David Zhan formed his consulting company in Wallingford, Connecticut in 2000.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
ZAHN Consulting, LLC provides sales, marketing, and executive consulting to the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry and retailers selling CPG products.
How did you come up with your business idea?
I saw far too many businesses attempting to put "off the shelf" solutions into customized problems and turning frustrated when it did not work as expected.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
I was working for a market research firm providing training and employee development services. This is my first business, but I have started two others since then with different industry verticals (sporting goods and education).
Did you write a business plan? Was it an effective tool for you?
I did write a business plan and it served to force me to focus on what I did well, what opportunities for self improvement existed, and identify what I had not considered. It was effective – though served to force me to recognize that no matter what I thought I knew about my own business – it would not be relevant tomorrow and I would have to react based on new dynamics each day.
Did you operate your business from your home? What were the challenges and benefits to this strategy?
I have worked out of my home and found it very effective in that it allowed me to balance both the need to be part of a family – even while "at work" and at the same time, saved me money that the business could ill afford to spend on office space that would go unused while I was on the road.
Did you have a partner when you started your business? How did you select a partner?
Initially, I did have a partner and we selected each other based on perceived complementary competencies. The friendship with the person still exists, but the partnership dissolved due to different objectives and lifestyle choices.
Temporary labor can be a great asset to an entrepreneur. Have you ever hired temps or contractors? Would you suggest this as a strategy for new business owners?
I have sub-contracted work to others and find it a good way to maximize resources while managing costs. The challenge is in finding competent people that one can trust to represent the business as I would represent it; so I am rather selective in choosing sub-contractors.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Identify what your point of difference is from others offering same or similar services and make sure you highlight that with every contact. Also, don't confuse revenue or income with cash flow. Cash flow is king!
Too true, David! Thank you for taking the time to share your businesses know-how with the entrepreneurs at Gaebler.com.