I was recently contacted by a man named Marshall Davis who runs a website called Talking Small Biz.
Talking Small Biz offers brief interviews with entrepreneurs who are navigating the unpredictable waters of entrepreneurship. I was honored when he asked me if I would be willing to interview for the series.
I thought his questions were phenomenal and I thought I would share the responses with my blog readership, as many of you are small business owners and entrepreneurs. Below is the Q&A. To see the original interview, click here.
Is Strella Social Media your first entrepreneurial endeavor?
For you, what makes being an entrepreneur more attractive than working for someone else?
I work hard and I need to have things a certain way. It’s about the freedom to call the shots and know that I’m the one responsible if it doesn’t work out.
Conventional wisdom says that if you are already gainfully employed, it is best to start a business on the side and grow it until it’s income is at least equal to what your day job is, rather than jumping into the deep end head first and hoping for the best. This seems to be the approach you took, however you were able to quit your day job after only two months. How did you manage to get to that point so quickly?
Magic! Ha, no. Honestly, I hit the ground running. Every waking second – when I wasn’t working the day job – I was building the business. Breakfast meetings, lunch meetings, evening brainstorming sessions, and working late nights were a commonality.
Once I have an idea and I’ve made the decision to take action, I focus all of my energy on it. I was determined to make this business happen.
It has only been about a year and a half since you said goodbye to being an employee and hello to being self-employed full-time. In that short period of time, in addition to yourself, you now have three employees and a new intern. It would seem as if your business is growing at a good clip, requiring you to keep bringing people on board. What has the experience been like starting from scratch to being responsible for the livelihood of others, in such a short period?
Nothing like I expected! I always said, “When I’m a boss, I’ll do this… or I’ll never do that…” And now that I’m in charge, I see how hard it is to balance everything and provide adequate training and support for staff. I do my best with it, but it’s a learning experience. I’m so busy; I haven’t had a chance to let it sink in, either. Every once in a while I stop and think, “This is pretty neat!” Then I go on with my busy day!
Your expertise is in social media. Is it safe to say this is one of your strategies to expanding your business? How do you use your Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube channels to attract new clientele? Or, do you find your potential clients through other means, like your live events and word of mouth?
The digital world is a factor, but it’s really only one piece of the pie. The majority of my clients knew me before hiring me, met me at a networking event, or they were referred from an existing customer or colleague. I use social media to enhance the relationships I have in place or to initiate a new relationship. But the key is the relationship. Social media is a tool to nurture that relationship.
Social media is certainly a big buzz word today, which means that it is attracting the attention of a lot of companies who are positioning themselves as social media experts. This can lead to a very competitive arena to be operating in, and that is the case for small business owners in many different industries. What advice can you give a small business owner who is faced with the task of making their company stand out in an otherwise crowded field?
I’ve never liked to use the word “expert” when referring to someone in social media or a business using social media. There are so many facets of the industry, it’s impossible to be an expert.
There are a few core elements to make social media “work” for a business. They include: commitment, creativity, enthusiasm, and consistency. Commitment means both time and effort to grow your network and build strong relationships. Charmin created an app for finding clean public toilets. If toilet paper can be social, so can your business. You just have to think outside the box. Businesses have to have a passion for what they do and be willing to tell the world about it. The effort cannot be random. It must be consistent, even daily, to make it work!
You started your company originally under the name of Central PA Webster and, as of the first of this year, changed it to Strella Social Media. You explained your reasoning in this YouTube video. This move brands your company better, lets you expand your client base beyond the central Pennsylvania area, and emphasizes that you are a social media management company. Did your company originally have a focus other than social media, or was it a case of not choosing a more suitable name initially?
I was simply trying to be clever when I came up with the “Webster” name. However, to some it sounded creepy. Others thought I was a website developer. It was time to set the record straight. I also wanted the company name to reiterate what I tell my clients – you are your brand!
A company’s name is a huge part of its brand, and choosing one is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. What did you learn from the whole name change process that you can share with entrepreneurs so they pick the appropriate name for their company from the start?
Pick practical over clever!
The services you provide are web-based; therefore you are very aware of how powerful of a tool the Internet is. What online products and services, besides social media properties, do you utilize to help you run your company more efficiently?
A website is fundamental (and no, Facebook cannot replace a website). Although it’s not one of the ‘big three’ (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter), I consider blogging to be critical. Blogging enhances your Google search and it drives traffic to your website. Moreover, it positions you as resource and can become an outlet to enhance your credibility.
I use an online accounting system (Freshbooks), software for monitoring social media sites (Sendible), and an e-newsletter service (Constant Contact) for sending my monthly e-zine.
I allow my employees to telecommute some days. We use g-chat (Google/Gmail chat) for connecting with each other while we are on the clock.
And, of course, email is still fundamental for operations.
Lastly, what advice do you have for someone looking to strike out on their own?
Have a passion for what you do, have people that believe in what you do, and take action!
What advice can you offer other entrepreneurs or business owners?
"Have a passion for what you do, have people that believe in what you do, and take action!"
Wow, that line really hit home! And the other line that hit home for me was, "And now that I’m in charge, I see how hard it is to balance everything and provide adequate training and support for staff." I'm in the process of training a new hire. I'm out of the country now too, so it's a bit problematic.
Such a wonderful article, Amanda. It's nice to know I'm not the only one out there! Pura vida!
Thank you! It's true - you have to love what you do and you have to have others that support what you do in order to make it work! Equally important is that you get out there and get started! Sometimes we want everything to be perfect and it hinders our ability to get where we need to go. Entrepreneurship is a learning process so it's better just to dig in get your hands dirty!
Of course you're not alone! I think us entrepreneurs are a rare breed, but that we need to stick together!
Hang in there, Mike! Best of luck on your journey!