My wife and I started this business in the backyard 5 years ago this month. We were greenhorns back then and had to learn many lessons the hard way. So many people think they want to be business owners, but it’s not for everybody. It can drive the average person nuts, literally! I grew up with an entrepreneur father so it came easier for me to make the transition. But it’s been the biggest challenge of my life. Especially mixing it with the fact that my wife Sim and I are business partners.

Well today is Halloween. It’s our 5th year in business and we hit 50k fans on Facebook today. So I am reminiscing over all of it. Here are some lessons learned, good, and bad things that happened along the way:

  • Grow organically – We grew this business when it was necessary. We got the orders, then added people to handle it and stayed away from borrowing.
  • Don’t compete – How can you not compete? If you offer something nobody else has. Sure other companies make tables, but not like ours.
  • Don’t mix business with family/friends. Yes I work with my wife. We are lucky to have extremely good communication. Most relationships will perish.
  • Others will copy – I’ve written a lot about this. If you design something that sells, others will steal your idea. It’s an unfortunate part of business. Most of the companies that I have contacted pulled the copycat product after I showed them it was our design. So there is hope for mankind.
  • Others will steal your photos – They take your photos and try to sell your stuff. This is common practice in Asia.
  • Beware of having your product made overseas. Most companies do this in order to remain competitive. But if you have a unique product, often they will start selling your product too. This actually happened to me in Phoenix. The first guy I hired opened up a business that month selling what I had him make for me!
  • There are those who design and those who copy. Be one who innovates. Everybody copies to some extent, but make sure your designs stand on their own.
  • As you grow people will solicit you like crazy. Beware of consultants who want a piece of your business.
  • The backdoor is always easier than the front. You can be conventional and do what everybody else is doing. Or you can find another way. Try not to compete with the crowd. Walk around to the back and let yourself in.
  • Don’t forget your values. Treat others as you want to be treated.
  • Communicate! Set your expectations! Get it all in writing! Use a lawyer if it’s important. If it’s not all spelled out, bad things will often follow. New relationships always start with a smile. But relationships usually don’t last without excellent communication.
  • Finding reliable people is difficult. Learn how to spot them.
  • Seek mentors and pick their brains!
  • Growing a business and growing as a person is difficult! But the more you do it, the easier it will get, and the stronger you will become.
  • Ask yourself good questions. Why do you want to have your own business? Why do you want to grow?
  • Don’t blame others. Pointing the finger at everybody else doesn’t help. You played a part in this. Learn to accept responsibility. Don’t be a victim. If you are a victim, it will happen again and again.
  • Listen to your intuition. This is your guide to life. You will almost always have a feeling about what to do. Pay attention to it.
  • Learn about every part of your business from A to Z. You need to understand it, or others will will interpret it and they will take charge. This doesn’t mean you need to do everything. This takes time.
  • You are the one in charge. It’s your dream. Find others who believe in your vision and treat them well!
  • If you don’t love what you are doing, make a change. Either learn to love it by accepting it, or do something else. That’s also the secret to being happy.
  • Change the world! Part of our business plan is to change the world and make it a better place than we found it. We can do that by treating others well, caring for the earth (we plant 10 trees for every 1 we cut down to start), buying locally to help the economy, manufacturing something we believe in, recycling, sharing our profits with employees, offering full benefits, creating a safe work environment, exceeding client expectations, manufacturing in America, making tangible products that will be around for hundreds of years instead of thrown away next year, working towards a negative carbon footprint, creating a loving workplace, etc…
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Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Darin says:

    Awesome post. I am about to undertake a similar journey. I’ve been in big business, and a business consultant (don’t worry, I don’t want a piece of your business) for years. However, almost by chance, I’ve started making industrial style tables and furniture. I love doing it, that’s how and why I found your site. It’s refreshing to see and know that there are folks like you doing great at it. Your designs are awesome, and your branding and look is fantastic. Great job! Again, don’t worry, I will not copy your designs, however they are a great inspiration. In fact, if I come across someone needing something that is more your style, I will gladly send them your way. Keep up the great work!

    Darin

  • Greg says:

    Thanks Darin, I appreciate it!

  • tooth_adams says:

    Well, in 5 years I want to be where you are, or working with you.

    Great post. Great perspectives. Please, keep it up, keep it coming.