Today is the fifth anniversary of my business formation as Kmc Brand Innovation, LLC. As I reflect upon these past five years, I feel compelled to share some of my lessons learned with you, my fellow motivated business leaders.
Truth be told, my business was born out of necessity. I was in-between jobs and found myself in a precarious position. No company would hire me (at least not in my time frame or on my terms).
What a gift this turned out to be!
A networking friend, Alan D. Weber (a marketing professional who retrained himself and is now qualified as a certified financial planner with Merrill Lynch) gave me a good piece of advice. He suggested that I start consulting as a way to “keep the pencil sharp.” He also said I would be able to answer the question “What have you been doing with your time?” with a respectable answer “Oh, I’ve been consulting with various clients during my job search.”
After my first consulting engagement, I quickly fell in love with the freedom, the challenge and the idea of paving my own way in the world of work. Finding my first client was easy. I met Optometrist Dr. Leora Berns of Avon Eye Care at a Soroptimist meeting. She was looking for a marketing consultant to help her grow her medical practice. I was looking for my first client. It was a match made in Heaven. (Incidentally, it was feedback from Dr. Berns that led me to discovering my brand, Marketing Motivator. )
Perhaps I was blessed with beginner’s luck, but the entrepreneurial reality set in as I struggled to land my second and third clients. My misguided marketing pitch “I can do anything for anybody, because I’ve done all kinds of marketing in my 22 year corporate marketing career” resulted in no bites. I have since learned that if you attempt to be all things to all people, you will effectively be nothing to nobody.
The key to entrepreneurial success is to focus and specialize.
It took me about 12 months to really let go of the “I need a job” thing, to burn the proverbial ships and fully commit to creating my future. My fence sitting days ended when a good friend of mine loaned me a book on how to be successful in consulting. It was a big, fat, voluminous book. The value of this book for me came in the first page. It said “If you want to be successful in your consulting business, you must commit yourself 100% to it.” That’s all I needed to hear. I took myself off the job market, removed my resume, I officially hired myself as CEO of Kmc Brand Innovation, LLC. That decision was five years ago.
If you want to be successful at something, you must fully commit to it.
My passion for entrepreneurs like myself drove my business strategy. I so wanted to help other small business owners grow their success. But I quickly found out that I would starve to death serving this sector. So I re-calibrated my strategy and went back to my roots of serving the corporate business market. This is where I had grown up, I knew this environment, they had budgets, and could purchase more than once. My patience would now be tested, as landing these big fish takes connections and time. But the payoff is worth the effort.
If it creates value, charge for it appropriately.
My success increased when I raised my prices. To be taken seriously in the market, your pricing strategy must reflect the value of your offering. In my early days, I was giving it all away for free. No need to buy. My networking meetings would turn into full-on free consultations for the other person. To this day, I still feel compelled to offer value to people both online and offline. I don’t feel compelled to charge them for every bit of help I provide. But, I have experienced the correlation between helping and receiving. There is also a strong correlation between asking and getting. It takes courage, self confidence and a thick skin to price your services as a premium. And that’s what successful people and successful companies do. Why not you?
I also have adopted the mindset that when you hire me as your executive presentation coach, you are not investing in me, but rather you are investing in your own future. If you don’t think your career and future is worth investing in, I’m okay with that. The problems that clients ask me to solve have already cost them a great deal and will continue to cost them a lot (mostly opportunity), if they continue to let the problem exist. I have also noticed that people only act when the pain of changing is less than the pain of staying the same.
If you need more help in this area, purchase Alan Weiss book “Value Based Fees: how to charge and get what you’re worth (ultimate consultant series)” . Note: Mr. Weiss charges a premium for his book. No discounting!
Stop trying to do everything yourself! Get the professional help and tools you need.
I confess that I miss the bi-weekly paychecks that used to arrive on my desk when I was working as an employee for the big company. I also miss the unlimited supply of 3M sticky notes and other office supplies. Having the IT Help Desk was also a beautiful thing. But these things I can now provide for myself as a successful entrepreneur. I just needed to let go of the pennies, so the dollars can start flowing in.
Because cash flow is uncertain and unpredictable when you are building your own business, there is a tendency to try to do everything yourself or do without. This is a mistake. Your time is better spent on the things that bring in value to the new organization. You need to outsource most everything else.
Plant tons of seeds, knowing that some will come to fruition
Not everything you do in business will spring up immediately and profitably. There is no magic pill for success. Not many businesses that I know of have a “just water and grow” success guarantee. It’s bloody hard work and at the end of the day it is your effort and your passion that has made it successful or not.
My final advice to anyone brave enough to consider the entrepreneurial option is to plan on tilling the soil, weeding, planting a lot of seeds, watering, more weeding, fertilizing, and even thinning some of the sprouts to make room for the right ones to grow strong. And, it’s true, some the birds will get some of your seeds and some will fall on rocky soil. But with your patience, commitment and continual effort, your excellent seed will take hold.
When I am speaking to groups, my speaker introduction has a sentence in it that always gets an audible reaction. It reads like this: “She launched her entrepreneurial career five years ago – a journey she recommends to anyone with a spirit of innovation and the stomach for uncertainty.”
So, my question to you, dear reader, do you have the spirit of innovation and the stomach for uncertainty? Because if you do, entrepreneurship may be in your future. Embrace it and join me on the road to entrepreneurial success.