If anyone had told me ten years ago that I would be the owner of my own business, I would have laughed. I was comfortable working for someone else. I knew what I was going to make each week. I knew my insurance was be paid by the deduction from my check. I knew what time to arrive and what time to leave. I had been at my job a long time, and I had a ton of paid days off and sick days. I like my patients and co-workers. I thought I was happy. But, I was wrong.
“I’m a big fan of small business ownership. I think it’s the backbone of American innovation. But to be successful, you have to have the courage to go for it.” Bill Rancic
Six years ago this month, we started Gardner Promotional Solutions. I say “we” because my husband worked side by side with me the first year. Then he went back to work to provide a steady income and insurance benefits while I continued to grow our business. I had no sales experience. Suddenly, my income was dependent on whether I met with clients, showed my products and asked for a sale.
In the past six years, I have stayed busy learning everything I could about the promotional product industry. I have joined networking groups and learned how to meet and work with business owners. I have attended tradeshows and listened to webinars. I have taken advantage of every class offered to members of ASI and PPAI, two national promotional products associations. Also, this is my fourth year on the Board of Directors of TSPPA (Tri-State Promotional Professionals Association for Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky) and I have been lucky enough to participate three times in LDW (Leadership Development Workshops) provided by PPAI in Dallas, Texas each fall. I’ve always had the motto, “You are never too old to learn.”
“In the business world, everyone is paid in two coins: cash and experience. Take the experience first; the cash will come later.” Harold S. Geneen
If I could offer advice to anyone thinking about starting a business, I would say the following:
Make Sure You Are Serious
Owning a business is not for wimps. It is a lot of work. It is a lot of hours. It is a lot of stress. But, every step in your success will bring you a type of joy that can’t be described. The sense of self-satisfaction you feel will be immeasurable. I have a sign in my office that states, “The only thing more over-rated than natural childbirth is owning your own business.”
“To be successful, you have to have your heart in your business, and your business in your heart.” Thomas Watson, Sr.
Do Something You Love
You have to be passionate what you do. You will be required to spend countless hours working on building your business, and if you don’t love what you do, you won’t be inspired to work hard. Spend some time looking at all of your business opportunities before choosing what type of company you want to own. It won’t always be fun, but if you love what you do, the hard work and long hours will be worth it.
Find Like-Minded Business Owners
It is imperative to spend time with like-minded business owners. I was truly blessed to find a few strong networkers who took me under their wing, introduced me to principal business owners and taught me how to deliver my message and explain what I do. You will need to be able to give a 30-60 second description of what you do in a clear and concise manner.
Just because you start a business, doesn’t mean that customers will flock to you. You must be focused, get your message out, get out of your office and stay engaged with your clients. I recommend joining a class that will teach you how to market your business and reach your target market. I take a 3½-hour class once a month, and I credit that class to my success.
Keep Your Word
Always be honest with your clients. Educate them about your business and what they can expect from you. The best type of advertisement is word of mouth, and if your clients are happy, they will be more than willing to pass your name on to their colleagues. People do business with those they know, like and trust. Strive to be on top of their list!
“Success in life is not about having more; it’s about becoming more. when a plant grows, it naturally bears more fruit.” Ren Schuffman
Have a blessed week! <3
I own a promotional products business where I offer over 1 million different products to meet your promotional needs. I also have a complete wedding line including “save the dates,” invitations, napkins, imprinted stemware, and attendants gifts. I’d love to schedule an appointment with you to see how I can help you with your promotional needs!