Follow the Leaders
When you look back at your first entrepreneurial endeavor, do you recall a sweet image of success – or an embarrassing moment of failure? For Aaron Montgomery, Co-Founder and COO of CarLotz, it’s the latter.
Speaking at a recent VACEOs membership luncheon, the charismatic executive shared what he described as one of the biggest blunders of his life, which happened during his second year at Harvard Business School. It took place during the decade when many entrepreneurs subscribed to the business philosophy of “Get big fast” and/or “Figure it out as you go,” Montgomery told the group. It’s a great story involving t-shirts, some of which he probably still has!
The good news is that Montgomery’s mistake paved the way to a better, more accountable, and leaner way of doing business. Today, he and the CarLotz ownership team adhere to a simple formula:
1. Create a hypothesis.
2. Speak to customers (get data).
3. Take that feedback back to the lab.
4. Refine the idea or product.
It sounds simple, but it’s a formula the car consignment company has followed many times to successfully streamline marketing messages, refine various internal and external processes, and hire the right candidates.
Speaking about the company’s reliance on data and information, Montgomery said, “All of our feedback came from actual interactions, and not just theorizing what we were going to do and saying to ourselves, ‘Here are all the studies on this, so here’s what we’re going to do.’ We got actual customer feedback. We asked actual people.”
“You can make a change that’s small and test it for performance results, but you’ve got to be ready to embrace that sometimes small changes can lead to big ones and let go of the idea of throwing it all in and seeing what happens.” – Aaron Montgomery, Co-Founder and COO of CarLotz.
Montgomery also stressed the importance of what companies do with their data. “You can make a change that’s small and test it for performance results, but you’ve got to be ready to embrace that sometimes small changes can lead to big ones and let go of the idea of throwing it all in and seeing what happens.”
The philosophy is working – and well. CarLotz, which was founded in 2011, just opened its fifth retail location not long after making it onto The RVA 25 – Richmond BizSense’s list of the area’s fastest-growing companies. (To learn more read: “CarLotz Poised to Grow.”)
This learning experience was taken from the VACEOs Quarterly Luncheon presentation “Test and Refine: Building a Business in the Face of Uncertainty” with Aaron Montgomery (Thursday, November 17, 2016).
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