“Thank God for that,” shoots back Jeff.
Becoming serious, Rich offers, “First of all, people realize this is authentic. This is real. We’re talking
in street language. We’re not talking in fancy MBA
talk. And I think [people like] the fact that we’ve
been street fighters out there, the fact that we aren’t
billionaires and the fact that we have a real love of
people and of helping people. Also, frankly, I think
we have a certain zest for life and a sense of humor
about us, and maybe that’s a little bit contagious.”
and grow a business. Yet nobody else has been able
to build a small-business consultancy that has
grown as quickly and appeals as universally as
Jeff and Rich Sloan offer
these tips for small-business
Go for 10 percent of a
1watermelon instead of
90 percent of a grape.
Be willing to share equity and
revenue in order to create a
much bigger opportunity.
Outsourcing is in! Take
2advantage of expert ser-
vices that reduce dis-
tractions from what you’re
truly good at doing.
Use the “CEOs” of com-
3munication. Create a
regimen of communica-
tion with Customers,
Employees and Owners, and
make it a two-way street for
Know thy end game.
4Realize success by
working backward from
your ultimate “dream-come-
true” to today and define all
of the steps necessary to
achieve your desired ending.
Hitch your wagon to a
5star. Team up with
strategic partners who
can accelerate your growth
and help you achieve
Harness the power
6of public relations.
Getting your press
releases picked up in the
media is a low-cost way to
boost awareness and, ultimately, sales.
Manage your burn
7rate. Control the dollars
so they don’t end up
Bonus: Don’t buy into your
own hype! Be confident and
willing to take risks, but don’t
fool yourself through emotional decisions or hubris.
The difference is in the chemistry, the delivery,
more than the content. The Sloans relate easily to
entrepreneurs, speak their language and have a way
of gaining immediate trust—a lot like Tom and Ray
Magliozzi on NPR’s Car Talk. They tell people to
create a life plan—do some soul searching—long
before a business plan.
The brothers are asked, “Why has StartupNation
been so well received?”
“My brother is extremely charismatic,” deadpans Rich.
Jeff adds, “What really turns us on is sharing every
pearl of wisdom we’ve learned with people, and doing
it in a way they feel they are being entertained.”
And there’s the brother factor. “Though it’s not
present every day, or every hour of every day, it’s the
fact that Jeff and I are brothers, and we have a lot of
rapport with each other that we like sharing with
other people,” says Rich. “And we have a lot of love
for each other. It creates a really positive environment for people to do their learning.”
The Sloans run their company equally, sharing
the titles “co-founders and head coaches.” Jeff, as
befits an older brother, is more of the big-idea guy;
Rich calls himself more of the “guy who finesses the
big ideas and makes them operational and real.”
Rich: “I play the smart role.”
Jeff: “I play the brilliant role.”
High times for entrepreneurs
What is clear is that StartupNation has struck a
nerve in the world of where and how people work.
The Sloans call the first decade of this millennium
“the heyday of entrepreneurship,” for several reasons.
For starters, the corporate world has lost its luster for many people, says Rich, “because of a feeling
you’re treated like a number instead of an individual.” Also, technology enables anybody with a computer and Internet access to cut out on their own
and start a business.
“This is an unprecedented time, when you have
a toolbox that will allow you to construct the business of your dreams, really, like never before,” he
says. “There are things that allow you to run your
business out of your home, which about 53 percent
of all businesses in the U.S. currently are, and it’s a
expanded interview with Jeff and Rich
Sloan in the August Online
Edition at costco.com,
under “Costco magazine.”
Another interesting factor is that technology is
enabling more women and minorities to run their
own businesses, particularly from home. Outside
the corporate environment, there is no glass ceiling.
“There are no preconceived conceptions that
might get in the way,” says Rich. “It’s all about their
mission, their passion, their ability, and the table is
set for them to create their business. So really it’s an
The Sloan brothers
talk business during
a Microsoft Webcast.
extraordinary time. Extraordinary.”
And this may be just the beginning. The Small
Business Administration estimates that 550,000
small businesses are started every year in the United
States. And the Sloans, who love to travel, say other
developing countries, such as Russia, India and
China, may see incredible periods of entrepreneurial growth in the coming decade.
“There’s a huge hunger for entrepreneurial
smarts in those places,” says Jeff. “Hopefully,
StartupNation and those needs will find a way to get
When start-ups grow up
Insatiable entrepreneurs inevitably reach a
crossroads: Their company is no longer a start-up,
but established. What then?
The Sloans say StartupNation offers challenges
that will keep them busy because of the company’s
growth potential. But, more important, they find
fulfillment in their business well beyond the bottom
line. “Yes, we make money along the way,” explains
Rich. “But this is almost like running a nonprofit or
something involved in an extremely important
social mission for us. In fact, this is a mission for us.”
He continues, “We’ll stick to StartupNation
over the long haul and offshoot businesses will be
introduced over time, because inside of us there is
an entrepreneurial fire that will constantly need
those new logs, those new businesses, to keep that
Meanwhile, the Sloans are living the lifestyles
they laid out in their own life plans. Both live within
a few blocks of their office in Birmingham, Michigan,
their hometown, and can walk to the office.
Perhaps another fly-fishing trip or two are also
ahead. Rich is asked, “How did that picture of your
first trout turn out?”
He laughs, “It looks like a shark.” C
The Costco Connection
StartupNation: Open for Business, by Jeff and Rich
Sloan, is available at costco.com. Also, Costco offers
a variety of services for small businesses, including
credit-card processing, loans and lines of credit,
payroll processing and check printing. For more
information, see costco.com, under “Services.”