There is no possible way to be prepared for every aspect of running your own business. It's impossible, and recognizing that fact alone will probably be one of the biggest stepping stones to growing your business. For example, though I feel my education in psychology has helped to prepare me for running a business, dealing with people and marketing like a champion, I still didn't know anything about packaging engineering three years ago.
That's when I hired a marketing consultant. And while outside consultants can be irreplaceable to a business, they can also be a disaster waiting to happen -- not to mention a big waste of money, which you hardly have to waste.
In our first year of business, my partner and I decided to hire an outside marketing consultant to help us get the Ooh La La Candy brand off the ground. After working with Fortune 100 consumer packaged goods companies, my hired consultant had a vast amount of resources and connections with other professionals in the packaging world. To our great excitement, our consultant reached out to a subcontractor to help us package our newest product. Being an extremely difficult and eccentric product, we knew the engineering needed a professional's eye -- or so we thought.
Through our consultant, we hired this product packaging engineer. We created an entire assessment of what the job would require, including what was to be accomplished week by week. According to the agreed schedule, my business partner and I would meet with our marketing consultant and our subcontractor to visit some of the co-packing facilities to see the final packaging results -- the work we were paying her to do.
Eight weeks later, I was ready to be blown away. But after spending several hours together, we discovered that she had yet to visit any of these facilities in person, let alone see the final product with her own eyes. As the big day continued, things only got weirder and we realized that over the past eight weeks, absolutely no work had been done. No packaging concepts had been created and no facility visits had been made -- even though we were billed for said visits, including gas!
Afterwards, I was able to really digest the day's events, along with the many invoices and emails that had been sent prior to that meeting, and it just became very clear to me that we had just been scammed by a professional. This woman had scammed a small, mother-daughter startup out of thousands and thousands of dollars. I privately confronted my consultant and she too was completely shocked.
Riled up and full of emotions, I couldn't sleep. I knew had to take this product and packaging into my own hands, and I was not going to let this woman -- or anything else, for that matter -- get in the way of bringing this product to life and fulfilling our dreams.
After many hours of reading different articles and studies, and researching a variety of consumer goods packaging companies, I taught myself the basics of packaging engineering. We then met with a packaging manufacturer sales representative, who then delivered my sketches to his team overseas and produced the final product we have now. Although this whole situation held up our product launch by six months, it did not slow our company, or us, down.
While I try to not sound cynical, I know know that my big mistake was failing to critically watch over every detail of my business when my startup was in its beginning stages. Micromanaging is not something you can do forever; as your business grows, it will become more difficult to micromanage every single detail. But initially, it is so imperative that you do so. Once you have in-house employees, people you've thoroughly trained and grown to trust, you can take a step back and not micromanage every detail. Until then, you are better off doing the mission-critical tasks yourself from the beginning, rather than working backwards and learning the hard way that no one will ever care about your business as much as you do.
My experience with this consultant was a good one, for the most part, as I was given the invaluable belief that we could make it in the business world and that we could create the company and brand we were envisioning. On the other side of the coin, we learned a lot of lessons, for better or for worse. I wouldn't change any part of this experience, because the lessons learned were invaluable for my journey as an entrepreneur.
Rebecca Zorowitz is a multi-talented entrepreneur who found a way to turn her passions into a successful business. As the co-founder of Ooh La La Candy, Rebecca has turned a startup business into a multi-national player in the field of gourmet (or couture) candy.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.