Alan Christensen is the President and Founder of Concrete Coatings, Inc., a decorative concrete products and services company that offers a second-to-none business opportunity for entrepreneurs who want to capitalize on today’s homeowners’ tendencies to remodel rather than relocate. The company offers a first-rate training program, unyielding technical and marketing/sales support and top-notch products, all of which are manufactured by Concrete Coatings itself.
Alan takes a moment here to share his expertise and wise counsel as a successful entrepreneur of many years with BusinessOpportunity.com’s Entrepreneur Exchange:
How does someone know if they have what it takes to own their own business? Tell us a bit about how you made the decision and why.
If you are someone that has to have the comfort of a paycheck every two weeks, is risk averse or needs to be home at five every night, then owning a business is not for you. I got into business because I was tired of the constraints that the corporate world put on me. I was told when, how and why to do a certain task, and that’s not in my nature.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your first six months in business? How did you meet that challenge?
It was all the little details that had to be set up, and then the small stumbling blocks that would pop up on what seemed like a daily basis. The way I met the challenge was to not let them bowl me over, but to stay organized and to prioritize the tasks that needed to be done and just do them without procrastinating.
What do you think is the greatest challenge facing business owners today and why? Any suggestions for how to address those challenges?
The economy, it seems. There is such an uncertainty that prevails in the attitudes of the American people right now that every dollar they have they want to hold on to. As business owners, we face many problems―getting our customers to buy what they need, to parry the rising cost of raw goods and freight, etc. My suggestion as to how to address the challenge is to manage by the numbers. Know where you are on your P&L and manage those numbers. Know what affects those and control them.
What is the single strongest piece of advice you would have for someone just starting out in business for themselves?
You had better love what you are doing and be willing to hang in there when there are lows just as you would during the highs of the business cycle.
What would you say is the one thing that new business owners forget about or overlook when they’re just planning/starting out?
Being real to themselves. There is going to be a starvation period during that start-up. There are very few businesses that instantly make a profit, so for the first year or two there are a lot of sacrifices. The second is that most businesses have life cycles, and they have to prepare for those downturns and be willing to ride them out.
What marketing strategies have you found to be most successful in growing your business?
The marketing strategy that has worked best for us is to not stay with just one strategy but to work our marketing on multiple fronts.
What is it about the business/industry you are in that made it so attractive to you?
There is concrete everywhere and at the time we got into the business, there was little competition.
After the initial start-up phase in business, what obstacles do business owners face as they try to grow their business and remain successful? Any advice for how to overcome those obstacles?
There are so many obstacles and I believe they differ by industry, by time period, even by geographical region. You need to revert back to your business and marketing plan. Where do you want to be, what do you want to be and how fast do you want to get there? Is this realistic? Will the growth pattern I have set hurt me or help me? Then you have to always be looking to the future and what obstacles or challenges that might bring and plan for them accordingly.
What on-line, software or other resources have helped you the most in managing all aspects of your company? Why and how have they been helpful?
A good accounting software package. You can’t manage by the numbers if you don’t know what the numbers are. Be diligent in the information you put into the system, so that the output is correct and usable.
What did you do before you decided to become your own boss, and how have those skills helped you in your current business?
I worked as an analyst in the aerospace industry. That job exposed me to project planning, quality control procedures, safety and environmental requirements, and much more, all of which I was able to utilize in my business in one form or another.
What is/are your favorite motto and/or quote when it comes to business? Any final words of encouragement and/or inspiration for the budding entrepreneur?
There are many, but two sit in my office. The first comes from John Wayne: “A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.” The decisions a business owner has to make are not always easy, but you still have to make them. The other quote comes from Walt Disney, who said, “If you are going through Hell, keep going.” There are times in business when it isn’t the textbook business scenario where everything is going great, the profits are up and the business is growing. There are times when is seems like it is all coming down on top of you. But if you will stick with it, stay with your plan and stay true to yourself, you will get through it and the good times will come.