When: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - 800am - 930am Where: The Orchards What: Email Marketing Seminar Who: Berkshire Direct (Kevin Ellingwood, Jeff Stripp, Allen Jezouit)
Local marketing firm Berkshire Direct will deliver a 90-minute seminar on email marketing strategies and tactics. Whether you’re a for-profit business attempting to drive ecommerce transactions on your store site or a non-profit seeking to engage your donor base with ongoing messages, this seminar is for you. Please RSVP by contacting Judy Giamborino at 413.458.9077 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You know the feeling. The, "Oh boy ... I hope this works." Or, "Whoa ... we better get this contract." Or any of a thousand other variations of that same sensation. One word. Doubt. The entrepreneur's worst enemy. Heck, our economy's worst enemy. Doubt. Because, doubt is ultimately what stops us from taking risks, and what keeps our economy stagnant right now.
My company, in cooperation with our printer/partner, recently published our first catalog and started mailing it this week. We worked on it for two months including building a website that complements it in look, feel, colors, etc. There is some fear involved when you are small business and you are investing in a marketing campaign like this for the first time. But, how else do you grow?
1) If you stop marketing, you stop selling.
2) If you stop selling, you stop growing.
3) And, if you stop growing, you start dying - it is that simple.
Knowing all that, there is still doubt. Amazing, isn't it?
I've been fortunate to work for some great people over the years, people I really admire. The ones I admire the most are the ones who - in their own way - have rolled the dice. Some have been corporate types, who rolled the dice by earning promotions and accepting relocation after relocation in order to move up the ladder. In a lot of industries, that's the path people must follow to become C-level executives. Nomadic. But, for some, the benefits are reaped when retirement comes in early to mid-50's with a 7-, 8-, or even 9-figure nest egg in stock and options accumulated over a lifetime spent in airports and hotels. That takes a certain type of commitment, and plenty of opportunities for doubt. Do you move when the kids are in high school? Do you go to work for this particular manager, who has a bad reputation? Do you leave one company to move to a competitor?
That said, true doubt can only be found in entrepreneurs. The kind of doubt corporate lifers experience as described above is troubling, but pales in comparison with the doubt entrepreneurs experience. Entrepreneurs have that much doubt before breakfast. To paraphrase that old recruiting commercial, "Entrepreneurs ... we have more doubt by 6am than you have all day." Doubt about making payroll. Doubt about hiring. Doubt about the economy. Make it or break it sort of doubt.
I think back to a prior job of mine. Whenever a new real estate project was going on the market, I'd wake up shaking on the mornings that the advertising was supposed to start. Maybe a million piece postcard mailing was due to start showing up in people's homes that day. Or, a two week radio and television blitz was starting. Did I pick the right newspapers? Did we buy the right mailing list? Did we put the right phone number on the postcard? I'd be on pins and needles until I got a call from the sales manager saying, "The phone is ringing off the hook here!" The anticipation was incredible. When I think about the risks that the developers were taking when they laid out the money to pay for the land, the permits, the roads, the amenities, the marketing ... well, you've got to have cast-iron guts to be in that business.
Doubt is working against our country right now. Companies have doubts about their customers, their vendors, their banks. Bankers are leery to extend credit even to each other. People are leery to borrow, fearing for their jobs. Corruption and conflict in DC coupled with national mid-term elections that are less than 100 days away further fans the flames of doubt. Wall Street teeters and totters, bullish one month, bearish the next. It is an ugly, visceral thing, this doubt. Yet, there are signs we are shaking off this doubt. The American spirit is not easily quashed. Some of us must still love that doubt. Revel in it. New companies continue to spring up. New business relationships are formed and new technologies are designed and marketed. And, new catalogs are put in the mail ...
One of my most important jobs as a business consultant is to listen. I go to networking events. I go to seminars. I meet with several different types of business clients each week. In general, I encounter people who seem to fall into two different camps:
Business owners who are excited about their work, are engaged in their businesses and actively participate in their professional communities.
Business owners who are tired, frustrated, and depressed - who have forgotten what they once loved about their chosen profession and feel enslaved by it.
Working with people from Camp#1 is exhilarating and inspiring. The collaborative work I do with the crew at Berkshire Direct is a privilege. In fact, our team at Custom Business Solutions is lucky to be able to work with a long list of clients that fall into that camp. We have diligently built a list of positive, motivated clients and partners.
Working with people from Camp#2 is also exhilarating and inspiring, but for different reasons. When I have the opportunity to work with small business owners from that camp it is because they have finally asked for help. Most of the entrepreneurs I encounter who feel out of control, helpless and stuck in their businesses either stopped analyzing the numbers when times got tough or didn’t know how to do it to begin with. There is no shame in not being an accounting expert when you start your own business. I wouldn’t call myself a very good plumber or electrician either, and like most people, I don’t call in the pros until something has really gone awry (and is maybe flooding the basement). We all put off asking for help in different areas.
Answer the old standard questions:
- Are you running your business or is it running you?
- Who’s driving the bus? (Do you have a vision? Do your people know it? Are they helping you move the business in the right direction under your leadership?)
- Where do you want to be in 5 or 10 years and do you know how you’re going to get there?
It’s scary to face reality sometimes, especially when we’ve taken a beating in a tough economy. It’s impossible to think creatively and to be excited about business when we are worried about being able to cover payroll and the mortgage. Knowing the truth and making a plan always feels better. It’s about taking control and taking responsibility for the future of your business and ultimately for your family.
Look at the numbers with a professional. Most of us will sit down with you for an hour and offer you a first look without it costing you anything but the time. Ask your accountant, your banker, your peers - someone you trust to give you an objective opinion or to recommend someone who can help you.
If your books are not in order enough for you to share your financials then it’s time to ask for help there. If you don’t know the truth, how can you fix what’s not working? It is usually cheaper in the long run to outsource those pieces of the business that you are not good at.
Once you know the truth and have some objective support, make some decisions, finds ways to adapt to the economic changes, look at selling, refinancing, or renegotiating your relationships.
You will feel better about your work. You will feel supported. You will know where you’re headed. And all of those “good feelings” come not from analyzing your emotions about what is going wrong with your business but instead they come from looking at the numbers and the cold hard facts. Only then can you solve what is stopping you from thriving in your business.
Ask for help. Look at the numbers. Take control. Breathe.