How many entrepreneurs can draw on a list of life experiences that includes growing up on Caribbean islands and spending time in Indiana farm country? Michael Verrill, Vice President of Strategic Development for The Sharp Financial Group, invited a guest to Money Matters’s segment Growth Stories who has these precise qualifications. Thad Bench is the CEO and Owner of Benchworks, a full-service partner for creative pharmaceutical consulting, market development for licensed products, logistics management, and wholesale distribution for the healthcare industry.
He spent his childhood tagging along on his parents’ adventures through the Midwest and Caribbean. Along the way, he picked up a few skills that prepared him for starting and running his business. He shared some of those early learnings as well as broad takeaways from his multi-decade career as an entrepreneur on Growth Stories.
Takeaway 1: When someone in a position of authority treats you well, pay it forward to others under your authority
Bench shared a story about his former boss Bob Turner. When they worked together, Bench worked on the east coast and Turner worked on the west coast, so they saw each other infrequently. Whenever they met, Bob would turn off his computer, ask for his calls to be held, and explained to Bench that the time was truly dedicated for their conversation – and for Bench to share his feedback and experiences. The level of attention that Turner gave to Bench made him feel valued, and he has since brought the same energy into his own organizations to empower his employees.
Takeaway 2: Adaptability is key to everything – even business survival
Years ago, Bench noticed that his competitors were vertically integrated distributors. To compete, he knew he would have to make significant changes to his business – and that they might not pay off. Fortunately, he made the changes and this adaptability enabled business revenue to increase from $10 million to $30 million annually. This strategy paid off again when Bench considered new business headquarters to meet customer demand in new territories, and was able to further improve his business.
Takeaway 3: Don’t let yourself get pigeonholed
Bench recalled walking into meetings with sophisticated advertising agencies and being called “The Tchotchke Guy.” As a purveyor of branded pens and other items, Bench knew where the moniker came from, but didn’t let that stop him from participating in strategic conversations around messaging. Eventually, this strategic value led clients to ask Benchworks to work on more projects – and that helped his firm take a more holistic approach.
Takeaway 4: Ask for help when you need it
Few professionals need as much help and support as entrepreneurs, and Bench advises entrepreneurs to ask for that help. Whether that means asking clients, vendors, bankers, or colleagues, most are good people who want to help others succeed. Critically, he says that following through on the advice someone gives you will make them more likely to want to help you again in the future. Bench also recommend getting help from books about entrepreneurship, including works authored by Jack Welch.
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