In this episode, PK talks with Elaine Slatter, about the critical steps every entrepreneur should take when starting out. Elaine is the founder and CEO of XL Consulting Group, which is a small business advisory specializing in entrepreneurial startups and businesses that are not experiencing their full potential, and the author of Fabulous Fempreneurship: Your Complete …
We cannot ignore the fact that the COVID19 pandemic has had many negative impacts on the lives of individuals, families, businesses, our country and the world-at-large. However, the pandemic has also provided opportunities for many. One such group is female entrepreneurs and, in fact, business experts say that 40 % of female entrepreneurs launched their businesses as a direct result of the pandemic. Of note also is the statistic that says that 62 % of women business owners are between 40 and 59 years old, basically Generation X women, that’s you my faithful and new listeners!
Whether you’re one of those women who has already started your own business or you’re contemplating becoming an entrepreneur, you’ll want to listen to this episode to hear the critical strategies that Elaine Slatter shares to help you navigate some of the hurdles that entrepreneurs can experience. Elaine is the founder and CEO of XL Consulting Group, which is a small business advisory specializing in entrepreneurial startups and businesses that are not experiencing their full potential, and the author of Fabulous Fempreneurship: Your Complete Business Startup Guide.
5 Key Takeaways From Our Conversation:
Some Of The Gems We Unpacked In This Episode:
Email Elaine at: Elaine_Slatter @XLconsultinggroup.com
Connect with Elaine:
Peggie Kirkland 0:04
Welcome to the Momma's Motivational Messages podcast, where women learn to stop putting themselves on the back burner and start paying attention to caring for themselves first, so they can be better for everyone else in their lives. I know you'll be inspired by the stories of resiliency and starting over of health and self healing, of gaining clarity through journaling, of showing self love through world travel, and the list goes on. I encourage you to relax and enjoy. I'm your host Peggie Kirkland PK.
Peggie Kirkland 0:46
With us today is Elaine Slatter. Elaine has an extensive corporate resume spanning over 30 years in the manufacturing, retail and distribution sectors. Elaine was the CEO of the Canadian operations for a US manufacturer. In this capacity, she was responsible for sales, finance, customer service, marketing, warehousing operations, and the bottom line. Welcome to the show, Elaine.
Elaine Slatter 1:21
Thank you, Peggie. for having me. It's a pleasure.
Peggie Kirkland 1:24
Well, I know I just literally scratched the surface of your experience and expertise. So I'm going to allow you to expand on your background, in your own words, so the audience can get a chance to learn more about who Elaine Slatter really is. So what could you tell us?
Elaine Slatter 1:43
Well, Peggie, I was an immigrant into Canada, from the UK, landing in Canada when I was just 19 years old. And so I had to forge my own way, over a long length of time. When my children were very, very young, I went back to university to complete my degree. And then at that time, there was a recession, as we know, recessions come and go over the years. And so when I got hired, again, I have to start at the very bottom of the ladder as a Personal Assistant. And then over the years, I took on any assignment that I could, and that got me out of that area, you know, area of business, so that I could take on project management. And from there, I left the original company and went to another one, so that I could expand my experience and then took more courses in marketing, so that I became an expert in that area. And so gradually, I climbed my way up taking every assignment possible, that would help me grow in my business background. And so basically, that's what happened until I rose to be the head of the Canadian Division for a US manufacturer. So along the way, my husband had his own business, and then he passed away quite suddenly. And then I reluctantly inherited his retail business, and had to find a way to keep that going until I could exit it, because that definitely wasn't my passion. And then, in later life, I decided to leave the corporate world and start my own business. So it's been quite a journey. Peggie to tell you the truth.
Peggie Kirkland 3:44
Mm hmm. Well, first of all, I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your husband. And I noticed how, based on what you said, you then channeled that loss into, even if reluctantly, into to continuing the work that he had started. What were some setbacks that you experienced in that takeover, as it were?
Elaine Slatter 4:16
Well, in some ways, I was pretty fortunate because a few years before he passed, I used to do his accounting. And then he took it over. So I was very familiar with the finances of the company. I guess at that time at the transition, retail business was changing in Canada. It was a small coffee shop, and the rules had changed about coffee shop ownership, about smoking inside a restaurant. So that was the first challenge I had. Since a local rules have changed quite quickly. What could I do to change this retail operation so that it conformed with the new bylaws? So I was hit with that straight away. So I had to maneuver around that. And then knowing that that wasn't my passion, I had to devise a route of how I was going to keep the business, running until I could sell it. And that was a three year journey. So not only was I operating as the head of the Canadian division of a US court, I was also running a small business on the side. And I'm telling you that took every bit of strength, I had to keep that going for three years.
Peggie Kirkland 5:40
For anyone who is listening, and who might be in a similar situation, or just contemplating the idea of starting their own business, what would you say are some first steps that they could take? One of the things I noticed you mentioned was the fact that you learned everything that you could, as you moved up the corporate ladder, but I'm sure that those kinds of of learnings as it were, helped you, in your journey as you launched into entrepreneurship? What are some first steps that beginning entrepreneurs can take?
Elaine Slatter 6:34
Well, Peggie, that's an excellent question. From my own experience, I would say if you are starting a business, no matter what age you are, you have to have an absolute passion for that business because if you don't, you're going to have setbacks, because the entrepreneurial journey is not straightforward. And that's when I realized, when I took over my husband's business, I had no passion whatsoever for that business. And if you don't have passion in your business, or for your business, then it's a long, hard road if you if you don't have the passion. The second most important thing that people often try to skip is the business planning aspect. A lot of people think business plans are over and done with but that really isn't true, you need to map out the journey of your business, what it's going to look like, and how you're going to finance it because when you think about it, 80 to 90, small businesses fail on the first attempt. So if you want to avoid that kind of start, then I suggest that you plan it on, do a proper business plan. And they're not hard to find on the internet. It doesn't have to be long and tedious. But you have to know where you're going to get your money from, who your customers are going to be, who your competition is and how you're different from them. And that should be the basis of your planning for your business.
Peggie Kirkland 8:13
You know, Elaine, this whole idea of business planning, I'd really like you to dig into that a little deeper, because honestly, you really don't hear anyone talking much about business planning anymore. There are so many promotions these days that basically say, "Start your business now. Start it online. You don't need to plan just, let's say for podcasters, pick up your mic and start recording and you've got a business started." What would you really say to those people?
Elaine Slatter 8:50
Well, I think that's a lot of marketing hype. There's usually a reason people are saying that, but you do have to have a basic plan for your product or services. So you ... the real reason that you're going to launch a business for a service or product is you're answering somebody's problem. So you have to decide who your audience is like, for example, you know, your audience for your podcast is Generation X. So if you are delivering goods and services to Gen X, which is the age group of 45 to 60, then your products need to fit what they are looking for. It's no good having a product that is designed for the 20 year-old age group and trying to target that to the 45 or 60 age group. They're just not going to get it. So that's why you do have to do some homework before you launch your products to make sure that your products and your services at the right set an answer to the market demand that that market would have. So for example, targeted marketing is done by companies such as Aritzia which is a clothing line for the younger generation the 20 year-olds and under. So they know, the fit in the market. Lululemon is the same, they have a very specific target for their products. And it's the same if you're delivering services, you have to make sure that design for the right age group.
Peggie Kirkland 10:29
So what is the danger of not taking those preliminary steps that you've outlined?
Elaine Slatter 10:36
Well, I will say that you could be wasting a lot of time and a lot of money, doing your marketing when when it's not the right fit for the market you're trying to attract. And therefore your business won't, you know, grow and expand the way you were thinking it would.
Peggie Kirkland 10:58
I don't think anyone wants to start something, knowing that they're going to waste time and money. So I think that's a really critical point, especially now that we're sort of working our way through the pandemic. One of the things that we noted, Forbes online noted that the pandemic did create a large a surge of new businesses in general. But there was also a rise in female entrepreneurship. In fact, 40% of female entrepreneurs launched their businesses as a direct result of the pandemic, as people figured out that they would rather be at home and work remotely, and also have more flexible schedules. So these are people who are already in the midst of their businesses, with or without business plans, we don't know. What would you say, are some strategies that they can use to scale their businesses?
Elaine Slatter 12:10
Well, if you have an online business, it depends whether it's a product or service, then I would think like, if it's a product, you probably have a Shopify site. So you would continually be working on your Shopify site to tweak it so that you are attracting the right kind of people to buy your product. So you're going to do quite a bit of marketing. Because there's also a lot of competition out there for products, online products, now, many, many more than they were before the pandemic. But recognizing also the pandemic has also changed the way we buy products. So it still is an excellent time to be sourcing and selling products online. And there's, you know, a million different ways to do that. But Shopify, for example, is one of the most popular trends today, if you've got a product for sale, Amazon is another way that people are selling online. And if you're doing if you're selling services, then you might need to hone up on membership services, doing webinars, doing courses online, whatever it is, that means upping your skills, or hiring skills on the technical side of the online world.
Peggie Kirkland 13:41
So how should someone with so many varieties of businesses that anyone can start using online platforms, how should anyone go about making a decision about what they should get involved in? Because many times you know, we have many passions, How can you decide which one you should hone in on?
Elaine Slatter 14:10
Well, I think I would definitely start with a passion and then look at transferable skills that you have that can develop that passion into a business. And once you know your transferable skills, you know, are you good at production? Are you good at project management? Are you a tech person? Are you an ideas person? Are you creative? All those that ... take an inventory of your skill set, and then take an inventory of the things that you're not so good at, and those things that you're not so good at, then there's opportunities either take a course on those, or to find people that can fill in to help you with those skills that you're lacking, and sometimes it's best to hire somebody to do it rather than take the learning curve to learn it.
Peggie Kirkland 15:06
I think that's a critical point that you mentioned there, this idea of hiring someone to do what you don't know how to do. Do you find that there are some entrepreneurs who have a mindset around investing in their own businesses in terms of hiring, or outsourcing particular tasks?
Elaine Slatter 15:37
Yes, I think new entrepreneurs are reluctant because of budget purposes to hire out to find an expert. But quite honestly, it's well worth the money. For example, I have a podcast and my podcast editor that I've had for three years, I found on Fiverr. Her work is excellent. She's always on time. And it will take me five times as long and it's not worth my effort to spend five times as long doing a podcast at it when she can do it so quickly and so affordably.
Peggie Kirkland 16:16
Is there a particular right time to start a business, Elaine? Let's say I 'm at... I'm at my job, I'm working my way up the corporate ladder, I'm unhappy, maybe the environment is toxic. I'm thinking about starting a business. Should I just quit and start a business? Or is there a just right time would you say to do that?
Elaine Slatter 16:43
Well, I don't recommend, to be honest, just quitting your job, because you're going to lose that steady paycheck. When you're an entrepreneur, your income is going to vary, it's going to go up and it's going to go down. And you have to whether that first year with income streams that are not going to be studied. So my suggestion for people in that situation, is see if you can start with a plan first, project what your income will be, but have one year's income set aside. I know that sounds like a lot. But you'd be surprised how long it takes to establish your business. Some people are very lucky and their business takes off right away. But I would say the majority, 80% ,is a slow, steady climb. So you need to weather that financial situation. And everybody's finances are different. So but I would recommend that you know that outset before you quit your job, that you know, you can weather a year of finances so that you can pay off your credit cards, make sure you can pay for your mortgage or your rent, that you have enough money to buy groceries and a cell phone and a computer. And if you add up all the expenses that you pay out of your paycheck, you're going to have those same expenses when you start a business plus some more. So a side gig is a great way to get started without before you quit your main job.
Peggie Kirkland 18:22
What do you mean, when you say a side gig?
Elaine Slatter 18:25
A side gig is starting up your new business while you're still working in the corporate world. It means you're going to work long and hard but at least you'll have some idea of what that business can get traction or not. And if you can do that over the year before you quit your business, you'll have some idea as to how well that business is going to go. Especially if you're in the services sector. It's not that hard to do it as a side gig at the beginning.
Peggie Kirkland 18:56
I think that is such important advice because you know, sometimes, in a moment of rashness, if you will, when you're discontented, you can certainly make rash decisions. And that can really impact your life for a very long time. So I think it's really significant the advice that you just offered, the idea that you should have one year's income set aside and that you should have a side gig before you sort of launch into entrepreneurship completely. That's really important. Do women struggle with any particular aspect, such as financial literacy in starting their businesses or even scaling their businesses?
Elaine Slatter 19:49
Yes, Peggie. There are a couple of things that I think women tend to sort of have intentions more than men. One is financial literacy, for sure. I don't think women spend enough time on that. I mean, if you know how to work a spreadsheet, you can model what your business is going to look like, in a spreadsheet before you even launch your business. And you need to know understand the basis... is a basis of financial management, cash flow management, debt strategies, financing, all those kinds of things.
Elaine Slatter 20:32
For example, if you're looking for bank financing, they definitely want at least a marketing plan. And if you're looking for a lot of money, then they want a full business plan. And venture capitalists, you hear a lot about venture capitalists, but they need a plan too because they're investing money in your business. So women do need to take finances very seriously. And I don't think perhaps women take as much, you know, emphasis on that side of the business as men do. Also, I think women, we are not taught much business, I think growing up, it's not necessarily taught as much in the schools as it should be. And therefore I think women lack their own self-confidence that they can launch a business and be a business person. And so I think women tend to suffer a little bit of what I call imposter syndrome, which means I'm not good enough, I can't do this. It's not my strength. It's too hard. All those things that men just seem to cast aside and go for it, if you want to call it that.
Peggie Kirkland 21:47
Wow.I think those are critical pieces of information, considering the fact that in many situations, and I know things are changing every day when it comes to school curricula, and what students in general are being taught. But if you are in that, as a member of the Generation X cohort, and you have not been taught these these particular skills, is this something that you would recommend they get an expert to work with them on rather than taking the time and the energy to do themselves?
Elaine Slatter 22:28
Yes, I think when you're starting out, you definitely should talk to an accountant before you start your business. They can usually give you a half hour complimentary call and run your business idea through them from a financial standpoint and get that feedback. I know when my husband had his retail business, our accountant was invaluable. Her advice for business wise when she went through the year-end was to pick up on things that maybe we missed; strategies, launching strategies that maybe we hadn't thought of, and really taking care of the business from a financial aspect. And from a governmental tax aspect too, giving us tax advice on how to set up the company, how to form a limited company, why you need to have a limited company, versus having a sole proprietorship, what the differences were like the basics of business, that was a tremendous help to us. And I really do think that before you just launch into a business, you should get some financial advice. And a great accountant who is familiar with small business is a great place to start.
Peggie Kirkland 23:51
Well, we're coming to the end of our interview, Elaine, I think that you shared so many actionable strategies that our listeners can benefit from whether they're contemplating starting a business, whether they're in the middle of it wherever they are, if they're trying to grow and scale. I think that there lots of important bits of information here that they can benefit from. But before we go, is there anything that I haven't asked you about becoming a female entrepreneur that you'd like to share with our audience?
Elaine Slatter 24:31
Well, I was so passionate about helping women entrepreneurs that when I left the corporate world, I decided that women definitely needed help even Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook says that. You know it's not that easy, or you know, the path is not that easy for women entrepreneurs. So honestly, Peggie the first thing I did when I quit my corporate job was write a book to help women entrepreneurs start up. So that was what my passion was to help women entrepreneurs. And that's how I actually launched out of the gate.
Peggie Kirkland 25:09
So tell us a little more about this book, Elaine?
Elaine Slatter 25:12
Well, it's for startup on women entrepreneurs. And it actually has that actionable advice that we talked about in this podcast in the book. And I took it from a different stance. Each chapter is on the subject of starting a business. And then there's a recap at the end for action items. And then there's also the the stories of women entrepreneurs, all 30 of them are incorporated at the end of each chapter of the book. And I was excited to write the book because I got all this valuable advice from all these women, small business owners. And that spurred me on to write the book, because it was fascinating to me how all these women had tackled different aspects of entrepreneurship, it was truly a blessing to have their stories in the book.
Peggie Kirkland 26:10
Well, that sounds was amazing and very enlightening. I believe you have a special offer for some of our listeners, is that correct?
Elaine Slatter 26:20
Yes, absolutely. For the first five listeners, I will give them a special on the book, the book would be free. All they would have to do is contact me at Elaine underscore Slatter at xL consulting group.com, and nd I will give away five digital copies of my book.
Peggie Kirkland 26:45
Oh, my goodness, that's exciting. Listen, if you want to be one of those five listeners who receive that free digital copy, then you should do exactly what Elaine says. And her information will be in the show notes. So you'll be able to access it that way. But you don't want to miss out on that opportunity. That's amazing. Thank you so much for that. Elaine. Is there one takeaway you'd like to leave with the audience that would allow them to get started on the road to entrepreneurship after listening to the episode if they don't recall anything else?
Elaine Slatter 27:22
Well, I would say my one piece of advice is believe in yourself, do your homework and then just execute.
Peggie Kirkland 27:32
I think that's really sound advice. Elaine, you've offered us such a wealth of information today. It's been an absolute pleasure having you on the show. Thank you so much for taking the time to share these insights and your experiences with our listeners.
Elaine Slatter 27:51
It's my pleasure, Peggie. It was fantastic to be on your show. And hopefully we've been able to help a few women start their own businesses.
Peggie Kirkland 28:02
Something tells me we have
Elaine Slatter 28:05
Well that would be fantastic.
Peggie Kirkland 28:10
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