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Growing Your Business to a New Level of Success with Mark LeBlanc

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Kelly Scanlon

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Mark LeBlanc is the author of Growing Your Business and Never Be the Same. He is also a past President of the National Speakers Association and his new book When YOU Are the Business will be available early next year.  He speaks and writes on the core issues that small business owners and independent professionals face every single day and is speaking in Kansas City in a few weeks. He joins host Kelly Scanlon this week on Smart Companies Radio. Mark will walk you through the biggest mistake of his career, share with you the one marketing tool that will change the course of your career and the ultimate strategy for generating more business. 


To hear more Smart Companies Radio, Please visit our archives.

Transcript

0:38 Kelly Scanlon

Good morning, welcome to Smart Companies Radio. I am Kelly Scanlon, publisher of Thinking Bigger Business Media. Our guest today is Mark LeBlanc. He is the author of "Growing Your Business" and "Never Be the Same". "Never Be the Same" was published after his short 500 mile-walk across Spain. He is the past President of the National Speakers Association and his new book "When You are The Business!" will be available early next year. He speaks and writes on the core issues that small business owners and independent professionals face every single day. And Mark will be speaking in Kansas City in just a few weeks for the Kansas City Chapter of the National Speakers Association. Welcome to the show today, Mark.

1:21 Mark LeBlanc

Hey, thank you Kelly. Great to be with you.

1:23 Kelly Scanlon

Oh, we are delighted. You have been on your own for more than 30 years. However, you did start at a very young age. You were in your very early 20's, I believe 22, when you first started. So give us the background. How did you come to be a business owner, especially at that young age?

1:42 Mark LeBlanc

Well, I had a job once for about six months. And I was inspired by the two words, "You're fired".

1:50 Kelly Scanlon

That will inspire you.

1:52 Mark LeBlanc

And, uh, you know, I was young. I was 21, just turning 22 at that time and I made the decision, at that age to strike out, out on my own and I really made the decision also to adapt the "whatever it takes" kind of mindset.

2:15 Kelly Scanlon

Uh-hum.

2:16 Mark LeBlanc

And while I was young, and, of course, took me a little bit of a runway, to get going. I just decided to deliver pizzas at night and work my business during the day. Soon, I did not need to deliver pizzas anymore.

2:32 Kelly Scanlon

Well, and that is a great story. A lot of entrepreneurs do whatever it takes. I was at a recent conference for women business owners and one woman was telling me about a period in her business where, literally, in order to make payroll, she sold her car and started taking public transportation to work and you know that attitude that you just described, that is what you have to have when you are an entrepreneur. What business were you in when you first started out at 22?

2:59 Mark LeBlanc

I started out as a printing broker. I would work with small business owners and professionals and I would help shop, their printing projects, and then pretty soon I had a T-square, and pretty soon I had a Macintosh computer in 1985 and a laser printer. And pretty soon, we were doing graphics and brokering printing and within about, oh, probably two years, I was brokering enough printing where it made sense to buy a small printing company.

3:35 Kelly Scanlon

Uh-uhm.

3:37 Mark LeBlanc

And I built that over the next six or seven years, and then sold it to speak and write and coach full time.

3:47 Kelly Scanlon

Okay, so you have been on the road ever since then. Let us get some perspective here. You started out at 22. That had been approximately 30 years ago or so. What kind of challenges do you see in running your business today and the challenges that you had then? What has changed over time, whether it is because of the industry you were in, the market place changes, technology? What are they and what kind of advice can you give others based on those changes?

4:17 Mark LeBlanc

Well, and certainly, there have been changes. You know, back then, we used gas, stamps and the telephone and printing to market, our products and our programs and services. When, of course, today with, you know, the internet and websites and technology -- all of the different social media platforms that are out there, the choices today, the challenge of choice has never been greater.

4:54 Kelly Scanlon

Right.

4:55 Mark LeBlanc

I think, one of the biggest challenges, though, that people hide today behind the social media platforms and all of the, what I call, the indirect ways of marketing and advertising. And maybe because I am 54 years old and I have been on my own for 30+ years, I do incredibly well offline. And, you know, I am still a fan of picking up the phone and being face-to-face with my customers and prospects, and I use technology to enhance my business operations and I use technology to enhance my marketing plan. I want to be voice-to-voice, face-to-face, using the phone, uh-uhm, in order to market and sell my products and services.

5:47 Kelly Scanlon

Right. And you certainly do get an awful lot of time to be in front of potential prospects with the presentations that you give and the speaking engagements that you have and so forth, and then, of course, you reach so many through your books as well. What do you think in terms of, not technology, obviously, and social media have changed the landscape tremendously. What other kind of challenges do you think that business owners today face that maybe was not really either an issue at all or was not that big of a deal 30 years ago?

6:23 Mark LeBlanc

Well, I can only speak from experience and, of course, with the people that I speak to or coach, but I actually believe that, courage is at the top of the list when it comes to our business challenges.

6:40 Kelly Scanlon

What do you mean by that?

6:42 Mark LeBlanc

What I... What I mean by that is, there are so many choices coming at us that we often do not have the, you know, do not know what to do in the right order.

6:52 Kelly Scanlon

Uh-hmm.

6:53 Mark LeBlanc

And there is, we treat everyday like a thanksgiving meal. And we put too much on our plate. And sometimes, it takes a lot of courage to say no.

7:05 Kelly Scanlon

Uh-hmm. I love...

7:06 Mark LeBlanc

You hear... Oh, I am sorry.

7:07 Kelly Scanlon

No, I love that analogy. I have never heard it described exactly that way, but it is a perfect analogy, the thanksgiving meal and putting too much on our plates, because it is something that we all juggle with. It is just an unending stream of choices and methods just coming at us and "look here, look there" and takes you away from your core business focus.

7:30 Mark LeBlanc

There is no doubt and there is no shortage of opinion. And I will give you an example. With today's technology and, believe, me I am a fan of the technology. I think sometimes people hear me and they think that I am wailing or ranting against all of the changes in technology. But today, it seems like we are expected to be accessible and responsive 24/7-365.

8:01 Kelly Scanlon

Very true.

8:02 Mark LeBlanc

Well, that is crushing! And if an ER doctor does not need to be on-call 24/7- 365, why do we, as small business owners?

8:15 Kelly Scanlon

True. Yes.

8:16 Mark LeBlanc

That is why I think, I think the healthy, and again it goes back to "takes a lot of courage". I mean, fear manifests or reveals itself in a variety of ways and I think this challenge of choice is critical. And in order for us to be successful financially as well as mentally and emotionally, we need to make sure that we step back and have a clear set of boundaries between our work and home life.

8:48 Kelly Scanlon

Uh-hmm. Let us talk a little bit more about the choice because, again, going back to deluding your core focus, that there is so many bright shinies that you think that if they look like a business opportunity but they are business killers in disguise, they take you away from your core business and before long, nothing is working. What, obviously if every business owner had a shiny crystal ball, to know which of those perceived opportunities were really killers, we would all be making millions of dollars. But, what advice would you give for channeling some of those opportunities so that you can really see if it is something that you ought to pursue, again, with this idea of choice in mind.

9:32 Mark LeBlanc

Well, I am a huge fan of routines. I am a huge fan of rituals. I am a huge fan of frames and formulas for helping us navigate the year-to-year, month-to-month and day-to-day opportunities. The fact that you, you talked about opportunities, I believe that there is a huge difference between real opportunities and, what I call, tangents.

10:06 Kelly Scanlon

Uh-hmm.

10:07 Mark LeBlanc

Disguised as oppor - It really begins with your numbers... You know, if you are, and I know many of our listeners, are fans of Shark Tank.

10:19 Kelly Scanlon

Yes.

10:20 Mark LeBlanc

The two things that crucify business owners and entrepreneurs in the Shark Tank, just two things -- they do not know their numbers, or do not have a handle on their number.

10:34 Kelly Scanlon

Right.

10:35 Mark LeBlanc

And they are unable to articulate their story.

10:40 Kelly Scanlon

Right.

10:41 Mark LeBlanc

That kind of lack of hesitancy or lack of knowingness around messaging in your story, and the truth in terms of your numbers translates or leads to a lack of confidence, a hesitancy, and even your prospects, whether somebody is - whether you are looking for an investment in your business, or whether you are looking to a banker for a loan, or whether you are looking to a prospect, they can sense that or, sometimes I like to say, "I can even smell it on the telephone".

11:18 Kelly Scanlon

(Laughter). Right. Well, when you are hemming' and hawing' around and mean - if you do not know your number is called, it is very obvious... You are just scratching around and trying to answer and beating around the bush, obviously, that is going to come true in a conversation.

11:34 Mark LeBlanc

It is... it is and, you know, I have worked very hard with small business owners and, and professionals who, and I like to say, they are in love with their potential.

11:48 Kelly Scanlon

Yes.

11:49 Mark LeBlanc

But they never laid down the foundation for that potential to emerge. And they continue to ride the roller coaster of ups and downs or they, they stay in what I call the "getting ready to get ready" moment.

12:04 Kelly Scanlon

Sure.

12:05 Mark LeBlanc

But when they get connected to the truth and, you know, then they can deal with it.

12:13 Kelly Scanlon

Right. And one of the things I heard on a panel a couple of weeks ago was when it comes to these new opportunities, if it is really a new opportunity, you do not just go with your gut on it and say, yeah, we are going to do it, and you are constantly in that "getting ready to get ready" stage to implement the new opportunity. You need to put a plan -- put it down on paper, then you need to dedicate the resources for it, and then you need to budget for those resources. And only until you have put the numbers in the budget for that new opportunity and see that they work and see that they are going to result in the resources that you really need to - if only then, is it an opportunity you should pursue.

12:56 Mark LeBlanc

Ah, I love that description. And I, even would add an element to that. You really need to think in terms of the budget of time.

13:05 Kelly Scanlon

True.

13:07 Mark LeBlanc

We overestimate the opportunity but we... we vastly underestimate the amount of time that it takes. It is easier to look at the investment financially into an opportunity, but we could step back and really look at the time investment as well.

13:28 Kelly Scanlon

Very true, and it is a great advice. On that note, we are going to take a break. When we get back, we are going to be talking with Mark about some of the concepts in his new book. You are listening to Smart Companies Radio on Blog Talk Radio. We will be right back.

15:35 Kelly Scanlon

Good morning. Welcome back to Smart Companies Radio. I am Kelly Scanlon, publisher at Thinking Bigger Business Media. We're visiting here this morning with Mark LeBlanc and he has a new book out. Mark, that is going to address nine best practices for growing a business and obviously we can talk about all nine of them in a little bit of time we have here today, but if you could single out one best practice that would make the biggest difference in growing a business, I am sure our listeners would particularly hear that.

16:05 Mark LeBlanc

Well thank you, Kelly. And I think I would go to best practice number two because we have such a wide variety of business owners listening to this interview, but best practice number two takes along something we talked about in the first segment in terms of knowing your numbers, and when I talk about knowing your numbers, obviously I am assuming that every single, every single small business owner and independent professional is using quick books or the equivalent thereof. But the second step is to reshape their profit and loss statement.

16:47 Kelly Scanlon

What do you mean by reshape it.

16:50 Mark LeBlanc

We developed the proprietary way of knowing and looking at your numbers and what we have people do is just create a new memorized report where we group the four, five, six different ways that an owner takes compensation. We have them group all of their six, seven, eight, nine business development categories line items. We group the host and then we group their office admin expenses.

17:25 Kelly Scanlon

Uh-uhm.

17:26 Mark LeBlanc

And then we create a formula for a particular business that says here are our presented targets compared to your revenues. This is where we want to be at for business development expenses. This is where we want to be at for office admin and this is where we want to be at for your compensation as an owner. Owners are too quick to either take money too soon or wait too long out of their business for themselves. And when I can get an owner connected to making a regular payroll, they will take marketing more seriously. They will market themselves more effectively and they will market themselves more consistently.

18:16 Kelly Scanlon

Well, speaking of marketing then, what marketing idea did you try you know, for the longest time like the fact you said you were the business. So what marketing idea did you try and did it work better than you thought that it would, you're obviously here still 37 years later as a business owner?

18:32 Mark LeBlanc

Well, (laughs) the marketing strategy that one of them that I am known five advocative strategy and at a time when, like many, I was hoping for more referral. I asked myself two questions: how can I stimulate more referral, and the second question was, what can I specifically do in order to make that happen?. You can apply that little two steps questioning process at any challenge were desired outcome in your business, but for me it was around referral. And what I did was, I put together a list of 25 individuals that were, you know, fans, or champions, or cheerleaders of me and my work and I just made a decision to connect with them, in a top-of-mind way every 30 days.

19:32 Kelly Scanlon

Uh-uhm.

19:34 Mark LeBlanc

Not to ask them for a referral but just to maintain top-of-mind presence with the people who believed in me and my work.

19:45 Kelly Scanlon

So when you had these connections with them every 30 days, what did that look like? Did you...

19:51 Mark LeBlanc

Of course that could be a quarterly newsletter, it could be four of the 12 connections, one month that might be a note in the mail, the next month it might be an email, it could be a holiday card, it could be a small specialty, or a gift, telephone call, I am always mixing it up.

20:11 Kelly Scanlon

Uh-uhm...

20:12 Mark LeBlanc

And then depending upon geography, if they are on my target thought 25, once a year, I will be deliberate in taking them to lunch or breakfast or out for a happy hour, but it really is a nurturing, some might call it a "drip" strategy but it is really a connection strategy to strengthen those advocate-type relationships. The more I remained neutral, in not asking for referrals, and the more I focus on nurturing the relationships, all of a sudden I had more referral than I knew what to do it.

20:56 Kelly Scanlon

Yeah. So, today automatically I wanted to give back in some way for the attention and followup that you are providing to them.

21:05 Mark LeBlanc

They really did and of course as you get to know people better, you know when you see them or talk with them they say "wow", you know, "what is going on?", you know, "what are you excited about, or what is happening in your world now?" and I will just shine a light on something particular and say "well, I am really excited about this or this presentation". "Well I know somebody who could help you with that. I know a group that would be a great fit for this group of professionals or business owners."

21:39 Kelly Scanlon

If you had to go back and look at your 22-year-old self, and have a conversation with that young man, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

21:51 Mark LeBlanc

When I look back now, I guess, I would, I guess you could call it my ego or you can call it arrogant, or naivete, but I would go back and I would tell him "be willing to raise your hand quicker when you are in a moment of struggle or aches that no one accomplishes anything great alone, get a great accountant, get a great attorney, get a great business consultant or coach, get a great, you know, web person, get a great creative person, but develop those relationships with people who will keep your foundation strong and then you __22:36__".

22:37 Kelly Scanlon

That's great advice. In other way I have heard that as this, if you do not ask, you do not get and I think the very nature of many entrepreneurs is that they can do everything themselves, I mean, they are the ones who jump and took the risk and, by golly! I am going to make, you know, it is on my shoulders but as you say you have got to be able to ask and get help specially when you are struggling, I think some people also think that if they show that vulnerability you know the sharks, their competitors smell blood and they start to circle but you do have to raise your hand and ask for that help, you cannot do it all alone.

23:10 Mark LeBlanc

None of us were born business owners and who stood the test of time and historically been successful even with some high's and low's really took a team approach internally in their business and externally looking outside their team, order people to get some good help.

23:38 Kelly Scanlon

Right. So, let us talk the future of small business for just a minute here. And then I want to talk about your 500-mile walk across Spain. When you look into your crystal ball, I ask you to go back in time a minute ago, now let's look forward, when you look into your crystal ball, what do you see for the future of small business?

23:57 Mark LeBlanc

I do not believe there has ever been a better time to be in business for yourself. And whether you have a small retail business, a small manufacturing business, a small service business, and there are inherent challenges, unique to each of those three small business sectors, but I believe that never been a better time to be on your own. Also with that said, I believe the next 10 years is the decade of independence. But if you are an independent professional, an independent dealer, distributor, rep, people who strike out on their own and of course people are finding themselves own at 45, 55, 65, and we are helping them today than people worked 30 years ago.

24:51 Kelly Scanlon

That is true.

24:52 Mark LeBlanc

We are living longer and we want to take advantage of the expertise and the experiences that we have but it requires us to, I often say, "think like an artist, but act like a business owner" even if you are an independent, act like a business owner, practice the fundamentals and the opportunities are there.

25:19 Kelly Scanlon

You took a 500-mile walk across Spain, you did not just do it once you did it twice, what did you learn on that walk as you had lots of time to think, lots of time by yourself, what did you learn that might help our listeners today?

25:35 Mark LeBlanc

Well, now you just hit me with my favorite question.

25:40 Kelly Scanlon

We only have about two minutes left (laughs).

25:42 Mark LeBlanc

Right. It is called the Camino de Santiago made a little bit more popular here in the States by the movie starring Martin Sheen titled "The Way". The first walk, a 500-mile walk, I learned about commitments and what it takes literally started out and 33 days later end up in Santiago. The second walk, I learned about consistency and the importance of pace, we can go slower and get further. There is a great African proverb that says "If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, take someone who with you", and pace is so incredibly important on the Camino, and the second time around I learned that if I walk a little bit slower, took a few more breaks, drank a little bit more water, I made it in 29 days and I only had one blister about half-way into the walk.

26:53 Kelly Scanlon

That is great, great advice. If anyone would like to get a copy of your new book, "When You Are the Business," how would they do that? I know it's not going to be available until early next year but where will they be able to get it?

27:05 Mark LeBlanc

They could get it on amazon.com or they could send me personally an email: mark@growingyourbusiness.com.

27:16 Kelly Scanlon

mark@growingyourbusiness.com and that is mark with the k and your website?

27:21 Mark LeBlanc

growingyourbusiness.com.

27:23 Kelly Scanlon

Right. You can find out more about Mark and some of the other books that he has in his presentations and just everything that you do for a small business. We very much appreciate that and thank you for your time today.

27:35 Mark LeBlanc

Thank you, Kelly.

27:36 Kelly Scanlon

And if you would like to learn more about how to grow your business, please visit our website at ithinkbigger.com, follow us on Facebook thinkingbiggerbusinessmedia or on Twitter at ithinkbigger. Have a great weekend. We will see you next week.

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