David Salerno is the founder and CEO of Solpak inc, a meal-packaging and transport solutions company. He founded Solpak when he saw an opportunity to serve a very niche market in a new and innovative way, by bundling distribution, servicing and advising to food service organisations. Solpak is autonomous and still growing strong with a team of 8 team members. He also is heading the startup of Thermogo, an innovative suite of multi temperature controlled trucks and accessories.
David founded Small Business Sherpa in 2016 with the mission of helping small business owners start and grow their business with clarity and confidence so that they can truly enjoy their trek in a business that serves them. Not the other way around. In his previous career, David had been a coach and trainer in the corporate world, where he honed his skills in guiding others to improve themselves in their careers. This passion to teach and coach, coupled with his successful small business owner experience led him straight to this mission.
Why Small Business Sherpa? A traditional Sherpa is an experimented guide that accompanies trekkers up mountains, usually the Himalayas or the Everest. He has been up these mountain many times, understands the dangers and pitfalls on the path and can make the adventure more organized, and a little bit easier for others. He serves others so that they can enjoy their path up that mountain. This is the metaphor used for the small business journey.
Early on, it was not always easy. At age 17, David became the youngest franchise owner of Student Painters, an organisation hiring students during the summer to do residential paint jobs. Although he quickly caught on to the franchise’s great system, he unfortunately failed miserably, in part due to his inexperience, in part due to his family situation. That summer, he had to let go of his entrepreneurial dream and was forced to leave his home. These dramatic family and business failures stimulated his intense desire to one day start his successful business again, care for his own happy family and one day help others succeed in business despite their own personal and professional struggles.
After 10 years spent in the corporate world, after a merger related job loss, David fell upon an innovative packaging solution and started Solpak at 31. Stocking inventory in his garage and using his basement closet as an office, he had to take care of everything, from selling a premium and barely known solution, to preparing and delivering orders, while managing marketing and financial functions. It took more then 4 years to get to a level where could afford to pay himself a salary barely similar to his corporate job but he was strung out. This could not have been what he dreamed about. Constant overtime, recurring cash flow issues, no success in sight. Was the corporate world is only financially-viable possibility?
He took it upon himself to overhaul his whole thought process and approach to growing his business. He started to study methods and systems to improve the situation, compiling and synthetising what worked best in a small business environment. He even invested thousands of dollars in training, courses and coaching over the next few years to fine tune his method. While there are a lot of solutions out there for running a business, they are often either too simple to be effective, or to cumbersome to implement and upkeep with a small staff. This method transformed the way his business evolved, with happier team members and a high level of satisfaction from clients and partners. The business started growing faster. The cherry on top? David had more money and more time on his hands to spend with his family.
He shared his learnings with fellow entrepreneurs who also would feel overwhelmed. A friend from France even told him, months late, how he had used his feedback to free up precious time for his family. Partners such as bankers and suppliers were impressed by the organisation’s accomplishment with such a small team. A major new client even mentioned he might need Solpak’s marketing team expertise in his field, without realizing Solpak is a small outfit without a marketing team. Multiple clients have congratulated the team on the outstanding service while highlighting the fact the had never seen that level of service in the industry. More than 97% of its clients would recommend Solpak to colleagues and partners. The method is a proven success.
David’s method encompasses the right mix of strategies adopted by some of the largest firms while safeguarding the small business environment, keeping in mind the limited resources such a small organisation has. He believes every small business owner has the potential and ability to bring his or her small business to a level of autonomy through personal breakthroughs and the right framework.
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