I had a very interesting conversation this past week with two people who are finding a lot of success with a venture that is all about teaching business owners and managers how to maximize their efforts with local businesses.
The concepts they are teaching will work with any business—big or small. But they seem to provide the most help for local, small businesses that fall into the typical category of an individual who has an idea to start their own business, launches into it, then finds things not going as well as they had hoped.
I started The Slidell Independent nearly five years ago and one of my regular remarks now is referring to my own experience becoming a small businessman. Two months into the paper—starting with this grand idea of being the publisher and having plenty of staff to do the work—I suddenly realized I better become an ad sales person right away, or I was not going to survive.
My experience is probably very similar to other small business people, who have the American dream of owning their own business, open their doors, and are fairly surprised that the success does not roll in the way they had hoped.
We’ve all heard the standard discussion about how long it takes for a small business to succeed. I heard three years, five years—even longer. Of course, I didn’t think that would apply to me since I was sure I had something special.
Nearly five years later, I can see how exactly my small business progressed—taking time to build a brand name, taking time for people to know who I was and what I had to offer, and taking time to get folks to trust me enough with their business.
I am cautiously saying today that The Slidell Independent is going to be here for a long time, especially since several of my children are working with me now and love the business. About eight months ago we followed The Independent with our second newspaper, bringing Tammany West back to the west side of St. Tammany Parish, and that is also following the same pattern in the small business world—taking time to really make it.
Back to the friends I met with this week, David Kiviaho and Sharon Sandifer are actually brother and sister, but they decided to start working together a few years ago since their lifetime of experience in many other areas seemed to bring them to the same place, and they realized they could combine their skills to do something different, unique and very helpful for those who were in my shoes five years ago.
Kiviaho spent his life in the business world, many years with non-profits, crafting plans to get the companies moving forward, while Sandifer was a teacher, worked in retail and also worked with non-profits. Together they have a great resume of business background that included teaching the key points of business success.
They finally decided to team up and offer a company that provided training, which led to one attendee connecting them to a publishing company. Their book is at the printer as we speak, entitled: “Custom Management: The kiisa Service Cycle.” kiisa—yes, with a small ‘k’—is the name of their company and is a combination of the letters from their names. They told me they wanted to be different and they certainly achieved that.
They explained how much their research continually supported what they had learned by experience—most small business owners are so consumed trying to survive and keep their head above water that they lose sight of the key components that will lead them to the success they are working so hard to obtain.
The book, which will be available for sale soon, provides training for businesses on key points too many business owners are neglecting. They teach the importance of customer service, knowing your product, teamwork in the business, and the emotional connection most business owners don’t appreciate when they have a potential customer. It’s not that they don’t want to do all these things, but it’s easily lost when an owner is only thinking about surviving day-to-day.
I am personally interested to read the book, which will sell for $60—a small price to pay if it proves to be the key to getting your business untracked. Fortunately I’m not still trying to survive, but just talking to them for an hour showed me there is great information in that book to help me.
As I said, I feel I am right in the boat with every small business person I talk to every day. I have faced the same struggles, yet fortunately have survived nearly five years with the future looking very bright. But I want to help other small businesses succeed and anything I can do through this newspaper to pass along valuable knowledge like the information I heard from my two friends is something I will do.
When the book comes out in January, I plan to do a story about them and let local business people know the help is there to be had. I hope many of you will get the book and/or get the pair to speak to you and your employees.
I am still fairly surprised at how many small business people start off with only their idea, but don’t consider the vital aspect of having a plan, marketing your business so the public knows who you are and what you have to offer, and the other points mentioned by Kiviaho and Sandifer.
Those are the keys to success and I hope many of you with the dream to own your own business will allow experts in the field to help you get there.
Kevin Chiri can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org