Each quarter, I get the opportunity to attend a technology industry conference focused on sales and marketing our services to Stimulus’ clients.  One of the highlights of these conferences is to hear from speakers from a wide range of industries and backgrounds.  This quarter, I packed my bags and flew across the country to Orlando, FL to learn from, and meet, two business greats: Marcus Lemonis (The Profit) and Kevin O’Leary (Shark Tank).

Both hailing from humble backgrounds, they went on to build great businesses and become among the most successful entrepreneurs in their industries, recreational vehicles and learning software, respectively.  Both like to give some of their time to help small business owners succeed in their own companies.  After hearing them speak, I took away a few impressions from their experiences and counsel that I want to share with you.

My first take-away from both is that you, the business owner, are unique.  Starting, running, and succeeding in business is very difficult.  A large majority of businesses fail in their first five years. It’s your tenacity, perseverance and dedication that takes you through all the day-to-day obstacles.  You succeed where many others do not.  Lemonis demonstrated, by bringing many of the business owners up out the crowd to share their experiences, that each of our stories is unique.

Marcus Lemonis speakingSuccess in small business starts with the “Why” and that often comes from the origin story of the owner.  Lemonis emphasized that you must get your origin story and purpose of your business down and be able to communicate it on a “Third-grade” level. For those of us in a complex industry, like me in technology, it is often difficult.  I personally tend to talk about the How and What I do rather than the Why.  Clearly telling people the Why of the business and connecting it to the person you are talking to is essential for communicating the message.  Mr. O’Leary said that while on the Shark Tank, he can identify the deals that will work based on three criteria, one of them being that he can tell who is going to execute their vision.  In small business, having a clear vision and a leader that can articulate and execute the vision is the difference between failure and success of the business.

My second take-away from Lemonis and O'Leary is that now is the time to accelerate sales and marketing. The economy is quickly recovering from the pandemic and it is about to get very hot.  Businesses that thrived in the pandemic are poised to grow quickly.  In a previous conference in April of 2020, just after Covid-19 shut thing down, Mr. Lemonis gave us the advice increase our marketing, in spite of the disaster around us.  I took that advice and worked hard to talk about opportunities to use technology to succeed during a shutdown.

That decision has been very successful for me , as well as helpful to my clients. I am using marketing to educate others about adapting business practices so they can succeed even in very uncertain times.  Lemonis also stressed the importance of developing a clear story and message so customers can connect with a business and know what benefits they will receive from it. O’Leary recommended utilizing social media to get messages out to customers - existing and potential. Using short videos and clearly targeting an audience helped the businesses in his portfolio win new clients.  O’Leary discussed how companies had to change their business model to target customers directly rather than going through third parties.  He shared that it was a big shift in marketing that all businesses can utilize to grow their market share.

My final take-away is that customer service is key.  Your company culture will connect with your customers and build trust.  It goes back to one of the key strategies stressed by Lemonis; Emphasis on the company’s origin story and purpose.  If everyone in the organization shares that vision, it will connect with the customer.  Both O’Leary and Lemonis stated that people will pay more for services from companies that they feel a connection to. If your customers believe in you and your purpose, they will be raving fans.

The next time you turn on the TV and watch The Profit or Shark Tank, look for these pieces of advice when they talk to the business owners pitching to them.  You and I can use them now to succeed in the post-pandemic economy and win!

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