Interview Q-and-A with Matthew Toren, Co-Author of Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right
With your first book, Kidpreneurs, and the YoungEntrepreneur.com website, you focused on business owners in the youth, teen, and early adult markets. Your new book, Small Business, BIG Vision, is a departure, in that it’s for entrepreneurs of all ages. Why the change of course?
You’re right that we have focused on young entrepreneurs for a long time. Not only have my brother Adam and I written for young entrepreneurs for several years, but we’re also active in speaking to schools around the US and Canada; and through Kidpreneurs, we even have others doing some live presentations to youth. I wouldn’t say our new book is a departure exactly though. Although Kidpreneurs is intended for kids, we’ve always said that the term “Young Entrepreneur” is more about an attitude than an age in years. YoungEntrepreneur.com has plenty of followers who are seasoned business owners, as well as teens and twenty-somethings.
With Small Business, BIG Vision, it was important to us to offer the kind of advice and guidance that’s applicable to entrepreneurs of every age. Young entrepreneurs often have specific challenges to deal with, and this book is more about answering the questions that they and all entrepreneurs have – from someone launching their first startup to those who have been in business for many years.
Why did you decide to profile other entrepreneurs in the book, and how did you choose them?
Adam and I have been entrepreneurs in some capacity from a very early age, and we have a background that includes starting, buying, running, and selling businesses, from a wide range of industries. So there’s no question that we have a lot of experience to draw from and are able to provide quality, useful advice on our own. But we didn’t want this book to just be about us. We knew that our keys for success had been used by other successful entrepreneurs, and we wanted to get their points of view on the techniques we were presenting. Their additional insights not only back up the validity of the information presented, but they offer unique perspectives on the material.
Because we’ve been in the entrepreneurial world for so long and had interactions with such a variety of business owners, we could have included a hundred or more entrepreneurial profiles in Small Business, BIG Vision – just made up of our friends! But we actually included several people we had not met or spoken with before outlining the content for the book. It was important to us that the profiles presented in the book demonstrate exactly how to put the ideas of each chapter into action successfully. So even though a reader might not have heard of every entrepreneur profiled before reading the book, they’ll be very glad they were able to get to know them there.
You state in the chapter, “Rethinking Your Business Plan” that most startups don’t need a formal business plan, which is very different from a lot of the advice out there. Can you explain your philosophy on this?
We knew we might take a little heat from the “Must have a business plan before doing anything else” crowd. But it’s important that people read the whole chapter. We’re not saying that no one ever needs a formal business plan, and we’re not suggesting that you move forward without planning. Planning is an essential ingredient in the success of any business, and we’re very clear about that.
What we are saying is that the traditional 50-page-plus business plan that many “experts” insist every business should create is completely unnecessary most of the time. If you’re going to go for outside financing (another topic we address at length in the book), there’s no doubt that you’ll need a more formal business plan. But even then, a greatly abbreviated version (a one-page business plan) is the perfect place to start. We feel that business plans should be working documents that actually serve a purpose within the company, not just something that you create for people outside your business.
What mistakes have you made during your own entrepreneurial journey that you’d like to help others avoid?
Over the past twenty or so years, we’ve made out fair share of mistakes, and we’re thankful for every one of them. We’ve learned a great deal, and we’ve had the opportunity to use this knowledge to help others.
One mistake that stands out happened when we hired a company to design and develop one of our websites. We paid a large deposit upfront, and they didn’t deliver anything we had requested. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a contract in place that detailed exactly what the performance expectations were, so we lost a lot of money hiring another firm to make it right. From that incident, we learned to make sure that all parties in an agreement are on the same page and have the same expectations. We’re still very trusting of fellow entrepreneurs, but not to the point of making foolish errors in judgment. We aren’t big on formal legal stuff, but there is an appropriate time and place for it, and we make sure it’s in position whenever necessary.
What are three reasons someone should buy your book?
- Practical advice. Whatever stage of business you’re in, you’ll be able to use the concepts presented to improve your business – starting today!
- Useful answers. We set out in Small Business, BIG Vision to answer the most common entrepreneurial questions we hear, and we know the book accomplishes that objective.
- A stronger business. The advice presented by us and the entrepreneurs we profiled will help you quickly strengthen your business and dominate your market. Bottom line: If you don’t get the book, you’d better hope your competition doesn’t either!
Matthew and Adam Toren are brothers, serial entrepreneurs, investors, and mentors. For nearly 20 years, Matthew and Adam have provided instruction in management concepts, marketing, and finance to emerging and distressed small businesses. They currently own and operate a successful media company, which includes several online properties and print publications. The Toren Brothers are also the authors of the award-winning book, Kidpreneurs.org: Basic Principles of Entrepreneurship for Kids aged 6 to 12 years old and founders of YoungEntrepreneur.com, one of the largest online entrepreneur communities, and a must-visit resource for all startup CEOs, founders, aspiring entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors. They are also the authors of the just released book Small Business Big Vision (http://SBBV.com)
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