Tricia Reynolds is the founder of Ducks in a Row, an online financial resource for small business owners.
You have an unusual business name. What does it mean?
The name “Ducks in a Row” came from my vision to help businesses run smoothly and be profitable by, well, getting their ducks in a row. Basically, I help small business owners sleep at night.
You’ve had a business and accounting consultancy for about two decades. Why launch Ducks in a Row now?
I’ve actually owned ducksinarow.com since I started my business 20 years ago, but it was a very vanilla website with my picture and a description of what I do. My business has been booming, but it was mostly referral-based.
A year ago I finally decided to do something new with the website, and I started working on a branding and business plan for Ducks in a Row. Today, the website is just about ready to launch.
And what’s new about Ducks in a Row?
Ducks in a Row is going to be a great community website for business owners to learn how to start and grow their businesses, as well as how to connect with each other. It will have webinars and articles about writing a business plan, balancing work and family life, and more.
You’ve worked with lots of startups and small businesses. What advice might you offer a would-be entrepreneur?
One of the biggest mistakes small business owners make is to dive in without preparing themselves for the ups and downs of running a business. They don’t create a business plan, or what I like to call a business map, which includes the core reason you’re running this business, the services you provide, who you’re going to market to and so on.
If you don’t start out with that business map, you can get lost along the way – shiny objects will take over, you’ll get distracted, and you won’t do what you planned to do the way you’d hoped to do it.
Another mistake is taking on too much debt when you start your business. When debt becomes greater than income, it becomes an emotional burden, and then people stop working as hard as they used to because they feel they can never get out from under it.
You might have a startup loan, but the priority should be to pay that back. So many people think they can run their business on a credit line, but debt can be stifling.
What’s one small thing you wish business owners knew?
A business plan sounds like something you can’t change, but it’s amazing how business plans do
When is it time to reevaluate a business plan?
Constantly. It’s a roadmap, something you should be focusing on all the time. You’ll change it along the way and you might take detours along the way, but you want to follow your core business map.
What inspires you?
As a woman and a mom – I have three kids ages 23, 17 and 12 – I have personal experience starting my own business. I have a passion to see other people become successful like I have and to help them, especially other women and moms.
Also, in this economy, there are so many people that need supplemental income, and one of the ways to get it is to start a business. That might be a simple service business; I’ve helped a number of Cincinnati women start their bookkeeping businesses. I just have a strong desire to help people because I’ve been through [starting a business], too.
Any advice for young parents starting a business?
Have a time-management schedule, and realize that you may be working in the middle of the night when you have children. Because you’re a parent and the kids are home during the day, you might not be able to get things done during those hours. Don’t beat yourself up because of that.
Also, be prepared and know that starting a business is hard work, no matter what the business is.
And, finally, have a dedicated workspace. Some stay-at-home moms try to do it all at the kitchen table, but it gets too chaotic. They need a dedicated workspace and ideally certain times of day when they can work without distractions.
Interview by Robin Donovan