Honesty is one of the most important traits of a successful entrepreneur, says Kim Green, owner of Kays Wholesale.
So it's no surprise then, when asked what she would tell someone starting out in the business world, she doesn't sugar-coat her answer: "It will be your hardest job you've ever had."
And she's had some hard ones in the past, including being the CEO of Tourism Charlottetown and the P.E.I. Convention Partnership. Ten years ago, she started her own venture, reopening the former Kays Brothers as Kays Wholesale, a business-to-business wholesaler that sells supplies to many Island companies.
You wear many different hats to try and keep everything going in the right direction. — Kim Green
"I was a late bloomer as an entrepreneur. I started when I was 40 and thought I had some really difficult jobs in the past — this one trumps that, for sure," she said. "You're on 24/7. And it's hard to get away from it."
But she's quick to add another truth about being an entrepreneur: "It can be very rewarding, as well."
Kays Wholesale began with four employees, no sales, no inventory, and a limited supply chain. Ten years later, the business has undergone five expansions and employs 30 full-time and three part-time staff. Sales have grown to over $11 million and the customer base has expanded throughout the Maritime provinces.
On Nov. 21, Green will be presented with the 2019 entrepreneur of the year award by the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce.
Here are some insights Green has learned along the way.
1. You'll be more than a boss
Green admits human resources is probably the most difficult aspect of running her business.
"You have to be a coach and probably a mother, counsellor and boss. You wear many different hats to try and keep everything going in the right direction," she said.
"So I think anyone that has or wants to be in business, HR courses and learning how to be a good HR manager is vitally important. But for me, still is a work in progress."
Green said it can be a challenge to keep everyone happy and motivated while keeping the business running. She jokes that the day in the life of an entrepreneur would be better than an episode of Coronation Street.
"There's always drama. There are things that happen in the day with people in their personal lives. You have to balance that."
When issues do arise, Green suggests dealing with them head on.
"I've learned over the years that honesty's the best policy, and that if there are issues to address them quickly and have a heart to heart," she said. "Bringing it to the forefront is the best, as opposed to beating around the bush."
2. Talent is not always required
Green has a sign on her wall listing "10 things that require zero talent" that she calls her mantra for herself and her employees. The list includes being on time, having a positive attitude, being coachable and, most importantly according to Green, having a strong work ethic.
"There's a lot of people now that have degrees so how do you differentiate yourself and how do you stand out among the crowd? If you bring that to the table, those 10 things, you will be very successful, I believe, in life and your work life."
Green thinks all successful entrepreneurs have that strong work ethic instilled in them. And it helps if they love what they do, because they do a lot of it.
"They have to and they're very passionate about their goals and where they want to take their business."
The challenge, she said, is to find time for yourself and your family.
"I have to carve out that time and be very conscious of it."
3. Face to face is better than email
Managing a business is really about managing relationships, Green said, whether it's with suppliers, employees or customers.
And she said there's no better way to manage a relationship than in person.
"I think in today's world we are so quick to respond by text and by email and I think there's nothing better than a face-to-face meeting. I think somewhere along the line we're beginning to forget about that in terms of relationships."
She said emails might be more convenient, but it's not the same as shaking their hand and looking them in the eye.
"It saves time and everything, but maybe you don't get the same kind of return in some ways, I guess."
4. The buck stops with you
You can do your best to surround yourself with smart, hard working, competent people, but ultimately you're the one responsible at the end of the day.
That can be stressful, Green said.
"You probably are holding a lot of debt and you have to make it work. And there's a lot of people that you employ that are depending on you making it work. So sometimes there's some sleepless nights that come with that."
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