It's been a terrific year for Kimberly Bishop, who launched a new company last June and wrote her first book, coming out in November, during the company's first year.
Her career management and leadership services company, KimberlyBishop.net, is already profitable. "And I'm really enjoying it," she says.
Her secret to success? Planning ahead.
Bishop spent weeks creating a business plan before she launched her business. "By doing that, I was able to be profitable sooner, because I wasn't planning and executing at the same time. I had put together the plan, and then it was just 100 percent about executing it.
"I'm glad I took the time at the beginning and really worked through that, because I knew exactly where I needed to be revenuewise and expensewise, and then I was just able to execute and manage it."
Bishop says there's a definite skill to balancing the day-to-day tactical execution of her business and the strategic thinking for long-term success. She sets aside time on a regular basis to review her strategy and her business plan. That way, she makes certain she's still on target and doing the things she laid out as goals. For example, she says, she could have stayed in the office working on projects instead of completing her book.
Instead, she stayed on goal and on track. "It gives me great satisfaction to be here a year later and say 'That was in my plan, and I did it.' "
For Bishop, it's imperative to think continually about the long-term development of her business, and priming the pump to keep business coming in. "It would be very easy to be working on projects or doing the day-to-day work and not thinking ahead about what are the next things I need to be thinking about for future business." And then, she says, the business pipeline could dry up.
Another key to Bishop's success was putting together the resources she needed before launch -- an accountant, an attorney, an insurance plan, a banking relationship, along with an assistant able to handle the entrepreneurial environment. Bishop regards the accounting relationship as particularly important because it ensures that the business is functioning well. "It allows me to go and do the other work I need to do and not have to solve problems."
Equally important is her full-time assistant, Anna Kinney, whom she brought with her from the corporate world. Says Bishop, "She moved with me as part of this change." And, Bishop says, both women had to learn to do the detail work that other people handled in the corporate environment. For example, there's no travel department, so Kinney has to make travel arrangements when needed. "It's been a shift for both of us, and we are enjoying it," she says.
Bishop says clients often tell her they don't have time to interview job candidates or write the job description for the position they're seeking. Bishop says she's seen firsthand how important it is to set the time aside and do the hiring right the first time. "If I had brought someone with me as I started this business who was not the right fit for the entrepreneurial environment or didn't have strong skill sets for the kind of work I do, that could have had a negative impact on me being able to sit here a year later and say, 'It's been a great year.' I might be starting over and hiring someone else."
Bishop has run into a few surprises as a business owner handling all the details of running her company. One was learning to ask about the small-business services that many service providers offer -- such as cell phone, internet and telephone providers. "Oftentimes, those companies have programs and services specifically geared to small business that have been very helpful -- and, in a few cases, more cost-effective." Until she learned that lesson, Bishop says, she set her office up corporate-style, "and it wasn't right for us."
Bishop says one thing she left out of her launch was a social media plan. She didn't implement such a plan until the end of 2009. "What I have found is that it's been a very positive experience. If I were going to do something different, I might have done that at the very beginning," she says.
She uses Facebook in two ways: "It's been helpful to me not only in putting my business out there, but staying very much in tune with clients in the industry that I serve." She credits an outside consultant for helping her. "That goes back to getting the right people to help you," she says.
How big does Bishop want to get? That will be driven by market needs, she says. "I would say that my definition of size is not so much around people or even financials. My growth is going to be driven by what kind of services my clients need and how I can deliver them." Her niche includes two levels of service -- one for larger, corporate organizations, and one for small and midsize companies that have been underserved when it comes to retained executive recruiting.
"I think it's about finding a spot where you think you can do really great work, and not trying to be everything," she says. "And that was part of my strategy."
On the corporate side, she tends to get involved when a company needs a particularly complex search for a candidate with very specific background experience. (For example, "Yes, we need a CFO. But we need a CFO who has also done this and in these particular industries.")
With smaller companies, her focus is surmounting what she sees as the two main barriers to retained executive recruiting: ability to finance the search and the time searches can take. Bishop says she's been able to shorten the search period by first examining and understanding the needs of the client organization. "Once we say, 'Let's go,' because now we understand the project very well, then it's 'Let's move quickly and execute and get the candidates in for interviews.'" In some instances, she's been able to contact a candidate, arrange a meeting in a few days, and present the candidate with an offer the following week.
She also has one more differentiator as a recruiter: "I will also talk to job seekers and give them tips," she says.
Entrepreneurship has proved the perfect solution for Bishop. But she cautions people interested in being business owners to "think long and hard about [whether] they're willing to make the kind of commitment to be successful." If so, she says, "the risks can very much be worth the rewards.
"I love having my own company," Bishops says. "I love being able to make decisions day-to-day that serve my clients best. It's the perfect thing for me to be doing right now."