Steve Kaplan retired at age 39 after owning and selling more than two dozen businesses. Jean talks with Steve about his business success and the two books he has written for new business owners, Bag the Elephant! How to Win and Keep Big Customers and Be the Elephant: Build a Bigger, Better Business.
You might wonder what elephants have to do with building a business. Steve says his metaphor is simple: "[Elephants are] the really big customers, the really big companies that you can have as [your] customer that changes your life, your fortune in a second," Steve says. "You have a product out of your house and you sell it to Wal-Mart—boom! The elephant just made you hit it big time." While new business owners all want to sell to an elephant or become an elephant, Steve says most fail. "In addition to really wanting this and hoping and working toward it—is really knowing what to do," Steve says.
There are two ways Steve says you can look at starting your own business. "You can sell new stuff to the same people or old stuff to a new person—that is it," he says. The reason Steve says he wrote his two books, Bag the Elephant and Be the Elephant, was to help people avoid the pitfalls that he discovered when he started his first businesses. Steve says his books outline simple financial solutions for new business owners as well as advice on researching your market and assessing your risks.
While solid finances and planning are an important part of new-business success, Steve says you should also be passionate about your new venture. "Passion is for me really finding something that you like and you want and having your eyes open as you go through life every day," Steve says. Lastly, he says to really succeed and someday sell to an elephant or become an elephant—you need to proceed without fear. "The biggest reason people don't grow, even the smaller businesses, is fear."