Blog · April 17, 2018
When You're Growing, Be Thoughtful About Where You're Going
Behind-the-scenes from PSBJ's photo shoot for the "$1 Million Bootstrapper" feature story on April 6
Gourmondo was featured in the Puget Sound Business Journal’s list of Top 50 Women-Owned Businesses in Seattle last week. In fact, we came in at #28 – up 6 spots from last year’s list. We attribute this growth to our dedicated employees, as well as the leadership of our executive team, including our founder Alissa Leinonen, who was also showcased in an accompanying feature on Women Who Lead. What better chance to ask Alissa to expand upon our very first Business of Food blog surrounding some of the lessons she has learned, as she’s led the growth and made it the company it is today.
1. When You Are Growing, Be Thoughtful About Where You Are Going
I have learned the hard way that it is critical to be strategic about growth, and to resist the temptation to focus only on top line revenue. I think one of the most difficult things in business is to say NO, to pass on projects that are exciting, but might not be on brand. Executing on the wrong opportunity is as huge distraction and often ends up compromising profit, hurts morale, and dilutes the company. Its important to be crystal clear on your brand so you can better assess projects and make sure to execute on ones that best support your company.
2. Stay on Your Own Path
Try not to compare yourself to the competition and progress of others. When we first started Gourmondo we made all our deliveries in an old Belvedere and a beat-up Suburban. I’d pull up to a business and park right next to one of Gretchen’s beautifully branded vehicles and thought, when Gourmondo can afford just one branded vehicle then I know we’ll have arrived. Some years later when Gretchen’s decided to move into wholesale only, I bought their entire fleet of branded vehicles. What I learned is to keep your head down and focus on your own business – and respect and build relationships with others in your space.
3. Respect Your Competition
I believe being respectful of your competition is good business for everyone. Building relationships with others in your space creates synergies that help everyone. We often work with other caterers and boxed lunch companies and refer business to each other. Rather than feeling threatened by competition, find an opportunity to interact and collaborate with the leading companies in your industry. There’s plenty of room in the sandbox.
4. Take Feedback Seriously and Act Upon It
At Gourmondo, we listen to our customers’ voices and take every bit of their feedback into consideration. We meet on a weekly basis week and present each piece of feedback – good and bad – directly to both myself and the Gourmondo leadership team. We review all feedback and create/reshape policy to support what we learn from our customers experiences. On a similar note, I think it’s important to listen to and to support your employees with their feedback. Take care of your employees and they will take care of your customers.
5. Be Patient and Resilient, But Get Help When You Need It
If you’re committed, dedicated, and patient you’ll find success. The timeline might be different than you had envisioned, but success will come. I was discouraged by how long it took Gourmondo to get off the ground, but I learned a great deal on the journey and the experiences created the foundation for the company’s later success. Finally, be resilient, but also humble enough to get help where you need it – you can’t be everything to everyone. Know your strengths and weaknesses – and proactively get support around your weaknesses.