As founder and chief executive of a woman-owned company, entrepreneurs—women and men—often ask me: “What does it take to run a successful business?”
My reply: “The 32nd flavor.”
The answer throws them off at first. Until I explain the Baskin-Robbins “31″® flavors connection.
In practice, my business career began by scooping ice cream, nights and weekends. As a teenager, I was up to my elbows in Daiquiri Ice and Pink Bubblegum. Thirty-one signature scoops for each day of the month. At the end of a shift, I wore most of them.
I learned some great business lessons at that Baskin-Robbins franchise on Memorial Drive in Stone Mountain, Georgia. And that bring us to the 32nd flavor, Sweet Success. Driven by resourcefulness.
Here’s how it worked. If no customers were in the store, I’d innovate. Streamline the freezer. Experiment while making a birthday cake. Combine different flavors for a new sundae. Create and churn out product.
Inventing in Place
That hustle stayed with me—inventing in place. Taking what’s right in front of you, in the moment, and making more out of it.
For entrepreneurs, there is never any downtime. They add value to the void. Fulfill, not merely fill, the gap. These are some of my career takeaways I shared at the 2016 Chase for Business℠ Conference, where I gathered many more inspirations to carry me into the New Year.
Innovation, with Fries
Interestingly enough, Ester worked at Dairy Queen and Rick was an assistant fry chef at Big Ed’s Hamburgers in Oak Lawn. Even our moderator, comedian and businessman Nick Cannon, once served hotdogs at Wienerschnitzel.
As future entrepreneurs, they evolved from fast-food workers to forward-thinking business leaders. Lessons learned include:
Ester – Let employees see the real you. And know you’ll make mistakes. “At the end of the day, I’m being me. I have a passion and love of the people. It’s okay to see a real human leading the company.”
Rick – Thoroughly evaluate opportunities. Don’t be too eager to say “yes.” For instance, “a major convenience store chain wanted a custom tea machine. We gave a lot of effort to it. Jumped through hoops and spent a lot of our resources, but things didn’t work out. Not to say, don’t take a chance. You have to consider the risks and balance finances with ideas.”
As for me – Stay true to your business. Stretch, but don’t overreach. For example, we took on a large client that demanded things be done a certain way, at a certain time and at a certain price. That wasn’t us. We built our business on unique services and close relationships. Trying to be like everyone else failed.
Sound business fundamentals apply. Always. That’s true whether you’re designing telecommunications systems, brewing up refreshments or creating on-demand workforces.
Never forget: Know who you are, what you’re good at, and stick to it. And that kind of stickiness will be appreciated—and valued—by clients and their customers alike.