Recently I came across something very special… the book release Small Business BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right by Adam & Matthew Toren.
I was very excited about this for two reasons:
- I have been guest posting for YoungEntrepreneur.com for nearly a year now and was excited to see that the brothers have continued to grow and expand their reach… truly inspirational!
- I couldn’t wait to get my hands on their book and to get into the minds of two young and brilliant entrepreneurs.
After the reading the book in literally TWO DAYS, I can say without a doubt it is a must read for anyone on the entrepreneurial path. This book is not only pragmatic and practical in giving you solutions to creating a successful business, but inspirational in that it showcases other entrepreneurs whom have found true success; most of them by bootstrapping their business along the way!
My two favorite parts are the success stories of Ali Brown of AliBrown.com and Brent Oxley of HostGator.com. Ali who started as a freelance writer with a vision and no plan who now is a business leader, a resource, and inspiration to other entrepreneurs, in particular women worldwide. And Brent, who with less than $1000 working out of his college dorm room, bootstrapped his way to a multi-million dollar empire.
Below is an interview with Adam in which he goes into detail on how he and his brother Matthew got started with the entrepreneurial bug, how they grew their business into the empire that it is today and some wonderful advice for others seeking to do the same.
Also, if you’re like me and LOVE audio and video, be sure to check out a 28 minute interview Danny Iny and Adam Toren at Firepolemarketing.com … great stuff!
What can readers expect to take away from Small Business, BIG Vision?
When we set out to write the book, it was important to us to provide entrepreneurial readers with the information they need most. We looked at the most common questions we hear from entrepreneurs – whether they’re just starting out or have been in business for a long time – and we provided answers in the book that are designed to really give the reader the advice and guidance they’re looking for. Small Business, BIG Vision answers questions like, “Do I need a business plan?” “Do I need outside financing, and how do I find it?” and “How do I know if it’s the right time to hire employees?” We also covered how to use social media to market your business, how to become a recognized expert in your field, and how to turn around a struggling business.
The book provides practical, useful advice on these topics and more, and then it backs up the advice with profiles of some of the most successful entrepreneurs out there. Each chapter has advice and lessons from self-made entrepreneurs who have been wherever the reader is now. It’s very relatable and timely.
A focus of your new book is “vision.” Why is vision so important to entrepreneurs?
For entrepreneurs, vision is what solidifies their resolve when things get tough, and it’s what clarifies exactly why they want to be in business in the first place. No one would argue with the fact that, as a business owner, challenges are bound to come up. Some are small, others are more significant. Without a strong, clear vision of what you want for your company, you’re more likely to be thrown off track by challenges (especially the big ones), and you’re more likely to give up altogether. Having a big vision is about knowing what you want, and knowing that you’ll do whatever it takes to get it.
What past experience has led you to be able to write a book on entrepreneurship?
My brother Matthew, and I have been entrepreneurs since we were seven and eight years old. From our first venture, selling these little airplane gliders at a local festival, we moved on to importing electronics and selling them at school. By the time we were in high school, we were very popular, because everyone knew we were the guys to go to, to get a great stereo for your car or a cool boom box.
Since that time, we’ve never not been involved in an entrepreneurial venture. We’ve owned everything from a pool hall to a magazine publishing company and from a print shop to successful web sites. We’ve also partnered with a number of up-and-coming entrepreneurs on their ventures and coached a wide range of business owners on starting and running a successful business. Throughout the years, we have learned through hands-on experience what works and what doesn’t work, and we love nothing more than sharing that knowledge with established business owners and would-be entrepreneurs alike.
In the book, you talk about social entrepreneurship. Why is this an important topic for entrepreneurs?
It’s pretty clear that we have some major problems in the world today. You don’t have to be an “environmentalist” or far left to realize that we’re doing significant harm to the planet in many areas; and there are human rights, poverty, disease, and malnutrition issues around the world that seem to be getting worse all the time as well. Entrepreneurs everywhere have a real opportunity to make the world a better place to live, for us and for future generations to live.
It doesn’t have to be about devoting your whole business model to social or environmental causes. It’s just a matter of taking a shared responsibility for the planet and its inhabitants. To us, it’s just common sense, and it’s about doing the right thing. In most cases, making a move toward social entrepreneurship won’t cost a business owner anything and might even allow them to save some money. And further, from a business standpoint, being a social entrepreneur is good PR too, so everyone wins!
You are an advocate of what you call the “one-page business plan.” Does this really work?
We’ve used this method for enough businesses to confidently say, “Yes, it does.” There is a myth in the entrepreneurial world that before you do anything toward starting a business, you need to create a business plan. It wouldn’t be a myth, except that the plan that people are usually referring to is of little value to a majority of new businesses. It’s big and formal, and it isn’t meant for the people involved in the business as much as those outside the business like banks and investors.
A one-page business plan is meant to be a working document that guides an entrepreneur through every stage of business. It is actually used, not stuck on a shelf or in a drawer somewhere. It covers everything necessary to move a business at any stage forward, and creating it isn’t so overwhelming that you’ll put off starting your business to avoid it!
You and your brother, Matthew, have been entrepreneurs your whole lives. How did you get started?
Our grandfather, Joe, was instrumental in getting us interested in business ownership. When we were in elementary school, he set us up selling these little glider airplanes called Dipper Dos at a local folk festival. We learned how to really wow the crowd with the tricks we could make the planes do, and we sold out quickly. It was a great feeling for a couple of 7 and 8 year old kids, and from there we were hooked.
We were very fortunate to have the full support of our grandfather and our mother throughout our early ventures. They never told us we should just get jobs or pressured us to avoid the risks of entrepreneurship. They encouraged us to work hard and always do the right thing, and they always let us know they were behind us 100%. Having that kind of support ourselves is a major reason why we wrote the book Kidpreneurs. We want everyone to have the opportunity we had to succeed in whatever business they choose to start.
What was your motivation behind writing Small Business, BIG Vision?
For the past several years, our focus has been on helping entrepreneurs start and manage their own businesses. We founded YoungEntrepreneur.com and Blogtrepreneur.com to make an impact in the lives of entrepreneurs, and we’ve done a fair amount of work through our BizWarriors.com brand to get involved more intimately with the entrepreneurial challenges of small business owners. Also, our first book, Kidpreneurs, is all about fostering the entrepreneurial spirit from a young age.
So writing a book to expand our reach and help even more entrepreneurs seemed like the next logical step. Small Business, BIG Vision was written to be easy to understand, straight-forward, and packed with practical, actionable information. Rather than spotlight our own story or even the stories of the entrepreneurs we profiled, we focused on providing quality advice that any entrepreneur can use to start or improve his or her business. The book talks a lot about vision, and our vision for Small Business, BIG Vision is to make a meaningful impact in the businesses and lives of millions of entrepreneurs around the world.
Given today’s economic climate, is this really a good time to start a business?
That’s a great question. Entrepreneurship comes with a certain amount of risk anyway, so isn’t it crazy to go into business with the added risk of facing uncertain economic times? We don’t think it’s crazy at all. In fact, we truly believe it’s the smartest move anyone can make. Read or watch any news about the economy, and you’ll eventually come across a story about the massive layoffs of the past few years and the fact that many people are taking a year or more to find work. And when they finally do land a job, many are settling for a position and pay far below that of the one they left.
Now, that’s risk. If my only option was to get a job, and I had no income during my search, life would be stressful and scary. No fun at all. On the other hand, with the time most people take to find a job, and the savings they use up in that time, I can think of 10 businesses I could start right now, and I guarantee I’d end up in a better position financially and mentally at the end of that timeframe. An economic climate like we’re in now is the perfect time to start a business.
You profile several successful entrepreneurs in your new book. Can you tell us about a few of them?
We’re really honored to have been able to talk with a number of entrepreneurs who we’ve admired for a long time. They were very generous with their time and their advice, and we couldn’t be more grateful. Folks like Gary Vaynerchuk of DailyGrape.com, Shama Hyder Kabani of Zen Marketing, and Gabriel Shaoolian of Blue Fountain Media are all very busy entrepreneurs who were willing to share their secrets for success with our readers. We were also fortunate to include Ali Brown, Mike Mickiewicz, Dan Schawbel, Anita Campbell, and several more highly respected entrepreneurs.
One of my favorite stories is that of Scott Harrison of charity: water. From literally nothing, Scott has built an amazing non-profit company that has helped bring clean drinking water to over a million people around the world. His story is truly remarkable, and he’s an incredible guy. Scott and many of the featured entrepreneurs in the book will definitely be inspiring to any reader.
From all of your experience, what are the most important entrepreneurial lessons that you can share with our readers?
Two things: 1.) Follow your passion, and 2.) never give up. In addition to our own experience, my brother and I have interviewed successful business owners from all over the world for our websites, and for Small Business, BIG Vision; and passion and perseverance are the two factors that stand out most clearly in the most successful entrepreneurs we’ve met.
If you’re passionate about what you’re doing, no obstacle is too big, and you never feel like you’re working. You’ll happily put in all the hours and effort that’s necessary to see your business thrive. Passion is the fuel that ignites your vision. And if you have #1, passion, #2 is easy – you’re much less likely to throw in the towel when challenges come up. We’ve never talked to a single successful entrepreneur who built his or her business without significant challenges, and having the perseverance to keep pushing toward their entrepreneurial vision is what made the greatest difference for them.
You have a chapter in Small Business, BIG Vision dedicated to social media marketing. What are some of the advantages of this marketing medium?
Social media has become as valuable for marketing your business today as the Yellow Pages used to be. More and more consumers are joining the already incredible number of people using social networks, and an increasing number of people are using these platforms to search for, research, and discuss products and services before buying. Add to that the fact that a strong social media presence can boost your SEO efforts and drive considerable traffic to your site, and it’s clear that it’s a marketing medium that should be taken seriously.
The primary advantage to social media marketing though is something it does that no other form of marketing can do. It allows you to engage your customers and potential customers in a new way. You can now build relationships, and have a real two-way dialog with your community. Unlike any traditional marketing methods, social media can give your target audience the feeling that they truly “know” your brand. And people like to buy from those they know, which is why this platform is so powerful.
What are the advantages to an entrepreneur becoming a recognized expert in their field?
The chapter in Small Business, BIG Vision on becoming a recognize expert was created because this is the best way we’ve ever seen to capture a targeted audience and boost every aspect of your business in a relatively short period of time. As we mention in the book, when faced with the choice of choosing a “run of the mill” service provider and someone widely recognized as an expert in their field, just about any consumer who can afford it will choose the expert.
There’s no better form of marketing, and being seen as an expert typically comes with the advantage of customers expecting you to charge more. So it helps your business in a number of ways. Additionally, being an expert can be a business in itself and add a nice stream of income to your core business.
What advice do you have for someone thinking about starting their first business?
Well, our book is of course packed full of advice that we think every entrepreneur should know. To simplify though, there are three things I would say to anyone about to start their first business:
1. Don’t go it alone. Get advice and guidance from those who have gone before you. Whether it’s through books, blogs, or mentors, soak up all the information you can about your industry, your target market, and business in general. Even the most successful entrepreneurs hire coaches, because they realize there’s always room for improvement and learning more.
2. Ready, fire, aim. So many people have amazing ideas that they never put into action. In a lot of these cases, the problem comes from their belief that everything has to be perfect before they launch. What every entrepreneur who starts a business eventually learns is that nothing is going to go exactly as you planned anyway. So just get started, and adjust along the way. Not many people are going to know about your company at first anyway, so you might as well work the bugs out on the fly.
3. Plan. This might sound contradictory to the last point, but it’s not if you do it right. What we call “planning paralysis” is a disease that can afflict any entrepreneur. It happens when you find yourself spending more time planning your business than building it. But decisive, concise planning is a great idea. Make a one-page business plan, as we outline in the book, and use it to take action toward your Big Vision!
As the co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com and Blogtrepreneur.com, what lessons have you learned about running online businesses?
We’ve been running online companies for twelve years now, and the learning never stops. The industry changes at such a rapid pace that you have to stay on top of it and expect just about anything at any time. But ultimately, the principles of good business apply regardless of the type of business you have. If you do everything with integrity and a drive to be the best, you can’t go wrong.
In the online world, the biggest difference is the type of connection you can have with your audience or customers. Whether you’re talking about social media or blogging, there’s an ability to engage with people in a way that other forms of business typically don’t offer – or at least not on the scale that the internet does. So the most important lesson I’ve learned is that the more you connect with your audience in the way they want to connect, the more successful you’ll be. It’s that simple.
In Small Business, BIG Vision, you ask each entrepreneur you profiled how they define success. How do you define success?
We ask almost everyone we interview that question, the range of answers is pretty interesting. We get a lot of answers that talk about balance, some that focus primarily on business success and a few that primarily think of success in terms of money in the bank. So we’ve found that the definition is different for each person.
For me, true success has to cover four important areas of my life: Family, business, health, and money. I feel successful right now, because I have great family relationships, I’m in great physical health, I’m having a blast with all our business ventures, and financially, I can take my family on trips, spend plenty of time with my kids, and not have to worry about paying the bills each month. If any one of those areas was to fail, I wouldn’t feel like I had achieved success. I know people with a lot of money, who are miserable, and I know others who have health problems or money worries, and it’s hard to feel successful with any of that going on.
To get more information about Adam & Matthew Toren’s book, please visit Small Business, Big Vision and get access to the first chapter for FREE!