Small-business owners, what are you doing to stand out from the crowd? Each week, we focus on an entrepreneur who has lessons to share that we think will resonate with other small-business owners.
Larry Harding, founder and president of international business advisory firm High Street Partners, answers our questions:
What are you doing to stand out from the crowd?
Businesses that want to grow internationally call on High Street Partners. We fulfill a variety of cross-border functions for our clients, including registration, payroll, accounting, tax compliance, advisory and human resource services. By delivering relevant information, operational experience and the insight needed to wade more strategically through foreign waters, we’ve helped our clients reduce risk, eliminate headaches and grow in the world of global business.
What’s the best part about owning your own business?
The exhilaration. It is extraordinarily gratifying when clients recognize your work and acknowledge that you do it better than the other guy.
What’s the biggest challenge of owning your own business?
Name: Larry Harding
Business: High Street Partners, an international business advisory firm.
Location: Annapolis, Md.
Year founded: 2003
Number of employees: 50
Web address: www.hsp.com
Knowing where the buck stops. You’re the only person in the company who doesn’t have the luxury of blaming something on the boss.
What’s the biggest hurdle you’ve overcome?
Establishing market credibility with clients more accustomed to dealing with major consulting firms. It has taken a lot of hard work and good fortune to turn what was truly a “back-of-the-envelope” idea into a service offering that’s grown more than 2,000% in the past three years. Today, our customers, from high-growth companies to elite universities, put their faith in us to help them successfully operate within foreign markets.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?
Underestimating how quickly things change for a start-up. Experiencing rapid growth, for instance, was something we hardly anticipated. So rather than signing a short-term lease with our landlord, we entered into a three-year lease. That left us in a bind when we outgrew our office in just four months. We also thought buying office supplies in bulk was a good idea. But when we changed our business model after using our first 800 brochures, we could have wallpapered our offices with the leftovers from the initial order of 5,000 units.
What’s the best business advice you can offer?
Before you do anything, put together a detailed plan of attack. Too many start-ups hurtle out of the gate with an insufficient plan. Or, they do it on the fly. This is a huge, possibly fatal, mistake. Instead, a thorough, realistic business plan will give you a clearer sense of which objectives will help you achieve your business goals. In the plan, focus on the specific, short-term things that need to happen over the next quarter. Then, assess your plan, and repeat the same process for the following quarter.
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