How to Become Your Own Boss in as Little as One Year

If you find yourself stuck trying to determine how to take that business idea from concept to reality, you’re not alone. A large number of entrepreneurs and small business owners are faced with this challenge, but thankfully there’s a guide for that! The latest edition of Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months, Revised and Expanded: A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works Today! gives readers a month-by-month guide to business success. 

We’re pleased to welcome America’s number one small business expert, CEO of Quintessence Group, and best-selling author, Melinda Emerson, to walk us through starting a business, selling online, and completing the digital pivot.

Transcription:

Jim Fitzpatrick:
We’re pleased to welcome America’s number one, small business expert. You know her. You love her, Melinda Emerson, who’s also a best-selling book author and a speaker, and an all-around incredible human being. So Melinda, thank you so much for joining us once again.

Melinda Emerson:
Oh gosh. Jim, it’s always great to come back on the show and talk to you. I’m always excited to help small business owners live their dreams, right?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure. And as you know, right now, there’s a lot of business owners that are… Some are celebrating good business because things are coming back. Others are still very concerned about where we are since the advent of the delta variant and things like that. What does it mean for my business? Are we going to slip backwards? Where’s capital going to come from? So there’s a lot of nervousness out there. However, the people that I speak to, from my perspective here at the show, they say that now is a great time to actually go into your own business or start a business. Do you agree with that?

Melinda Emerson:
Oh, absolutely. Listen, the world is still waiting on a better mousetrap. If you have a solution that people need, people will pay for it. But you got to know how to market it. And marketing has become so much more complicated, especially since the pandemic, because everyone is just now oriented to buying online.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s right. So what is the first thing that you recommend to people who want to start a business?

Melinda Emerson:
Well, the first thing I think people should do is think about what they want and why. Because it’s hard to start a business, so I don’t want somebody to jump out here and do that unless they’re really sure that that’s what they want to do. Sometimes people just need to go get another job because they got a—

Jim Fitzpatrick:
I’m glad you said that. That’s a very good point, because not everybody’s cut out for entrepreneurship and being in their own business.

Melinda Emerson:
Yeah. But if you decide that business is what you want to do, then the next thing you’ve got to do is look at your finances. Because the money to start your business is going to come from your right or your left pocket, right?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Melinda Emerson:
Banks do not loan money to start a business.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
No. That’s right.

Melinda Emerson:
So please get out of the fallacy of that. I know there’s a lot of grants and things out of here right now because of the pandemic, but know that this is a once in a lifetime thing. It’s not normal to get a grant to start your dream business. It comes from your savings, your 401k, your home equity, whatever you got. And then the next thing you’ve got to figure out is what skills you have versus what skills you need to run your particular kind of business. If you want to start a restaurant, have you ever worked in one? If you want to start a daycare center, have you ever been around kids? Do you like kids? Do you have any?

Melinda Emerson:
And I know that these questions seem really obvious, but you would be amazed how often business owners call me after they paid into the big franchise and realize, wow, why did I do this? Because this does not feed my soul. I don’t want to do this. So for me, I want people to get really clear and understand what it really takes to run that kind of business. And that may mean you work part-time for someone else to really get the idea. And then you’ve got to figure out, who is your paying customer? If everybody can use it, nobody’s going to use it, because all small business owners have the same two problem, limited time and limited resources. So you need to pick a target that you can actually hit.

Melinda Emerson:
And then after you know who that customer is, you need a business plan. Don’t spend more time planning your Christmas vacation with your family than how you’re going to support yourself and your family financially. And then lastly, I’m a big believer in side hustles. I don’t believe in quitting a job to start a business. I believe you need to do both as long as you can. Of course, unless you’re starting a business that directly competes with your employer, then you got to leave. But most people are not doing that. Most people are starting businesses doing something completely diametrically opposed to what they do right now.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s a good point.

Melinda Emerson:
So for most people, it’s not really an issue. Your weekends, your evenings, that’s your time to work on your business.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And I agree with you on that. However, there are some people that are book authors and such and consultants out there that say if you’re passionate about it and you believe in it and you’ve put the necessary money aside and you’ve done your business plan and you’re ready, then take the leap. Otherwise, if you’ve got one foot on the dock and one foot on the boat, you’re going to be uncommitted on both of them and you could lose your job and also lose your business. What do you say to those people?

Melinda Emerson:
Listen, it takes 12 to 18 months for a business to break even. Honestly, for you to figure out what you’re really doing. It does not make sense for you to get out here, cut your health benefits off, cut your salary every two weeks off before you’re really clear that you have something that people want to buy. You’re going to have to get your sea legs in this business. And it does not make sense for you to be like, “Oh, I’m leaping out here.” No, that’s jumping off the cliff. And then being like, “Wow, it would have been a good idea if I had a parachute.”

Melinda Emerson:
No, I don’t want you to do that. I want you to learn. I want you to test. I want you to retest. I want you to make sure you’ve got the right product, make sure you got it at the right price point, and make sure that you know what your value proposition is. Because if you can’t create something that is not easily duplicatable by your competitors, you’re not going to be in business long anyway. So you really have to get clear about what you’re doing. And I don’t think you quit a job to figure that out. I think you better figure it out while them checks are still coming in.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And just because you can cook a really good… or bake a really good chocolate chip cookie doesn’t mean you’re going to be the next Mrs. Fields, right? I mean, if you say, “Everybody loves my chocolate chip cookies,” well, have you ever run the numbers on how many chocolate chip cookies you would need to sell in a day just to pay for the rent in the mall or just to pay for the rent in the strip center or even something as little as a kiosk someplace? Sometimes people don’t do the math. They fall so in love with what they’re able to do, that they go, “No, I’m just going to run out.” I call it ready, shoot, aim. They run out there and go, “Oh my God, I have to sell a thousand of these every single day of the month just to break even.” And it’s like, yeah, did you not figure that out? “Well, no. I just thought that everybody loves my cookies.” And I use cookies. It could be anything. It could be lawn mowers. It could be whatever.

Melinda Emerson:
No, but it’s the same idea. The other thing too is people think just because their friends and family say their cookies are good, that that’s a big enough representative sample, and it’s not. You got to go out here and let some strangers tell you your cookies are good. You got to do some product testing and see if there’s a local grocery store where you could do some testing to see if people like your cookies. I mean, because I think sometimes we get in these cocoons of people that love us and, “Oh my God, your cookies are amazing.” But-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah. “You should go into business.”

Melinda Emerson:
Yeah. But there’s a big difference between baking great cakes and running a bakery. The skill sets are completely different. And I want people to go into this with their eyes wide open. But the other thing you got to figure out if you’re going to sell cookies or cakes is how are you going to sell them on the internet? Are you only going to sell them in your 10-mile radius of your store? Or are you shipping them nationwide? Because that’s what I want to know. I want that red velvet cake sent to me here in Philadelphia, honey. And I need you to figure out how to do that. Because-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And here’s the other thing about that. My wife and I live in this apartment complex where you live upstairs above all of the shopping and the stores and what have you. And we’ll walk by a window and we’ll see something and my wife will say, “Oh, that looks really nice. I think I might buy that or be interested in it.” I’m like, “Do you want to walk in and see?” And she’s like, “No, no, I’ll just check it out online line and buy it there.” She goes, “I don’t want to walk around with the bags.” So even though you think you’re in a market that you don’t need the internet, wrong. I agree with you. You a hundred percent need the internet. And even if you say, “Well, no, there’s a thousand people walking by my store.” Yes. But they’re going to do the same thing my wife did, go online and then order that red velvet cake, even if they live in your zip code or upstairs, right?

Melinda Emerson:
Well, we live in a customer-centric economy now. You can check anybody’s price pretty fast, right?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. Or reviews about that product.

Melinda Emerson:
Exactly. Price, reviews, instantly. So you have to figure out how you can create a great customer experience. You got to make that person want to come in that store. When they come in that store, it’s got to smell like heaven. You know what I mean? You’ve got to really pull people in. And then even if you ship them something online, what is your unboxing experience like? Is it an experience, or is it a cardboard box with a bunch of peanuts in it?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s right.

Melinda Emerson:
You’ve got to think about all of this stuff because you can make customer service your value proposition. Look at Zappos. Nobody thought people would buy shoes on the internet. Well, they showed that they sure will, if you send them two or three pair and make it free returns. Because of course we’re going to buy two or three pair and we’re going to keep two. Right? That’s how that works.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s exactly right.

Melinda Emerson:
I’m not going to send them both back. I’m going to send one back. I’m not sending them all back. You got to think about all your entire customer experience, from the person that answers your phone, from what the live chat experience is online. By the way, no one wants to talk to a bot. They don’t mind talking to a bot if they know a person’s coming right behind it, but people don’t want their whole experience to be a bot. They don’t want to have these anonymous people on websites selling them stuff. People want to be able to call a human if something goes wrong.

Melinda Emerson:
So you got to think about all of the different steps in your business and how you’re going to support your customer, because it’s not about the first sale. It’s about the repeat sale. Because the most expensive sale you’ll ever make is the first one. You need repeat customers. Matter of fact, you need evangelists. You’ll even need customers. You need customers that rave about you, love you, will tell everybody they know that you’re awesome. That’s what you need. And you don’t get that unless you have a great customer experience.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And people that are listening to us have this conversation and listening to you as an expert, I think the big thing here is don’t be discouraged from what Melinda’s saying. Be encouraged. Be inspired to go, “Yes, I can do all of that, but I’ve got to do it. I’ve got to make the checklists and do the things that Melinda’s talking about doing.” But don’t sit there and say, “Oh man, you know what, she’s right. Maybe I shouldn’t do this.” Okay? If you’ve got that attitude, then keep your day job. Don’t become a highly successful entrepreneur because you don’t have that passion. And what she’s talking about, you can even see the way she delivers it, she’s got passionate about this. And that’s what you’ve got to have when it comes to opening up a business and either using your own money or other people’s money. Because that’s the first thing they’re looking for.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Same thing with your customers. They’re looking for your passion in what you believe in and what you’re selling. And if it’s not there, the customers won’t be there. The money won’t be there. The profits won’t be there. So save yourself a lot of time. But everything she’s saying, I completely agree with. I do want to find out… I’ve got the book right here. It is an incredible book, Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months. So I want to ask you first, why 12 months?

Melinda Emerson:
Well, really, 12 months, because of three things. Number one, you have to build your network before you start a business. And if you’ve got an internally-facing job or you’re kind of an introvert, you got to go out there and make you some relationships. You got to re-engage your network. If you haven’t called your friends from college in 10 years, do not make the first call to them be, “Hey, I just started this new business, will you buy from me?” No, you need to call and check on them, find out how their kids are doing. And then ease in there. “Oh, by the way, I’m starting this great new business. If you’re interested, let me know.” Like that kind of thing. You got to soft sell it. So you got to build your network.

Melinda Emerson:
The second thing you’ve got to do is build your experience, like what we talked about earlier. If you’ve never worked in a restaurant, you better go work in one so that you’re really clear about what that is. And the third thing is you got to get your money straight. Sometimes if you’re carrying a lot of credit card debt, or if your credit score isn’t what you need it to be, it might take you six to 12 months to clean that stuff up. The last thing you want to do is start a business with your bills chasing you like a boulder down a hill, right? First of all, you’re going to need your excess credit capacity to launch your business before you get some sale. So you’re going to need to clean all that stuff up. And you really want a credit score of 700 or higher going into a business because you are your business’s credit when you first start out. So that’s really the reason why people need 12 months.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah, I agree. I agree. The book is incredible. I’ve already been through it. I’ve been through your last one. This is without a doubt, a book… And I’ve opened up a number of businesses, some very successful, some not so successful. So I know this area of entrepreneurship very, very well, including the Atlanta Small Business Network, which is doing very well.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
But the reason I point that out is not to impress you, but to impress upon you, those that are listening, if you don’t have a guide book like this, and you don’t have somebody coaching you, even albeit online or through a book like this, you’re in trouble. Because I wish I had this book when I opened up my first business, because it probably would have saved me so much time, so much aggravation, so much upset, so many sleepless nights, because it’s all right here. It’.s spelled out from somebody that walks the walk and that’s what you want. So I’m so glad that you came out with the new edition, and it hits all of the marks that small business owners and entrepreneurs need to focus on. It’s in this book. What do you want the biggest takeaway to be for the reader, Melinda?

Melinda Emerson:
Well, I really want people to know that the new stuff in the book is all about online selling. It’s about figuring out who your customer is, how to sell online, how to develop a sales process, get those leads in there and build a follow-up system to close those leads. And it’s also about working on your leadership. Sometimes people think just because they own a business that they’re a leader. No, that just means you own a business. Your leadership is—have to work on.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
I couldn’t agree more. That’s right. That’s right.

Melinda Emerson:
So I put some tips in there to help people really recognize their leadership role in their business and how to work on that. And I always thank you, Jim, for bringing me on.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Absolutely.

Melinda Emerson:
We’ve got some great bonuses for people. If they go to becomeyourownbossbook.com, that’s where they can get the information and all my extra goodies that are out there. And if you’re interested in a course to walk you through my book, head over to smallbizladyuniversity.com. We’ve got some great online courses to teach you everything you need to know about how to sell and market online.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Folks, I don’t know how much more of a message you need right there. I mean, if you want to start a successful small business, this is the person that you need to turn to. Melinda has been doing it for a long time. She knows from what she speaks about, firsthand knowledge. I agree with everything that comes out of her mouth every time she’s on the show. And as you guys know, I’ve been there, I’ve done that. So it’s really great content, phenomenal offers. Again, the book is Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months. And I agree, it does take 12 months before you can open up that door of your company. So Melinda Emerson, thank you so much for joining us here, once again, on the Atlanta Small Business Show. I know that our viewers and subscribers get so much out of your visit.

Melinda Emerson:
Thank you so much for having me, Jim. I’ll come back anytime.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Great. Thanks a lot.


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