The following is the last post of a four-part series called "Focus On A Small Business". I'm profiling local small business owners Renee Johnson and Chris Roberts, owners of Barkwheats, an organic dog biscuit company. I took them out to lunch and picked their brains. Here's some of what I learned.

Ideally, a lot of people out there would be happy working for themselves in a microbusiness (that's a business that employs less then ten people, which is a lot of businesses out there!). But many businesses also want to grow their impact and be able to hire other people and make bigger profits. And if you don't plan for growth, bad stuff is going to go down.

Make measureable and attainable goals that align with your mission statement.

Does a line of organic dog food fit into Chris and Renee's vision for Barkwheats? Absolutely. Does selling little cat toys? Not really. This is where having a solid business plan allows you to not scatter your energy in a million different directions. Because of their dog food in development, Chris and Renee are further reinforcing their mission statement of bringing wholesome and nutritious food to dogs, and isn't that what a business is all about?

Get help!

I've been saying this throughout this series so I won't belabor my point.

I know it can be fun to say you did it yourself but you can say "We did it" much sooner and with less stress so why not? Find mentors, friends, and family resources that'll help you grow. 

Box stores aren't all evil.  

This was a very interesting part of the conversation for me. I'm always trying to buy local (well mostly anyway) and avoiding box stores altogether. Chris and Renee as small business owners have come to a much healthier view of box stores that makes a lot of sense. Here's an example of the reasoning:

"…HonestTea sold 40% of it's shares to Coca Cola, which has much better distribution… I mean go to a remote part of Africa and you'll find Coca Cola… Part of that distribution will bring organic teas to so many more people who would otherwise be filling their systems with colas or high sugar fruit juices…If everyone should eat organic, you need to sell where all the people are…" (which is to say, big box stores)

So besides working with box stores to increase distribution of a good product (like Barkwheats), box stores are taking steps to be environmentally responsible, often to save money. Another example:

HonestTea was selling a three pack of its teas at Sam's Club. The warehouse company, however, realized that the product had too much packaging to fit in their trucks. With Sam's Club working with HonestTea, the packaging for the teas was reduced by 40%, not only saving resources but reducing shipping costs because more product could fit in a truck. Did Sam's Club do this to save money or help the environment? Well, the real question is, does it matter?

As Chris said "Everyone could be doing more, but everyone (ie large and small companies) has to take single steps."

So if you are going to grow, you may have to find a way to work with the Walmarts of the world. And that can be ok.

I could write another four days of posts about what Chris, Renee, and I discussed in an hour: that's how interesting the conversation was. So whether you are just starting to think about starting a business of your own or have had one for years, I encourage you to take someone you admire out to lunch with a vocie recorder and a few questions. I'm certainly glad I did!

And a special deal on Barkwheats for Breaking Even readers. When you visit put in the promo code nopf1208 in your shopping card for 20% off your entire order. Oh and there's free shipping on orders of six boxes or more.

Read part one of this series: The Little Things…
Read part two of this series: Learning More…
Read part three of this series: Getting The Word Out…

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