumers, fast funding for the next fashion fad and so on) my business mantra has always been the opposite -- Linda's Stuff has grown simply by taking baby steps.

If you think back to 15 years ago, the Internet was pretty small, especially compared to what it is today. Growing my company on a then new piece of technology took a lot of "figuring it out" in the sense that we couldn't look to [any] competitors to gauge the markers of traditional success. My new livelihood depended on me making smart, thoughtful decisions, at a manageable speed. Fred and I both knew of a local retail chain that was unbelievably successful with three locations. However, they expanded too quickly to seven locations and were soon out of business.  That story has always stuck with us.

With a slow and steady pace and constant determination, I was able to set realistic goals for my company and myself which were achieved. I truly believe in the old adage, "slow and steady wins the race:" because it has been my mantra and gotten me where I am today.

  • In my industry, companies pop up and die by the hundreds every year-- those that survive must focus on growing consistently year after year, even when times are tough. By taking baby steps, I have been able to evaluate my company's successes from a micro level to ensure our macro goals are being met. Having started my company at my kitchen table 15 years ago, I have been able to gradually fine tune my business model, develop systems and foster employee growth by taking things slowly. Our business has grown substantially every year since we've started and I feel this methodical approach to all aspects of it has had a tremendous impact.
  • Slow and steady means staying within my company's own means. When I started Linda's Stuff, I was entering a new frontier in fashion. It was important for me not to incur too many expenses too quickly. I expanded Linda's Stuff slowly--I moved offices five times over the years starting with a 5K sq. ft. space, before eventually settling in our 93,000 sq. ft. headquarters. In retrospect, we could have grown quicker, but I'd rather be safe than sorry. I felt more comfortable being "cozy" in our office rather than sitting in a huge space worrying over how we were going to fill it.
  • I am methodical by nature. By exercising patience and enduring long learning curves, I have been able to replicate success year over year. I have created systems that work for my business and continue to fine tune those systems as we grow. For example, when I was just starting on eBay, I used to take pictures of my listings outside in my backyard, because I felt that "lifestyle" images of the products would resonate with my customers. Turns out, bad weather conditions like snow and rain would halt all picture taking for the day. So, I had to pivot and find a solution. Once I settled on one method that worked for my business, I then invested in an in-house photography studio equipped with DSLR cameras, lighting, white backdrops, professional photographers, the works. This "learning curve" has increased my amount of active listings per day, which has grown from 1,000 listings in 2000 to upwards of 140,000 in 2015!

For me, it is incredibly gratifying to know that by taking an immeasurable amount of baby steps, I was able to grow my company to what it is today, without seeking or needing outside financial investment. I own 100% of my company, which is a huge accomplishment in my book.