Advice to Aspiring Entrepreneurs from Bliley

Every entrepreneur has a story that is unique to their industry, their team, and ultimately their journey to success for their company. Although no two success stories are identical, when experienced entrepreneurs share the knowledge of typical business practices that they have applied, it proves to be helpful to those who will come along the way in the future. No matter what industry you are in, it is important to study and take heed to the advice of those who have gone through the process of entrepreneurship before you– especially, if you are an aspiring entrepreneur who does not know where to start. That is why we spoke to Rob Rutkowski, a member of the team at Bliley, to give advice to and inspire the future innovators of tomorrow by sharing details on Bliley’s unique journey to success.

 

Can you give a brief description of Bliley, who it serves, and when it started?

Bliley Technologies manufactures frequency control and timing devices. Our electronic devices include quartz crystals, crystal oscillators, and electronic filters & sensors. In layman’s terms, our products help applications maintain a very specific frequency over time to help keep accurate timing and increase the bandwidth and clarity of communications. Some of the key industries we serve include satellite communications, aerospace, military & defense communications, medical, and telecommunications.

Bliley was founded all the way back in 1930 by manufacturing timing devices for military communication devices in WWII. So, how could Bliley be considered a small business with an entrepreneurial spirit, you ask?

In recent years, new ownership and management decided Bliley needed to basically restart and build from the ground up the way our founder, Frank Dawson Bliley, did. We believed this was the only way to completely disrupt the nearly 100-year-old industry and make Bliley great again. We’re now a small team of around 50 people who are on a mission to apply the latest innovations and an entrepreneurial mindset to become #1 in our industry.

What have been some of the biggest lessons learned at Bliley?

Learn to fail, and take the lessons from those failures. 

We’ve learned that to disrupt an old industry and become the top leaders in it, we need to take big risks. This requires trying new things that have never been done before in our industry. We’ve found that this requires a lot of trial, error, and experimentation. Yes, failing does not feel good, but some of our greatest successes in recent years were the result of failed experiments from which we learned from and overcame. One example of this was investing in a strong digital marketing strategy (that really no one else in the industry has).

What does success at a company like Bliley look like?

Other than the obvious “more sales” answer, gaining market share in our industry is a huge success. Switching costs for customers in our industry are high. Customers tend to purchase the same frequency control products from the same manufacturer for many years because they trust the product and know that it works well in their application. So, when we’re successfully able to overcome this challenge by proving our value proposition is better than what they’re currently buying from our competitors, it’s a huge success.

What systems have been set in place to help Bliley grow?

I’d say our top three have been applying a fresh company culture, standardizing our products and adopting a strong digital marketing & sales strategy.

Like I mentioned before, our digital marketing & sales strategy has set us apart from just about all of our competition. This has helped us to significantly expand awareness to customers that have never heard of us before. We’ve also seen our marketing efforts attract customers from our competitors, which is always great.

Our industry has largely been based around custom parts for many years. However, in recent years we’ve adopted systems to help simplify and standardize our product offerings. This allows our products to be cheaper and helps us get parts out the door faster, ultimately putting us ahead of the competition.

Most importantly , applying a fresh company culture system has significantly helped us to grow. We believe that a happy and satisfied team is what really drives growth. In recent years, we’ve added  new and better benefits, such as unlimited PTO, that help give an extra spark of satisfaction and motivation to the team.

If you could offer a first-time entrepreneur one piece of advice, what would that be?

“Don’t sweat the petty things and don’t pet the sweaty things.”

I know it sounds really cliché, but it’s so important to take risks, experiment with things never done in your industry, expect to fail, and then keep pushing on. Don’t let failures slow you down.  DO NOT DWELL when the inevitable setbacks occur … keep at it, find ways to stay motivated & passionate, and the light at the end of the tunnel will keep growing brighter

I have an idea… but where do I start?

Think big and take things one step at a time. Big ideas can intimidate people, and often times aspiring entrepreneurs settle with the more practical route instead of shooting for the stars. Try thinking of some big risks and experiments that could lead you to a big end goal, then just dive in. Break that one big goal into a bunch of really small goals and just take on each small goal one step at a time (of course while keeping the big picture in the back of your mind).

I have an ecommerce business, but how do I drive traffic to my site?

Blogging! I believe everyone can be a successful blogger no matter what industry you’re in. For us, the majority of our website traffic comes from our blog. It’s one of the easiest and most effective ways to rank for as many keywords relevant to your business as possible in Google. Therefore, you can drive new eyes to your site by answering relevant questions or concerns your customers may be facing.

Once the traffic is flowing, it’s easy to direct leads and potential customers to your ecommerce site through simple call-to-actions on your blog. Feel free to check out blog.bliley.com to get a taste of our strategy.

If I have an idea, but I’m still in the very early stages of my business, how can I raise funds?

If people like you, they’re going to want to do business with you. And if they don’t, you’re going to have a huge obstacle to overcome. Focus connecting with people at a human level,  making potential investors believe in you as much as your idea, if not more. Show them that if your idea doesn’t necessarily work out, you’ll find another way no matter what. This will help lead you to more funding opportunities, faster.

Tips on perfecting our business  pitch?

Focus on capturing attention immediately and put your bottom-line up front (BLUF). People tend to make judgements and decisions of you and your idea within the first few seconds of hearing your pitch, so confidence and style count!  Get the most valuable details out early.

Also using strong, rapport building, body language can help you make a good impression early on. Be sure to smile, shake hands, and keep the front of your body open during your speech (don’t cross your arms). Subtle, but can help set you apart and make you appear more confident in what you’re saying.

What are some myths of entrepreneurship that Bliley has debunked along the way? 

Most people tend to automatically associate entrepreneurs with start-up companies. We’ve learned that entrepreneurship doesn’t necessarily apply only to brand new start-ups. Bliley is a good example of a small team of entrepreneurs coming together to turn a slow 85+ year old company (in an outdated industry) into a booming, innovative machine.

Our founder, Frank Dawson Bliley, started the Bliley Electric Company by turning his passion into a successful business during the greatest recession in our nation’s history. Today, we’re channeling his same entrepreneurial spirit and grit to completely disrupt an aging industry with new ideas and by trying new things. We believe this is the soul of entrepreneurship.

 

Whether it was through learning lessons from mistakes and failures, or implementing innovative digital marketing strategies in an older industry, Bliley has shown itself to be successful by remaining resilient and focusing on the bottom line of the company. As Rob stated, maintaining the same entrepreneurial spirit and grit of the company’s founder has allowed Bliely to stay more than afloat in an industry that was outdated.

 

About the author

Danielle Ibuaka is a senior in the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State, studying International Politics and Digital Media Trends & Analytics.

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