Three things a small businessperson just has to know.

surfer photo
Sometimes business is like surfing. It requires balance. If you don’t stay ahead of the crest, you’ll wipeout and the wave may come crashing on top of you.  If you go over the top, you lose the momentum, and miss the wave completely. The trick is staying on the board and on the wave at the same time.

I’d like to be brutally honest. I didn’t expect to be starting another small business after selling my printing company in 2012. The end of that business wasn’t pretty, but it turned out OK, by the grace of God and a friendly competitor. The printing business did well in it’s first 10 years, exceptionally well in the middle years of the first decade of the 2000s.  Sales growth was in the double digits every year and we purchased and rehabbed an old building in downtown Macon, GA.  I had planned for a possible downturn in business, but not the economic morass that began in the Fall of 2008.  We lost business at twice the rate we had gained it.

After the sale, there was time to breathe and think. I loved the printing business, but didn’t want to go back into a small shop environment.  Nor was I particularly thrilled at the idea of selling print as a broker.  I’d always liked the nuts and bolts of the business.  Before owning my own business, I had run the marketing operations for a mid-sized wood products distribution company.  Great company, great job – I could do that again. Only one problem, that job didn’t exist any more, at least not in Middle Georgia.  What to do?

We learn as much from our failures as from our successes. I began to review my years as a business owner, evaluating what I had done well and where I had made mistakes. Fixing up the old building was great fun, but certainly a mistake. Investing in very good people clearly wasn’t a mistake. What had I learned about business, though? As I distilled my thoughts, three facts became clear:

  1. The process of getting and keeping customers isn’t just a business function, it’s the business function.
  2. There is a delicate balance between planning and flexibility.
  3. As a business owner, you absolutely must focus on the big picture.

As a business owner, these are three things that you just have to know. The “change is constant” adage is a truism – things don’t stay the same. Sometimes change comes rapidly and it’s absolutely necessary for small business owners to be tuned in. Looking back,  I made some good decisions and some poor ones.  As a marketer, I had an innate knowledge of the importance of point one. When the economy crashed in 2008, I should have ramped up sales and marketing efforts.  Instead, thinking that it would be a short-term contraction, I followed my customers’ lead and tightened the budgets. I planned well and kept to the budget, but missed opportunities to expand because I was worried about cash flow.  I cut costs, but became immersed in the daily detail.  I forgot that I could delegate, even with a smaller staff. Busy with projects that needed to get out the door, I had no time to figure out how to change the scope of the business.

If you’ve read this far, you may be thinking, “Why should I hire someone who has made mistakes to help me with my business?” It’s a good question, and really the reason that I’m starting DP Marketing Services.  I didn’t expect to start this business, but the more I thought about it, the better I liked the idea of helping other small business owners avoid some of the mistakes I had made. Plus, There are some things that I’m good at: brainstorming, planning, writing, putting things in motion. You may be able to perform these functions for your business, but will you? I’m writing this with a smile – if you pay someone for the discipline, aren’t you more likely to follow through with the plan?

Finally, I love the details. Early in my career, a boss gave me a difficult assignment and told me that the reason he was sending me out was that he was sure that I would manage the details.  Admittedly, this isn’t always a great reputation to have, but I think it will be an asset to this new venture. With this job it’s OK if I get immersed in the details, and take on the complicated projects that you, as a business owner, shouldn’t get wrapped up in.

2 surfers and dogBack to surfing. Maybe it’s not the perfect analogy for business.  With surfing, you can always catch another wave, but business opportunities don’t always come so predictably. Surfing is usually a solo endeavor, but business doesn’t have to be. Even as a small businessperson, there are others you can ask for advice.  Company is always good.  And you can find hands-on help.

DP Marketing is a new small business dedicated to providing hands on help for other small and medium sized businesses (SMBs). Our mission is to assist our customers with strategic marketing planning and implementation. Our objective is to increase revenues and profitability for our SMB customers by helping them to identify goals, focus their marketing efforts, and systematize the implementation of marketing tactics and campaigns.