3 Words to Small Business Success: Easy, Fun and PopularJune 8, 2011
What’s the attitude you show up to in your business each day?
Are you having fun?
Does it lift your spirit to connect with those you need to connect with to be successful in your business?
In my blog Community Service, Leadership and Small Businesses, I told the story of how my best friend Tina Reynolds, long-time small business owner of Uptown Studios, uses her love of community service to drive the marketing for her business. I met Tina 15 years ago, when she was doing volunteer work for a local HIV/AIDS service organization, and through the years I cannot begin to recall how many organizations, actions and activities she has led or been part of. Her dedication and stamina for community service are unparalleled, and as a result she frequently receives awards, honors and nominations.
At this week’s California Small Business Day, she was honored by California’s Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg as the Capital Region’s Small Business of the Year. Senator Steinberg made an excellent choice. From the vantage point of a best friend I’ve watched Tina’s business grow, and then sputter, and then grow again. I’ve watched her maneuver through the economic challenges of the past few years, always with a positive attitude.
So how exactly do you get to be a Small Business of the Year? What makes Tina and her business stand out as a role model for entrepreneurs? To use Uptown Studios’ tagline, be Easy, Fun and Popular.
In my Forbes Profile I write about blocks I’ve Been Around: putting $10 of gas in my car because that’s all I had. This was years ago, so I’m going to out Tina: she was the one I passed that $10 back and forth with. Sometimes I needed it; sometimes she did. Entrepreneurship isn’t always glamorous. But Tina, no matter how challenging a client project or how tough a business issue she faces, always has a can-do attitude and exudes to her staff and her clients that it’s easy. “Let’s just jump in and get it done.” And to persevere as an entrepreneur while enjoying a personal life, having an “It’s Easy” attitude is vital.
Almost all of us began our businesses because we had something we were passionate about, something we wanted to share with others. We wanted to lift someone else’s spirit, give them a better tool, a better service or a better product. Tina, for decades, has been passionate about graphic design. And then, before I heard anyone else using the phrase, Tina was excitedly chattering about “social marketing for nonprofits.”
To her, marketing and graphic design are not work, they are fun. What can be learned from watching Tina’s growth as a business owner is that she has successfully met the entrepreneurial challenge that Michael Gerber talks about in the eMyth Revisited. As she has moved from Technician to Entrepreneur, as she has had to step away from designing on the computer and into the role of visionary and leader, her sense of what is fun has kept step right along with her.
Tina was the first to teach me a cold hard truth about entrepreneurship:
“If you think you can hang a shingle and clients will magically come, don’t waste your time or money.”
If you’re going to own a business, you must connect with others; you must provide your clients or customers with a product or service that fills a need. For years, we’ve joked when one of us got a new client: “Did they come from the yellow pages?”
A couple of years ago Tina was invited to join the American Leadership Forum (ALF). It’s both a great honor to be invited into ALF and a great opportunity to connect with diverse leaders from all walks of life. What business owner wouldn’t be thrilled at the opportunity to make connections like that? But it’s not the business connections I hear Tina talk about. When Tina talks about ALF, she talks about the personal connections she is making—different people she’s getting to know, about their families, about what their passions are in life. She genuinely enjoys connecting with others.
And that’s why Tina is both deserving of the Small Business of the Year award and an entrepreneur all of us can learn from. She has used an innovative approach to grow her business. Rather than endlessly networking, she has taken the easy, fun and popular approach: by doing what she loves, community service, her business has steadily and healthily grown.