Top Five Tips Small Business Owners Can Learn From JK Rowling

J. K. Rowling is the English writer who has authored all seven beloved and widely read Harry Potter novels. At age 41, her rise to fame and fortune is inspiring. She has sold over 325 million books. The final book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was the fastest-selling book of all time.

Her fortune is estimated at $1 billion. She is ranked as the 136th richest person in the world. In 2006, Forbes named Rowling the second richest female entertainer in the world and ranked her as 48th on the 100 most powerful celebrities list of 2007.

When this all began in 1990, however, things were very different for J. K. Rowling. She was not a published author. She did not have a lot of money. She was living in London, working as a researcher and bi-lingual secretary for Amnesty International, and her mother had just died. How she got from there to where she is today is a story filled with invaluable tips for small business owners.

Tip # 1: Don’t Rush to Roll Out Your Product.

Destiny is a name often given in retrospect to choices that had dramatic consequences. – Rowling

Although J. K. Rowling had been a writer all her life, she was slow to publish. “I had written two novels before I had the idea for Harry, though I’d never tried to get them published (and a good job too, I don’t think they were very good).”

All too often, as small business owners, we rush to get a product out before its time, before it’s been fully considered or tested. Rowling sets a great example of getting a product just right before presenting it to the world.

Tip # 2: When a Great Idea Grabs You — Grab Back.

You sort of start thinking anythings possible if you’ve got enough nerve. – Rowling

Great ideas are unmistakably powerful in their announcement and come when least expected. Rowling says:

Where the idea for Harry Potter actually came from, I really couldn’t tell you. I was traveling on a train between Manchester and London and it just popped into my head. I spent four hours thinking about what Hogwarts would be like. By the time I got off at King’s Cross, many of the characters in the books had already been invented.

As small business owners, we know when a great idea is upon us. The problem is, we often question it, second-guess it, and rationalize it away. Not Rowling. She recognized the mark of a powerful idea, seized upon it and went with it.

Tip # 3: Persevere, Persevere, and Persevere.

It is our choices . . . that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. – Rowling

Rowling moved to Portugal to teach English as a Second Language in 1991 and married her first husband in 1992. They divorced in 1993. The next year, she moved to Scotland. At this point, she was an unemployed single mother living on welfare. In 1995, she completed her manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, typing it out on an old manual typewriter. She handed in the book to twelve publishing houses. They all rejected it.

Rowling never gave up. She did not stop just because life was hard. Despite all the changes and setbacks she was experiencing, she carried on. She persevered. As small business owners, we would do well to keep her example in mind.

Tip # 4: Don’t Let Anyone, Including Yourself, Sidetrack You from Your Goal.

If you’re holding out for universal popularity, I’m afraid you will be in this cabin for a very long time. – Rowling

Finally, Bloomsbury, a small publisher, agreed to publish the first book. Her editor, though, says that he “advised Rowling to get a day job, since she had little chance of making money in children’s books.”

It’s a good thing she didn’t listen. All seven volumes of the Harry Potter series have broken sales records and have been translated into 65 languages. What a shining role model Rowling is for small business owners. She didn’t let anyone stand in the way of her goal-not even herself.

Tip # 5: Each of Us Has a Unique Contribution to Make to the World.

I just write what I wanted to write. I write what amuses me. It’s totally for myself. – Rowling

J. K. Rowling never went searching for the kind of success she’s received. “I just wrote the sort of thing I liked reading when I was younger (and still enjoy now!). I didn’t expect lots of people to like them, in fact, I never really thought much past getting them published.”

It wasn’t fame or wealth that J. K. Rowling sought. No. She simply wanted to contribute to the world in general, and to children specifically. As small business owners, this is so important to learn. Focus on the unique something we have to offer to the world. The rest will surely come, in ways we may not even be able to imagine.

Small Business Marketing Tools to Get You Free Publicity

As far as small business marketing goes, free publicity is gold. It’s not just that you’re getting your company name to the public without having to pay for it; it’s that the news publicity – whether it’s in a magazine, newspaper, or online, weighs more heavily in your prospective customers minds. Even as skepticism reigns, people see information printed by news-type sources (whether in print or online) as being more truthful, more objective, than information that’s paid for by the company (advertising).

But simply sending out a press kit to your local news media won’t guarantee you that free publicity. The cardinal rule you have to follow is that your information must be newsworthy. One of the ways that news media keep their reputation as objective sources of information is that they are – they’re not going to print a thinly-veiled ad for your product or service as a news piece. But if you write a release that accomplishes both goals – offering the news media an interesting, informational story and letting potential customers get to know your product or service – that’s where free publicity really pays off.

To start, you need to develop a press kit as a standard component of your small business marketing materials. Your press kit should include:

Small business marketing press kit component 1: A letter to the editor of the newspaper (or magazine, or internet site) pitching your press release as a story idea. Many components of your press kit can be recycled, but the letter to the editor should change every time to send out a new press release.

Small business marketing press kit component 2: The press release. Your press release is where the journalist will look to find most of the information for her story. In the release, you should describe the news item (the launch of a new product that will revolutionize consumer’s lives, for example). Feel free to quote yourself and others in the press release expounding on the issue (that way the journalist won’t have to contact you or others for quotes when she’s writing the story).

Small business marketing press kit component 3: Your business card. Make it easy for the journalist to contact you.

Small business marketing press kit component 4: Your corporate bio. Journalists often like to add background information into their stories; make it easy by including a corporate bio that offers the important information about your business, including who founded it and when, location, and other interesting tidbits.

Small business marketing press kit component 5: Relevant photos. The keyword here is relevant: include photos of the topic your press release is about. If it’s a new product, offer some interesting photos. If it’s a new day care service, offer some pictures of the employees with the kids. Use photos that will make your story more compelling.

Small business marketing press kit component 6: Testimonials. It can be a great strategy to build quotations from current and past customers right into your press release. But even when you do that, don’t be shy about adding more.

Small business marketing press kit component 7: A data sheet for the relevant product or service. A data sheet with give the details about your product or service (that’s being covered in the press release). Relevant details include pricing, components, materials, size, weight, and part number – if applicable.

You should put all seven small business marketing components of your press kit into a folder – ideally one with your logo on the front to finish off the presentation.

Once you’ve created an appropriate small business marketing press kit, you can think about the kind of media outlets that you want to target. That small business marketing decision should be based on where your customers are – are they online, reading the local daily, or a national newsmagazine? Free publicity won’t mean much if it’s not picked up by your target audience – your prospective customers.

Once you’ve decided the media outlet that you want to target, find out who the managing editor is and send a personalized press kit to her. Or, if the publication is very large, send a personalized press kit to the journalist in charge of your area (for example, the Food journalist if your product is gourmet brownies or the Technology journalist if your product is computer software). You can also send out a press release for mass distribution using one of many online press release wires.

Choosing the Right Business Brokers

Whether you’re buying or selling a business, having a broker on your side can make the difference between a successful outcome and a nightmare. However, not all business brokers will be suitable for your specific situation. Use the tips below to choose the right broker for your needs.

Start by asking for referrals from your inner circle of business advisers and colleagues. Have any used a business broker in the past? Were they satisfied? Does the broker handle the type of transaction you have in mind?

You may need to widen your net to find a pool of qualified business brokers that specialize in brokering deals such as yours. Once you have several potential brokers, it’s time to get down to business and narrow the field down. Below are several key factors to consider:

– Is the individual or firm professional? Professionalism shows in numerous ways including personal appearance, the presentation of marketing materials, website, language, mannerisms, and expertise. Use both objectivity and your gut instinct. Remember, the broker you choose will be representing your business so make sure you’re fully comfortable with the person and firm you choose.

– Does the broker have experience working with businesses like yours? While it’s not necessary for the business broker to have specific experience in your exact niche, it’s helpful for the broker to understand the nature of your business and have experience brokering deals with similar characteristics. For example, if you run a family-owned microbrewery, a broker with a successful track record brokering deals for small wineries, family-owned specialty food manufacturers, or small brewpubs may not know the finer points of brewing beers but could be an excellent choice thanks to experience with similar businesses.

– What qualifications does the broker have? Look for licensing, education, certification, experience, and membership in professional associations.

– Is the broker well prepared? In other words, did the business broker do his or her research prior to your initial meeting? Brokers use comparable sales, business and industry reports, and other tools to price businesses. Your business broker should be able to support any suggested listing prices, which should be presented in writing, with documentation.

– If you are selling your business, find out how the broker intends to market your business. Brokers have many marketing tools available to market their business listings. However, some prefer to use specific marketing techniques over others. Make sure to ask the broker to present a detailed marketing plan.

– What type of businesses does the broker work with? For example, if your business has annual revenues in the $50 million range, you’ll need a special type of buyer making it important to choose a business broker capable of attracting those high net worth individuals and investors.

– Check references. No matter how professional, personable, experienced, qualified, and prepared potential broker appear, cover your bases by checking references. Ideally, the broker should give you references from businesses with similarities to yours.

Choosing the right broker to sell your business or help you find a business to buy is a process. Do your part to ensure a successful outcome by choosing wisely.

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