Insights from David’s talk: The Agony and ecstasy of being a sustainable business entrepreneur

We were very pleased to have David Van Seters in our Sustainability Lecture Series presented by the  Bachelor of Arts (BAM) degree program. In an engaging presentation, the topics he covered were:

  • David’s journey to become a green business entrepreneur
  • How to choose your entrepreneurial venture.
  • Lessons David have learned to survive as an entrepreneur
  • How you can decide if you should become an entrepreneur
  • Ways you can be more entrepreneurial even in non-entrepreneurial situations

Below is a summary of David’s thoughts on being an entrepreneur. If you wish to obtain more information on any of the topics above, lecture please let us know the topic by email and we will forward it to you.

David’s Entrepreneurial Survival Lessons

Progress vs Perfection

Focus on progress not perfection – If I had been smart I would have offered a slightly wider selection than my competitors and then gradually offered more as revenues and profits allow.  But I wasn’t satisfied with just delivering produce, I wanted to offer a full line of groceries so people could actually avoid a shopping trip.  Take Hootsuite, they launched their platform with only 4 social media sites to track and post to – that was 50% better than their competition so they grew.

Profitability vs Growth.

Put profitability before growth – You want to get to profitability as fast as you possibly can.  If you have effective marketing strategies like we did, it is way better to spend heavily on marketing till you get to breakeven.  Instead I thought I was “saving money” by keeping my marketing costs in line.  The result was that I kept losing $2-$4 on every order so that I couldn’t decide whether I should laugh or cry every time I got a new customer.

Borrowing Money More vs Less

Raise double the money than you think you will need, until you become cash flow positive – and take off those rose-coloured glass that are so loved by entrepreneurs. I constantly convinced myself that if I just had another $50,000 I could get to breakeven, and too often the entrepreneurial agony would rear its head as I realized that I wouldn’t make it through the next payroll.

Accounting Best vs Good Enough

Make sure your accounting is 100% accurate so you know where you stand.  Did I do that, not a chance. I was so proud of myself for saving money on a bookkeeper until I realized that she was in was over her head and the statements she produced were only fit for a creative writing class.  I remember one day in particular when I finally got a competent bookkeeper and got my first accurate set of financials. I thought I was going to have to fire this book-keeper as well because he was showing losses that were triple what the bad bookkeeper showed.  But he turned out to be right, much to my agony at the time.  You see it was buying products at a target margin but then I would have waste, a bit of bad debt, and before you know my net margin was 25% lower – a complete disaster in the low margin grocery biz

Be at the leading edge of the market but not the bleeding edge

  • Surround yourself with smart advisors
  • Love your competitors-
  • Discover the one or two things that really make the difference to your customer.

Thank you David for sharing all your experience and expertise with us!