- By Jennifer
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Nikki Pett is a relationship expert and owner of Sigma Promotions, a company that uses promotional products & marketing strategy to help businesses reach their goals. We recently asked Nikki a few questions about her business experiences, her advice to fellow entrepreneurs, and her tips on how to deal with exponential business growth at a time when you’re least expecting it – a situation she is all too familiar with.
1. Tell us about your business – what do you do, and when did you start the company?
Nikki: I started Sigma Promotions 12 years ago after working for an “old school” sales guy who taught me a lot about how NOT to run a business. The experience was invaluable though I learned that traditional cold-calling and old school sales “pitches” didn’t resonate with me. I decided to start Sigma Promotions based 100% on relationships. Since then, we’ve grown the business each year based solely on nurturing and appreciating existing clients and working to maintain their business. The foundation of Sigma is built on relationships, repeat business and a steady stream of referrals.
2. What do you find is the most challenging part of running a business?
Nikki: Developing a team was the most challenging part of getting Sigma Promotions really going at a speed that I was excited about. Once you have the right people in place, engaged and enthusiastic team members then you build great relationships where you can trust them to handle a lot of the things that entrepreneurs have a natural tendency to “hold on to”. The reality is that finding the team was initially frustrating but a character building process. I feel lucky to work with such a dynamic team and the success of the business would not be where we are if it weren’t for them.
3. You’ve personally dealt with exponential business growth at a time when you were unprepared for it – what happened, and how did you deal with it?
Nikki: Yes! During the recession we had a year of explosive growth! We were up 43.3%. It was an incredibly exciting time but also a very scary time to try and balance larger orders, pre-paying suppliers overseas and waiting 120 days to see payment from clients. That growth period was one of the most exciting and darkest periods of my entrepreneurship. As they say, cash flow is key to a thriving business and juggling that growth posed it challenges. I was able to set up a line of credit to help facilitate the growth but also leveraged my relationships with vendors to explain the delays and work out payment plans to ensure we juggled everything. I was told repeatedly it was a “good problem to have”. Now I see that but at the time it was terrifying!
4. In hindsight, if you had known then what you know now, what would you do differently?
Nikki: If I could look back, I would have developed closer relationships with my banker, kept them updated on our growth and looked for that line of credit earlier. I would have also hired faster and trusted that I would see a return on investment by doing so.
5. We would love your advice – How can a business owner ensure that they are prepared – both for the possibility of extreme growth, but also for lower than expected growth?
Nikki: Extreme growth can cause stress but keep your communication open with the people you work with. Don’t be afraid to reach out to clients for deposits to protect yourself and keep focused on the long term. During that period I was ready to throw in the towel. My husband reminded me that it’s during these periods that most people opt out and what sets you apart as an entrepreneur is your stick-to-itiveness to make it happen and make a significant impact in the business world.
6. Lastly, what is a quote that has helped you throughout your career?
Nikki: “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you too can become great.” Mark Twain