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Dealing With the Tough Stuff: Practical Wisdom for Running a Values-Driven Business (SVN) (Paperback)
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Your business plan is only going to get you so far. When you’re actually running a values-driven business, problems come up that you never could have anticipated. The whole experience can be incredibly isolating and draining.
Margot Fraser and Lisa Lorimer have been there, and they’re here to help. Together with five of their colleagues—including Stonyfield Farm founder Gary Hirshberg and former Ms. Foundation president Marie C. Wilson—they offer the kinds of personal insights and seasoned advice you just can’t get in business school. It’s like sitting down at the table with some of the nation’s top socially conscious entrepreneurs.
The book tackles the kinds of challenges every entrepreneur struggles with. How open and honest can you really be with your employees and still run an efficient business? At what point do you seek outside expertise? What do you do when things go terribly wrong? When is it time to leave? The authors and their fellow travelers share their experiences—not just what worked, but sometimes what spectacularly didn’t. Some of these stories are harrowing: a worker getting killed by factory equipment, a false accusation of intellectual property theft , a crucial distributor running up a $195,000 debt with no way to pay it back. Others are simply day-to-day conundrums: meeting payroll when you’re always in debt, deciding how to expand in a responsible way, balancing business needs with your commitment to the triple bottom line. At the end of each chapter, Lorimer and Fraser offer practical tips that can guide you through similar situations.
This is a book you can look to for affirmation, hope, and tools. No book can cover every challenge that might arise, but if you learn from the attitudes, techniques, and coping mechanisms these seasoned leaders offer, you’ll get through the tough stuff with your sanity and your business intact.
About the Author
Margot Fraser is the founder and former CEO, president, and majority shareholder of Birkenstock USA. She retired from active leadership in 2002. The company is the sole importer of Birkenstock footwear in the United States and sells to more than 3,005 retailers, including 200 licensed, privately owned stores. When she started the business out of her home in 1967, ergonomic, functional footwear was unknown in the United States and was met with resistance and ridicule. Her belief in the product, and her undying conviction that others would recognize its value once they could get them on their feet, helped her persevere and slowly educate the public about the importance of foot health. This helped to establish a new category of footwear—Casual Comfort— an accomplishment that led to her induction into the National Shoe Retailers Hall of Fame. In the same year she was named the Ernst & Young Northern California Entrepreneur of the Year. She accomplished all that without any prior formal business education. She had only to follow her vision and common sense. However, continued learning was important to her. She finally attended the Executive Program for Smaller Companies at the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, and returned for an intensive marketing course the following year. She established an ESOP at her company as a way to share the profits with her employees. She also used it as an exit strategy.
Five years later, the ESOP acquired all the remaining shares and sold the business to the German manufacturer two years after that, dissolving the ESOP. Margot currently serves on the boards of the Presidio College of Management in San Francisco and the Family Service Agency of Marin in San Rafael. She speaks at conferences, women’s groups, and business incubators to encourage new entrepreneurs to take the leap into an independent future.
Lisa Lorimer is the former CEO, president, and majority owner of Vermont Bread Company in Brattleboro, Vermont. She sold a majority stake in her company to the private equity firm Charterhouse Group and partnered with it to create the largest natural and certified organic baked- goods company in the United States. The company has been renamed Charter Baking Company and services supermarkets and natural product stores under the brands of Vermont Bread, Baldwin Hill, The Baker, Rudi’s Organic, and Matthew’s All Natural, as well as private labels for various grocery store chains and other well-known national bakeries. During her twenty-three-year tenure at the company, Vermont Bread Company was the largest majority woman- owned business in the state and was listed as one of the top ten fastest growing companies in Vermont. Lisa is a graduate of the Owner/President Management Program at Harvard Business School and has served on the boards of Charter Baking Company, Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, Union Institute & University/Vermont College, Vermont Community Foundation, the Women’s Crisis Center, and Chittenden Bank. She speaks at conferences, seminars, leadership institutes, colleges, and business schools about lessons learned from growing her company.