The Proof Is In The Pudding

Posted on March 15, 2015

The other day, I talked to a friend about the way solopreneurs work. He knew that I worked my share in the marketing and advertising industry, and that our family owned and operated an advertising agency very much in line with the principles of David Ogilvy. As the son of two entrepreneurs, I was groomed to run a company, and after earning my wings working as the in-house agency of a Microsoft OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer), I spent most of my career growing the digital capabilities of our company and writing copy for our clients – leaders in the German steel industry, financial and insurance companies in Switzerland, and international trade fair organizers.

Coming to America a decade ago, I joined the workforce of the Mountain State. I spent several years at a West Virginia design firm, helping to transform it into a marketing and creative strategy company – applying my skills and quality standards first as Production Manager, then later as a Creative Manager. With a team of up to eight members, we catered to a mixed audience of local small to medium-sized businesses, as well as national and international business-groups and non-profits. Knowledgeable and skilled team members in every position allowed us to perform above our numbers. As the team disbanded and the company focus shifted, I made preparations to return to my roots. While denied any recommendations or credit of my work achieved on this continent, I still knew I could convert past experience to create opportunities and apply my skill set as a solopreneur. As I learned later, the market was shifting from the brick-and-mortar model to the skills and experience-based project approach, anyway, I was just ahead of the curve.

A team comprised of multiple members has an entirely different structure and dynamics, compared to a team of one. To my opinion, a solopreneur has to organize like a team to accommodate the different roles he has to fill. Departmentalizing my workflow and acquiring the right tools and knowledge proved to be essential to find new audiences, showcase my expertise, offer competitive rates, then estimate, execute and invoice my work. In a company of one, this means making decisions on what needs to be done, doing what you excel at, and outsource or expand your skill set in order to accomplish the tasks at hand.

I use TimeFox, a web-based project planning and time-keeping software to track, schedule and document the work I accomplish, and I use another web-based solution called FreshBooks, to bill, invoice, and keep track of cash-flow and my financial accountability. Information Technology is part of my company’s DNA, and using / tinkering with hardware and software for 30+ years provides me with the knowledge to put these technologies to use. My entrepreneurial roots and the practical application of them – even as an employee in this country – created a comfortable environment, as it was “a shoe well worn.”

Starting out in 2013, I quickly realized that the two most needed skills to complement my existing skill set were accounting and patience. While I am still trying to acquire the latter, I have made great progress in regards of the former. My mentor and business development consultant recommended an accounting workshop, offered by the Seattle-based Profit Mastery University, lead by Steve LeFever, MBA, CFE. I learned to gain a more in-deep understanding of my company’s financials and to manage my business for increased profitability.

With a contribution margin of about 25% in 2014, I credit both resources for providing me with more control of my finances and the ability to understand ratios, read and prepare financial documents like balance sheets and income statements, and analyze the structural integrity of a business based on its annual report. My closer network knows that passion, optimism, and an abundant love for my work fuels my entrepreneurial spirit, still I attribute the naysayers, well poisoners and doubters for helping me to find my niche – providing marketing and creative strategy to the professional, scientific, and technical services industry.

As Zig Ziglar stated, “sometimes adversity is what you need to face in order become successful.” While I still work on overcoming the emotional challenge that accompanies negative statements, I know now to shrug them off, because – as often in life – “the proof is in the pudding”.

Come, grab your spoon!

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