Have A Business Plan
Devin MillerThe Inventive Journey Podcast for Entrepreneurs
Have A Business Plan
The Inventive Journey
Starting and growing a business is a journey. On The Inventive Journey, your host, Devin Miller walks with startups along their different journeys startups take to success (or failure). You also get to hear from featured guests, such as venture firms and angel investors, that provide insight on the paths to a successful inventive journey.
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a clearly having a business plan and it doesn't have to be 27 pages long but knowing where you're going to start and some goals or metrics that you were going to hit even things like what you're going to pay yourself and try to predict the next 12 months and check some of those things off as you go and if you miss step three right if you're missing a third goal make sure that it's not part of that critical foundation that will actually prevent you or or set you up for failure in the near future so really laying out your plan and i'll ask people all the time do you have a business plan and they'll say no you know it's too cumbersome and i'm saying no no like tell me where you're starting what are you paying yourself uh what what's what's success for you is it revenue is it profit but what's that number and then how how are you getting there what are the goals that we're gonna hit so keeping it simple and then trying to stay focused and staying on that track so you don't get super distracted and head the wrong direction [Music] hey this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host evan miller the serial entrepreneur that's grown several startups into seven and eight figure businesses as well as the founder and ceo miller ip law where he helps startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks you ever need help with yours just go to strategymeeting.com and we're always here to help now today we have another great guest on the podcast allison holschoff and allison grew up in a small town in south dakota and when you say small i think it was like population 200 which beats a town a small town that i grew up in went to college on a scholarship in her word she was an average c student but got scholarship to for community service um originally wanted to go into teaching so started undergraduate as teaching but then as uh got farther into it and went to or was looking to go to grad school decided she wanted to shift from teaching to behavior analysis so she had a i think a teacher mentor that went to and talked about it and got into behavior analysis graduated uh in the field and started an in-home model i think started it out as for free um and then got told that she shouldn't do it for free so decided to adjust that or ship that a bit and started offering it um or as uh as a model for to make money or as a business i'm in the early days it was difficult to figure out how to do payroll and navigate all the business things and then had i think one of her parents or the parents of one of her clients helped her to kind of figure that out get going started a clinic in her house decided that she wasn't zoned for that and better have an attorney help her out and then uh shifted that to a or a legal legal model and then uh it's been doing that for about 12 years sold off the business and now is in the business of helping other businesses to set up to be successful so with that much as an introduction welcome on the podcast allison thank you that was quite the mouthful there so you got it out well i did my best so with that um you know i took a much longer journey and condensed it into 30 seconds or however long it was um but why don't you take us a bit back in time a bit to growing up in a small town going to college and how your journey got started there yeah so i grew up in a small reservation town in south dakota um and really there wasn't a lot of big thriving businesses in the community i grew up in there was a lot of small businesses small town businesses and they all did really well and i think from a very early age i knew i wanted to be in business of some sort or teaching or helping and if i could merge the two worlds together it would be perfect um really i i there wasn't uh an opportunity until i got into high school i took a an entrepreneur class and i remember being in it at that time and thinking i really liked this like i liked putting a business plan together i liked having that vision and thinking about how all the pieces would work together but didn't really know how as an actual adult i would actually make that happen or what business i would be in but i definitely knew that was the journey i wanted to take so now you so you with that kind of that's the journey you want to take with that mind you go off to school start out going into teaching and how did things like how did things kind of evolve from there yeah so i got into special ed teaching in my undergrad and i had two families that i was working for that had flown in a behavior analysis uh or an analyst from california and i was exposed to this new model of therapy called aba and what i loved about it is it was highly effective it was data-driven and it was really exciting and i was working in people's homes and then working with their newly diagnosed child with autism so the business didn't really make sense to me but the passion the the strategy i loved that but you made like ten dollars an hour doing it um and i actually didn't even know there was a business model that could go along with it so i thought the closest thing next to that would be being a teacher and so that's the path i had headed down um and really in our state there wasn't any insurance mandates there wasn't any insurance funding for this and so you're either doing it for 10 bucks an hour or you were doing it for free or you were a teacher like that was the really only way that i could see in our state getting into that so now you so you decide okay i'm going to get into being a teacher that's the the best or best path forward and then i think you and you'll have to recreate more wrong you got either to the end of undergraduate or shortly there and decided you didn't want to be a teacher that wasn't the exact path you wanted to go into and so got into behavior behavioral analysis is that right yeah so i finished up my undergrad and then very quickly went right on into grad school like i graduated on a saturday and monday i started grad school and i knew at that moment i really wanted to stay in the world of working with kids with autism i didn't really care how i was going to do it but i knew that's my path um and so my first year grad school i finished grad school in 18 months but i taught high school and i was a lousy high school teacher like i didn't like the paperwork i didn't love um the public school system in the sense of like i had always sat on the other side of teaching where i are as a professional i had been working with families to really advocate for high intensity high level services for their kids and i felt like as a public educator i just i was having to do what was kind of the standard model and so my my feelings for it just weren't the same i was like but these kids can get so much more and and so it was very driven by this passion and so at the time um i was going to grad school on a stipend of 750 a month and i always tell people i was in grad school i was making 750 a month to be a teacher living in a tiny little bedroom one bedroom apartment with this old like 20 year old cat that i had adapted or adopted that needed shots that probably cost more than i even made it was ridiculous and so i was like i need a part-time job and so i went back to aba which is behavior analyst work and i thought you know what i'm going to find families who need that service so to supplement my teaching in the evenings i was providing in-home aba service for families who had you know newly diagnosed kids with autism they already had some sort of program but you know i was i was skilled enough in the clinic clinical part of it that i could just go in and do it but again i was literally going to work for like anywhere between 10 and 12 an hour um just to supplement i always told people just to supplement my cat's livelihood like i just had to keep that cat alive um finished up grad school and went to the state of south dakota and knew that i just i was not cut out to be a teacher um i interviewed for like three jobs got a couple great offers and just was like i'm a lousy teacher so i went to the state of south dakota had a program and they were really just expanding into the world of autism and i was like i don't care i'll do anything but i love early intervention i want to help spread the word and they were like we just wrote a grant we're going to hire you on and so i remember taking that job and i was so excited i made like 34 000 a year just finished up my master's had my first retirement fund and i grew up in a literally a three-bedroom trailer house that you could have attached to something and moved away um in a really small town so my dad didn't have a retirement um so i was feeling like i was doing pretty good with this state job i had health insurance uh so at that point i was like this totally makes sense and that's the trajectory i took that really got me into that world of know knowing what what services needed to be provided in our state and then took me to the next journey which was opening my own business so now so so you get into and you say okay undergraduate didn't quite have things fired out get to graduate school say okay this is a path i want to take you come out you say okay there's some grants or some things that i can do got to keep the cat alive when you come out and you you know you get that first job and you know was it kind of as opposed to teaching was it everything you wanted was it what you wanted to do or kind of how did that lead you down the path of starting your own business out of your house and maybe not doing it you know legally initially or at least not zoned for it or correctly but how did you kind of make that transition well there's two parts one i attribute some of my success to just being not smart enough to know the risk um so no it wasn't all i had dreamed of so the state job came with lots of paperwork and lots of red tape and lots of requirements uh and what i was very aware of within that first year is i am not a good employee um i just am not like i wanted to move fast and i wanted to make things happen i wanted to serve our clients um but i didn't really love all the rules that came with being a state employee and it was the silly things that i didn't like i hate to admit this out loud but it was things like having to follow a certain protocol to check out a car or save my receipts which by the way i do a much better job now that i own my own company um but it just felt like i was coming in and punching a clock so i loved autism i loved the work that we were doing but i only loved it about 25 of the time because the other part of the time i felt like i was meeting these um kind of meaningless red tape rules that just didn't make sense to what i had gotten into the field to do so i met a family and what was happening is we had we had created this amazing clinic to diagnose these kids and then we would send them out and we'd say i'll see you in three to six months which meant i was gonna hand you a pamphlet you were newly diagnosed dealing with your child had no idea what the next step was in life and i was handing you a brochure and saying see in six months well i had grown up in a space where watching these families fight and bring services to their children so i knew how desperate these families were and how bad they needed help and and so i just felt i met this little boy and mom and dad were so amazing um and they were so passionate they were like we're not selling our house we're not moving across state lines to get services we we want them here um and i thought to myself like wow like they're right he's two and i knew if we got in there and did services right away we could make a major life impact for this kiddo and so i was like well let me help you for free i'll bring in some ot and pt students you can just pay them privately i can help manage your program or at least get it set up for you um and so it's still at that point not thinking about this being a business i just wanted to help them get access to care and so we did it it went you know the family was amazing and it was funny because i always believed that dad already knew it was going to be a business whether whether we knew we would end up doing this journey you know along the same path together or not but he knew that there was something there and so we established a team and that in the child immediately started to see results with therapy and they were on a nine month wait list to get a clinician to come in from minnesota to take over and so i'd only been with him a couple weeks and and my director said hey you can't go into somebody's home and just do this for free for fun and i was like well if i don't serve him then nobody's gonna get services and he'll just wait and that's nine months where the gap will continue to widen and she was like yeah well get your priorities straight and i remember walking out of her office and being like get my priorities straight i grew up poor so i was like can't really get much worse than this right so i had 500 in my checking account and went home wrote my resignation letter um called my director on a sunday and she came over after church and i said i think i want to quit my job and start an aba business and she said lots of people have thought that and lots of people have failed so there is nobody in our state doing this but if anybody's going to do it well you'll do it and so i was like well that's somewhat reassuring kind of and kind of scary because she's like oh yeah i knew lots of people who've tried that everybody's failed i'm like okay um but i didn't really have a choice right i mean we lived in a tiny house my husband had just taken a job as a fireman a matter of fact he just quit his job and was waiting to be hired as a fireman we had a baby uh and so i remember telling my husband hey i'm gonna quit my job the only stable source of income that we have uh that pays our mortgage and i'm gonna start a business that i know nothing about uh and he was like okay well we're we're one flat tire away from not being able to get to work so i wasn't highly encouraging but he was just like i mean i guess if you're not happy you don't do you and i was like okay and so that was the next step so now you make that next step and you actually go out and you start to try and you know where others have felt do it differently do it better do it you know to where it's a successful or sustainable business now did it did it go great and you proved them all wrong and it was a big business and made lots of money and it was you could fix that flat tire if it came along or was it bumpy or kind of how did it go for you yeah yeah right 12 years later it was beautiful the first 12 years looked a little different um no there i mean there were times that i was i'll i'll tell you my first big hire i brought in somebody um out of state had hired them and i was maybe only in business eight nine months at the time and she wanted an incredible big pay raise and if i couldn't afford to give her a pay raise she wanted half of my company and i remember thinking oh my gosh if i don't give her what she wants she's gonna walk and my company will fail it will fall apart completely and so i actually went back to john the gentleman who helped me really know that there was a vision there to create the company i was sitting in his basement and i was crying and i said i feel held hostage and i am terrified to do this on my own she was a little bit of my safety net because she had worked in a large successful clinic and so i i was like i just am terrified and so at that moment he said listen if you ever feel like an employee has backed you into a corner you know that it is a time to cut ties and i was like well what if i fail and he was like well what if you don't um and it was the hardest i always joke and say i don't like firing people but that was the worst fire i have ever done in my two decades of being a business owner um because i felt like her and i had started to build something together um and he felt like we were breaking up and so that was really tricky i think learning how to navigate staff not being your friends and being your employees because i wasn't very old right i was 26 when i started on this journey a lot of my staff were within five years um of the same age as i was some were older i think learning how to navigate how to be a really good leader and and what you do and don't share with your employees was a huge learning curve for me i'm thankful i built a really great team in the end but i made a lot of mistakes those first five years um i think a third area where i struggled is i had a lot of issue with knowing who was qualified to be on my team and who was related to me um no kidding like i was hiring my next-door neighbor mine hired my nanny to do my billing i hired my cousin uh so if i trusted you and i thought you would show up i would then you were appropriate for the job and it took me a lot of years to realize that just because i enjoyed your company didn't mean you were the right fit for my business so i think that you know that's a thing that i think comes along with a lot of a lot of people they oh you know everybody will do a good job and everybody will just show up and they'll work hard and they'll be competent and sometimes it's true and a lot of times you learn the hard way that different employees are not all employees are the same and not a lot of the skill sets and the work ethic and everything else so i think that's definitely one that people hit on so now as you're doing it and just fast forward a little bit on your journey but you've so you've done that first five years hard doing a business is always hard so i don't know that it ever just is like oh this is easy no worries i i never worry about payroll i never worry about the next client but but i think it does get to different levels of hey survival mode versus hey we're actually making some money versus we're growing the business versus we've reached a bit of more of a steady state but as you're doing that you know so you take that first five years when you got towards the end you know and you're looking at your business has been around for 12 13 years what made you decide to take that and or sell it off or go in a different direction so by the twelfth year things were going really well it really was running pretty smoothly the issues we had were much bigger though right i had hundreds of thousands of dollars i had millions of dollars in payroll by that time i was paying you know 80 people's mortgages not just mine and so there was a lot of weight that came with that i think and stress i also we were starting to expand we had expanded into four new states um and there was a lot of the unforeseen in the health care industry and so i have always done really well by finding people that i could learn from and i had really kind of maxed out my capacity of learning within my own network and the market the market to sell an aba company was insane people were paying crazy multiples on ebitda um and so there was a little bit of taking advantage of that and at that point i think i had my fifth kid and we were getting ready to adopt our sixth baby um and i thought in my mind it might be time to slow down um because i was like man six kids i feel like i should stay home and uh i really was seeking a partnership i wanted somebody to work alongside of me and i just wasn't sure how else to get it if i didn't sell so when i was looking at acquisition opportunities i i looked for somebody who was going to come in and then allow me to continue to grow my role the other part of it is i was kind of bored right like i could open up a clinic and grow and we'd have you know decent profitability but i wasn't like waking up energized to go to work anymore um i felt like the excitement had kind of died and it became work and i hadn't experienced that uh so i think at that point the the reason to sell was it was a huge financial upside and the people who were looking to acquire me were really smart i mean there was 26 different investment type of opportunities and man i i was excited every time i talked to any of them about growth and opportunity and new markets and um mergers and acquisitions things that i didn't get to have conversation with any of my employees and so i realized very quickly i was like oh this excites me um it was challenging i felt like i had it i i had to work hard to understand it better so it it felt like the right thing to do at the time so now and so he you said okay timing's right money's right you know while i could keep doing this the excitement level probably is waning a bit and it's just becoming a bit more of a day-to-day turn so you do that you sell off the business now how did you figure out what you're going to do next or what you want to do now stay at home do the or be the be mom take it some time off go to the next business or kind of how did you decide here's the the next next step i'm going to take so during my acquisition phase i i had a broker ran process i had a few months where i i actually stepped back from the company and just focused on selling it which means i was home a lot and i love my husband and my children however i was like this it's not for me i wasn't happy i wasn't excited um i mean i enjoyed them but i just was like okay well this is real work so i said to my husband there's no way i'm retiring i'm not seeing i like if i want it was funny the processes we went through were like okay maybe we should open a horse business maybe we should open a gym maybe we should open up i mean like pick a business we were gonna open it and operate it because i was like i can't sit still um when i chose the satellite sold to a company that allowed me to come on and do mergers and acquisitions for them so then i was going out and evaluating companies and and so at that point i was like i'm going to just find somebody who wants to buy me and employ me i'm going to try being an employee again uh that was a terrible idea i made it about 18 months and i was like i'm i liked being able to make this make the decisions and move quickly and so i made it 18 months and i went to them and said i'm a terrible employee like i helped close seven acquisitions but the only place i was happy is when i was actually making the decisions really um and part of it was i had built a team and now all of a sudden i was by myself again right i was working with a very small team but really my job was to go out convince you to sell to me and then bring you in and then i hijacked it to the next target and i missed that connection i missed helping people but what i realized is there was a ton of businesses who needed just general business help and so i was able to get out of my non-compete um not easily and not without great amounts of fear right like i i bet i sat for four months and and tried to decide is it right to stay and just wait this out till my non-compete's done what if they're really upset with me and they lock me out of the market i mean i'm gonna have to be running a hot dog stand um and so i i finally got up enough courage to ask them to let me out they agreed with some negotiations which cost me financially a pretty good chunk of money um and then i decided to open a consulting firm that specifically focused on businesses that were in the healthcare space that wanted to do what i did they wanted to start from the very beginning they wanted to grow and scale or they wanted to sell i lived through all three of those phases so i thought this this is actually something i know pretty well and i had made a i could have probably wrote two books on the mistakes i made um so that is how i started this company and i i think it doesn't matter how successful you were your first go around your second business will still have growing pains um there's still fear right there's even today we're gonna be in november will be our second year in business um but it's not like it came without some of those original growing paints that i had the first though around no and i think that you know that's it's always there's a lot of tumult that usually a lot of times you know starting your own business whether it's you're leaving another job which should there's a timing right you know to your point if you have a non-compete it can even more complicate it what is that next business can be is it going to be successful as a first business i did and i think there's always that level of uncertainty that you're just having to deal with and work your way through it and find what fits best for you and it sounds like that was a fun journey for you so well that kind of brings us up into uh where you're at today and always a fun time to transition to the two questions always hit at the end of the each podcast so if we will go ahead and jump to those now so having just gone through all of your journey kind of brought us up to where you're at today along your journey what was the worst business decision you ever made what'd you learn from it um i would think my worst business decision i ever made was outsourcing all of my financial controls so like my bookkeeping um my taxes and all of that and not understanding or knowing it well and so that actually lived with me through two phases my first business and i even started out my second business even though i knew it was a bad idea i was letting somebody else manage my quickbooks manage my bookkeeping and i was just taking the reports in and i remembered it was funny i remembered wanting to pull some information and thinking i know better like this was a huge mistake my first go around and i i did it when i started this what am i thinking um and so bringing that in-house and really knowing and understanding your financial information and i think and not not that you have two biggest business mistakes but i think the other one would be over leveraging myself for growth and i i did that in my first business where i was constantly working towards that next clinic and and over leveraging and causing undue stress so it's one of the things i've carried with into my second business where i remind myself and my clients all the time how much how much is it really worth to over leverage yourself right if you're feeling unsafe and uncertain about making payroll you know having those growth and gains you need to be very cautious because your your mental well-being is worth something so there is two of those big lessons for me all right no and i like both of them i like the first one because i think that that is a lot of times one mistake that saw business owners often make is with finances it's not that they don't want to make money and they don't want to understand profitability but most business owners i talk with they unless you're a finance person love the numbers and love the gym that's not why you get into business it's not to sit down and look at you know monthly expenses and run payroll and profit and loss statements and do taxes and it's like those are all the things you kind of like well if i have to do it i will because it's part of the business but it's not the fun thing and yet a lot of times when you turn the control and the rains over to someone else it distances you and you don't know exactly what's going on and it can sometimes be a hindrance because expenses are too high or you know things aren't being managed as well and it's because you don't know the information you don't know your data so i think it's one of those where you have to find that right balance as to how you can be involved with the finances be understand your business and yet not be spending your time on all the things that you dislike so i think that's definitely a good lesson to learn from second question i always ask is talking to somebody that's just getting into a startup or a small business what would be the one piece of advice you give them i would say clearly having a business plan and it doesn't have to be 27 pages long but knowing where you're going to start and some goals or metrics that you were going to hit even things like what you're gonna pay yourself and try to predict the next 12 months and check some of those things off as you go and if you miss step three right if you're missing a third goal make sure that it's not part of that critical foundation that will actually prevent you or or set you up for failure in the near future so really laying out your plan and i'll ask people all the time do the business plan and they'll say no you know it's too cumbersome and i'm saying no no like tell me where you're starting what are you paying yourself uh what what's what's success for you is it revenue is it profit but what's that number and then how how are you getting there what are the goals that we're gonna hit so keeping it simple and then trying to stay focused and staying on that track so you don't get super distracted and head the wrong direction no and i think that that's good now the caveat i always give and i think that's great piece of advice is that i think where sometimes people get frustrated is that they have their business plan and they're saying okay now things change and i don't i would say almost every startup in small business i know you end up pivoting you end up adjusting and the where you're at in 10 years is probably not where you and where you put in your business plan and so you have to in the one hand i think you have to have that plan you have to have that strategy and how you're going to attack it and convince yourself this is a worthwhile business and what are your what are the weight steps you're going to get there and what are your goals i think you're absolutely necessary and you know on the same side you have to stand back and say now with that in mind if the plan doesn't work go accordingly i have to have enough flexibility to adjust it so that i can still accomplish what i need to critically without maybe going the exact path that i'd originally laid out so i think that that's a great takeaway for people as you're trying to plan for your business and get things up and going and be successful i like that you said you know the business plan with 10 years i i don't think i've thought 10 years ahead of me once yet i live in about 12 month increments and i'm like okay now what's next so no i definitely agree and i think that having those manage well you can have stretch goals or things that hey here's the general direction we want to hit into the future but i think you also need to say plans are ones or i it's hard enough time to know what i'm going to be doing next year let alone in five years alone in 10 years so i'm making it a reasonable scope that you can actually implement on it and then have that flexibility that if something else is better comes along or forces you to pivot they're also willing to to do that as well so i think that's a great great piece of advice well as we wrap up if people want to reach out to they want to be a customer they want to be a client they want to be an employee they want to be an investor they want to be your next best friend any or all of the above what's the best way to reach out to you contact you find out more yep if you go to oboke oboke60.com you can jump right on my calendar and we check out our website which is www.oboakconsulting.com and either one of those will get you directions right to me all right well i definitely encourage people to reach out connect up and find out more so well thank you again for coming on the podcast it's been a fun it's been a pleasure now for all of you that are listeners if you have your own journey to tell and you'd like to be a guest on the podcast we'd love to have you feel free to just go to inventiveguest.com and apply to be on the show also as a listener make sure to click like subscribe and share so that both you and everybody else can continue to get all these awesome episodes and last but not least do you ever need help with patents trademarks or anything else with your business reach out to us at miller ip law just go to strategymeeting.com grab some time with us to chat well thank you again allison for coming on the podcast and wish the next leg of your journey even better than the last thanks so much have a good one you