The Wonder Woman of Lone Orange, Tiffany Hoeckelman is dedicated to helping small businesses develop polished and cohesive branding that is integrated into every facet of their operation. Marketing materials that lack sophistication, lack continuity and lack well-articulated messages are her archnemesis. She tends to geek out on systems and loves to help businesses run more effectively and efficiently from implementing them.
Starting out in 2010 as a virtual assistant and freelance graphic designer, Tiffany witnessed several businesses undermining their success with poor graphic design. She soon recognized that small business owners needed help delving deeper than just their visual identity; they needed someone who could help them identify and cultivate their purpose. With that mission in mind, she has assembled a team of branding, marketing, and other creative experts to offer clients a menu of tailored support.
Discover the secrets to creating great customer experiences. It’s how small businesses make a big impression. Call Tiffany to learn the secrets to converting big impressions into impressive revenues.
Lone Orange helps overwhelmed solopreneurs scale their business beyond themselves with fewer headaches and more profit. We specialize in help them create strong alignment between their identity and operations so they can expand their reach and grow their team!
join the Solo Collaborative Community - a dynamic, free Facebook group for soloprenuers growing their business and changing the world. https://bit.ly/SoloCollaborative
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About Steven Denny: Steven Denny co-founded Innovative Business Advisors in 2018 and serves as a Managing Member of the firm. Steve has been actively engaged in M/A activities in a wide variety of industries for the last 14 years and has developed specific products to assist clients in growing their profitability and enterprise value. His specialty is working with established private companies in the lower middle market with annual revenues from $1 – 50 million.
Welcome to the You Don't Know What You Don't Know podcast, by Innovative Business Advisors, successful business owners who have started, grown and led businesses share their journey and direction for the benefit of those traveling the same path.
So today we're talking with Tiffany Hoekelman, who's the business owner and founder of Lone Orange located in Union, Missouri, and Lone Orange has got the mission of helping solopreneurs scale their business beyond themselves. Welcome, Tiffany, it's a delight to have you with us today. So tell me about the moment you decided to get into business. Oh, that was an interesting story. I literally had a light shining from Heaven on me, I think when the moment that I decided to go into business, I never had any desire. Well, first of all, thank you for having me here. But I was literally sitting at my desk, after a couple of years in my last job and needing to get out. But I didn't know what I was going to do. And in this moment, when the light shone from Heaven, I picked up a brochure that had been sitting on my desk for three months, never really paid attention to it, and it was for a virtual assistant company. And I thought, oh, my gosh, I can do that. And that was when I knew that I was gonna
start off as a virtual assistant, and has evolved into what we do today. And that is literally my life goal.
Wow. And that, you know, 12 years ago, virtual assistant was virtually unheard of. Very much so. And that, which is why I probably never heard of it. But somebody had had given me that brochure. And I guess it tells you how often I cleaned off my desk.
I literally like I just saw it there. And I really feel like there was just kind of a moment where it was like, Okay, this is the new path. And it was, it's it's amazing to see how that path has evolved ever since then. Okay, so you started as a virtual assistant then. You walked down that path and you started as a virtual assistant, and that eventually led into Lone Orange. So talk to us a little bit about, you know, what did you learn? And how did you, how did you use that experience to become your own business owner and, and then to begin to help others? Yes. So the real quick is I had my degree was in graphic design, but never did any of that work professionally, ended up for 13 years in nonprofit work, where, guess what I was running a small business. Yeah. And I had to be very resourceful, because we didn't have the funds to go hire things. So I learned how to run a small business, even though I didn't know that's what I was doing. And then when I decided to go out on my own, I was able to pull all of that knowledge into running the VA business. But when I was a VA, when I went into business, I said I don't want employees, I didn't want people in my business because I had had such a bad experience managing people prior to that, and I hated it. And so I thought, I just want to be able to stay focused, do my work, serve my clients, make tons of money doing it. And
about a year in two things happened. The first thing was I realized I wasn't waking up loving what I was doing. And two, I got hit with a trademark infringement issue. A lawsuit. Yeah, so I was being forced to change my name. And again, like another just kind of a divine moment, if you will just, I would never have made the leap. And
I had to change my name. And I had to figure out who I was going to be. So that's when I went back to my roots as a graphic designer, and decided to help all these small businesses that I was helping and as a virtual assistant, who I saw were undermining their amazingness because of the way they were presenting themselves visually. They, I was, you know, networking with people who were handing out homemade business cards, or homemade brochures, and they were amazing. But then they were handing out these things that kind of made it, they made them look kind of ho hum or patchwork and not worth the money that they were charging. So that's where the birth of Lone Orange came from. Having had that year of experience and and realizing what people really needed and that I could help them in that area. And kind of being pushed off the ledge by the trademark
lawsuit. Yeah, I assume you got a cease and desist letter, right. And those are always little, little startling.
A year in like, I felt like my baby was being ripped from my arms, because you know, I put everything into this. But 12 years later, I felt so grateful for that because it never would have happened otherwise. There is a divine purpose to these things. So, share with us a little bit about Lone Orange, what an interesting name. How did that come about? So Lone Orange came because I was facing this lawsuit that I had to come up with a new name that I wanted to trademark. And so I had to get super creative and that was really difficult. It took me about nine months to finally find a name. But where this came from is I used to live in
St. Petersburg, Florida. And I had an orange tree in my backyard that only ever produced one orange every year. I don't know why, you know, I fertilized it, I watered it, I did all the things. But it kind of became this running joke in my family where we're going to create this international orange juice conglomerate, where we were going to have, however that was going to happen. So then when I needed a name for my company, and we were throwing out all kinds of names, and somehow Lone Orange came up. And I thought, well, that kind of works, because then the logo kind of has the Lone Ranger mask. And so I was serving solopreneurs, I was a solopreneur. And it's been a really fun brand to develop and people love it. So yeah, it's been a lot of fun. Yeah, it's really cool. And you were, you know, 12 years ago, you were really on the cutting edge of, of the future thought process. Here we are now, virtual assistants has become relatively mainstream. And we talk to business owners all the time when they say, well, we can't we can't get people, right, we can't, the number one issue right now is we can't get people to come to work for us, right?
And our question is always well, have you explored the, you know, the virtual world out there, because it seems like you can, you know, unless you need somebody there to stand there and push the buttons or pull the levers or drive the vehicle, or whatever the case may be, almost everything else in your business can be done virtually. 100%. Even when I switched into Lone Orange, which I turned into more of a branding agency, and I was really doing the graphic design side of things for people, logos, websites, that sort of thing. I was, I, then I was on a mission. I still wanted to stay work at home. But I recognized that I had a capacity issue. I could only do so much. And I only had so much time. And at that point I was newly married and my marriage was struggling because I was putting so much time into this business. And so that's when I realized that I was gonna have to grow a team and start hiring people. So that, that's why I just started to grow my team. And where the idea of Lone Orange came from is that I wanted to grow a virtual branding agency. And I remember talking to two distinct people who said, Oh, yeah, I tried that once. It didn't work, good luck. And I thought, Oh, and there's part of me that went, Well, fine, I'm going to show you. And so that's what I've done. And so pre COVID
it was very hard to, people didn't understand it. People didn't understand how you could work virtually and manage a team virtual and get people to do what you wanted to do. And so I was determined to figure out how to do that. And that's what I've done. So that's now what I help solopreneurs, so I can still consider myself a solopreneur where I have a team, other business owners essentially, other contractors, virtual assistants, graphic designers, whatever people, people that I bring in for my clients as they need it.
I don't have employ, I still don't have employees. I never intend to have employees. Like I like this model where I can bring in the people when I need it. And they can do the work and do an amazing job. And then I can vet them and use them as necessary. So that's what I've created, this virtual branding agency. And I think it’s very successful. I've been able to take nice long vacations and completely unplug while the business runs on its own. And that's not something that solopreneurs are used to being able to do so. So that's what, we're what Lone Orange is doing now actually is helping solopreneurs. We still do the branding side of it, but then we help solopreneurs be able to figure out how to grow themselves beyond, beyond themselves. So they can have a team, they have the systems, they’re still delivering powerful things for their clients, powerful transformations. But they can do it without them having to do at all because that's what we're used to doing. So sounds like you're giving us a glimpse into really what makes your business special and different. So elaborate on that a little bit, because virtual assistants have become a little bit more mainstream, but you're still pretty unique. So tell us a little bit more about your uniqueness in your business. Sure. I think what our secret sauce is, is yes, we're a branding agency and so we focus on really, I've gotten really good at pulling out of solopreneurs who they are. Because solopreneurs are so inextricably linked from our businesses, so that when you start talking branding, and what their messaging is, it gets very muddled with with all the thoughts in our brains, right? So helping solopreneurs really figure out who they are, what they stand for, what those core values are, what their company personality is, how they want to communicate that. And then, so we've got the creative culture and identity side, but then I match that with my love of systems, which is not usually a joint thing. Typically you have one, you’re missing the other, right? Yes, yes, exactly. And I love both of them. And I feel like they become the foundation of every solopreneur’s business because the branding figures, your, your culture so that you're attracting
the right kind of clients, but you're also attracting the right kind of team members. You know who you are, and you're confident that you can speak about who you are. And then you can deliver an amazing client experience, because you have the systems in place. You can delegate those systems, and they're being delivered on, they're delivering on your brand the way you intend them to be. So it's not like, there's so many, so many blocks for solopreneurs. When we think, Okay, it's time to hire someone. Well, now I've got to manage somebody, What a headache. Now they're going to do things, not the way I want them done. They're, my clients aren't gonna like to work with them. There's so many blocks where we think that things are going to just fall apart if we start bringing new people in. And by getting, getting clear on that brand identity and that culture, and then getting clear on your systems and getting those documented, then you've got the foundation where now you can scale beyond yourself, get that team, start serving more people, start making more money, all the good things that scaling brings for you.
Yeah, and I'm sure you've got a pretty well defined process to do that. Can you speak to us for just a minute or two about what is the process you take owners through to help them discover those things and get the results that you've described?
[inaudible] because I definitely have a system. And it started probably about 10 years ago with helping people figuring out their branding, and it's just evolved into this, what I call the scale your brand method. And it starts with, with, we spend the first good chunk of it on the branding. Figuring, again, pulling it out of you, what's your company personality? What's your why? What do you stand for? What are all those brand stories, what brought you to where you are? What are your core values? And then we get into, Who's your ideal client? And when I talk ideal client I talk about who are the people you can best help? Who are the people who you like working with, not just the people who are going to pay you but the people you like working with, and the people who are going to pay you what you're worth. So if you can find those people because they align with your identity and your culture, and and you know how to talk to them, because you know your identity and your culture. Then you can, then you're attracting the right kind of people. Then we go into defining your client journey. So really, from the moment that they hear from your your name to the moment that they leave the planet, let's say that, what is that whole journey and what do they need from you. Because they need something from you differently, when they are first introduced to you, to the sales point to the now that you're serving them as a client, now you're done with them, but you're still keeping in touch with them. So they need something different from you. And very rarely do we think about what that need is and how we can best serve them at every stage of the that point, every stage of their journey. And then we develop the systems and we really dig in to figure out what those systems are that you need to develop, what's the right order to do them in? And then how are you going to deliver that client journey so that the client experience is amazing, and powerful and predictable. And it's not, you're not chasing yourself or chasing your tail trying to remember everything. Everything’s just done. Because you know exactly the order it needs to be done in, you know who's doing it. And now you can start bringing in team members to start delivering that. And, and the business just flourishes from there. You get to take time off. You had, you get to have me time that you didn't have before. And it's, it really is an amazing process to watch clients be able to go through all of that, and I'll be able to scale and hit those those goals that they've been setting for themselves.
Yeah, it's fascinating. We talk to business owners all the time, every day all day generally. And their number one thing is having time, right? We, we, we call them the chief everything officers because they feel like they got to be doing everything in their business. And it's how do you have time and part of that comes from trust. And part of that is putting systems and processes and and the right talents at play so that you can trust that it gets done the way you want it done. Precisely. You're speaking my language. Yeah. Wow. Obviously, you've got something that does make you guys quite differently, quite different from any other quote, branding agencies. I want to, I want to remove that because I'm not sure that's really, really what you guys do. You do a lot more than that. It has, it has blossomed into a lot more than that for sure. No doubt. You got more than one orange on the tree, I can see that for sure. Right, exactly. Juggling a few. So, this, our podcast here, we talk with, with owners and it's always fascinating the journey that they've been on. So your your business has been around 12 years, right, so most businesses don't make it past the first couple of years. Very, very few make it beyond five.
And then here you are 12 years later. So, share with us. What are the things that you're most proud of over that business journey so far? Because I'm sure it might have changed a little bit from when you first started to where you are today. So elaborate on this for us, if you will. Absolutely. Thanks, Steve. So yeah, my I think my proudest thing is that I am still here 12 years later. That’s huge.
Yeah, it is. You've put the odds in your favor.
Well, in because I never, like I didn't come from a family of entrepreneurs, I never really had that even in my thought process that that was a thing. Like I came from a family who you'd work for a company for 30 years, you'd, you, you'd earn up your retirement and you'd go retire and be happy. That's kind of what I thought my life would be like. And obviously it wasn't. But now I could never go back. Like the the idea of just being able to have the freedom and the flexibility to do what I love and to make changes quickly. That's why I love being a solopreneur, because I can be nimble. I can decide, You know what, that's not the way I want to go, we're gonna go this way.
And, and I can do that without a huge change plan.
And so I think that nimbleness to be able to change with what needs to happen for my clients, and what it where I feel led. And so I feel like the last 12 years have all led me to this point where now I can serve solopreneurs powerfully with both, we’ll do your branding for you, but we're also really helping them build a strong foundation to grow their business beyond themselves. That was something that I didn't have and I had to figure it out on my own. You know, I kept looking for people to help me how to do systems, how to do all of this, and I couldn't find it. So I had to figure it out on my own. So I want to make sure to pave the way for solopreneurs and make that a lot simpler for them. So I think that's what I'm most proud of right now. Yeah, that's pretty cool. So you've got a system that you can just duplicate over and over and over again and continue to grow at it well. It's funny, it sounds like what I heard you say is you've kind of made the journey from, you know, entrepreneurship begins as really indentured servitude, right? We spend every waking hour in our business. And now you've got confidence and freedom in your own business and and thus you're teaching other business owners how to achieve that same thing. Yes, exactly. What are some of the challenges you faced over the over the course of the, what's the biggest challenge you have, the biggest challenge or biggest failure, the thing that you don't, you don't like to talk about, but maybe you got the biggest lesson from. I think my biggest challenge, and probably one of the biggest successes is that that whole trademark issue that I had in the beginning. Yeah. You know, I actually did my due diligence when I first started to pick my name. But it turned out that this company filed for their trademark the very same month that I chose my name. Wow. So like there was nothing that I could have done differently to avoid this.
So as difficult as that was, being able to not just go, Well, I guess that didn't work. Let me go back and find a job somewhere. But that I fought through it, that I figured out the, the next direction for me.
And actually, the following year, I won the SBA, Homebased Business of the Year award. Congratulations, nice. Thank you. And that's when I knew that I was on the right track, because other people were recognizing what I was doing. And even though, I remember filling out the application, I was like, I don't want, and Lone Orange was still new. I was like, I think this is what I'm going to do. And so I, like it still felt very unsettled for me. But other people recognized that that that was the this was important, and that I was helping solopreneurs like this. That was a obviously and I feel like just stay, being able to stay true to myself, and stay true to figuring out what solopreneurs help the most. Even embracing the ideal client of solopreneurs. I have been told many times that
they're usually too young, they don't have the money, whatever. But that's where my heart is. So in just in the last couple of years, I've decided Nope, this is where I'm going. This is where I'm serving. I'm going to figure it out.
That’s awesome. I would say those are some of the biggest, yeah, biggest proud moments. Yeah, those are those are huge lessons, right? Those are huge lessons. And and that's, you know that, once you overcome that and get to the point where you know, you can make it on your own and then really figure out where your gift is and how you can expand that that's that's where we see businesses really do begin to flourish. Right. And a lot of business owners don't make it that far. So it's hard. It's hard to to power through some of those difficult moments and those, you know, the self doubt is real, it comes in waves and
you think you're doing great. And then, man, is this really what I'm going to do? So being able to power through that, and, and having people surrounding you who can cheer you on, and it's, that resiliency and that grit is huge and.
Makes all the difference in the world. Yeah. So, quick question. You also mentioned, S, you won the SBA Home, Home Business of the Year.
And have you relied on SBA tools to help you throughout your business growth? I actually have not. So I feel bad saying that. No, I actually haven't.
I hadn't needed it at that point. And
so no, I haven't. Not really.
Okay. All right. Cool. I was curious about that. We're, I'm a big supporter of of the stuff that they've got available. And their their award ceremony every year, I spent a little bit of time volunteering in, in during SBA week to kind of endorse some of that stuff. So I'm happy to hear that. I mean, that's a, it's a cool thing. And there is a lot of really good resources out there for business owners that basically are free of charge, but it's kind of a well kept secret. They got it, they got to kind of tap into that on their own and figure that out. Right. For sure. There's, I mean, there's a lot of classes and all kinds of great resources. You're 100% right. Yeah, it's the right fit, absolutely makes sense. So you're on the cutting edge of stuff today, you've got a thriving practice, you're helping lots of business owners, you've been doing this for a long time, you’ve got freedom in your life, you control your own life now, you control your business, you can take time off and not worry about your business whenever you want. You have what I call the freedom of time, which is, seems to take the longest to grasp right? After you get some freedom of money, then that freedom of time seems to take forever. Right. What are some of the things in the current environment that you're, you're facing now? I mean, this, this pandemic has changed things a little bit for everybody. How has it affected your business? Are there are there any, any real challenges? Or have you had to learn new skills that you didn't have before? Share with us a little bit about what your your experience has been? Sure. You know, what's interesting is because we were virtual even prior to COVID, I don't think it impacted us quite as drastically as other people. I would say yes, slowed down a little bit. But we were already working virtually with all of our clients. And I actually am grateful because now, like I used to love networking on Zoom. I live, because I live in Union, which is, you know, a good drive from St. Louis and anywhere networking, like I would like to meet and on Zoom. And people resisted that. So now I'm grateful because now everybody knows Zoom, it’s comfortable on Zoom. So
a lot easier. So from a business standpoint, other than slowing down a little bit, it didn't affect us too much. What it did do is gave me because we were slow, a little bit slower, it gave me some time to really focus on developing the scale your brand method into a digital course and developing a group coaching program. So it actually gave me the time and space to focus on that side of the business and grow that even more. So I'm actually kind of grateful for that time. It's been really helpful for us. And now we can kind of go full bore with both sides of the business. Wow, that's awesome. That is awesome. That's, that's, that that is the amazing thing. It's, it's fascinating. I keep going back to this conversation I had with a
gentleman that’s a neighbor here that owns one of the Chick fil A franchises in the marketplace. And he blew, almost blew me out of my chair when he said that, you know, they, they're debating whether they will ever reopen their dining rooms, right. And they got to be so successful through drive thrus through the pandemic, that they had their best years ever during that period of time. Wow. And you know, what amazed me is that every other
fast serve restaurant owner wasn't camped out on the curb watching them operate to figure it out. So true. We had so many businesses that just struggled and these guys thrived. And that's what I'm hearing from you. You had some slow, slow time, you figured out how to create some new products in the digital marketplace, which enabled your business to continue to thrive. Yeah, and support more people and honestly grow in which, you know, I have a new vision for how we're really going to grow. And we've created a community now for solopreneurs and a mastermind for solopreneurs that were never really on my radar prior to this. So just having that ability, that creative time to be able to grow is been super beneficial. And I think you're probably doing the right things in the right time. People are becoming much more comfortable with you know, doing things virtually like this. Yeah. Right. Yes. And how many emails so many more so
solopreneurs that are coming into the marketplace. And they need the support desperately because you know whether they were laid off or they're just bored with employment or whatever they're, and they're seeing that virtual
work is is a thing. They need the guidance. And so that's what I want to be able to provide. I want to be able to jump in where I was 12 years ago, and help them know how to navigate these waters, and know that they don't have to be alone. Just because we're solopreneurs or running our business by ourselves, doesn't mean that we have to be alone to do it. So true. So true. I think this is, I'm going to attribute this to the US Chamber of Commerce, although it may have came from the Small Business Administration, but I understand that 2021 was among the most active year for business, new business formations in the history of the US. Yes, yes. I've heard that too. Yeah. And it makes sense, because so many people were displaced. And they were like, Well, I gotta do something. And so many of them will probably, may go back to employment, but many of them will find that freedom and recognize that it can work. And they need a place to have a sounding board and how to get some advice about how to to navigate business as a solo business owner. What's the biggest challenges that you see your customers dealing with?
Honestly, their own heads. Speak more into that.
And I'm one of them. Speak more into that.
Before I do that, well, because you know, when when you're a solopreneur, you don't have a board necessarily, you don't have the VPs, you don't have the C suite, you don't have other people that you're really building something with, it's all up here. And so you have all the voices in your head telling you about why you're not good enough or telling you why that's a bad idea, wondering, doubting if that's going to be the right thing. And so it can get very, and you have the voice of saying I can do this, I can do it all. And so there's a lot of competition. And maybe this is just my head, but but you know, so we can talk ourselves out of a lot of things that doubt of, I think this will resonate. But will it really resonate? So I honestly think, I've had a lot of clients who come to me saying yes, I want what you're offering, I want the systems I want the the identity clear, because I can't figure out who I am. I can't figure out who to how to talk about myself, because I have so many ideas running around in my head.
I have one client who was in business for probably 10 plus years and was still struggling with how to talk about herself and what her identity was. And she wanted to grow. And she wanted to start hiring team members and but she struggled with how do I let this go, like people are hiring me for me? How do I let these things go. And that's all the things that I struggled with too. So I really feel like for solopreneurs making that leap from, I do it all myself. I know how it gets done. I know how I want it done.
I'm gonna keep all the balls in the air, and hopefully not drop any to, Okay, I'm dropping them, now I need to start hiring people. Getting out of their own way and letting other people come in and help them make their lives better. But doing it smart, not just jumping in and well I'm just gonna hire my my neighbor’s niece to do my VA work. Hiring smart and hiring well to match your company so that you can use them to grow your business.
Wow. Yeah. So true. And it's, you know, what's what's fascinating is every, every Monday morning and we're, we're together here on a Monday afternoon, every morning, Monday morning, I collect a couple of quotes and I add them to my little quote sheet that I that I keep in play. And one of the ones I collected this morning said, Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself, instead of talking to yourself. Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You haven't originated them. But they bring back the problems of yesterday. Somebody's talking, who is talking to you? Don't let the thoughts in your head dominate. And I thought wow, you know, that is so true. Right? It is, it is, Amen. In fact, I was listening to a podcast this morning that was talking about just that. Taking those thoughts when you first wake up in the morning and what do you what, what kind of, what's the quality of those thoughts? Are they bringing you down or are they lifting you up? And you know, how do you, how do you reframe that so that you can take, take your brain as a powerful tool and make things happen? Yeah, that's that's what hit me like a ton of bricks this morning. Instead of listening to what's going on in your head, talk to yourself. Yeah. Tell yourself what you need to hear, what you need to do, what you need to get to the next place. Yes. Yeah, so fascinating. Powerful.
So, Tiffany, you're a very young woman, you've you've got 12 years of success, you got a long runway ahead of you. What's your vision for the business as you move into the future? That is such an interesting question. I don't, I don't have a vision for the end. I have a vision for maybe the next 10 years where I can kind of work my way out of working so much. You know, I have the vision of having a four day work week and that sort of thing. More time. Do what? More time, huh? Yes, yes. Yes, exactly. So like, I do have a vision, and maybe I could see selling,
you know, the community when I have, when I build the community, the solopreneur community, up more I could see maybe having that to sell. But I've never, it's interesting, I've never really thought of having something to sell. But I, several years ago, I got the advice, always build your business as if you're going to sell it, no matter what. That way you're building in those systems. That way you're building in the metrics. That way you're building in all the proper structures to have a strong business. So, I'm doing that, but I don't necessarily know what that
end day will look like. But maybe you need to help me figure that out. Well, the one thing, the one thing I think we had chatted about before, you know, one, one thing we know for sure is that 100% of business owners are going to leave their business at some point in the future, right? Very true. And, you know, studies have shown that less than five out of 100 will ever plan for that day. So you know, beginning to think about it, I think is the start of that. But you know, so there are, I want to touch on on six different things and talk to you about that as as, as we go into this so. Yeah. When you think about your business moving forward, I love the fact that you had, somebody had shared with you always think about building your business to sell, right. So the underscore of that is building value in your business so that you have something that will be attractive to somebody else, right? Right. And generally, that's made up of six components. So first is financials, you know, so you've got the, I always say the valuation is the is the cornerstone of the financials, or the cornerstone of your business value, if you will. And there are a couple of different measurements there. But in simple terms, thinking about always generating positive trends in your business, positive growth trends and positive margin trends, right? Most, we find most business owners focus on growth, they think in terms of sales and profits. But you really should think about, you know, gross profits and cash flow in your business, and those should be continuing to increase over time. So as you, as you look back, you know, when you think about your business, does it, does it look like a sawtooth? Do you have up and down years over and over? Or are you on a smooth, you know, growth trajectory? Right? So that's kind of the one one element of value that tends to be the things people look at first.
So second would be future potential. You are blessed with a business that's got plenty of, plenty of runway ahead of it, as we talked about, right? And can you ever envision a time where your services are not needed? No, not at all? Yeah, it can't be, you know, it can't be turned into some machine function, it's always going to need to have that human intuition to help, right, and get and get out of solopreneurs, as you talked about getting out their identity and, and helping them figure it out, right? Right. Absolutely. Yeah, I, no machine’s ever going to take away your opportunity. No, and just being able to have a community. So and that, and that's one of the big things I'm building now. So yeah, that those both make total sense.
Yeah, another thing is your business model. Do you, two aspects of that. One is, one thing you've done that’s so far ahead of the curve, most companies are, are really trying to figure out how to how to bring that in today. First off being virtual, right? You're, you're not tied to a particular geography. And thus, your horizons are open to being able to get the best talents anywhere around the globe at any time of the day or night, right? That's a, that's a huge capability that most people are just beginning to think about and haven't even grasped it yet. They're just beginning to get awareness of it. Right. And the second part of that is recurring revenue, right? Being able to look at customers as a lifetime type of customers. And for a business like yours, kind of like ours, it might be that we help them you know, develop a, develop a program, right, and then put them on their way, but the recurring part
of it becomes they're so happy with it that they tell everybody else that they know, as business owners. And so the referral chain becomes this kind of recurring revenue that that is ensured, because we did such a great job of building value upfront. Yes, yes. Have you seen that? I have. Absolutely. And I think, you know, it's interesting, I've only really started marketing in the last couple of years. Prior to that it was all done through my own networking and referrals, and word of mouth. So I have absolutely seen the importance of that. And that's why I talk about client journey so much, because you've got to be intentional about how you're serving your clients so they do come out the other end as a raving fan. And not a disgruntled,
you know, a disgruntled client. So yeah, that's super powerful. Yeah. Next factor is customer satisfaction. So when you think of customer satisfaction, what does that, what does that mean to you? And how do you how do you measure that in your business? That's a very good question. So
customer satisfaction, I want,
that's a very good question.
I do ask, not as consistently as I want to, and ask for testimonials and that sort of thing. But I guess, being able to have the, I guess I go after the anecdotal what what people really found from my services, and how that's been beneficial. And then the fact that they’re referring people. Yeah, the referral is a big part of that, right. And it's, it's getting to where it's somewhat easier to measure with social media, right. So you can see kind of the social proof if you're, if your likes and followers and things like that are actually growing, that may not translate directly into how much revenue you're taking in, you know, but, but if your customers are sharing your message, and other people are seeing it out there and following you along, that eventual follow may turn into a client, right? It may eventually come into some revenue. So, you know, we've, we've looked at this a lot, there are things like net promoter score, and some objective measurements. But typically, solopreneurs and small businesses don't use a lot of those things. They're, they're more for larger type of companies. But I think there is going to be proven to be some correlation between what is the growth of your outreach, as measured through your social channel, and, and, you know, email,
email, messages that you may be sending out and things of that nature. Because you can definitely see businesses that aren't generating that, you know, you can see they kind of struggle over time. So it is, it's, it's kind of a way to infer customer satisfaction, if you will, for companies that don't have a specific program in that regard. Interesting. Another key thing, when it comes to the value of the company is is your uniqueness, right? Some people talk about building a moat around your business, making yourself so unique and different, what I call different and better than your competition, that it's very difficult for others to be able to knock you off as a company, if you will. So, you know, a lot of the, we think of a lot of the big brands, you know,
getting knocked off over time, and they dilute the marketplace, right? So what is your level of uniqueness? You've, you've got to, you gotta whole 12 meeting process that you take people through, right? Right. You've got to, for for a brand company, you’ve got a lot of uniqueness. Yeah, I think so. And I think, I don't need to, know any branding company who does the systems. I don't know any systems company who does the branding. Right. And to me they can't exist without the other. You gotta be able to have both of them. Well you put, you’ve figured out what that magic key is that ties them both together, right? Mm hmm.
Yeah, for sure. That client journey and being able to take that, yeah, take that, and take that and really deliver on that. Use your operations to deliver on your brand identity. Yeah. Yeah, very cool. Another, another aspect of business value is is and this is in many regards, a subtractor. Not a multiplier, but it's your dependency, your dependency on key employees, your dependency on key suppliers, and your dependency on key customers. Typically, businesses that have a dependency
that will detract from their value, it won’t add to their value. So that doesn't, that doesn't sound like something you would have to worry about in your business. It's interesting. There's a couple of places where I probably could bolster that a little bit but certainly because I don't have employees and I'm using all contractors, it allows me to diversify my reliance on my my vendors.
For sure, and customers. What's a good, is there kind of a good gauge for when a customer's too much of your revenue? Kind of like a percentage? Definitely depends a little bit by industry, but we tend to think in terms of, as a general rule if a customer is, and again, this is going to be a little bit dependent by industry, but between 10 and 25% of your revenues, you know, then you've, you're beginning to develop a customer dependency issue. Right? Yeah. Yeah. And it's, and for some, for some types of businesses it's kind of a unique business where that's not a problem. But sometimes if you're a distributor, for example of a specific brand, you might have customer dependence in that regard. However, you've got a protection, you've, you've got some exclusivity around your distribution. Sometimes that'll that'll, you know, kind of be the offsetting part of that. But, but yeah, if you're, obviously, if you've got a wider base of customers, you're spreading your revenue out over over a wider base. So the inadvertent or, or, you know, if you choose not to work with somebody, right? The hardest thing for business owners to learn is to, is to fire customers that don't ideally match them, right? Right. Yeah. And sometimes if you got to learn to fire a customer and it happens to be your biggest customer, boy it can really cause you to step back. Yeah, that's painful. It is. Yeah, in the long run, it's wonderful. But yeah, and then the short term is certainly painful.
Couldn't agree more. So great question. Yeah. And, and for you, you know, your key employees might be somewhat of your dependency. But you've also got this unique strength that you have in that you're not constrained to time or location, so. Right. You can always find this, you can always find a comparable skill set, or potentially upgrade that skill set as you, as you go out and take, invest the time to look around, right. Right. And we've developed even a whole process to vet and train people very quickly. So without my like, it's all virtual, so I don't have to do it. So even, you know, we, in fact, I had a, one of my team members who just got sick. And so she wasn't able to work for a little while. So I was able to go find somebody and get them in very quickly. Wow, that’s even better.
Because of the processes we have in place. Yeah. It's, it's, it was so powerful to see that. And we had, we actually hadn't hired since 2016. So to be able to kind of dust that process off and be able to use it very quickly was pretty gratifying to know that it works. Oh, I’ll bet, I’ll bet. See is, that is part of your uniqueness, again. What a competitive advantage, that is. Yeah, for sure. So the final thing that we talk about is the thing that that you and I spoke about it several times here, what we call the chief everything officer, right? If the business, if the owner is the hub, and for solopreneurs, it's, you know, by nature, they are the hub of the business. But if they can outsource more and more of the business function, so that the business doesn't require them to be there to make every decision to make everything happen to get that freedom of time that you've talked about, and that you aspire to get more of in the future. Right. That's a key thing that can make your business very attractive. If you get your business to where, you know, you can have the freedom of time to be able to come and go as you want and the business still continues to go on and on, that does nothing but build the value up of your business. So that's, those are kind of the pillars that we see and we talk about with our clients a lot. Those are awesome, that's very helpful. And it sounds like you're well on your way in many of those areas. So, you know, it's, you know, the bit, every business is a bit of an ATM, right? It's a money machine that kicks out money for its, for its owner. Some of them require a heck of a lot more maintenance than others. Right. But if you can get that machine, the machine to be finely tuned and producing very, very well with the least amount of input from you as the owner, now you've got, now you've got the ultimate, you know, the ultimate scenario, right? Yes. But a lot of people think in terms of mailbox money. So you know, if you've got that kind of thing going, you're building, no matter what your business is, you're building a huge amount of value that a lot of folks will want to take advantage of. So it's a cool place to be in when you, when you need to take time off either, either for you know the, to help a family member or something else or whether you want to take time off and just go go do some other stuff for a while. It puts you in a position where you've got lots of options. Right, which is ideal. And that's not what I saw when I first started my business. I had no idea that that was possible. So it's exciting to see. See that possibilities. Yeah.
Yeah. Well, you've got a, you've got an amazing business. So how can people learn more about your business? Thank you. I appreciate that very much. So my website is Loneorange.com. So it's l o n e, like the Lone Ranger orange like the fruit.com. We also have a free Facebook community that I'd love for people to come join us. It's the Solo Collaborative Community. And you can find that from my Facebook page Lone Orange. And yeah, those are the, those are probably the places I hang out the most. Well, fantastic. Well, we'll put those links in the show notes. Great. And
I am just honored, Tiffany, that you would make the time to come and talk with us and our audience out there. It's, what you're doing is fantastic work. We wish you all the best. And we'll look forward to seeing you at some of our upcoming meetings. Sounds good. It's been my pleasure. Thank you so much for the opportunity, Steve.
The pleasure has been all ours, Tiffany. Thank you. Well go out and make it a great day and we'll be talking to you soon.
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