Robert was first introduced to me by his wife Barbara whom I worked with at Liberty Lutheran Services in Philadelphia in the late 1990s. Barbara found out that I designed websites as a hobby and told me about her boyfriend, Robert, who just parted ways with his contracted web designer. He was looking for a new programmer to assist him on marketing client website projects. That initial introduction and subsequent and ongoing partnership has been the single most important influence in my own technology consulting career! Robert is a passionate, opinionated, kind-hearted and extremely creative colleague and friend. We share a mutual interest in acoustic guitar and meet up consistently for his annual Peregrine holiday party in Warminster, PA. It is my great pleasure to provide him with a brief forum to share his entrepreneurial and leadership expertise.
1. Career influences
My Father and Mother: My dad had his own business when I was quite young and passed on the entrepreneurial spirit. My parents taught me a great deal about dealing with people and treating them fairly and with integrity and honesty. It’s a shame though, much of what my father taught me from a business/technical side took me years to fully understand and accept. Much like what Mark Twain once quoted: “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”
Carl Raphael: A long time friend and fellow volunteer in EMS. Carl had a long run in Marketing and was president of a Marketing Research company. While out one day, I pointed to a building and said, I’d love to have my office there. He looked at me and said
“You just may one day”. That simple statement made me realize that you are only limited by your imagination and energy to work towards your dreams. He also taught me not to be afraid to surround myself with folks that know more than I do.
2. Biggest career success
“Success is not measured by where you stand, but rather by the distance you traveled to get there.”
So my career success has been measured by completing my first year of business where 50% fail; surviving my next 5 years where 50 – 90% fail; and now, completing 25+ years of business. I must be doing something right!
3. Recent lessons learned
- Never stop marketing!
- Don’t be afraid to have a trusted outsider look into your business – a fresh pair of eyes
- It’s okay to charge a fair price for your services
- It’s okay to fire a client
4. What inspires and motivates
- It may be a cliche’ but it’s true: You have to really like what you do
- It’s not easy…if it was, every one could do it – don’t be afraid to work hard
5. Share a leadership story
Let me tell you a story about a man named Jed
Who invented a ‘gadget’ that would keep his family fed
He came to Peregrine; “Market this he’d say”
He failed ‘cause I couldn’t get him out of his own way
This is a true story of a client that invented a wonderful new product – the gadget. The best part of this item was that it was not a stand -alone product, it was to be used in conjunction with the ‘widget’. There were already hundreds of thousands of widgets sold with thousands of new ones sold all the time. The gadget protected the widget, saving the owner a great deal of maintenance time and costs. It was a no-brainer! We came up with a marketing plan:
- Logo and branding designs
- Website – we’re talking so long ago, dial up service!
- Print ad in a trade magazine – perfect timing with the season’s editorial section
- Photo shoot
- Other print ads
Unfortunately, someone suggested to the client that with the website, folks would ‘flock’ to it so there was no need to advertise in the trade magazine. What? Really? The problem with this theory:
- Remember, there was no Google at that time
- Not everyone was web savvy or had internet access back then (hard to imagine that today!)
- This was a new product – never invented before – IT DIDN’T EXIST! How do you get folks to do a search for a product they don’t even know is around?
- Not having an advertisement, about a new product, placed perfectly next to a free Press Release, in a national trade magazine just didn’t make sense
It became the best kept secret–product and the company failed. It is true, sometimes we can’t get out of our own way. Don’t let that happen to you:
- Check your ego at the door
- Surround yourself with folks that know more than you do in areas you’re weak
- It’s all about the marketing
6. Your Top Two
Find a quality mentor who you can trust – then stick with them. Too many times we find new clients that have friends and family that give poor advice. They may mean well, but that won’t make your business grow. And don’t take the advice from your mentor as bad, it’s all constructive criticism. Keep your ego out of it.
Have a plan! - You can’t build a strong foundation ‘flying by the seat of your pant’s’. You have to have a solid business plan and follow it – but remember to stay flexible at the same time. And don’t ever stop working on updating your plan – or you’ll go stale.
7. About Robert
We provide promotional services from logo design, to creative/design/layout; to printing, to direct mail, to websites and social media and to all the little promotional products you need along the way.
Check out other “Entrepreneurs in Action”!