A Conversation With Sunil Godse

Sunil two book logo (1)

Two years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Canadian writer and extremely successful business consultant Sunil Godse at the launch for his first book, Fail Fast, Succeed Faster. Sunil has long counselled others about the importance of accepting, and even embracing failure and gut intuition. He claims we are so busy touting the goal of success that we forget about the values and lessons learned through failure and our ability to tap into our intuition as a method of sound decision-making and growth. With his new book, Gut, available now, Sunil travels the globe talking to groups about his books and what he’s learned about these two vital aspects of life. Welcome Sunil!

Interviewed by Debbie A. McClure

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Q         What is the premise behind Fail Fast, Succeed Faster?

A         The premise is very simple. By learning from the failures of others, or even better, by being prepared to overcome your own hurdles, you should be able to reach success much faster in whatever you do.

Q         In preparation for this book, you interviewed many people, including some very prestigious business men and women. What is the thing that surprised you the most about the disclosures, and why?

A         What surprised me the most was how quick these prestigious interviewees were in giving me an interview despite their very busy and hectic schedules. On top of that, they were so eager to share their negative experiences. This was so surprising because I thought that they would have been afraid to reveal some of the weaker moments in their personal and professional lives, some which led to drastic financial losses and in one case, a bankruptcy. I am so pleased that this was not the case.

Q         What life lesson has been the most difficult for you to learn, and why?

A         The hardest life lesson for me is in prying myself away from the professional arena to spend more personal time with my family. It sounds like a cliché, but what I have learned over the years is that when you are doing what you love, then there is no such thing as a work/life balance. What I need to learn is to make sure I swing the pendulum a bit in the direction of having quality time with my family; given all of the projects I seem to dip my fingers into. It is a constant battle for me, as I need to trade off doing what I love professionally for loving moments with my family. What I have realised in the past few years is that what remains for a long time after you are gone are memories of times together with friends and family, not the accomplishments you achieve as life passes you by.

Q         Why did you want to write a book about failure?

A         I have made a career of helping people and businesses overcome their failures. I am also very aware of the incredible statistic that over 90% of small businesses fail within the first two years, which is ridiculously high in my opinion. People want to run a business for various reasons, but don’t always understand what it takes to run an actual business. For example, someone may love cooking and know how to cook exquisite and tasty meals, but running a restaurant business means that one needs to think about things such as financing, pricing, food wastage percentage, marketing, presentation, logistics, staffing, wastage, and many other issues not related to the actual cooking of the food. Without this knowledge, or having partners who have this knowledge, the business faces a steep uphill battle from the moment the doors open for customers. I know this first hand, as I ran a Mexican restaurant with other shareholders for over two years without knowing anything about cooking tacos. This is because I ran the restaurant as a business and left the cooking to chefs and sous chefs. As a result, the business was profitable from the first day we opened.

Specifically writing a book about failure came about as I saw a real need to educate those looking to get into business. With blogs, articles, and some research articles here and there, it became clear there was no single reference to outline some of the common mistakes entrepreneurs and business people make along the way. So, like a good business idea, I found a problem that people were willing to pay me to solve! That is how Fail Fast. Succeed Faster. was conceived.

Q         In your second book, Gut, you address the issues of trusting your instincts, or “your gut”. Can you give us an example of when you either did or didn’t trust your instinct that resulted in a life-changing outcome?

A         Launching my consulting career was solely based on intuition. Despite graduating with an engineering degree, my intuition “told me” to leverage my degree and help companies find operational efficiencies. I approached one company and told them that they only needed to compensate me if I found annual savings. So, if I found nothing, I made nothing.

In three months, I found $90,000 in savings and this was my first successful consulting paycheque. This changed my life and propelled me to start my entrepreneurial career running a restaurant, a wholesale clothing company, a retail clothing company, and a Mexican restaurant. This experience also gave me the opportunity to consult for other companies.

In addition, I regularly use my intuition when it comes to solving problems for my clients. With some time needed to educate myself on the circumstances that led to the problem, I usually know what the solution is. The rest of the time is implementing the solution to the problem.

For example, there was a company that was in trouble despite having a very strong business model. After some investigation, my intuition was to regain the trust of the employees, which they had not had from current management, and utilize basic policies and procedures to help sustain the growth of the business model. These, combined with the regained trust, allowed me to help grow the company from $300,000 to $2.5million in 2 years. These consulting wins are also life-changing, as they lead to other larger consulting opportunities which I may not have been able to reach.

Q         What has surprised you the most during your writing journey thus far, and why?

A         What has really surprised me is that I continually meet people who, after they read my book, attend one of my speaking engagements, or meet me, openly share their stories of learning from failure,  trusting, or not trusting their intuition. Everyone has a story to share, which I find absolutely fascinating.

A recent example is when I was in Stockholm talking to a crowd of over 200 people at a conference about intuition. A woman approached me after my talk and told me that her intuition spoke to her in a dream, telling her that her husband was planning to leave her. She had absolutely no clue that this was happening. After making a few phone calls, she discovered that her husband was in fact surreptitiously trying to sever his relationship with her and their children. She quickly began protecting her assets, which she said was “in the millions of dollars”. She specifically told me that had she ignored her intuition, she would be penniless and homeless today. I was stunned to hear this.

Q         You already operate a very successful business consulting firm, Radical Solutions Group. Why take on the myriad challenges of writing a book?

A         Being a serial entrepreneur and business consultant, I have been surprised by the lack of knowledge in the entrepreneurial process and the sheer dedication needed in taking a seed of an idea and turning it into a viable business. As mentioned before, something needed to be done to help educate those looking to start a business regarding the potential hurdles they might face right from the start.

With this thought in mind, I went through my rolodex to begin the process of interviewing people of interest. The rest is history, so they say!

Q         Where do you see the opportunities for people to tap into their intuition and utilize it more successfully in their personal and business lives?

A         People really need to take a step back from their extremely busy lives and take the time and opportunity to discover how to trust their intuition more efficiently. Put very simply, they need to listen to their intuition and take the steps to overcome the hurdles that curtail their intuitive abilities. Having clients overcome these intuitive hurdles is something I have been doing regularly for both my coaching and consulting clients with great success.

Q         Do you have a few strategies to share with our readers for moving beyond failure and into success?

A         The first thing people need to do is to redefine failure. Failure is an end state. I suggest people call the failures what they are; mistakes. They can then change their focus to find out what hurdles were encountered when making those mistakes. Finally, they can use their intuition to overcome those hurdles, or avoid them completely the next time they get in that same situation. If they can do these steps, success is a few short steps away.

Q         What do your family and friends think about your new writing and public speaking career?

A         My family fully supports the decision, as they see the passion I have for this new-found career. They have also seen the successful results from those who have used my services. Many of their friends and colleagues have heard of the book or my media appearances and have wished me luck through my family members. My family often tell me how proud they feel when they talk about me or my accomplishments. That really puts icing on the cake for me!

Q         Could you explain why you chose to self-publish rather than traditionally publish your books?

A         I had spoken to a lot of people about the book writing business before I even started thinking of putting a book together using the same process as any business venture I might get into. In the end, the book and the other aspects of publishing a book, such as conference organization and speaking engagements, had to have a good return on investment. Given the economic realities of the publishing industry and knowing how I wanted to market the book and my speaking opportunities, the control had to be on my side. This meant that self-publishing was the best route for me to go.

Q         What’s next for you Sunil?

A         I am continuing to speak, run conferences, and coach both personal and professional clients. I am also mentoring a number of entrepreneurs and have a wonderful family who keep me sane. This means I’m extremely busy, but I am so fortunate to be doing what I want and love to do.

Learn more and connect with Sunil Godse here:

Twitter: @sunilgodse
Facebook: www.facebook.com/SunilGodseAuthor

LinkedIn: ca.linkedin.com/in/sunilgodse

New website!: www.sunilgodse.com

Radical Solutions Group Inc.: www.radicalsolutionsgroup.com

Be the Red Jacket in a Sea of Gray Suits

Leanne Hoagland Smith

Because of my own background in sales and marketing, when asked by Christina Hamlett to interview author Leanne Hoagland-Smith, I was intrigued. Once I delved into who Leanne is and what she’s accomplished thus far, I came away extremely impressed. With over 30 years in sales and a Masters in Science from Purdue University, Leanne knows what she’s talking about when coaching clients and writing this book. In addition to penning Be The Red Jacket in a Sea of Gray Suits, she’s the author of over 4000 articles, a weekly business columnist for the Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana, and a contributor of various business journals.

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Interviewed by Debbie A. McClure

Q On the surface, your subject matter seems to be sales, but what would you say is the point you really want to get across to people who hire you or purchase your book?

A To stand out in the crowd be it in sales, in being hired, or in one’s personal life, requires adherence to solid, personal core values that are non-negotiable. Additionally, your beliefs drive your actions generating your results. If you want better results, look to your beliefs, invest time to assess through reflection, speaking with mentor, or taking physical assessments. From those assessment interactions, you will gain immense clarity as to what you need to do. Then you can have exceptional execution because you have taken the right action steps in the right time frame.

Q People often struggle with how to be unique, and forget that they are intrinsically unique by nature. What advice would you give to those seeking to bring their “red jackets” out of the closet?

A Return to your core values, know what those values are, and live by those values. Those who consistently demonstrate unwavering positive core values are noticed because so many people short cut their values because “everyone else does it.” I would also add; demonstrate emotional intelligence, because Zig Ziglar said it best “sales is the transference of feelings.” What he implied but did not say was that everyone is in sales. We are always transferring feelings. When we transfer those feelings with emotional intelligence, we are the Red Jackets.

Q What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned about yourself since you started coaching others and writing this book, and why?

A Sales is truly a simple process. My sense is sometimes we make sales too complex because of all the nuances to the latest and greatest sales fad, and fail to understand Ziglar’s words and emphasis on feelings. Within all that complexity, we lose sight of what we do well, our own authenticity, because we are trying to emulate someone else.

Q Who would you say is/was your greatest mentor, and why?

A My greatest mentor is my Swedish grandmother. She showed me how having a purpose and a plan really make a difference. I did not realize how her story was so essential to my own business. As I grew older and realized how much she accomplished with her clarity of purpose, I recognized what I needed to do.

Probably my second greatest mentor is my father, who was a lifelong salesman. He shared with me practical insight that is just as true today as it was 50 plus years ago.

Q Women are particularly vulnerable to the fear of appearing too pushy when dealing with clients, bosses and co-workers. In some cases this extends to just about every aspect of their lives. What advice would you give these women?

A First, we can only control our own behaviours. My sense is there is too much emphasis on what others think, and so a self-fulfilling prophecy happens. ‘I cannot say this because someone will think I am pushy.’ The reality is, a man can say exactly the same thing and be viewed as assertive.

When women learn to leverage their innate emotional intelligence and refrain from keeping their emotions out of any sales conversation, success does happen. There is a direct connection between active listening and emotional intelligence. These are two skills that women can leverage to increase their sales results as well as life outcomes.

Q Writing a book often seems easy for those who’ve never tried it. What were some of your greatest take-aways from that experience, and why?

A Writing a book is a commitment to time. Schedule a daily goal to write 750-1000 words. Non-fiction books are at a minimum 30,000 words, or a book that can be read on a two hour plane flight. Within a month you can have the bulk of your book written. Then start the editing process. One piece of advice; do not try to edit and write each chapter. Write the entire book and then edit it once or even twice. Let your flow, flow. Editing restricts that natural flow.

Q I love the title, and the image it conjures, of the Red Jacket. How did you come up with it, and what does it mean to you?

A The idea came during a discussion with a colleague while we were talking about how small businesses need to differentiate themselves. He mentioned standing out in the back of the room where people are rushing up to you to learn more about you. At this time, I mentioned “kind of like wearing a red jacket with a lot gray suits milling around.”

What the Red Jacket signifies to me is differentiation, not only in one’s solution, but in one’s presence. Today we hear the word disruptor. A Red Jacket disrupts the landscape because everyone else is in black, gray, or blue suits. Wearing a Red Jacket also gives an internal confidence and strength.

Q Can you give us an example of a funny or difficult situation you encountered when conducting a seminar, webinar, or book signing?

A When I first transitioned from training and development into executive and sales coaching, I was approached at a business to business networking event by a “certified coach” who asked who “certified me”. My response was “my clients.” She then again said, “No, I mean what organization certified you?” I responded “My clients, through the results they quickly achieve, certify me.” She then replied, “Well, results are not everything, and you are a fraud.”

Given she was also a practicing psychologist along with being a certified life coach, I was amused by her comment. She obviously lacked emotional intelligence not to mention some basic sales communication skills.

My answer to her statement of my being a fraud was “You are entitled to your opinion. Obviously my clients do not believe so, because they hired me for results.” What is interesting to note over the last 18 years; I have been only asked if I am certified by other certified coaches, and never once by a client.

Q  Many companies utilize “rewards” of everything from experiential adventures to items with strong perceived value for their employees and clients to encourage engagement. What rewards would you say work the best, and why?

A People buy from people they know and trust. They first buy on emotions, justified by logic. Salespeople are people as well. Letting people know they are doing a great job by offering support sometimes will go far further than extrinsic rewards.

Handwritten notes encourage engagement. People appreciate you took the time to physically find the card, write the card, and mail the card.

Again, we sometimes get lost in all the hype and just fail to connect with people. Yes, people want some sort of incentive, but first they want to be remembered. President Teddy Roosevelt said “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Q What would you say is a company’s greatest ROI (return on investment), and why?

A That is such a simple question to answer: Your people are your greatest return on investment. If you have hired the right people with the right talents making the right decisions for the right results in the right time frame and within the right environment, you will receive the greatest return on your investment.

Q How important would you say social media is to business, and what is the biggest mistake you’d say businesses make with this new contact/engagement method?

A Social media is important for any business that wants to grow. As mobile takes greater and greater presence in the B2B and B2C worlds, not having a social media presence will have your business behind the flow, and possibly even dying on the river’s bank.

From my experience there are four big mistakes. The first one is not engaging in social media, believing it is not for you or your business.

Not understanding that social media is a marketing channel and can deliver exceptional ROI with a minimum effort is the second big mistake. Here is where automation tools such as HootSuite come into play.

Expecting social media to deliver instant results ranks as the third biggest mistake. As in any marketing effort, slow and steady wins the race. Social media is not the quick fix to bad sales results.

Finally, social media does require engagement and sharing. The old one way marketing channels have been replaced with a dynamic two way channel. If all you do is spew your sales pitches and never share the social media marketing efforts of others, you will fail, and fail miserably.

Q What’s next for you Leanne?

A First is relocating the office from outside of Chicago to Northwest Arizona by the fall of 2015 provided as they say, “God willing and the creek don’t rise.” Second is to continue to offer an even stronger voice for small business owners with fewer than 20 employees who are in aggressive growth mode and require support to help them overcome people and process problems. Third is continuing the Red Jacket series. However, due to the forthcoming move and current client activity, this goal is in temporary hiatus. Fourth is to further market the Career and College Success Boot Camp for high school seniors and juniors. Our country needs good, ethical, and results driven leaders. Also, our economy needs leaders without excessive college debt. This Boot Camp provides a leadership foundation that most high school and even college experiences do not offer.

Author of Be the Red Jacket – http://bit.ly/1Q9mnV
Website: www.increase-sales-coach.com
Twitter: @CoachLee – http://bit.ly/1k0SPRa

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/ADVANCEDSYSTEMS

LinkedIN – http://www.linkedin.com/in/leannehoaglandsmith

2014 – Small Business Journalist of the Year – http://www.edayleaders.com/home

2014 – Best International Sales Blog – http://bestsalesbloggerawards.com/p/26/hall-of-fame.html
2013 – Top 25 Sales Influencers – http://labs.openviewpartners.com/top-sales-influencers-for-2013/
2012 – Most Influential Dame in Social Media for Indiana

Editorial Note: Although we’ve yet to meet in person, I had the privilege of including Leanne as a savvy contributor to my two most recent business books. She’s a true pro to work with and it was a pleasure for us to put her in the You Read It Here First spotlight. – Christina Hamlett

Business and Baby at Home!

Sarah_OBryan

I’m really pleased to introduce and welcome Australia’s Sarah O’Bryan, author of Business & Baby at Home! More than just an author, Sarah walks the walk of a savvy “mumpreneur”, as she juggles three young children at home while continuing to build her home based business, Lasso Creative, as a Graphic Designer. As if that weren’t enough, Sarah is also comfortable in the media, engages audiences during her public speaking talks, and writes insightful, helpful articles in various publications, websites, and blogs. In today’s interview, we get the chance to know a little more about this fascinating woman.

Interviewer: Debbie A. McClure

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 Q Sarah, could you please tell us a little bit about yourself and what lead you to write for and about work-from-home entrepreneurial mothers?

I’ve always been a firm believer in creating your own blueprint and leading with passion in life. I guess that’s why my husband and I were knee-deep in a gigantic dream-home reno at the same time I moved Lasso Creative into my home studio, and gave birth to my first child. Similarly, my third babe was born on the cusp of my book launch. I juggle the latest design project alongside the world that is Business & Baby at Home (Finch Publishing, 2013). This includes an appearance on the Today Show, contributing to numerous magazine features on the topic, and writing articles for Australia’s biggest women’s network, Business Chicks. Business and Baby at Home (Finch Publishing) is an extension on the way I run my business. It’s my way of passing on inspiration, innovation and the business acumen that I use to build my brand on a daily basis. The book is a set-up and survival guide for work-from-home parents, with a positive and engaging message that I believe is vital in today’s society.

Q What would you say has been your most difficult personal or professional lesson to learn?

I’m very ethical in everything I do, whether personal or professional and I’ve always had the natural assumption that others will behave the same way. It’s tough when you have to work with people who don’t share the same values. You’re left feeling let down and disappointed. I’ve learnt that it comes down to being mindful, and accepting jobs where values align for both parties.

Q If you could invite any two people to dinner, who would you choose, and why?

Frida Kahlo was a game-changer and has always fascinated me. She lived by her own set of rules, was a true artist and an amazingly resilient human being. I really admire resilience in a person. I would also invite Oprah Winfrey, because she’s such a wealth of information on life and business, has amazing connections, and is a true beacon of success. We share a common trait… she also loves food, so the table would be abundant, the music playing and the drinks flowing.

Q We all have aspects to our lives or our selves that aren’t well known. Could you share something about yourself that not many people know?

Most people tell me that I’m really relaxed and laid back, but it’s really the opposite. My mind is constantly ticking over, brainstorming new ideas and dreaming up my next goal in life.

Q As a woman on the move, I’m sure you have many, but what would you consider is/was your greatest WOW moment, and why?

Seeing the words of how my life works in print which lead to chatting to the stunning Lisa Wilkinson on the Today show, one of our national breakfast programs here in Australia. Being on set with the cameras, lights and crew was such a buzz! I was called on as an advocate for working from home and having that all-too-frightening discussion with your boss negotiating the move. It was new, challenging, and I felt completely in my element.

Q We seem to be seeing a global trend in this area, but why do you think so many women are choosing to work from home?

I think there are a few factors at play regardless of where you live. The first is the rise in the cost of living, real estate prices are sitting at an all-time high, and the weekly family food shop is an expensive exercise. For many, it’s just not an option to be a stay-at-home mum. Secondly, I think women want to retain some independence, and have an interest beyond motherhood. A lot of us enjoy our chosen professions, and want to stay connected with it. Others find becoming a mum is the inspiration for starting a new business. Plus, the world is changing, it’s now more acceptable to work from home, or create more unique work practices. Technology is continually evolving to support flexible work arrangements.

Q Working from home can seem like the ideal dream job, but what do you think are the biggest obstacles new “mumpreneurs” face and aren’t prepared for?

A lot of mums tell me they don’t feel supported by their partners or family and friends. In some cases, there’s an attitude that what they’re doing is not a proper job; particularly in the early days, when the business may not be making a huge profit. Support is very important. I talk in the book about adopting an equal-parenting approach, but also an equal approach to all the responsibilities of running the household. The other factor I’ve found is having the determination to persevere, even when you feel disillusioned. You can often hit roadblocks or speed-bumps, and it can be tougher than you think to get the business moving.

Q Time management and scheduling have to be the cornerstones for any successful entrepreneur. Could you give us an example of what a regular day for you looks like, and how you juggle all the various demands?

My day always starts with a cappuccino! I then get the older kids ready for school, and all the other usual family demands in the morning. Once the school run is done, and the baby is settled, I check my current work-in-progress schedule to figure out my priorities for the day. Then it’s all about ticking off the to-do list! I may design a new logo or brochure for a client, respond to a journalist or pop some material on Facebook or Instagram. I use my little one’s sleep schedule as blocks of work time. It’s great for client phone calls and is a really productive way to work, as you know you have a deadline the moment the baby wakes. By the afternoon, I’ve made progress. I always make time for some afternoon tea, park or play time with the kids. If my husband is home on time, he’ll make dinner and do a few household chores while I play tag and head back into the studio to finish any major projects off. It took a while for us to get the balance right, and while every day is different, we always end the day with dinner at the family table.

Q What do you think are some of the mistakes people make when starting out, and why?

The old saying, ‘do what you love, love what you do’ is a huge factor in finding success. Do something you’re passionate about because this is what will keep you motivated when you lack enthusiasm or are feeling exhausted. People often forget that whilst they may look like it on the surface, not many businesses are over-night success stories. Years are spent planning, working, networking and building businesses, and hopefully it’s done with joy in people’s hearts because they are doing what they love to do.

Q Really making any new business a long-term success is tough. What do you think is the secret to success for those who choose to work from home while raising a family?

I’ve found one of the biggest issues is knowing when to switch off. I know for me, a huge amount of self-discipline is required to not constantly check my phone, or think about the design project I’m working on. It’s really important on many levels to know when to take the work hat off, or vice versa, take the parent hat off when you’re working. It’s about being present, living in the moment, when your children are telling you about their day, or being completely on task when you’re working to meet a deadline. Work/life balance is never achieved, it’s just maintained.

Q Everyone wants to know; what are some of your best tips for mothers who want to successfully run their business from home, while still being a hands-on parent?

Keep a work-in-progress (WIP) list at all times so you have a record of your jobs. Update this throughout the day so that nothing slips through the cracks. Go over it at the end of your workday to help you switch off and relax, knowing that everything is in place. This also means you start your day with a clear direction of what needs to be done first.

Set reasonable lead times for yourself so that when you’re particularly busy you’re not overly stressed trying to deliver on time. It’s better to surprise a client by getting a job done early rather than it being late. If it’s taking longer than you expected, retain clear communication with the customer, assuring them you’re doing the best you can and that they’re a top priority.

Set short and long-term goals for both personal and professional achievements. These may be setting financial benchmarks, acquiring a number of new clients, or getting to Pilates once a week. It’s a huge encouragement and as you tick them off they give direction to keep you on track for where you want to go.

Maintain a strong routine that enables you to get your work done. A lack of routine can result in shapeless and unproductive days with no progress. We all know as a parent, you can get to the end of a day and think where did the time go? So create and stick to a routine that works for you and allows blocks of time that you’re working through your WIP.

Q How can we connect with you in social media?

Website: www.businessandbabyathome.com.au

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/businessbabyathome

Instagram: SarahOBryan_

Twitter: @SarahOBryan_

Thank you so much for your time today, Sarah! You’ve given us some great insights, tips, and encouragement on women/mothers working from home. Congratulations on the success of your book, Business & Baby at Home, and we wish you all the best in your future endeavours!

 

Editorial Note: Sarah O’Bryan is also one of over thirty experts featured in the newly released Office for One: The Sole Proprietor’s Survival Guide. (https://www.createspace.com/5029312)

 

 

The Guerrilla Rep: American Film Market Distribution Success on No Budget

Guerilla_Rep_Front_Cover

In 1909, the first feature film produced in the United States was a four-reel production of Les Miserables. Producers, however, didn’t think that the American public could sit still for any movie lasting more than an hour and, consequently, released it that year in separate one-reel installments between the middle of September and the end of November. Over a century later, movies continue to captivate us…and that’s without even knowing the multiplicity of elements that not only go into getting those films made in the first place but also getting them in front of an audience. Ben Yennie, author of The Guerrilla Rep: American Film Market Distribution Success on No Budget, gives us a peek behind the magic curtain of modern cinema.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: When did you first know that you wanted to play a dynamic part in the making of movies?

A: Despite the fact that I’ve always loved movies, movie making came to me in a very roundabout way. For most of my high school years, I wanted to be a Special Education Teacher. I had spent a lot of time volunteering with the kids in the high school’s program and I thought that was the direction I wanted to head in. At the time, my high school required every senior do a senior project. I had taken a video production course at the beginning of the year and decided that I would do a video on how to take care of one of the kids who was transitioning into a nursing home. While I was editing the video, I realized that I liked the process of filmmaking more than I liked the subject I was making the video on. So, I decided to go to film school.

Q: Did you originally see yourself as an actor, director or producer?

A: As with many others who enter film school, originally I saw myself as a writer/director. I had a knack for writing scenes, but pretty shortly into film school, I realized I was a really talented producer. I loved the social end of producing, and enabling creative people to be creative. As I went further into film school, I found that I understood finance very well for a filmmaker. The processes behind distribution and finance fascinated me. With that in mind, I transitioned more towards the deal-making end of producing. One thing led to another and eventually I ended up as a Producer’s Rep.

Q: Who or what were the influences that crystallized the choice for you?

A: One of the biggest influences was my first producing teacher, Bill Brown. He was also the person who got me to go to the American Film Market the first time. It was really under his tutelage that I took those first steps towards being a producer. There really aren’t many people who go to film school to be a producer. It’s not all that surprising, given most film schools’ producing programs aren’t all that good.

Q: What’s the best industry advice anyone has ever given you?

A: It’s cliché, but it really boils down to this: the film business is really about who you know more than what you know. The film industry relies heavily on social capital. If you are well liked and have good relationships with powerful people in the industry, you’re going to be far more likely to find success. The reason you go to the American Film Market is to meet the people you want to know and establish relationships with them. But remember, while you want to know a lot of people, the real trick is knowing the right people. In order to know the right people, you need to build a good reputation.

Q: So tell us how you made the transition from filmmaker to entrepreneur.

A: Well, if I’m honest, it’s not much of a transition to make. Filmmakers and entrepreneurs have a lot of the same skills. They’re both able to assemble a team, lead that team through long hours, and overcome any obstacle to create a product. However, filmmakers often lack a thorough understanding of marketing, sales, or financing. I happen to be fascinated with these aspects, so the transition was pretty natural. After putting in some time at The Institute for International Film Finance, I was able to see where the existing educational system was lacking and help to create a company that enables filmmakers to pursue a career independent of the studio system.

Q: What do you know now that you didn’t know then?

A: There are two things. The first, success is not a sprint, nor is it linear. It’s a long journey with many ups and downs until eventually something takes off. You just need to keep going, keep trying, and do whatever you can to pursue your goals. It’s not about your daily progress, or even your weekly progress. It’s about your monthly, quarterly, and yearly progress. The most important thing you can do is keep your long term goals in place, and try to move them forward a little bit every day. You can get discouraged if you don’t feel better off than you were yesterday. If you keep building, you’ll grow a little bit every month and year.

The second thing is that as you go, you’ll realize your own imperfections and want to change them. If you really want to move past them, then just decide to do so. Committing to massive behavioral modifications overnight is unlikely to stick. It’s far better to focus on being just a little bit better every single day. Even if you’re only 1% better, it will accumulate over time into massive, sustainable transformation.

Q: Tell us how you ended up as a producer’s rep and what, exactly, does this involve.

A: I have a few relatively rare and highly valuable skills in the film industry. Agents tend to like me, as do many of the distributors I’ve worked with. When it comes down to getting the film in the can, there are thousands upon thousands of details that need to be sorted out, and I lose interest. So, I focus my efforts on helping filmmakers navigate the waters that are generally choppiest, and require a highly specialized skill set that I happen to have a knack for. There are plenty of filmmakers who can make a great film, there are far fewer who understand how to market those films and help them actually make some money.

I shifted focus to enable people to create films and get them distributed. And that’s what a producer’s rep does. He or she’s essentially an agent for filmmakers and films, helping them get packaged, funded, and distributed. I’m still new to this, so I concentrate on packaging and distribution over financing. Financing is a place I’d like to move into in a few years though.

Q: Since you focus on distribution and finance, do you ever miss making films?

A: I do occasionally. But, honestly, I’m more interested in episodic content at the moment. I think that’s the way the market’s heading and I have a few ideas that I’m currently developing. Nothing will be ready for prime time for quite a while, though.

Q: Why did you decide to start going to The American Film Market?

A: I started going to AFM on a recommendation by a friend and mentor, Bill Brown. It took a few years, but eventually I took his advice and booked a greyhound bus ticket to LA. I stayed in a shared bathroom hotel with my then producing partner, and did it on as tight a budget as was humanly possible. The next two years I attended were even more successful. By my fourth year, I had 55 screener requests for the 5 films I was repping. Success builds upon itself.

Q: This month marks the debut of your first book: The Guerrilla Rep: American Film Market Distribution Success on No Budget. What inspired you to write it?

A: A lot of the inspiration was from some continual good-natured ribbing from another good friend and mentor, Tony Wilkins. I attended a workshop of his, where he spoke of how he wrote his first book and then encouraged me to write my own. After a few months, I finally decided to write it. Now, just under a year later, I’m a published author!

Q: So where did the name for it come from?

A: I was on the floor at AFM introducing myself, and I met a fairly powerful series creator who ran a fairly big crime show on Fox. I introduced myself as Ben, and said I was a Guerrilla Rep. He loved the name, and we entered into a bet on who could make money with it first. Well Tony (different Tony), I win.

Q: Give us a brief teaser of what readers can expect to find inside its pages.

A: My own ego aside, the most useful things in the book are probably the parts I didn’t write. The contributions from the 6 distributors and the extended interview with Daisy Hamilton are the best part of the book. It’s practical advice on distribution straight from the horse’s mouth. The first 16 chapters are relatively in depth pieces of practical advice on how to find success at the American Film Market, mixed with some personal anecdotes and advice garnered on the floor of AFM. However, the really useful information is the tips from the distributors and financiers.

Q: What did you learn about yourself over the course of writing the book?

A: I had a fair amount of detractors when I started writing who said that there’s no way I could add anything useful to a book. I almost caved to them. What I learned over the course of writing the book was that I really do understand the subject matter, and on this particularly narrow field, I am something of an expert. It’s definitely a bit of a transition to that role, but it’s an exciting and rewarding one. There’s an excellent quote by Flannery O’Conner that says “I write to discover what I know.” Writing this book allowed me to discover that I know a lot more than I thought I did.

Q: The film industry is really tricky to break into. What motivates you to keep going?

A: That’s a really good question, and I honestly wonder myself sometimes. There’s this sort of compulsion some people have to create. Storytelling is just in some people’s blood, and some of those storytellers gravitate towards the tools that only visual media have. Personally, I love the feeling of being plopped into a sensory deprivation tank and being told a story with moving images, and being a part of that is really exciting for me. I think within every filmmaker lies a dreamer, and it’s the dream that keeps us all going. For me personally, I love being someone who helps people’s dream come true. There’s a certain magic in that.

Q: What qualities do certain filmmakers have that make you want to represent them?

A: There are a few qualities I look for when considering whether or not I want to represent a client. The first is honesty. If you lie to me, I’m not very likely to work with you. If you continually misrepresent yourself, then I’m not likely to invest my time in you either.

The second is stamina and dedication to a project. Filmmaking is a marathon, not a sprint, and if I’m repping you, I need to know you’ll be there to help us promote. The world of filmmaking is becoming more and more about building a community and a fan base around yourself, and if you want to have success, you need to make yourself a part of it.

The third, and the holy grail, is some sort of talent and creativity. Just because you have the tools to say something doesn’t mean you have something to say. However if you have this in spades but not the other two, I can’t help you. This is a business, and business relationships rely on trust.   I need to be able to trust you and know that you’ll deliver on what you say you will. So while you need to have all three of these things for me to work with you, talent and having something to say is not the be all and end all of my search for good clients.

It’s surprising, but it’s not always the best film that lights up the festival circuit. It’s the one that can generate the most buzz. This factor needs talent and creativity, as well as hard work and dedication.

Q: If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?

A: Honestly, I hate the current power structure. The fact that the industry functions on back room dealings at restaurants and film festivals is far from desirable. The general lack of transparency is alarming, and keeps new money from entering the business at the rate necessary for sustainable growth. If you don’t have an in to the industry, it can be very difficult to break in. I really don’t like the fact that if you piss off the wrong guy then your whole career can be kaboshed. I suppose this is true in any industry, but it’s particularly egregious in the film industry. One of my life goals is to disintermediate the industry, even by just a little bit. If I can do that through my ventures, then it’s a career well spent.

Q: Where do you think film production will be in the next 10 years?

A: At this point, even three years out is hard to predict. Ten years is nearly impossible to estimate, even for the most involved in the industry. But, since you asked, I’ll give a guess in broad strokes. If current trends continue, I think the really quality content is going to shift towards the episodic format and there will be an ever increasing focus on mobile and home based viewing. I think that finding success as a filmmaker will involve getting listed on some of the bigger aggregators and growing your own personal fan base to the point that you can build a stable income stream from selling your content to your fans. Then, the filmmaker will need to continue to grow by getting listed in festivals, larger aggregators, host community screenings, and work primarily independently of the major studio system.

Success will require filmmakers to build a cult of personality around their work, even more so than it currently does. The really difficult part will be rising above the ever-increasing level of white noise and oversaturation that’s flooding the market. In essence, the most valuable asset any aggregator or promoter will have is a truly engaged list. I think community and niche market distribution will be increasingly important, and a new realm of community screenings in atypical screening locations will become prevalent. Screenings in the backs of restaurants, schools, anywhere with chairs and a projector will be more and more common, and it will be on the filmmaker and promoters to spread the film.

Q: What would people be the most surprised to learn about you?

A: I’m absolutely addicted to Karaoke. I’m pretty far outside the standard demographic for it, but it’s probably my biggest vice. In fact, the launch party for The Guerrilla Rep will have karaoke. Just because I like it.

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: Quite a lot. We’re really stepping up the game at The Producer Foundry, and I just got promoted to Vice President of Sales at Taal, a mobile app that enables employers to take video interviews on any iOS or Android device. I’m also still repping films, running a blog, and starting to develop the next book. I’m really excited about all of it, but less excited about the lack of sleep it’s sure to lead to.

Q: Anything else you’d like to share?

A: I’d just like to thank everyone who made this book possible. I’d also really like to thank you for interviewing me. I’m looking forward to reading Office For One. *

 

Interviewer note: Ben is one of several dozen experts who contributed fantastic chapter content to my upcoming business book targeted to today’s sole proprietors.

Fired At Fifty

Christine Till

A Conversation with Christine Till

As if the stress of worrying whether you’ve saved enough for a comfortable retirement weren’t enough to keep you awake at night, consider an even more daunting scenario: that you’re suddenly let go from your job 5-15 years earlier than you anticipated. The employment pool is quite a different one from that which you originally splashed into as a new grad ready to take on the world. Is it too late to reinvent yourself, to take a leap of faith, to finally discover what you were meant to do?

Not only has author Christine Till (aka The Marketing Mentress) been there/done that but she has also written a timely self-help book to help the over-50 crowd rise from the ranks of society’s new wave of unemployables.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: Tell us about the inspiration behind writing Fired at Fifty.

A: January 4th of 2011 I walked into my office, where I had been working as director of sales and marketing for the previous two and a half years, all excited and ready with my marketing plan for the new year. An hour later I walked out of that office, fired, with no prospects.

After “the dust settled” I started applying for another job, but to no avail. It seemed that nobody wanted me, except one company that offered me $10.00 an hour. That wasn’t enough to even pay the mortgage! I would have to be working three jobs at that rate! It was at this point that I decided to dig for my strengths and discover what I had in my tool chest that society would need, want, and be willing to pay for. This now meant that I needed to “sell myself”.

As I attended networking meetings, I looked around those tables and discovered that most of the people sitting there had grey hair, or they were bald! Most of those people were in the same position as me! I watched many people with huge degrees of education fall all over themselves trying to express to their audience what they had to offer. I wanted to help them somehow, but you cannot just go up to someone and tell them, “You need to lose the wrinkly polo shirt.” That would shatter their self-esteem. I knew I could help these people, so I decided to write my story in a self-help fashion; they could learn from what I went through.  

Q: Who is the target market for your book and what’s the takeaway message you’d like them to glean from its content?

A: By the time I decided to write my book, I had discovered that sixty-four percent of my followers online were male. The age range was 45-65+. They were five to fifteen years short of their financial goals for retirement. They still had mortgages to pay and children in college. They did not have loads of cash on hand to invest in a business. They were desperate to find a way to bring in a good income. I knew I had the answer for them. I could show them how to discover “what they were meant to do”.

Q: What are the “tsunamis” you refer to?

A: There are two tsunamis rising ever so silently. We all know they are there, but we choose to ignore them for the most part…especially the grey hair’d generation. The first one is social media. If we do not get on this wave and ride it for all it’s worth, we will be left in its wake! The second one is the boomer generation. This generation is a formidable force like no other before it. It is creating a whole new economy of trade. Thirty percent of the new businesses started in Canada alone last year were by people over fifty. Almost forty percent of those startups were service types of business.

Q: I understand that you’re donating to a local seniors’ organization. Can you explain more about this?

A: When I was working with the senior care industry, I put on a seniors fair at a local seniors center. They bent over backwards to help the fair be a success. I could see that they were struggling to find ways they could generate funds for facilitating their activities in the center. So, when I published my book, I decided that I would donate one dollar from the sale of every book to them. I have also donated ten books to them, to get them started.

Q: Tell us about your toolchest and what’s in it.

A: When I was “fired”, I had a podcast show called “Eldercare 911” and I called myself the eldercare specialist. So it was a natural transition to start “The Marketing Mentress” show. LinkedIn and helping people get their social media organized is my specialty. This uses my skills of public speaking and sales and marketing. In the past, I have taught workshops on the topics of “Enhancing Your Personal Marketability” & “The Ten Commandments of Business Management”. I have also put together a workshop for new immigrants who are starting a business in this country to help them learn how business gets done here.

Q: What are some ways to turn your age into an asset, monetize your skill sets, and stay afloat in an unsettled economy?

A: Be proud of who you are and how old you are. Age is only a number. Realize that you don’t have all the answers and be willing to work with others to help you monetize yourself. You are a commodity that is available with many strengths to offer society. You need to understand exactly what you have that will be needed and wanted in our society today. You need to understand exactly what your niche market is and market to that niche on a regular basis. You also need to be different, or you are dead in the water.

Q: Podcasting is on the rise these days as more and more people embrace the idea of becoming an armchair producer. How did you happen to foray into this dynamic new media tool and how is it working for you?

A: Everyone in business needs to have a blog. Your blog needs to be the center of your marketing plan. My podcast blog is the center of my marketing plan.

What a blast podcasting is! I love having people on my show to chat about their business and what makes them unique in the marketplace. I had been podcasting for two years before I was “fired”. So it was a natural transition to my new show. My gift of public speaking and song are able to shine through this medium. I have used it to position myself in the marketplace through bartering for “stuff”.

People want to be on The Marketing Mentress show. They will trade and pay for the opportunity to be featured. That is a huge way I was able to pay for coaching and help for my business.

Q: A recent article on The Exchange, a finance blog (http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/the-exchange/baby-boomers-jobs-younger-workers-214210886.html?.tsrc=sun?date=90390905), sets forth the idea that one of the reasons college grads are struggling to find employment is because the baby boomers are postponing retirement and staying in the workforce longer than previous generations. What’s your response to that?

A: One day these college grads will be in the same position as the boomers. They will be changing their tune in a big hurry. What everyone needs to realize is that “the day of the job is gone”! We all need to have something on the side that we do to earn income for ourselves, even if we do have a job. We all need to be thinking entrepreneurially.

What these young people need to understand is that it is their boomer parents who have put most of them through school and helped pay for their tuition. These same parents have had to pay for their parents’ retirement assistance because their parents were not financially prepared. Now these parents need to replace those funds and pay off their mortgages, so they will have money for their own retirement.

You see, according to Statistics Canada, 85% of boomers are not financially prepared for retirement. Where does that put our pension plan? The longer they can work, the better off the whole country will be.

My question to these young college grads is, “Are you ready to pay for your boomer parents’ retirement?” Your boomer parents are going to live much longer than their parents and are going to require much more financial preparation because of that.

Q: According to research published in 2012 by the Urban Institute, workers who are 50+ are 20 percent less likely to get re-hired following layoffs than candidates who are half their age. Has the phrase, “You’re overqualified for the needs of this position” become the new euphemism for “We think you’re way too old”?

A: Personally, I don’t think this is the case at all. Businesses are simply making a financial decision. It has nothing to do with age per se. What is being said here is that they cannot afford to pay the kind of salary the candidates have been accustomed to. This statement is not unique to the older generation. I have had prospective employers tell me this when I was in my twenties and thirties. It has nothing to do with age and everything to do with budgets.

Having been in the position of managing the finances of a company, I have seen firsthand what happens to a company’s bottom line when the employees use the extended health plan a lot. The costs to the company increase. The older employees tend to use the extended medical more than their younger cohorts. That’s a fact.

Companies are opting to eliminate pension plans. They are letting people go from their jobs when they are in their fifties, so the company cannot be accused of letting them go just to avoid paying the pensions.

There are companies now who make it a policy not to hire anyone over fifty.

Q: People oftentimes stay in a job they hate – even if they know it’s only a matter of time before the ax falls – rather than take a leap of faith, reinvent themselves and launch their own dreams. In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of waiting until they’re actually pink-slipped?

A: Great wisdom is learning from the experience of others. Just having a job is not enough in this day. We all need to have something on the side that we are using to generate income for ourselves. If we wait until we are pink-slipped, it will be too late to start something. We need to establish our niche now! I can help you with that.

Q: What would people be the most surprised to learn about you?

A: As a classically trained vocalist, I perform for seniors living communities. I usually have at least a couple of gigs a month. It fills my heart with joy to see smiles on the faces in my audience as we sing together the songs of Doris Day, Patti Page, Dean Martin, etc.

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: Now that Fired at Fifty has been published, I have noticed that it is stirring up great interest. So my next step is working the speaking circuit travelling locally and abroad to share my story and help this second tsunami with ideas and solutions to their dilemma of being “Fired at Fifty”.

Q: Anything else you’d like readers to know?

A: The big key I’ve learned from my experience is to be willing to “ask for help”. So many of us boomers are proud and feel like we should have all the answers and that we are smart, educated, full of wisdom. We are! But we don’t have all the answers and we do need to humble ourselves and ask for help. If we insist on being lone wolves, we will struggle much longer before we find out “what we were meant to do”.

Readers can learn more about Christine at marketingmentress.com.

Great Performances – The Small Business Script for the 21st Century

Clemens Rettich

A Conversation with Clemens Rettich

In his new book, Great Performances – The Small Business Script for the 21st Century – author Clemens Rettich not only draws from real-life case studies of small company successes and failures but also walks readers through tips and strategies on how to borrow a page from the performing arts world and deliver stellar service that will rate a standing ovation.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q:  Given your background in the performing arts, what correlations can be drawn to motivating a workplace “cast,” identifying flaws during “rehearsal,” finding an enthusiastic “audience,” and getting the “critics” to respect your efforts?

A: We don’t motivate a cast. We provide them with roles that light them on fire. We don’t need to motivate or empower people. The whole notion makes me uneasy. Who are we to give anyone else power? The best thing we can do is facilitate the environment around our performers to allow them to do their job. Give them the big picture, the back-story, the tools to do the job, then stay out of the way.

Theatre rehearsals and performances are a model for how more businesses should operate. Rehearsals are exactly that: practice. Every time I go into a retail establishment and suggest things like scripts, role play, or direction, I get push-back along the lines of “That is so artificial; it isn’t who I am to talk like that. It won’t sound natural.” Funny. I never noticed that in the 30 years I have been watching films and theatre. That the actors sound artificial. How could I have missed that?

And when the show is over, or the scene is shot, the whole cast and crew does ‘notes’. We get together and review everything that went well and that needs improvement. The only place I see that as a matter of course in the business world is in the hotel industry. Other businesses could learn a lot from that disciplined approach to team reviews of daily performance.

Your audience and your critics are your customers. American Idiot isn’t The Sound of Music. Find your audience. If you don’t have critics, you don’t have a show I care about; it means you are so vanilla and so forgettable, I don’t even want to know. Take a position and make some enemies. Your audience will come back night after night if you give them the experience you promised them. Experience, not products or services, or even customer service.  Experience.

Q: What was the inspiration to write Great Performances – The Small Business Script for the 21st Century?

A: Seeing how few small business owners really understood the fundamentals they needed to master to grow a business. Heck, most business owners don’t even know that ‘growing the business’ is what they are supposed to be doing. I wanted a book that was both inspiring and practical. And I wanted a book that shared some of the approaches to successful execution that the performing arts world already understands: the relationship between practicing the fundamentals and improvising with whatever happens when the curtain goes up.

Q: Who’s your target audience and what will be the biggest takeaway value for them by the time they finish reading?

A: Any small business owner will benefit from reading this book. The feedback I have had has far exceeded my expectations. I just met with an associate yesterday who said she had my book on her desk and a client picked up to look at it, read a few pages, and promptly “stole” the book. When my associate called her client to ask about the book, she replied “This book is amazing, and I’m not returning it until I’m done.” I gave my associate another copy. Free. You can’t buy marketing like that.

The number one thing I want a small business owner to take away from the book is the understanding that the fundamentals matter, what those fundamentals are, and how to use them to do the one thing you should be doing as a business owner: grow your business towards a determined exit.

Q: Tell us about the structure of the book and why you felt this was a practical approach in presenting your material.

A: Practical schmactical. I had fun with it. The book is divided into 3 acts and a number of scenes. Like a script. My publisher Influence Publishing and I worked that out.

The only part that ended up being a nice ‘true’ fit for the structure was Act III which is all about designing your exit from your business. The rest is just playful.

Q: With so many business titles already on today’s market, what do you feel distinguishes yours from the competition?

A: I tell the truth in a way that is both inspiring and sobering. You try to hit that balance! Almost no other book I have read (and I read business books constantly) hits that note. Ninety percent are all inspiration and no substance. Or the substance is nonsense. Can you have substantive nonsense? No real understanding of marketing, finances, psychology, statistics, etc. All of the underpinnings of what makes a real business really successful. There are no secrets. No “believe it and it will happen” patchouli-scented magic. This book is a script for a great small business performance. There isn’t anything else like it that I have ever found.

Great Performances challenges you to learn the fundamentals, practice them every day, have the courage to improvise on those fundamentals, and have the courage to design a giant vision, and the discipline to take the daily baby steps required to get there.  Most small businesses fail, and there is a reason for that. It is incredibly hard. This book, if you take its contents seriously, will increase your likelihood of surviving, and even thriving.

Q: What are some of the section topics you cover?

A:  ACT I: Putting People First. I talk about customer and employee relationships, how to manage them, and why retention is the most important strategy of any business.

ACT II: Maximizing Limited Resources. We look at the only 3 resources any business has to grow: time, people, and money. I write about priority management, how to go about planning your business over time, and how to manage all of the financial building blocks a small business owner must contend with, including debt.

ACT III: Planning Your Exit. The final section looks at management, and managing your business to develop an asset with real value. We talk about the incredible importance of documents like Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) in that process. And we focus on how important it is to design an exit that generates maximum value for the business owner.

Q: What part of the book was the most challenging for you?

A: Writing it. That isn’t a facetious response because while all of the content for the book was at my fingertips, and while I have been writing and teaching writing for years, I also have a business advising/coaching/consulting practice and speaking schedule that leaves very little extra time for something as significant as a book. So having the discipline to carve out the hours required was very challenging. There was no way that would have happened without the support of my wife and family. Much of the time I took to write the book, I took from time with them. They were incredibly supportive.

Q: Tell us about your online coaching program and how the growing popularity of distance learning interfaces with the principles of your book.

A: I am currently in the process of restricting the online portion of my practice. I have not been happy with the platform I was using. Currently I provide business support for clients throughout Canada, using a combination of my new online platform, Podio, and Skype (as well as other fantastic tools like Evernote and Dropbox).

I don’t think there is a direct connection between what I teach in the book and the world of online learning, except perhaps to say that if much of what business owners need to know is a set of fundamentals, those are as easily communicated online as face to face.

I am in the process of building an online community for small business owners based on the content of the book. I am rolling that out through a series of not-online workshops starting this summer.  People taking the Great Performances workshops will have an opportunity to continue their learning and mentoring online.

Q: There’s no question that an unstable economy such as the one we have now is making people wary of taking personal and professional risks. Let’s say that someone comes to you and says, “I know I’ve steered my small business into a dead-end. I’d rather be doing something else but leaps of faith take time and money, neither of which I have. Should I just try to ride things out and hope the economy gets better?”

A: No. Stop now. Get a job.

One of the most frustrating and humbling things I have to do in my practice is let a small business owner know they have let things go too long and the resources they have left (time & money) are not sufficient to the task of growing the business any more. Time to close the doors.

Business owners who see things sliding wait FAR too long before seeking real help. And even when they bring me in, they are still reluctant to make substantive changes. They insist on continuing practices (or the lack of practices) that have already put them at serious risk.

There is huge value in faith and persistence and optimism. They are the most important traits of a small business owner. But the failure to get professional input and change course the very instant revenues and profits start to dry up, is almost always fatal.

Q: In your opinion, is it more challenging to start a new business from the ground up or reinvent an existing one?

A: Reinvent an existing one, unless the existing business is already VERY healthy. Change takes enormous resources and the saddest irony of all is that most business owners want to reinvent their business because they have completely run out of resources. Too late.

Momentum is everything. And as we learn from basic engineering and physics, any change in direction of a body or fluid in motion creates turbulence and draws resources.

Starting something well, even on limited resources is always easier than changing something that is off course, especially on limited resources!

Q: If you could have lunch with any famous business leader from the past 100 years, who would it be and what question would you most like to ask?

A: Jerry Baldwin and the original founders of Starbucks. The transition from single shop to the vision beyond, is one of the most interesting moments in business. I would love to go over the conversations and thinking that took place in the mid-1980’s and that lead to the Starbucks we know today.

Also I would love to talk to Herb Kelleher, the CEO of Southwest Airlines who was the great voice for putting employees ahead of shareholders and even customers in the growth of a business. I would love to ask him how he came to that conviction.

Q: What would people be the most surprised to learn about you?

A: So many things… but the one that seems to draw the most visible surprise when I speak to people is that English was not my first language. It was German.

Q: How has your book been received since its release?

A: It has blown me away. The reviews on the site tell the story (http://www.greatperformances.ca/the-book/the-reviews/). And it is a story I really didn’t expect.

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: Designing the Great Performances workshops and kicking off that process in British Columbia before taking it to the rest of the country, and ultimately North America.

Continuing to grow my business while building capacity to help my clients grow theirs.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: The best way to connect with me and with the world of Great Performances in small business is through my Facebook Page (clemensrettich#) and my blog www.smbfundamentals.com.

Of course there is always buying the book… but that crosses into shameless self-promotion.

 

 

An Artpreneur’s Guide to Pigging Out: Storing Some Fat to Survive the Famine Before Your Feast

Melissa Matthews

“Every child is an artist,” wrote Pablo Picasso. “The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” Much too often, the demands of making a living take precedence over the joys of making a statement and affecting social change through the creation of original artworks. When we mistakenly embrace a mindset that everything we do must be tied to compensation, there’s a tendency to become risk-averse, especially in a shaky economy.

In her new book, An Artpreneur’s Guide to Pigging Out: Storing Some Fat to Survive the Famine Before Your Feast, author Melissa A. Matthews shares savvy advice on how to feed your muse, keep your bills paid, and turn your current struggles for recognition into a journey of personal empowerment.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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 Q: Let’s start with some background on your journey to becoming a full-time artist and art consultant. Who or what, for instance, was the strongest influence on your decision to pursue your creative path?

A:  It wasn’t a cognizant decision. Discovering art in high school introduced me to a catharsis, I am not willing to give up.  Every decision after that has kept me on this path.

Q: What would you identify as your biggest “break-in” moment?

A:  I suppose my break-in moment as an artist came in January 2008. I was invited to be one of three artists exhibiting at a private show at the home of a former NBA player in Trenton, NJ. After, four years of university and working three plus jobs at any given time as a fulltime student studying painting which my mother so eloquently described as “aspiring to poverty,” I sold eight of the sixteen paintings I exhibited and walked away with roughly $6,000 in cash.  It wasn’t the first time, I had sold work but it was the largest volume of work at one time and the only time my mother was able to witness firsthand that I could make a living at this “art thing”. It was an “aha” moment for her that has served our relationship well as she is now one of my biggest supporters.  As a professional and a daughter, there is just nothing more validating than to make believers of your family.

Q:  “Art as a Lifestyle” is a wonderful tagline for your online shop, Mamltdart. How are you living this dream yourself in straddling two environments as culturally diverse as Washington, D.C. and Trinidad/Tobago?

A: Well, having owned and operated MAMLTDART for just about nine years, (most of that time utilizing it as a part time income stream) I made a conscious decision in early 2012 to commit myself fully to the growth and development of my brand. This meant making a few sacrifices. I gave up my apartment in Cheverly, MD, sold as many of my earthly possessions as possible, booked a flight to Trinidad and embarked on a journey of embracing two sides of myself. I have always straddled these cultural environments being a first generation American whose family is inextricably tied to their home country. Trinidad has been ingrained in me as long as I have known myself and I touched its soil just six months after being born for the first time.

Most of my art practice revolves around this twoness of being an American that isn’t so American and a Trinidadian that isn’t so Trinidadian. Therefore, shuttling between the two, physically is perhaps the most natural part of my journey as an artist. I couch surf in both countries; to keep costs down and ensure all my energy and money feed my business and develop my brand. I have managed to pull together a small support team that assists me in setting up exhibitions, staying current with my client base and developing new products and brand strategy. When I don’t have supplies, I work digitally on my small netbook computer. In the last year, I have created in excess of 150 pieces of art. I am constantly entrenched in creating, blogging, and engaging around art wherever I am. Art is my lifestyle.

Q: What are some ways that creative types can affect social change in today’s world while they’re caught up in just trying to keep a roof over their heads and staying a step ahead of their creditors?

A:. Social change is affected when people channel their passions in the direction of achieving common good. I started my career in the NGO/ Nonprofit sector, helping NGOs hone their branding and community outreach. As a consultant, I do project development and arts administration planning for arts based nonprofits. Every industry needs creative people; from graphic design to marketing to product, brand, and project development- creativity is a commodity Another way, creative people affect change is by being provocateurs, questioning the why, where, and how of the society they live in through whatever medium they are working in.

Q: Define the difference between “wants” and “needs” and why entrepreneurs oftentimes make the wrong choice on which to focus their time and energy.

A: Wants are those things that would make our lives easier— a ritzy apartment, a new instead of a used car, eating out, a $500 handbag and/or pair of shoes, a fancy studio. When in fact most people have the capacity to live and operate on much less than they think. Needs are those things that are NECESSARY for us to subsist and keep working –a roof over your head, something that takes you from point A to point B (feet do count), food with some nutritional value, any bag that holds your stuff and a place to work (Starbucks will do). Oftentimes people make the “wrong” or more extravagant choice because they don’t know any better. No one has told them that their work product is not a reflection of where it is created but of their knowledge and skillsets that could be aptly applied in any environment. When you focus on what you don’t have, you will always be in a state of lacking— your work will never be good enough because you don’t believe that your tools are good enough. Entrepreneurship is the choice between perfection and the idea of being perfectly imperfect. Successful entrepreneurs realize that the latter sets them apart in business.

Q: The concept of barter has become a viable currency in our downward spiraling economy. What are some venues outside of the artistic community where the implementation of bartering would be effective in managing costs and resources?

A: Bartering can be applied in almost in any situation. A good example of this would be food co-ops, giving a bit of your time for freshly grown and harvested produce.  There are also cooperative workspaces wherein people lower the overhead costs by dividing the maintenance work amongst them and practice conservation techniques to keep energy costs low. The possibilities are really there for bartering and cost conservation in every field if you look close enough.

Q: Arts programs are typically the first things to be cut in school programs. In your view, how does this diminish us as a society and what can be done to reverse the trend and make art more accessible to future generations?

A: Art teaches a new way of seeing, examining the world around you, and relating to or empathizing with it.  We are developing a generation of people that will lack the ability to think outside of the box. As a result, their problem solving capabilities, ability to conceptualize new and innovative ways of moving forward, and empathy will be lacking. This will leave us starved for new products, processes and perhaps most disheartening— leaders.  Remedying this situation is as simple as outlining the role of art within other fields and making a concerted effort to teach arts integrated education. This will make for well-rounded individuals that can more easily understand the role of the arts, creativity, critical and imaginative thinking within a number of realms.

Q: Has 21st century technology made it more – or less – hospitable for individuals to become entrepreneurs?

A: I would say easier. Sitting within the confines of your own home, you can develop and run a web-based business be it ecommerce, counseling, a processing service, the possibilities are endless.

Q: If a young person came to you and said, “I want to quit school and become an artist but my parents want me to go to college and get a ‘practical’ degree,” what would your advice be and why?

A:  I would first question why he/she felt that art was a field that denoted quitting school and encourage them to do their research. Tell them that any field worth being apart of is worth studying for. I would have them outline a plan for where and how they saw their art career evolving including education and post education plans as well as market research for the expansive ways in order to succeed with an art background. I would then have them present said plan to their parents. Parents are often worried about stability and once you can prove a solid career or financial stability is an achievable their worry is quelled.

Q: What do you feel are some of the common attributes of successful entrepreneurs?

A: Determination ( a “go get it” attitude), creativity, and failure— the ability to embrace failure as lessons learned and stay in pursuit of the ultimate goal.

Q: Tell us about what inspired you to write An Artpreneur’s Guide to Pigging Out: Storing Some Fat to Survive the Famine Before Your Feast.

A: I have been blogging for years. Sort of documenting my journey as a creative professional, and I started getting little notes from artists and non-artists alike telling me, that my posts were helpful to them. One day after going through quite a few blog posts, I had an epiphany, why not write a book for other people like me— artists, entrepreneurs, and people beating their own path. I’d read and absolutely love some great business books but none of them fit squarely in my box. I wanted to give people a realistic but still encouraging look on how to survive entrepreneurship, creativity as business and the like.

Q: Did you work from a formal outline or just let the thoughts flow freely?

A: I had a basic outline, taking a cue from the formatting I used in my blog but I basically free wrote the entire book over a day (it’s a short read) and then spent the next few weeks refining it.

Q: Who is your target demographic and what do you feel is the book’s primary takeaway value?

A:  Entrepreneurs, artists, recent graduates, and the confused: people who aren’t quite sure what they want to do but are perhaps sure that conventional job paths may not be their thing.

Q: Self-publishing is a popular trend these days but also requires that authors don multiple hats to successfully see a project through to completion. Why did you take this particular route and what do you know now that you didn’t know when you started?

A: I took this path because as proven by my life, I enjoy a challenge. The thing I know now that I didn’t know as the beginning is that Epub formatting is an exercise in sadomasochism (just the most excruciatingly annoying process ever).

Q: If a movie were made of your life, who should play you and why?

A: That’s a tough one. Perhaps Quvenzhané Wallis when she gets a bit older. I absolutely adored her in Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Q: In your own words, what is “failure” and how do people rise above it?

A: Failure is finding a way that won’t work. Rising above it is dusting yourself off and finding a way that will work.

Q: A sense of humor is critical in life as well as in business. How has your own sense of humor served you effectively as a professional?

A: I try not to take my work or myself too seriously. Most of my gaffs and failures are well documented in my art. I’ve literally sold them.

Q: What is the most surprising thing that your readers and followers don’t know about you?

A: It’s a toss up between the fact that I’m 4’9/ 89lbs and I’m a twin.

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: I have an exhibition opening in Maryland this June, continuing to produce the monthly illustrative zine, Overdrawn and I am writing the second installment of An Artpreneur’s Guide to Pigging Out this fall.

Q: Where can people learn more about you and your work?

A: You can find all my new work, musings on career and life on my blog mamltdart.tumblr.com and links to all my projects on mam-ltd-art.com.