Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Anatomy of a Startup: Traber Fitzpatrick

Greetings enterprising divas! At our meeting this week we had yet another wonderful fempreneur - Heather Fitzpatrick - give us her account of how she launched her executive search firm, Traber Fitzpatrick. She also touched on some broad themes, like the importance of clear communication with clients (spell it all out in a contract!), and how to compensate for your weaknesses (Heather's great at sales and marketing but she admits she was a bit challenged when it came to keeping her desk in order!).

After a handful of years working at an executive search firm, Heather had gradually moved up to become one of the top recruiters, consistently meeting her sales quota every year, and then moving the bogey up higher for the following year. That’s when the thought came to her: Can I cut the cord and do this on my own? She started paying close attention to what it would take to replicate her office at home. Telephone: check. Computer: check. Desk: check. Expensive database of candidates: Uh-oh... She couldn’t afford the steep annual fees for the database, but she decided to take the risk anyway. If she failed she knew she could always return. So she bit the bullet and started Traber Fitzpatrick with no client base, no network, no website and no business cards. Luckily she got a referral from one of her long time clients and when she placed her first executive, he asked her to fill 9 other positions at the firm. From that came other referrals, and Heather was one her way!

Investing in the business

Another topic Heather covered in her presentation to the Mogulettes was how to initially invest your limited funds. In the beginning Heather lusted for the perfect website that would impress her clients and scream “I'm a big deal!” She was able to find someone that charged her $500 to create her site but soon realized it was money not well spent. The content became outdated quickly and she wasn't able to update it herself. And none of her clients ever asked if she had a website. Her advice: Don’t get carried away with expensive stuff! Before spending money on business related things, ask yourself: Do I really need this? The same thing happened with the database. Once Heather’s cash flow grew, she decided to fork over the $13,000 for the client database she thought she needed, but after years of going without it, she found that her own low-tech system was actually more effective.

Heather’s stories show that in the beginning, if you have a little ingenuity and lots of passion, you don’t need to spend much to get going. It all boils down to youyou’re your biggest asset. Clients come to you because they like you, not your fancy website or expensive office technology. Phew! Okay, I can breathe easier knowing I won't have to break open my piggy bank and spend mucho dinero - at least not for now!

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