As I plotted my escape from my corporate cubicle in the bland grey building of boredom, I reached for the stories of successful entrepreneurs. I wanted to learn from those who went before, and I needed their success to give me the courage to act on my ideas. I went though books by Mary Kay, John Lusk, and many others. In particular, One Smart Cookie by Debbie Fields made a big impact on me. Who would have thought there was such a thing as cookie inspiration?
It seems the book is now out of print. My status at my local library is somewhere between “pest” and “stalker” (I currently have 25 items checked out, and waiting for another 62 books to come in). It is amazing how many wonderful books are at the library which are no longer available for sale. And they are free. Well, supported by our tax dollars… so they are sorta-free.)
Her story, as she shares it in the book, can be read in this summary.
I learned from her book that a new business doesn’t have to be based on a new gadget or piece of technology. It can be as simple as a cookie. Cookies, if they are good enough and marketed well, can become a brand in demand and sell. A lot. As in $30 million in sales in her 5th year. Even though there were already many other good cookies available to buy.
This inspired me to take the idea of a home cleaning service and develop a operating system which would yield higher profits than the established big brands. To develop a brand with values that are rooted on strong customer service and a workplace where people enjoy their job. To build a company based on helping busy homeowners by providing them with a wholistic solution for their many household management needs, rather than on the quaint and slightly antiquated notion of having a maid.
In reading the story of Mrs Fields Cookies, I also learned from their mistakes. Rapid expansion has its downside – debt, the complexity of investors, and over-diversifying led to huge losses and internal problems. This is perhaps why I’ve said no to many people who were interested in opening a Concierge Home Service franchise. Perhaps they were not in our target area, or they don’t have the right skills, or their goals didn’t align with our goals. If it isn’t right in the long term for the company, then it is in the best interest of the company to walk away. This isn’t a numbers game of how many, how fast. It is a long game of building a company with the right people in the right locations so that we can all enjoy long term benefits.