Ventura Partners Hits the $1 Million Revenue Threshold

This article is written by Kim Frentz Edmonds, CEO of Ventura Partners

I have an addiction to reading business books. Girl’s Guide to Building a Million Dollar Business by Susan Wilson Solovic was always high on my list. However, the idea of MY own business hitting a million dollars in revenue seemed as fantastical as aspiring to become the next Oprah. Through my work with Darlene Crane and the PROPEL Small Business Growth Program*, I was able to modify this perspective. My new mantra – hit a million dollars in revenue and employ 10 or more people to move the business to the next level.

Ventura Partners is an organization with a mission. Our work creates opportunities for equitable ownership of community assets in real estate. It hasn’t been easy to center the financial growth of my own company within this framework. Darlene helped me internalize the view that growing businesses owned by women and people of color is vital in shifting the power dynamic in our society. This opened my mind to include my own business growth as a meaningful act.

In 2021, we reached the $1 million revenue and staffing threshold (10 employees). My company changed from being an extension of me to being an entity of its own. Our business structure allows others to grow and assume critical roles. We have established a Leadership Team to take on planning and strategic decisions. We have measurable financial goals and a specific plan for meeting them. We have metrics to make sure our pricing supports the value of our work and have streamlined our billing system to capture revenue and manage cashflow. We are outsourcing parts of our overhead that don’t yet warrant in-house staff.

I am still adapting to decision making through this new lens. I am allowing myself to delegate relentlessly. And, while I am still a bit uncomfortable that there are projects at Ventura Partners that I know very little about (because someone else is in charge of them), I remind myself constantly that this is not only fine, but important to the growth of the company.

One of my proudest moves recently was hiring someone who was an independent consultant and “competition” in our field. Not quite rising to the level of “mergers and acquisitions” (except in my own mind). It was instrumental in my ability to hand off high level projects that previously could only be accomplished by me, and it has expanded our network of clients.

I attribute our increased velocity of growth over the past four years to my shift in focus and mindset and implementing important organizational structures. I am enjoying the prospect of winnowing my role in the company to activities that hyper leverage my strengths and feed my interests … and I’ve adjusted my reading list, too.

Additional questions from Darlene:

What strategies did you use to get through the pandemic?
We shifted sales efforts when the forces on revenue shifted. We have a wide range of commercial property related services. So we shifted in the 2008 recession and through the pandemic. We shift to development projects, property management or strategic projects. Right now, non-profits are investing funds in the future.

What is the future direction for Ventura Partners?
Not doing things that are distracting to our primary mission. Being hyper focused on things we do well. We stick to a 30-day on-boarding process for new projects, developed better systems, and pay employees well.

*PROPEL Small Business Growth Program by Alliance for Community Development. The program’s focus is to build capacity in local community members, training local entrepreneurs who identified as women, people of color and veterans to bring their vision to fruition. The program was delivered in Oakland, California from 2013 – 2015.

Ask for the Right Business Resources

There is a chicken and egg challenge about finding business resources. You cannot really find the best resources at the price you can afford unless you know what that resource or service is named and the benefits will help address your need. Here are three steps to finding resources to get to a better future.

  • Figure out what kind of resources you need
  • Ask for services that meet specific need/needs
  • Select a service provider you trust to generate results and outcomes

Figure out what kind of resources you need

This is actually the hardest step because our egos as owners gets in the way. We start worrying about failure rather than the path to results and outcomes. Focus on what your business needs are and put the ego aside.

In these times, all businesses in hospitality need more sales and revenue. Then you may have gaps or out of date strategies for product offerings, marketing plans, and consistent promotions.

Other needs related to the pandemic are:

  • Securing enough inventory due to backed up supply chains
  • Managing stressed employees

Once you know the top one or two you need. Now you can identify the appropriate services you need. Then you can go to chamber of commerce, economic development depart of your city, industry groups or colleagues to get referrals to marketing, operations management, or human resources specialists. Many of these professionals are volunteering to help small businesses now.

Ask for the services that meet your specific needs.
Select at least three service providers to interview and prepare for the interview by:

  • Writing down a brief description of your business and the needs you have identified. Identify your specific needs when you contact the service provider and ask:
    • Do you work with small business owners with needs like mine?

Asking that question saves a lot of time for you and the service provider. You can also ask:

  • If you do not deal with my business needs, can you refer me to a professional who does?

If they are an experienced and ethical consultant, they should refer you to a professional, who can meet your needs.

When you find the right specialist, then create a few interview questions to ask potential services providers:

  • What is your specialty within your profession?
  • How would you work with me to address my needs?
  • Do you work with business owners on payment plans in these challenging times?
  • Can you provide referrals to prior clients?

By comparing the answers to the same questions, you should be able to decide on the best fit resource for you and your needs.

Contract with a service provider you trust to generate results and outcomes

Use the contracting process to establish the foundation for a professional relationship focused on business results and outcomes. Ask for a proposal with a cost estimate and payment plan. Read the full proposal and ask a lot of questions. Make sure you and the service provider are clear about the purpose, steps, and work effort to achieve an improvement in the condition of your business.

Adjust the agreement to describe clear steps that focus on your needs. Work with the service provider on how to make changes as conditions change over the contracting period. Work through creative ideas and suggestions to improve on the work plan and activities to achieve your results. It is important to share your work style and confirm that it works with the service provider.

If you are uncomfortable in the contracting discussions, courteously end the discussions. Improving company performance is based on trust and confidence in the owner’s relationship with the service provider. If that trust and confidence is not there, you cannot force a project to be successful.

When the contract captures the results of all these discussions, then you have increased the potential for a successful engagement. More importantly, improvements should be visible in customer behavior, operations or financial position of your company in the future.

Using these three steps should lead you to the formation of your trusted team to call on for success in the short- and long-term to make a better future.