No matter what job you’re currently in or what jobs you’ve done in the past, you’ve been learning valuable skills that will help you build a successful small business.
Often, people are hesitant to pursue entrepreneurial ideas because they’re afraid they don’t possess the right combination of skills to be a business owner. Sure, there’s a learning curve, but every job you’ve had up until this point has offered valuable business experience.
Take Adam Steinberg at Fetch, one of our local partners in Georgia and one of our featured small business success stories. His company helps people find and rent trucks easily.
Adam had no experience in this particular industry (besides his own frustrations as a customer). What he did have, though, was experience in creating smooth, seamless customer experiences, and that experience translates well when building a better process for finding and renting a truck.
We reached out to Adam to learn more about how he has leveraged his marketing experience as an entrepreneur, and what he has learned through his company’s business model of forming strategic partnerships.
Extra Space Storage: The world of truck rentals feels pretty far from the worlds that you have previously worked in — digital marketing, tech, B2B. What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs who are about to take knowledge and skills gained in specific fields, and apply those to growing a business in a very different field?
Adam Steinberg: It was surprisingly difficult at the time, but we rejected the notion that, because our experience was in marketing technology, we could only be successful in that industry moving forward. At one point, we knew nothing about marketing technology. Why couldn’t we succeed in a different field?
The lessons we’ve learned in that field — solving problems and delighting customers — are universal!
When we started Fetch, we wanted to solve a large problem that we had also personally experienced. (Everyone knows how painful it can be to rent a truck.)
Solving instant, on-demand truck rental is certainly a world away from creating email marketing and marketing automation products. But, we also saw that we could leverage our expertise in software and marketing-automation in a new industry — and we could help thousands of people. We also knew that the Internet of Things and connected vehicles were going to change the world over the next decade. We didn’t want to sit on the sidelines while that change transpired.
One of our advantages is that most companies must outsource some component of their business — that could be technology, operations or marketing — but we actually have that entire range of expertise on our team. This allows us to improve our service faster and ultimately not have to compromise on creating the perfect experience for our customers.
EXR: Partnering with other businesses has helped Fetch achieve impressive month-on-month growth. How did you identify partnerships as a useful strategy, and what advice do you have on building relationships with partner businesses?
Adam: You have to consider the entire customer experience and work relentlessly to eliminate any friction points a customer might encounter when using your product or service. With Fetch, we want our customers to be able to rent — and use — a truck the moment they might need one. We don’t want customers to have to make multiple calls to locate a truck and then have to drive several miles to find their truck. That’s just frustrating.
By partnering with forward-thinking organizations like Extra Space Storage, we’re able to make our trucks available to customers on-site and help customers immediately get into their truck and get their job done. For example, when you rent a storage unit at Extra Space Storage, you can immediately jump into a Fetch truck in the parking lot to start your move in. That’s the customer experience we want to achieve — no waiting and no friction.
In regards to building partnerships with other businesses, especially when doing so as a young company, there are a few elements I’ve seen be critical:
- Solve a problem for your partner. If you’re not solving a real problem for your partner, then it will be difficult to differentiate your company and even have those initial conversations about a partnership. For example, Apple and IBM recently announced a partnership. Apple has deep expertise in creating incredible devices for consumers, but their sales to businesses were lacking because Apple doesn’t provide business-level support. IBM has deep expertise in working with businesses and supporting their IT departments. This partnership was a natural fit, as IBM solved a key problem for Apple and enables Apple to sell more computers, tablets and phones to businesses.
- Have credibility. If you’re a startup, larger companies will naturally be concerned about the risk of partnering with a young, unproven company. You need to show credibility to overcome this. A few ways you can do this:
- Founders having prior experience operating their own companies. Leadership and management experience at well-known companies, such as Google, can also help.
- Investors that carry credibility. For example, knowing that your company has funding for the next two years from credible investors will help potential partners feel comfortable that you’ll be able to support a long-term partnership.
- Make it easy to say yes. Do whatever you can to make a partnership easy for your partner. Handle the legal paperwork, manage graphic design, agree to manage customer support. Not only does this show your fervor to your partner, but it shows that your company will be easy, and reliable, to work with.
EXR: You have a podcast that gives you the chance to talk to other entrepreneurs about their own struggles and resilience. Can you speak to the importance of building a network of like-minded people who might have gone through similar entrepreneurial struggles?
Adam: Every entrepreneur is going to have to cross the “trough of sorrow.” Sometimes, that can be a near-death experience. Without peers or advisors that can sympathize with your challenges, it’s almost impossible to overcome the incredible number of challenges you’ll encounter with your company.
For example, before Fetch, my co-founder and I were testing another product idea. It wasn’t growing. We were stressed and concerned. One of our advisors met with us, told us how he had rebuilt his previous company when nothing was working, and pushed us to consider a new approach. I can honestly say that without that conversation, Fetch would not exist.
EXR: What are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned — through others, through first-hand experience — about pushing through when your business gets stuck? What role do strong partnerships play in those moments?
Adam: When your business isn’t working, the only thing I’ve found that will give you the energy to push through is the belief that your product and company deserve to exist in the world. That’s the engine that will drive your commitment.
If you truly feel that your company is making a positive difference in the world, and you have a vision for how your company can change the world in small way, you’ll have the strength to carry on. Without that vision, the unrelenting stress of your company just won’t be worth it. It’ll be too easy to give up and go back to your comfortable job with a stable company.
Partnerships are the fuel that pushes you forward. Partnerships with other businesses, responsibility to your investors, commitments to your employees and even your obligations to your family — this is what will push you forward when things are difficult.
In particular, partnerships with other successful businesses will help you push through those challenging moments with your business. Your partners show you there is a blueprint for growing your company, and that it can be done. After all, every company started with just a few people and a big vision.
Partners are also there to support you and help you overcome challenges. It’s important to remember partners have a vested interest in your business and want you to succeed! If you need help, ask for it. You’ll be surprised how often partners will be willing to help.
Images by: wavebreakmediamicro/©123RF Stock Photo, scanrail/©123RF Stock Photo, ©Adam Steinberg