Cofounder of The Frozen Farmer, President of Sales and Marketing at Evans Farms and Shark Tank Winner.
One of my company’s primary growth strategies is pitching to investors and retailers. Crafting a well-developed, thoughtful and timely pitch and getting investors to listen is one of the most valuable skills to have when scaling a business. But that skill only comes through practice and experience.
Whether or not you walk away with cash from a pitch meeting, the experience is sometimes more valuable than the investment. With that in mind, here are the top five lessons I’ve learned from the pitches, investments and scaling strategies that have grown our company and can help yours grow, too.
1. Be organized.
The investment opportunity that truly changed the course of our company happened to fall right during our busy season. The application for this particular investment opportunity was incredibly detailed and lengthy, and the due-diligence process that followed after we landed the deal was even more in-depth than the application. Because I refused to sacrifice sales and growth, even during the intense application process, I found myself juggling a lot of moving parts. But the lessons I learned about organization have greatly benefitted our continued growth.
The truth of being an entrepreneur is that in order to chase all of the opportunities that come your way, you have to be extremely organized. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all of the tasks you’re juggling, but it’s impossible to un-miss a deadline. Never underestimate the value of a well-written schedule or a detailed to-do list—it can save you a lot of time and regret later.
2. Know who you’re pitching to.
You never know how long you have with someone during a pitch. Meetings end abruptly, and most audiences’ attention spans last just a few short minutes. Starting strategically and hitting the points you know matter most to your investors first is key to giving a strong pitch and landing your next big deal.
Even if you have a broker who helps you prepare before retailer meetings, you may still walk into pitches blind occasionally. Researching your audience, their values and their priorities is the best way I’ve found to prepare for a successful pitch, but you don’t always get the luxury of knowing who your potential investors are before your pitch. One necessary part of this is learning to read the room as soon as you walk into a pitch and choose the most strategic angle to take with your proposal. Value your audience’s time, and tell them what they really need to hear first.
3. Be prepared for take-off.
Whether your business takes off because of a great partnership or a well-timed feature, make sure you have a solid foundation and a great team before your sales skyrocket. It’s hard to play catch-up once you’re overwhelmed with orders and opportunities, especially when it comes to bringing new people onto your team. Our company has grown enough that I could use an assistant now, but we’re so busy with orders and growth that finding the time to hire and train one is difficult.
Even though there’s no way to be 100% prepared for everything that comes after your brand gets the media attention it deserves or after you land your dream deal, having a solid foundation and an efficient process in place will make the growth so much more enjoyable.
4. Never set a ceiling on your goals.
Setting reasonable, realistic goals, whether verbally or in writing, is key to achieving them. But just because you’ve set great goals for your business, that doesn’t mean you can’t overshoot them. Goals are something to aspire to; they’re not something to limit yourself with. Anything is possible in business as long as you have a strong mindset and an even stronger strategy.
5. Don’t work hard—work harder!
Owning a business will push you to work harder than you’ve ever worked before, from pitching to resolving every bump in production—and trust me, they’ll be there—to landing your product on shelves or in online shopping carts.
Every entrepreneur knows how tough and exhausting owning a business is. There will be plenty of challenges and setbacks, and you may want to throw in the towel a few times. But all of the hardships, late nights, early mornings and frustration are well worth it in the end, as long as you truly love what you do. My final words of advice for anyone thinking of starting a business: If you think you know what hard work is now, be prepared to rewrite your book.