When I designed a wooden watch for my grandfather in 2017, I never dreamed that, six years later, I’d be leading a company that sells hundreds of watches a month with annual sales topping $1 million.
But while my company, A Few Wood Men, has grown considerably since I started it—and I’ve gone from being a solopreneur to running a company with four employees and a full product line of watches and jewelry for men and women—I’ve started to think more concretely about longevity and how to build a lasting business that can survive hopefully decades into the future.
The answer? Resilience.
Becoming a resilient business means you have to recognize that what sparked success in the past may not lead to it in the future, as the market is always changing. And you have to stress-test your business model: What would happen if you lost a major customer, or the economy takes a turn for the worse?
I realized I had to dig deep, acknowledge our weaknesses and work diligently to identify areas for improvement. Through open and honest communication, I’ve strengthened our team and nurtured a culture of adaptability and innovation.
Hardening our core
We initially grew very fast, but last year, we weren’t hitting our forecasts. It was a good chance to evaluate our business practices and identify ways to make them stronger.
One way to make a business hardier is to diversify your customer base, so you’re not as reliant on one demographic or particular customer. So late last year, we began selling women’s watches as a way to attract more customers. We had already added bracelets and rings to our product line a few years earlier, so this was a natural progression.
I also looked at our team and realized that certain employees were no longer the right fit and didn’t share my long-term version. So I made the tough decision to let three people go and replaced them with people who were more aligned with the skills and traits our business needs going forward.
I’ve also been evaluating my own leadership skills. I recognize that the skills required to lead a business change as it matures. My company is evolving, and I need to grow along with it. I’ve started building a network of other business founders that I can talk with and get ideas from, including joining a resource hub for Black entrepreneurs. I’ve also taken on two small-business advisors whose guidance has been invaluable. They’ve guided me on everything from managing cash flow to brand building. Recently, they urged me to get out of my comfort zone and become more visible in public—doing more press interviews and attending more conferences, for example—as a way to boost my brand.
I’ve also looked to provide more constructive feedback to my team. One employee recently asked me to up my game when it comes to feedback and, as a result, I created standardized performance metrics—a big step in aligning everyone around our goals and vision.
Carving a path
As a Black entrepreneur, I understand the significance of empowering individuals to embrace their unique style and stand tall. This belief serves as our guiding light, inspiring us to push boundaries and create timepieces that are not just accessories but symbols of empowerment. In the past year, we’ve connected with digital ad marketers and influencers who are sharing our story.
One of my goals is to have a clear plan in terms of where and how we grow next—and that has led to some introspection about my own role in the business.
I have bootstrapped A Few Wood Men since the start, supporting it financially with loans and the money I make through my full-time freelance consulting job as an organizational change manager in the tech space. Clearly, this is not sustainable.
With the help of my business advisors, I’ve identified two options: raise capital by giving an ownership interest to investors or exit the business and let a new CEO take over. In the event of an exit, I would stay on as a consultant. At the moment, I’m looking for a growth specialist to add to the team—someone who can position us in a prime spot for either scenario.
In making the brand more resilient, we have refocused and realigned our vision for the future. And it’s paying off. We are becoming stronger, more agile and better positioned for success.Print this article