Melinda Emerson Q&A

Melinda Emerson, Twitter’s @SmallBizLady offers advice and encouragement to more than three million entrepreneurs every week online. Forbes magazine named her the top woman for entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. She’s a successful businesswoman, a social media expert and journalist, and a dynamic and stimulating speaker.

We decided to turn the tables on her and put her in the interview chair for a change. Her new book Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months, 2nd Edition is being released January 2, 2015. She’s really excited about her updated book, which includes new information on crowdfunding, content strategy and social media marketing.

Q: You’re an amazing role model for all entrepreneurs, but especially women entrepreneurs. Can you tell us your story?

Melinda Emerson: I was 26 when I started my company Quintessence Group. I knew I didn’t know much about running a small business, but I did know I could never have another job. I am journalist, so I enjoy reading and doing research. I approached starting a business like a research project. I was in a male-dominated field, but I did well. After about 7 years in business, I had numerous professional accolades and awards, and I had the largest female-owned production company in my city. Then my former husband and I got pregnant, and I was immediately put on bed rest. I went from being the worst workaholic in the world, to not being allowed to leave my home. My business really suffered. In fact, I almost went out of business at that time. Unfortunately, I built a business that couldn’t run without me.

However, when I had six months to sit and think, I realized all the expensive mistakes I had made in business. I also realized that I did not have good advice starting out. It also occurred to me that other people would experience the same thing unless I started educating people about the right way to start and run a business. The first thing I did after my son was born, and I adjusted to new motherhood, was start working on my bestselling book Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months. It was completed in 2008, but when the global recession hit, my publisher postponed the release of the book until 2010. This was heartbreaking to me, as I was using the book to reinvent myself as a national small business expert.

When I first went to Twitter to sign up for an account, my name was taken. After I got over the initial shock, my publicist suggested that I come up with a nickname that would tell people who I am and what I am about. We came up with SmallBizLady, which was the best branding move I could have made. I have used that brand to build a social media machine to help small business owners, and now I reach 3 million small business owners a week online and have written regular columns for Entrepreneur Magazine, Inc and the New York Times. After I survived the huge bump in the road in my business, I figured out that the most valuable thing in my business was what I learned from running it, and I decided that I would make my focus to help other entrepreneurs. I made it my mission to end small business failure.

My mission is the focus of every speech I give, every video I create and every blog post I write on my Most people have great business ideas, they just don’t know how to run a business. I try to stand in the gap for those people and give helpful business advice before they realize they even need it.

Q: Why did you write Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months?

Melinda Emerson: There are five main things that small business owners struggle with: how to get new customers, how to manage their brand online: i.e. website and social media, how to keep customers, and how to find and manage employees, and cash flow. The nature of business has changed altogether since 2008 when I first wrote this book. Small business owners have less time to hit it big with their niche target customer now, and they have global competition, mobile web marketing, and social media to deal with. It’s a lot to run a successful business these days, and there is a slim margin for error. I thought the best way to help entrepreneurs would be to provide a step-by-step proven method to start a profitable and sustainable small business. This book is based on all the expensive lessons I have learned in business.

Q: What is the book about?

Melinda Emerson: Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months provides a realistic, month-by-month planning guide to start a sustainable and profitable small business. If you’re planning to start a business soon, the key to being successful is not only to create a sound business concept, but also taking the time to figure out the business of running a business. This book will point out the important and necessary steps to take – so you will have the right foundation.Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months is everything you need to run your successful small business.  I discuss my Emerson planning system, crowdfunding, building your website, leveraging social media, hiring your team, opening for business, and the things you should be measuring in your small business.

Q: What if you don’t have 12 months to plan?

Melinda Emerson: 12 months to plan your business is what I suggest based on research and experience. Have people done it in a shorter amount of time? Sure. Sometimes people are forced to start sooner. This is triggered by layoffs, getting fired, buyouts or retirement packages. I only planned for three months with my first business, but the challenge with that approach is you learn plenty of costly lessons the hard way. If you live by a budget, have your debt under control, and have a significant amount of savings, you will be able to start your business much sooner.   Depending on your individual situation, it may take more than a year to get your money straight. That is critical because the money to start your business is in your right or left pocket.

Q: What are the 7 Essential Principals of Small Business Success?

Melinda Emerson: I have interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs and after listening to what they said about running their businesses and observing how they did business, I realized that there were 7 things they all had in common. They include having an entrepreneurial mindset, utilizing strict fiscal discipline, and having a kitchen cabinet of advisors. They make use of a well-defined brand identity; have a niche market customer, excellent customer service, and a firm understanding every day of their cash position by carefully managing their banking relationship. Using these principles can help any business run at its best. It’s the gold standard all businesses need to strive for from the very beginning.

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