Erwan Heussaff was only 22 years old when he decided to quit his job overseas and return to the Philippines to put up his restaurant business.
Born to a French father and a Filipina mother, Heussaff opened his cocktail bar in 2013, which was the first of its kind in the country in Bonifacio Global City.
The business was so successful that Heussaff started getting offers to open more restaurant outlets. Seeing the potential growth in mid-income market, he thought that he should focus on high-end, boutique restaurant concepts.
Soon after the success of his first restaurant, Heussaff, who graduated in France with an international business degree in hospitality, started developing new concepts and expanded to as many as eight restaurants.
But in just few years of operation, the business started to slow down due to declining customer retention caused by rising competition in the market. Heussaff eventually had to close down all his restaurants to prevent further losses.
In the meantime, Heussaff’s health and lifestyle blog site was beginning to gain traction. Heussaff, who used to weight 240 lbs, developed the blog site that he called The Fat Kid Inside as a hobby during the time when he was running his restaurant business.
Learning the lessons from his failure, Heussaff saw the opportunity to increase his engagement with his followers and grow the site as a full- time business.
As the site became increasingly popular, Heussaff leveraged on the traffic of his platform to generate recurring revenues.
Today, Heussaff has successfully transitioned The Fat Kid Inside from a food and lifestyle site into digital content creator that is viewed by millions of online followers both here and abroad.
How did Heussaff survive his failure and move on to become a successful digital entrepreneur?
Here are the five business lessons every aspiring entrepreneur can learn from the founder of The Fat Kid Inside, Erwarn Heussaff:
1. Create effective accountability and leadership
Everyone in the organization must understand their roles and specific tasks to carry out their strategic plans. When there is accountability, there is alignment in the company.
“In restrospect, there are always more things you can fix and change,” Heussaff says. “I was very young and very excited. Everyone goes through that especially when you are an entrepreneur.
“My biggest lesson with everything is to really create the right partnerships to make sure that all partners in the business have specific goals that they need to be responsible for.
“Whoever is taking care of finance, he should be solely focused on finance. The one who takes care of operations should solely focus on operations, so in that way, there are no meddled roles. There is no finger-pointing so you will know what went wrong and why it went wrong.”
2. Create opportunity to improve skills and gain wisdom
There are many things in business that cannot be simply taught. You need to experience it in order for you to learn and appreciate it. This is because only through experience can you put wisdom into your business decision.
“When I talk to students nowadays on entrepreneurship, I always tell the moderators that you know what I actually don’t recommend entrepreneurship unless you are a genius and you’re extremely good at what you do,” says Heussaff.
“Experience is important but more important is the wisdom because a lot of people don’t teach you that. How do you handle problems? How do you talk to staff?
“If you are out of college, do not become an entrepreneur yet. Find a mentor. Go work with a big corporate structure because they can also teach you about reporting what your investors need to see. There are various things that you never learned in school.”
3. Create a decisive attitude to take risk and persist
You are likely to make mistakes in business, big or small but without persistence, you may give up easily and lose the chance to learn from your failures and become a better entrepreneur.
“If you have the courage, the heart and the mind to become an entrepreneur then go for it,” Heussaff says. “There are so many good ideas and there are a lot of people who are smarter than you, but it all comes down to the person who is going to work harder for it.
“If you don’t have the balls to steal it, there is no way in hell are you going to survive it. It’s all about identifying opportunities, being smart enough not to jump on those opportunities right away and being able to create a sound business plan moving forward to put that idea into fruition.”
4. Create a platform that provides value to customers
Understanding what your market wants and how to deliver it with better quality and content is one way to add value. A customer does not only pay you money for your service but also time, effort and energy.
“People were dependent on platforms to be able to distribute their content,” he says. “I saw that happening in social media especially for video, so I said what can I do to put myself in a position where I am not only a person in social media but a platform of my own that can bring value because of my captive audience?
“How you build it will really highly depend on what you are creating but then the big question is, how do you value it? Let’s say one video got one million views. How do you value that one million viewers?
“If my video got 50,000 views but those 50,000 were actually interested in what I am selling or talking about, isn’t that more valuable than one million people watching it for entertainment?”
5. Create a positive emotional brand connection
Customers want to evolve with brands that give them meaning. When you get their loyalty, customers can be your effective product advocate. They can help you promote goods and services through word-of-mouth marketing, social media sharing and network referrals.
“I don’t agree with the saying that if anyone can build it, they will come,” Heussaff says. “If you have to build it and finance it, maybe they will come but how do you keep them coming? That’s the one thing that people don’t tell you.
“I think nowadays brands tend to be consumer first. It’s really knowing who your target market is and understanding them. It’s building a community around your brand and making your brand a trustworthy partner in their daily lives.
“How do you become so strong? How does your brand become so strong that by looking at the logo and the font, your people can associate you directly not only with the product you are selling but the lifestyle you want to emanate?”
Henry Ong, RFP, is president of Business Sense Financial Advisors. Email Henry for business advice firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @henryong888