(J. Roosenberg, given May 23, 2012)
Good evening. My name is Jennifer Roosenberg and I am the Executive Director of the Ferndale Area Chamber of Commerce. This basically means that I have the pleasure of leading a member-based organization of over 300 incredible businesses. As a former entrepreneur myself, I know how hard each of them work to make their business not only a success for themselves, but also for their families and any employees they may have. These men and women take on many risks and play such an integral role in our region’s economic development. In fact, did you know that small businesses make up 98 percent of the businesses in the United States and account for 64 percent of net new job growth?
Despite these great numbers, there is one statistic that people often focus on deterring possible future entrepreneurs from even trying. That stat is that over 50 percent of businesses fail within their first four years.
That is a scary number, but for those who take the risk and fall into the over 40 percent that do make it, the rewards can be amazing. These rewards aren’t just about financial gain for entrepreneurs, but also about personal satisfaction, stability and enjoyment.
In our community we have several entrepreneurs that have succeeded well past that four years: Jack Aronson from Garden Fresh, Jerome Raska of Blumz by JRDesigns, and Chris Johnston of Woodward Avenue Brewers; and several who are well on their way: Brad Dahlhofer of B Nektar Meadery, Rifino Valentine of Valentine Vodka, Scott Moloney of Treat Dreams and Frank Lanzkron-Tamarazo of Chazzano Coffee Roasters.
Each of them shares certain characteristics that have helped them get over the hurdles and make them a success.
They do what they enjoy and what they are passionate about.
If what you do feels more like work than it does a hobby or pleasure, you will lose the motivation and focus to keep at it. This will rub off on your employees and team as well. In addition, it is much harder to sell something that you are not excited about.
They had a vision and created a road map to get there.
We all hear the importance about setting goals. But those goals are based on a vision of who and what you want to be. And those goals are not attainable if you don’t plan out exactly how to reach them.
They manage money wisely.
You can make all the sales in the world, but if you don’t have a plan in place to collect the money, or aren’t properly covering your expenses, you will fail. More importantly, you need to pay your bills on time. Pleasing your vendors and creditors ensures that you can get future money and product from them.
They know that it is all about their customers.
You’re customers are not always right, but they are the ones buying your product or service so you do need to keep them in mind for everything…where to locate your business, what features your products should have, how much to charge, how to treat them.
They are shameless self promoters (without being obnoxious and coming off like they are selling)
People are inherently bad about talking themselves up. We’re taught not to boast or brag. We think that word of mouth will be enough….but who does that good word of mouth start with? It needs to start with you. There is nothing wrong about speaking highly about your product or service. It’s true isn’t it? You believe you are the best at what you do, so just speak honestly and from your heart about it.
They have built a top-notch business team.
No one person can build a successful business alone. It’s a task that requires a team that is as committed as you to the business and its success. This team isn’t just your employees, it’s also your family members, friends, suppliers, business alliances, sub-contractors, industry and business associations, local government and the community, and most importantly, your customers. Never be afraid to ask for help. We can’t be experts in everything.
They invest in themselves, reinvest in their business, and never stop learning.
You will never learn everything you need to know in college, plus technology, people, places, everything keeps changing so you have to continue investing in learning and honing your skills. In addition, as your company grows or as technology changes, you need to be willing to reinvest in your business to buy new equipment, increase personnel and alter your products or services.
They are accessible, making it easy for people to do business with them. This one is pretty self explanatory. I am sure we can all think of examples of businesses who fail at this one by not being open during hours that are convenient for their customers, or who make you go through a never-ending automated telephone system before reaching a live person.
They get involved and give back to their communities, or they share their knowledge by mentoring other businesses.
They follow up and follow through. Nothing ruins that solid reputation faster than by not following up with people or following through with what you promised. Not only will they lose the business of the customer they failed, but they will lose potential referrals.
They take time off. As much as you love your business or as much money you may be making, everyone needs time to refuel and relax. Allow yourself the time to solely focus on your family or personal activities. If you don’t, you will spend half of your time at work focused on work and the other half thinking about what you need to get done at home. This will cause you to get less done at work than if you would have had you just taken a day or two off to focus on personal issues. A day off will also help you clear your mind. And taking time off for your family will help keep them your biggest supporters.
Most of the graduating seniors in this room who are gearing up for college and considering their futures will choose a career path where they are working for someone rather than the path of an entrepreneur. Many current entrepreneurs started that way as well.
My guess is that many of you scholarship finalists already possess many of these traits and that is why you are here tonight.
So on behalf of the Ferndale Area Chamber and the entire Ferndale business community, we congratulate all of the scholarship candidates and wish for you a bright future.