Shelley Reich was a stockbroker who shifted gears three years ago to concentrate on her lifelong interest in home furnishings. Using credit cards and investments, Reich opened a business making decorative pillows, accessories and furniture. Unlike many entrepreneurs, Reich makes time for annual two-week vacations and leaves work at 4 p.m. each day. Reich said she has been able to make time for her personal life by ensuring that her company functions smoothly without her. She was interviewed by freelance writer Karen E. Klein.
If something happens to me, my company will not fall apart. The key to happiness for me is having a company that makes money and functions without having me there all the time. I think there is something intrinsically wrong with my company if it can't go on without me.
When I first went into business, I read a theory that every company needs three key people to survive--the creator, the entrepreneur and the businessperson. I realized that if I had a capable, trustworthy person in each of those areas, my company would be a success. If I tried to be all three myself, I'd find it absolutely impossible.
That's why I watch the work flow and I have protocol and operations books for the company that are updated regularly so the people who run various areas can understand how everything is supposed to work. We have very thorough training for every person who is hired.
My talent lies in delegating, finding key people and putting them in the right jobs, watching them, nurturing them to the point where they can do the job without me.
If it means that I have to take less pay to have a really great person in place--like an in-house bookkeeper--then I'll do it. I'll make more money in the end.
When I hear about companies going bankrupt, what I suspect I'm really hearing is that the owner is tired, frustrated and doesn't want to work such long hours anymore. The problem when you're just starting out is that you get so busy reacting on a day-to-day basis that you don't have time to be proactive.
During the first year of my company, I spent every day reacting to one trauma after another, until I finally decided I had to stop. Now I've identified what I'm good at--which is designing the line-- and concentrate my time on that.
I moved from Los Angeles to Idaho to start my business because my family lived there and I wanted to be able to live very modestly, without taking much from the company to live on, so I could invest everything back into the firm.
But as the company got bigger, I started to have a lot of problems with transportation and labor shortages in Idaho. I didn't know how I would be able to move back to L.A., but I met with the Mayor's L.A. Business Team and they helped me relocate. I felt like I had won the lottery when they helped me secure funding and find my new location.
Now we have a 42,000-square-foot facility that should be operational soon. Within the next year, we are projected to hire 80 more people and open a second building.
Once you know your plan, you can't possibly fail in business--and I say that having been down the road to bankruptcy three times. Business is just a game of chess and you can't lose until they take your king--which is you. I live by that one, and it works.
If your business can provide a lesson to other entrepreneurs, contact Karen E. Klein at the Los Angeles Times, 1333 S. Mayflower Ave., Suite 100, Monrovia 91016 or send e-mail to email@example.com. Include your name, address and telephone number.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
At a Glance
Company: RH Home Collection
Owner: Shelley Reich
Nature of business: Manufactures furniture
Location: 1800 E. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles
Projected annual revenue: $1.2 million