Melinda Emerson - You Win or Your Learn
Melinda Emerson is more popularly known as the ‘Small Business Lady’ and has been helping small and mid-sized companies and entrepreneurs succeed and grow for more than fifteen years. Known as America’s number one small business expert, Melinda pivoted from a solid corporate job to starting and running her own successful production company. She eventually began advising and coaching other entrepreneurs—a calling that has since exploded into a hugely successful brand. Today, Melinda is the best selling author and internationally lauded keynote speaker whose advice is read online each week by more than 3 million entrepreneurs. A Social Media Marketing pioneer, Melinda is the creator and host of #smallbizchat—the longest-running live chat on Twitter for small business owners.
[01:27] Ed introduces Melinda
[02:06] Melinda’s background
[03:22] Melinda strikes out on her own
[03:53] Melinda begins to outline her first book when she realizes there is no-one giving relevant small business advice.
[05:34] The hard truths about owning a business
[06:44] Starting a business from scratch vs. buying an already established business
[07:14] Buyer beware: understand why someone is selling
[08:07] Melinda’s top three tips from her new book
[09:24] Emotional aspects that increase or detract value
[13:43] Biggest challenges facing today’s business owner
[17:00] Building business credit
[18:31] Running the business vs. being the business
[24:47] Melinda’s Last Piece of Advice
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Be Careful What You Wish For
Melinda started her career as a television producer and is a self-described ‘accidental business coach.’ She jokes that you should be careful what you wish for because it might just come knocking. Melinda’s own big dream job was given to her when she was only 23, and it wasn’t long before she realized that her dream had turned into a nightmare. At 26, she quit and started her business in the basement of her house with only a ‘laptop, a fax machine, and a dream.’ Seven or eight years later, a lot of successes and more than a few missteps, Melinda realized that there was a serious hole in the market for people looking to get tangible small business advice. She began writing down the costly mistakes and lessons learned from her own journey which eventually formed the basis for her international bestseller How to Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months Her path continued to evolve and today, Melinda continues to help small businesses avoid costly mistakes and grow into successful, stable and profitable enterprises.
Do You Really Want to Own a Business?
Melinda jokes that a lot of people call her first book a bucket of cold water because she gets serious about the real difficulties and challenges of starting a business. On the question of whether to start or buy a business, Melinda says that it’s important to recognize that businesses can evolve, whether they are start-ups or purchased as already established businesses. She warns people who are considering buying that one of the most important things they can do is make sure they know exactly why the current owner of the business in question wants to sell. She says it could be finances, market shifts or legacy or something else entirely, but transparency and research are crucially important.
Melinda’s Top Tips
Melinda’s newest book, Fix Your Business: A 90-Day Plan to Get Your Life Back and Reduce Chaos in Your Business focuses on 12 major points that business owners might need to consider in order to get their business (and life) back on track. Her three favorites are—people, profits and prospects.
People—How to manage people and relationships properly
Profits—How to managing money and profit margins successfully
Process—specifically the sales process. How to develop a specific sales pipeline and really understand the difference between marketing and sales.
Emotional Aspects of Starting a Business
If you are considering going into business, Melinda says that the first thing you should do is call a family meeting. When it comes to breaking the news to a significant other, Melinda advises good judgment and recognition about who your partner really is. If you have a spouse who is highly risk-averse, she recommends approaching that person not with dreams, but with facts and figures. She jokes that the presentation you give that kind of spouse should be fit for the bank. On the other hand, if you have a creative spouse, they might be willing to listen to your big ideas. Regardless of who you are married to, it’s important that you give them a timeline of how long you are going to pursue the business. Melinda recommends people pad that number and remember that it takes 12-18 months for a small business to break even. When you buy a business, you can sometimes mitigate some of those issues, but there could be debt or infrastructural upgrades. Whether you are starting from scratch, or buying an already established business, Melinda emphasizes trying to drill down regarding how long it is going to take you to get a paycheck.
The Most Significant Challenges Businesses Face Today
Above all else, Melinda says that cash flow continues to be the number one challenge facing businesses. She says that getting cash and managing it continues to bring up problems for entrepreneurs. In America, traditional banks turn down 8,000+ loan applications every day in the United States. Affordable lending is a hard thing to access and a lot of the bank competitors can be predatory. On the positive side, Melinda points out that non-traditional lenders are beginning to loan money. Quickbooks, Paypal, and others are beginning to do loans at more affordable rates. Balancing cash management issues with access to credit is an essential function that many small businesses lost access to during the recession. Building business credit is important for growth and Melinda points out that borrowing when you don’t need it and planning strategically for how that money will be used is a great way to build motivation.
Running the Business vs. Being the Business
Melinda learned a lot about the importance of separating business from personal when her pregnancy was categorized as high risk. As a relatively healthy person, Melinda wasn’t expecting to be sent home for 6 months on bed rest, but it did make it crystal clear that she was the number one rain-maker in her company. The year she had her son, Melinda says she almost lost everything. Now, she recognizes the importance of not only having another person invested in the business at a similar level but also building some autonomy into the culture.
Melinda’s Last Piece of Advice
You never lose in business—you either win or you learn.
Above everything else, having faith that you will make it and persevering when the going gets tough was the most important message Melinda wanted listeners to leave with. She emphasized how important it is to never get stuck on any one mistake. Rather—shake it off and get ready to go at it again the next day. Sage advice indeed!
If you want to catch Melinda live, talking about all things small business, tune into her weekly live Twitter chat every Wednesday night from 8-9pm Eastern time. Once a month there will also be a Facebook live chat. In the meantime, check out her many great resources on her website and on social media.