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Wild About Visionary Leadership

“Wild About Visionary Leadership”

Emily Voth’s company, Indigo Wild, Kansas City, Mo., manufactures all-natural soaps, soy-wax candles, body oils and other aromatherapy products for high-end organic-food retailers such as Wild Oats and Whole Foods Markets. Voth has always had an interest in herbs, gardening and natural products, and making soap started out as a way for her to forget about a job that she couldn’t stand. Last year Indigo Wild generated $750,000 in sales, and Voth expects to more than double that figure this year.

To maintain that fast growth, Voth, Indigo Wild’s president, wants to develop more products and concentrate on the bigger picture. The problem, however, is that she’s handling everything from reminding her five full-time employees to replenish the rolls of paper towels in the bathroom to overseeing inventory. She does outsource advertising and packaging and also has a financial consultant.

Now Voth seeks to understand how to transition from day-to-day manager to visionary leader. Here she elaborates:

I initially thought soap making would bring me maybe an extra couple hundred dollars a month. I was just dabbling. But when I started really researching and got obsessed with it, I realized aromatherapy was a hot thing. Baby boomers — people who were hippies and now have money — are my market. Our soaps are $5 each. People in our market are interested in natural products and are also the types who will buy $5 coffees. We’re not after the Walgreens or Osco shopper.

Our revenues have doubled every year, and this past April we were generating about three times the business we did a year ago. Wholesale accounts produce 80% of our revenues, while catalog and online sales account for 20%.

I want to continue to grow this business; I don’t want to sell it, but wish to keep selling the heck out of my soap for a long time. I want to more than double sales every year. That’s my five-year plan.

Yet I’m struggling now. I know a lot of entrepreneurs don’t want to give up control, but I realize that I can’t continue to do everything. Whom do I hire next? Sure, we have a great staff, but I am still managing everyone. I think I need a CEO, but I’ve heard that sometimes companies fail when they hire one because the entrepreneur wants a clone of herself and ends up disappointed. In addition, a business consultant has been calling, wanting to run Indigo Wild for me. Half of me likes the idea, while the other half says "Whoa!"

I only spend about 20% of my time on sales strategy, product development and marketing. I’m now figuring out how to implement a new accounting system before the 2001 holiday season, while I continue to run the day-to-day operations and work toward launching a new line of body lotions, a new baby product line and new holiday items.

With all of this on my plate, how can I boost the time I spend on marketing and sales strategy to 80% and expend only 20% on operations?