The Power of the Pivot

The Power of the Pivot

A huge part of business planning is actually spent in research, testing and pivoting. One of the primary reasons for business planning is to prove the the model is financially viable. That work is not for the bank, it is for you. REMEMBER - You are your first investor. You are investing time, money, energy and passion. It is critical to ensure it is the right investment for you and your family. 

What Makes a Small Business Champion?

Definition of "Champion"  

The word "Champion" can be used as a noun or a verb.
1.     a person who has defeated others in a competition (noun)
2.     One who has defeated all competing opponents so as to hold first place (noun)
3.     A person who fights for or defends any person or a cause (noun)
4.     to act as a champion of; defend; support (verb)

Definition of "Small Business"

In the United States small business is defined as:
1.     Micro business (1-6 employees)
2.     Small business (under 250 employees)

Our Definition of a Small Business Champion

We have determined two categories of Small Business Champions:

  1. Successful small business owners who find the time to give back to other small business owners and entrepreneurs. They act as mentors and consultants for people wishing to start their own business, create a product and/or develop new technology. They teach in their community or are associated with government or non-profit agencies that support local business economic growth. They volunteer two of their most valuable assets 1) knowledge and 2) time.
  2. Institutions and/or their employees who support small business creation and growth. They also act as mentors and consultants for entrepreneurs and small business owners who are starting or growing a business. They spend countless hours and resources creating educational opportunities, networking events and connecting the client to resources to help them acheive their goals.

In every Unit there is a page called SMALL BUSINESS CHAMPIONS. In those sections you can read interviews of some of these small business champions primarly discussing their "Lessons Learned". You will find most are just like you with the same dreams, fears etc. 

Champions are not the ones who always win races-champions are the ones who get out there and try. And try harder the next time. And even harder the next time. ‘Champion’ is a state of mind. They are devoted. They compete to best themselves as much if not more than they compete to best others. Champions are not just athletes.
— Simon Sinek

One who gets up when he can’t.
— Jack Dempsey

Interview Process

Kirsten Blake, owner of Chapter Be (and Leading Edge Graduate) helped us set up this interview process.

In order to give consistency to the Small Business Champion interviews, they will all follow the following format:

Short biography and introduction, and then 6 questions:

  1. How do you measure success?
  2. What is the biggest happy accident you have had in starting or conducting your business?
  3. When have you been the most satisfied in your life?
  4. What was the best piece of advice you were given when starting your business?
  5. What is your biggest struggle in being a small business owner (and/or in starting a small business)?
  6. If you weren't doing what you are doing now, what would you be doing?

Mike Saunders: Marketing Huddle

Small Business Champion Interview

By Kirsten Blake, Chapter Be

"Know your 'why.' You need to set goals but they also need to be attainable and have a 'why' behind them. You have to believe them. So have a true, real reason as it keeps the compass in the right direction."

Mike Saunders is a small business marketing consultant who helps small business owners align their messaging so that all of their marketing resonates with their target audience both online and on social media. Mike worked in the banking industry for 15 years before earning his MBA in marketing. When the market crashed in 2007, he made the decision to go back to school, and since he spent most of his personal time reading business books decided that an MBA was the way to go. It was about following something that he genuinely liked.

Mike feels that his MBA degree allows him to take an academic and strategic approach to marketing, and if before his MBA he was a fan of marketing, he is now a fanatic. Mike is fascinated with the strategy behind the tactics, and this led him to write his first book, The P.R.I.S.M. Salvation: A 3-Step Solution to Social Media Domination for Busy Business Owners, which was published on Amazon.

He also created the system "CA-TA-SA," which stands for Competitive Advantage - Target Audience - Strategic Alliances. He takes a business through this model during a two hour-long session, and what he loves about the process is that it is different for every person/business. The work remains interesting to him because it is not monotonous. Each client needs something different, so he spends his time building different strategies based on the need of that client.

Working with small businesses fell into place for Mike because during his degree he had to think of a hypothetical company that he wanted to build. He created a marketing plan for a marketing company, and then just ran with it and turned it into an actual company. He never had a desire to work for a Madison Avenue type company, because he believes that the small business engine is so important to the economy. Mike interviewed various people at the SBDC for that class as well, which led to him eventually consulting for the SBDC.

Another outworking from his MBA is that he began to teach marketing at four different online universities. He got the advice that if you want to teach then you need 18 hours in whatever discipline you will be teaching, so before he graduated he made sure to take one more class so that he had the required 18 hours. Teaching online and night classes have been another way for Mike to connect with the marketing field and give back to those who are learning or just getting started. In the end, he deeply believes that God put him on the earth to help motivate people, which he is thrilled to do through coaching and consulting.

How do you measure success?
I measure success by making a positive impact in the people's lives that I work with so that they get more value then just what I am providing to them. That makes my mark in the world and it is more then just trading hours for dollars and doing a project. It is pouring more into that relationship and giving more value than what you are paid for, per se. That then leads to achieving the goals that I've set for myself.

What is the biggest happy accident you have had in starting or conducting your business?
It hit me during my coursework that you never go to class and have live online sessions – it is all asynchronous, meaning you log-in, do what you want, upload and turn-in assignments all within a set deadline. I thought, I think I've talked to a professor one time – ever. I might have emailed a couple – maybe three times. So, from their perspective – how hard is it to teach? So, I started to think about what it would take for me to be able to teach online. It is a lot of work and different then I thought, but that little a-ha moment and inquiry led me to take that extra class to be qualified to teach online. It is now a great source of income but also really rewarding. It is a great feeling to know you are helping students with their academic development.

When have you been the most satisfied in your life?
I would say after working with a client on their marketing strategy and have them be excited about their next steps – leaving feeling like something is attainable and they are able to do it. Coming out of sessions – whether at the SBDC or with private clients – and they are further ahead then when they entered. Taking them through the process where we just drill down and open their eyes and opportunities. So, for me the most rewarding thing is that type of digging in deep and exposing opportunities that they never knew were there – and then putting a plan in action to take advantage of them.

What was the best piece of advice you were given when starting your business?
I don't know if I was ever given advice really, but I would say that it would be plan for the long-long term, plan for long hard work, plan for doing the right things consistently and efficiently and make the right investments in the business. Unfortunately, people think of marketing as an expense, but it's an investment. When someone is tight on funds, they don't pay for marketing, and that is a mistake.

So, know what you need in your business and don't just try it and if it didn’t work the first time, you quit. You have to do that thing – whatever that thing is – consistently over long-term cause the results come from long-term networking, marketing and doing the right business practices. It's really about having that long-term vision, because people can get shiny object syndrome and quit doing something two weeks after they started because it didn’t work like gangbusters in the first ten seconds.

What is your biggest struggle in being a small business owner (and/or in starting a small business)?
Defining your own methodology. In my field of consulting, you really are a student of the industry. You'll learn everything about everything. You'll see what this person thinks, and this person does and then you take 1% from this methodology and 1% from this and you get to the point where you have your own certain way of doing things and delivering results – none of it is revolutionary or earth-shattering in and of itself, but together it is. I would say that it takes time for that to happen.

The CATASA technology that I put together – the way I explain it – is that I met with dozens and dozens and dozens of clients over a three or four year period. It started off sitting in front of them with a legal pad and pen and asking them how I could help them with their marketing. We would talk, and I would find myself covering the same three topics, then I found myself drawing three boxes for the three areas, and then developing the technology as foundational. The way I put it all together and the way I described their interactions with each other is the revolutionary part. The struggle would be not being vanilla-plain, me-too, but being something relevant and developing your own methodology – and that just takes time. You can't just hang your shingle and do whatever that it is. 

If you weren't doing what you are doing now, what would you be doing?
I don’t know! A lion-tamer? No, the thing is when I hear that question, if you had all the money in the world, what would you be doing? – I'd be doing this.  I'd still be doing exactly what I am doing, but maybe just doing it for more people for free. This is what I love to do. It energizes me. It is the thing that drives me, and I am good at it.

Curt Donohue: 4th Kind Entertainment

Small Business Champion Interview

Curt Donohue comes from the commercial construction industry, having spent more than 20 years managing large-scale construction teams/projects for Fortune 500 entities like Hilton Hotels, Centurylink and Level 3, as well as Celestial Seasonings, Ball Aerospace and Great West Life. Whether acting as an owner’s rep or senior project manager Curt owned the final responsibility for bringing medium to large-scale multi-million dollar projects to a successful conclusion, on time and under budget. Curt’s management acumen provided his former employers and clients with day-to-day oversight, making sure all projects are properly staffed and executed.

How do you measure success?
I have two measures of success, money and time.  I’ve had both of them at various points in my life.  However, having both at the same time has been elusive.  I’m now aware that for me and my family to be happy, we need some measure of both money and time, not just one or the other.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was making more money than I had ever made.  I was putting money in the bank and spending more than I should have.  Making this money cost me 60 to 80 hours of my life per week.  I even had two weeks over 90 hours that year.  While the money was great, I couldn’t enjoy much of it.  At least not truly enjoy it.  Yes, I spent plenty of money on things I wanted.  But, I eventually realized that spending money on the things that I wanted wasn’t really what I wanted.  I realized that what I really wanted was freedom, the freedom to enjoy the money I was making with spouse and my family.  That means I needed more time.

Then, in 2008, I got exactly that, a bunch more time.  I’m not sure if you can relate to this, but the fall of 2008 was horrible time for me.  I was just closing out a significant project and looking forward to two other exciting projects when the economy crashed.  And, I mean really crashed, at least for me.  I was out of work for around 18 months due to the recession and my inability and unwillingness to get out and sell myself and much as I needed to in order to compete for the meager amount of work left.  Oh boy, did I have time.  And, absolutely no money.  In fact, we spent all of our savings trying to make the payment on various “investments” we’d made.  We even spent our retirement funds trying to keep up on our house payment current.  

Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough money to go 18 months without work.  We lost everything.  The house, a truck, a trailer, two pieces of land, and our dignity.  At least it felt like we lost our dignity.  I’ve got a substantially more positive outlook on that experience, now.

What is the biggest “happy accident” you have had in starting your business?
I would say that my biggest “happy accident” would be meeting my partner on Craigslist.  Craigslist you ask!  Seems unlikely, I know, but keep an open mind.

Our partnership all came about because I was looking to build someone a website in exchange for a high quality video camera that I could use to improve my full motion videos.  I needed something that could create a shallow depth of field.  Up to that point, I was making a living building websites and creating educational videos using a screen capture software.  I wanted to make the leap to more full motion video since it was starting to become such a critical marketing tactic.

In the process of writing up an advertisement, I ran across a listing for someone who was doing exactly what I wanted to do.  This listing invited me to participate for experience only.  I thought, what the heck, I’ll see what it’s all about.  We met, learned about each other and, by the time the meeting was over, realized that we were highly complimentary to each others goals.  We decided to work together loosely until it no longer made sense.  Ultimately, we incorporated 4th Kind Entertainment and proceeded to have a few successes in our first year.  One of the those big successes was wining the first-ever TripAdvisor commercial contest.  It was a pretty big deal for us to get two weeks of exposure on national television (AMC, The History Channel, FYI and TrueTV)  with a major brand our first year out.

When have you been the most satisfied in your life?
I’m not aware of a single moment in my life when I’ve been the most satisfied.  I do know, though that most of the satisfaction in my life has come from spending quality time with my spouse.  She is my best friend and we thoroughly enjoy each other.  Whether we’ve had loads of money, or no money, we’ve found a way to enjoy each other and grow into a solid partnership.  So, to be truly satisfied, all I need to do is find a way to enjoy time with my wife.

What was the best piece of advice you were given when starting your business?
Sell kid, Sell!!!!!  Everything starts with sales.  No sales, no business.  Another equally good piece of advice is that you can generally sell yourself out of financial problems as long as your sales are profitable.  No money in the bank?  Make some sales.  No money for payroll?  Holy cow, make some sales!  Do you want to provide your employees/contractors a great place to work and fee like they can count on you?  Make lots of sales, over and over.

Once again, no sales, no business.  When you’re getting started, prioritize sales.  You can always get better at execution assuming you’ve got some money to work with.

What is your biggest struggle in being a small business owner (and/or starting a small business)?
Hands down, it’s sales.  I come from a technical background, which isn’t necessarily good or bad.  It can be a significant weakness, though, if you’re not aware of it.  From what I’ve observed in my own personality and behaviors, I don’t really like selling.  I do like organizing and executing work.  In all my former jobs and projects, someone else has sold the work.  I just needed to get it done.  Oh boy, is it different to have to sell for yourself when sales don’t come naturally.  I have a tremendous newfound respect for anyone who makes a good living at sales.

While I know I said I don’t really like selling, I’m growing to like it as I get better at it.  I feel that I’m just not growing fast enough.  For me, sales is a constant struggle and point of stress.  Nothing happens without sales, remember that.  No matter how good you are at executing a certain kind of work, if there are no sales, there’s nothing to do.  And, then you go bankrupt!

Do not understand the importance of sales.  If you have enough sales and some aspect of your business isn’t where you want it to be, you’ll at least have money coming in to work on whatever it is you’re not happy with.  If you have no sales, you can’t improve anything in your business.  Your just plain stuck and not going anywhere anytime soon.

If you weren’t doing what you are doing now what would you be doing?
If I hadn’t taken the leap into video and film, I’d probably still be in construction.  I most likely would have went back to work for a significant commercial contractor as a project manager or, possibly, a business development guy.  Even though I’m not a huge fan of sales, I am getting better at it and liking it more all the time.


The Business Canvas Explained


The Business Model Canvas was created by Alex Osterwalt in his book “Business Model Generation.” He created it in response to “linear business planning” thinking. Business planning and strategic planning has been seen as a long process looking 3-5 years in the future. However, in today’s chaotic, technology driven  market with constant disrupts that the system is antiquated and did not meet the needs of today.