Ignite Quad Cities, a program of the Chamber aimed at cultivating our entrepreneurial culture, hosts a monthly gathering called Ignite Quad Cities Entrepreneurial Meetup. These informal meetings are open to anyone interested in connecting with other people considering starting their own business.

At last week’s Meetup, Philip Allen, president and owner of Grace Engineered Products, which creates innovative workplace electrical safety solutions that keep electrical workers safe from live voltage and make compliance with NFPA 70E safer and more productive, shared his startup story. Allen said he always knew he wanted to have his own business. His journey started in 1991 as an engineering service business, which was sold and restarted as Grace Engineered Products in 1998 with five people. With a Made-in-America motto, he recently helped found Letter2Word, which creates beautiful hand painted words for your walls.

Allen says that the big question to ask customers is "why did you buy?". Understanding this answer almost automatically aligns your business priorities with customer needs. A lot of business people think they know this answer, but never bother to directly ask this question to their customers. As a result, they miss a whole lot of opportunities.

Allen shared his thoughts on the difference between business managers and entrepreneurs:

Business Manager Entrepreneur
Creating processes around opportunities Create opportunities
Manage resources Find resources
Add value Create new markets and more values
Troubleshoot issues Build innovation and collaboration
Limit risks Take and manage risks
Planning and execution Vision and planning

Allen also shared key lessons he’s learned over his 24 years as an entrepreneur:

  • Know your numbers
  • Be resourceful
  • Have a vision, and be able to see needs 2-3 years in the future
  • Prioritize
  • It isn’t all about me
  • Why buy? Know your customer base.
  • Replace your job – planning, budgeting, and delegation
  • Build a safe work environment

Finally, Allen says that his faith is very important to how he does business, even inspiring the company name.

"Challenges that others see as insurmountable, I see as only a bump in the road because of my faith.”

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