Hope Katz Gibbs

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Is Your Business Struggling? You may be suffering from the "Trifecta of Small-Business Failure." Learn to overcome it

By Hope Katz Gibbs
Founder and President, InkandescentPR.com

Illustrations by MichaelGibbs.com

From “PR Rules: The Playbook,” by Hope Gibbs, coming in January 2014

Why do so many small businesses fail?

Because the very characteristics that make entrepreneurs want to start a business are the ones that cause them to stumble.

That isn’t news. Business experts have been shouting about this fact for decades—including many we have interviewed for Be Inkandescent magazine, such as life coach Martha Beck, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” guru Richard Carlson, “E-Myth” author Michael Gerber, business tycoon Ted Leonsis, and Fast Company magazine founder Alan Webber.

How do the fireworks created by PR work their way into the mix?

From our publicist’s perch at Inkandescent Public Relations, we have been privileged to work inside dozens of companies—from start-ups to multimillion-dollar corporations. We’ve helped them make fireworks, and equally importantly, catch the embers so they continue to shine.

We have also witnessed their challenges. From these, we culled the “Trifecta“—three trends that that can trip up even the most energetic entrepreneur, with even the most carefully crafted business plan. Do any of these monikers describe you?

So, what lies at the root of the Trifecta of Small-Business Failure? Perhaps the thing that most gets in the way of small-business success is simply … fear.

That’s why owning a business can be a great playground for personal growth.

How can a good PR and marketing campaign help?

It can’t—not if the entrepreneurs are fearful about asking for help and accepting professional guidance, fearful about losing their business, or impatient about the timeline for success.

Being fearless means having an honest, introspective conversation with yourself about your business and goals to assess what you are doing, why you are doing it, and what keeps you from being truly successful. This conversation is especially important if you are having trouble launching your business, or you aren’t able to generate much income from what you are selling. The problem just might be your approach, or even your products.

You’ll know you are on the right path when:

In this book, our goal is to help you laugh at what holds you back, give you ideas on how to overcome the hurdles in your way, and realize that what you are encountering is probably the typical entrepreneurial turbulence we all face. Ready to face your fears? Here’s to turning the Trifecta on its head.


Shining a Light on the Trifecta of Small-Business Failure

Here are three things can you do to take your business to the next level.

1. Stop the Collaboration Crisis
(The antidote to “The Control Freak”)

Do any of the following three phrases sound familiar?

“I can (and will) do it all by myself.” While these aren’t the exact words entrepreneurs utter when they are talking about launching and / or building their business, it’s the phrase that screams in my head whenever I’m talking with small-business owners (often at start-ups) who are resistant to asking for help—even when they know they need it.

“You’re not the boss of me,” is another common owner attitude—one that occurs when entrepreneurs refuse to listen to the advice of the expert they’ve hired, then holds the consultant or collaborator accountable for the bad decisions the entrepreneur has made.

“The sky is falling,” is the third catchphrase heard when entrepreneurs are truly fearful of losing their business, and so they ask a consultant to come to the rescue in the eleventh hour. By this time, they are ready to ask for help, and willing to take that advice they spurned earlier. But the nervous, impatient client not only expects—but insists—that the desired results be seen right now!

Why is this a mistake? The truth is that no one can be the chief cook and bottle washer in all aspects of their company. While entrepreneurs have likely mastered the core of the business they are building, rarely are they adept at all the aspects of keeping a business engine roaring.

For example: The first person I always hire when I start a company is an accountant. The team at George Kresslein CPA has been working with me since 2005—and I am eternally grateful to them, for they have protected and supported me countless times. Yes, I can balance my books and pay my bills—but why? They do it so much better, and leave me time to do the zillion other things I need to do to keep my business going.

Ask yourself this question: What can, and should, I outsource to free up some time to do more of the work I love doing?

Try this exercise:

2. Cut Through the Icing-Cake Metaphor
(The antidote to “The Small-Picture Person”)

Every good business is built on a foundation of multiple revenue streams. Whether you are making wedding cakes for a living, selling hotdogs on a city street, or running a busy medical practice, there are several ways to generate revenue.

But most entrepreneurs don’t think about this. Rather, they pursue the business they originally cooked up (aka, the sponge-cake layer), without much thought to other ways to make money utilizing their skills and gifts (the delicious buttercream icing).

Why is this a mistake? When you focus only on “the cake” of the business, you may be missing other ways to monetize what you have built. Flip the metaphor, and new revenue streams will start to appear in your imagination.

For example:

But first, ask yourself this question: What else can I do with my core skills to generate additional income?

Try this exercise:

3. Polish Up Your Win-Win-Win Scenario
(The Antidote to “The Win-Meister”)

“Where’s the win?” That’s a question one of my clients would regularly ask when assessing the value of taking on a new project. Fair enough. But I always wondered how he defined the “win.”

Did he think he won only if someone lost—such as a competitor? Did he consider it a win if he got a vendor to provide services at a dramatically cut rate—one that threatened to put the vendor out of business?

Why is this a mistake? Because this old-school approach to business just doesn’t work as well as the win-win-win approach. Increasingly, visionary entrepreneurs grow their businesses by making sure that everyone wins—themselves, their business partners, and the world at large. It’s like the “Monsters, Inc.” characters discovering after scaring kids for years to generate the energy needed to power their cities that making kids laugh keeps the lights on much longer. It’s not that being the only winner doesn’t count, it’s that doing business so that everyone wins means you build trust, earn good will, and generate even more wins in the long run.

As in the ideas (above) for flipping the cake-and-icing metaphor for the medical practitioner, when entrepreneurs pride themselves on being fair, thoughtful, and giving, ultimately all the parties involved win.

For example:

Ask yourself this question: Are you in business to create the win, not just for yourself, but for your employees, vendors, and the broader community?

Try this exercise:

Stay tuned for more. In the upcoming issues of Be Inkandescent magazine, the PR + Marketing column will feature more information from “PR Rules: The Playbook,” which will also be available as an eBook and workbook this year.

Are we giving away the store? Sure. But that’s the point. Our mission is to promote, educate, and inspire our readers so they can improve their processes, increase their visibility, and grow their businesses. And that’s a win-win-win. Here’s to your indelible success!


About Hope Katz Gibbs

Journalist Hope Katz Gibbs has been a newspaper and magazine reporter since graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 1986. After studying for her master’s degree in educational leadership at The George Washington University, she launched her freelance writing business in 1993.

Gibbs’ articles have appeared in The Washington Post, USA Today, and The Miami Herald; in dozens of association, business, education, and general interest magazines; and in many alumni publications, including her own alma maters, the University of Pennsylvania and The George Washington University.

She won two awards for feature writing from the Florida Magazine Association, and six others honors for newsletter writing from the National School Public Relations Association. She has been listed in “Who’s Who in Media & Communications” since 1989, and “Who’s Who of American Women” since 1993.

In 2008, Gibbs founded Inkandescent Public Relations, a full-service PR, marketing, publishing, and website-design firm that helps entrepreneurs get more visibility. Along with her award-winning team, she creates high-end marketing materials; writes and edits press releases, newsletters, and white papers; and works closely with reporters to help get the word out about her clients. Gibbs also plans and organizes events, co-writes and ghostwrites books, and maintains her clients’ websites so they are up-to-date and provide an accurate, impressive image.

View Gibbs’ journalism portfolio at www.hopegibbs.com.

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"I get by with a little help from my friends," says Hope, who gives special thanks to:

• MICHAEL GIBBS, website illustration and design: www.michaelgibbs.com
• MAX KUKOY, website development: www.maxwebworks.com
• STEVE BARRETT, portrait of Hope on Bio page: www.stevebarrettphotography.com

Contact HOPE KATZ GIBBS by phone [703-346-6975] or email.

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