In 2003, JD Weisbrot and his brother, Michael, opened a small, surety bond agency in a modest 600 square-foot office — just enough space to fit two people! A year later, their business, JW Bond Consultants, Inc., became the first agency to approve bonds online, directly on their website.
By 2009, they were the largest volume producer of surety bonds nationwide thanks to instant, online approval, and the rest, as they say, is history. Along the way, JD learned some valuable lessons in what to do — and what not to do — as an e-Bond pioneer.
I recently talked with JD about his experience starting a business, how the business has grown and changed over the last 13 years, and what advice he’d give other finance entrepreneurs and small business owners. His insights into business management and marketing are valuable for all small business owners, whether your business is focused on finance or another B2B service.
Structure New Ideas for Finance Entrepreneur Success
As the first surety bond agency to approve bonds online, JD and his team have always been on the cutting edge of what’s next. But as any small business owner knows, simply having a good idea is not enough to guarantee its successful execution. JD follows a disciplined process for idea implementation.
“We believe any idea that’s worth doing is worth doing right,” says JD. “Whether we are introducing a new marketing strategy or internal process overhaul, we follow a clear process for implementation, measurement, feedback and improvement.
“For example, when we launched online tools like our online surety bond comparison chart, we had a few hiccups before we got it right. Failure happens, but without a strategy in place for understanding why it happened, you’re doomed to repeat the same mistakes.”
JD understands that idea execution is the real test for innovation success. Strategy, process, structure and capability are as important as the idea itself. Establish a clear feedback loop for measuring effectiveness and implementing iterative change. Failure is to be expected: if something fails, be ready to learn, adjust, adapt and pivot.
Invest in Software Automation
Most service businesses do not have adequate software automation, observes JD, who calls software automation the “biggest need of most small businesses.”
“Small businesses don’t have the capital or ability to create their own,” says JD. “Therefore, I believe the biggest opportunities are in filling these needs through application development and providing it to them in a SaaS environment. It’s not easy, but I believe that’s where the biggest opportunities are for those that are capable of tackling it.”
In the last decade, the productivity of mid to large-sized businesses has multiplied thanks to big data and SaaS applications. Only in the last few years have small businesses started getting on board with SaaS for data visualization, analytics, and automation. Small business owners take note: software automation is beneficial for everything from cultivating leads to up-selling existing customers.
Enjoy the Journey
As a small business owner myself, I know it’s hard not to focus on the “finish line”, be that landing a major client or rolling out a new product. Setting goals is important. It keeps us focused on the big picture and prevents us from getting too absorbed into the day-to-day minutia.But as JD and I both know, there’s always a new goal just over the horizon. If you don’t slow down and enjoy the journey, you’ll constantly be rushing from one milepost to the next, which is exhausting for both you and your staff.“
When I first got started, I focused so much on the end goal, that I missed out on the journey,” says JD. “I became so attached to the end outcome that I could not celebrate the smaller ‘wins’ along the way. As our company expanded, I learned to slow down and appreciate the process. Celebrating smaller wins is important for overall morale. Endlessly driving to a final goal is exhausting for you and your team. There’s always a new task or goal on the horizon. If you can’t enjoy the dance, you’ll mistake it for a race.”
It’s hard not to be inspired by JD’s journey. JW Bond Consultants, Inc. has grown from a small, two-man business to the largest volume producer of surety bonds nationwide. He’s spot on with his advice, too: have a clear plan to implement new ideas/manage failure, streamline business through software automation and most importantly, enjoy the journey!
Lessons Image via Shutterstock