Beating the odds and getting to 15 years in business.
By Cathy Rubino Hines, owner, the Marketing Collaborative
Less than 30% of businesses survive past their tenth year. I found that statistic staggering yet it makes me even more grateful to be among the survivors. Needless to say, there were many lessons learned along the way.
After more than 20 years working at advertising agencies and later, Strong Memorial Hospital; add to that four layoffs and an impending divorce, I decided 2008 was the year for me to take my career into my own hands!
It was a scary start, but I was pleasantly surprised by all the talented giving people that supported me in the beginning and continue to do so ten years later. I still recall some of their words of wisdom when I encounter a tough decision – and as a business owner, you pretty much make tough decisions each day.
Here’s what I’ve learned over these first ten years:
1. YOUR BUSINESS SUCCESS STARTS WITH A VISION BUT BE PREPARED FOR CHANGE.
My initial vision for the Marketing Collaborative was as a full-service, virtual advertising agency for all. Virtual being the key. However, based on continual learning and listening to prospects and clients, it took several iterations of my business to hit my stride.
2. FOR GROWTH, BE ABLE TO POSITION YOURSELF AS A SPECIALIST.
Standing big for one thing is a key tenet of marketing. Why? It makes you not only stand out from the competition but also helps your target market quickly understand what you’re offering. About five years ago, I repositioned myself as a healthcare marketing consultant and it helped me speak more clearly to attract clients that would appreciate my skillset.
3. RECOGNIZE THAT MARKETING IS VERY MISUNDERSTOOD.
I don’t know how to run a healthcare company and many CEOs don’t fully understand marketing, how it can help them, and how to budget for it. Though it may be frustrating for those who are “in the know,” you must be prepared to explain and educate. Today, I am still refining how to best educate my clients and prospects on these topics.
4. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH OTHER ENTREPRENEURS
I belong to a business development group, ProConnect, and we meet every month. They’ve saved me and my business many times! In addition, I work with other talented senior-level professionals (art directors, writers, digital specialists, media directors, and many others) who also share my entrepreneurial spirit for whom I could not have been successful.
5. OVERCOME YOUR FEARS FOR GREATER SUCCESS
Some fear facing strangers at networking events… believe me, I know. I decided early on to go to at least two business networking events each week for the first couple of years. Literally feet on the street. Another fear I had to overcome, was asking for financial compensation that I felt was fair for my services. I learned that the only thing standing in my way to better compensation was asking for it. My income changed once I believed and asked.
6. WORK FOR LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE.
You know when you’ve made a good connection with a prospective client – same as when you connect with a great employer. You’re working for the person in both cases. Nurture those relationships.
7. REFERRALS ARE THE KEY TO SUCCESS.
Ask those like-minded clients to refer you to others. Believe me, they’ll do it!
8. PAMPER EXISTING CLIENTS.
Making clients feel like they’re your top priority is something you do every day. Don’t take anything for granted. Spend time talking with them about what keeps them up at night and how marketing can help them. Even more important is to talk with former clients.
9. MARKET YOURSELF IN SMALL YET BIG WAYS.
As a small business, you likely won’t have the time or money to do major advertising campaigns. I didn’t even have a website for the first two years. Remember, it often doesn’t take much to move the needle if you’re a consultant or small business. I found that being on the board of the American Marketing Association was good for my business and me. I mentored many young marketers, which I enjoy, and I received many referrals from board members. Find what works for you and do it.
10. GRATITUDE IS PART OF THE PROCESS.
Be grateful for what you’ve built based on your defined goals. Early on I just wanted to pay my mortgage every month. If you’re looking at other successful businesses, try to take away something that might benefit your company. Each day finds something to be grateful for. “My hope is that a couple of these ring true for you. As always, I’m happy to help. So, connect with me if you need to talk. Just ask.”
Cathy Rubino Hines, Healthcare Marketing Consultant
Owner, the Marketing Collaborative