“Listen to your customers/audience.”
How long have you been an Entrepreneur?
Over a decade
Did you leave a job to become an Entrepreneur?
What is the name of your current project / company?
Vezina Consulting, L.L.C.
Please describe for us in 1 sentence your current project.
Talent development for small business. (from the chalkboard)
Where did the idea of your current project come from?
Past experiences. Many consultants and their associated interventions are all designed with large organizations in mind. The resources for small businesses are severely lacking or non-existent.
Why do you do what you do?
When I was starting out as a young entrepreneur I realized that there were a lot of things that I did not know; marketing, tax law, recruiting processes, training methodologies to name a few. I started Vezina Consulting and the “From the Chalkboard” platform to be a resource to those that are little lost in their entrepreneurial path and need a little guidance.
What’s the one thing you wish you could go back and tell your younger self?
This interview is not long enough for the list of things I would tell myself. If I had to choose just one it would be to change. Change constantly and do not be fearful of it. In one of my business ventures, which was an expensive luxury product, I failed to change despite all the signs and writings on the wall. I held on to long to my old processes, beliefs, and model of doing business. This was in 2008, the biggest recession since the great depression. I was not alone in my failure, many businesses went under and yes the recession was to blame. However, looking back I realize that I could have done some things differently and succeeded despite the recession. We like to blame the external world for all our failures, but truth is we are standing at the center of that external world. We must change. Even if the recession was not on the horizon, I should have changed my business model to conform to the customer demands. I failed to do that because of fear, fear of change. If I would to tell myself anything, it would be that. Change, evolve, grow; do not fear change, embrace it.
What’s the most important piece of advice would you give to someone just starting?
Listen to your customers/audience. Most organizations or small businesses have great products, but still fail. Why? Because they fail to listen to their audience. Yes your customers are your audience and as counter-intuitive as that seems, listen to them. We often think that because we are platform and they are the audience they need to listen to us. Yes, this is correct most of the time, but on occasion listen to them. Your audience can tell you which direction to go next.
What is the hardest thing you have had to do regarding your business?
Truly commit to it. Starting a business and committing to it are two very different things. I have a client, we will call him John, he is starting a new business and has made the statement, “I really don’t expect it to do anything for a couple years.” I advised John that if he is only going to commit to his business a few years from now, if that’s his expectations, then that’s what he will get. If the market is begging for your product now, why does it take two years before it does anything? The answer is because he is not committed to his business. He says he is, but he is setting a low expectation so that if it fails the business did exactly what he thought it would do. There is no heart, shame, emotional risk involved on his part; he is not committed. You must be committed to your business. Saying it and living it are two very different things. This has been my struggle with nearly every business I have owned. It is more subversive and difficult that one would imagine; mostly because we think in our minds that we are committed to it when in reality we are only half committed.
What does your typical day look like?
I usually start the day with a workout if I am training for a race. If not or after the workout, I will freestyle write on a topic that might become a chapter in a book that I am working on, or an article for my blog, or it may get scrapped and never see the light of day. I enjoy writing and it gives me the opportunity to clear my mind or provide clarity on a topic that I am researching. After that I will often work on my social media presence either engaging my audience or promoting my articles. I try to have all of these things done before lunch. After lunch, I will respond to RFP’s or other freelance proposals.
If you were to start again, and could change one thing, what would it be?
I would have started sooner. If you are on the fence about doing something. Do a little research, if the market wants it, do not wait. Jump into the deep end!!!.
What is the most important thing in life?
Free time with family. I did the grind for nearly 20 years and thought I was living and doing the right thing for my family. I am just now realizing that I was wrong. Free time is the one thing that they are not making anymore. You cannot buy it, rent it, or trade it. What time you have, whatever that may be, is all you will ever have. It is precious and I am trying to make good use of it.
What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Once a competitor selling the exact same product as us moved directly across the street. So close that I could literally take a rock and hit their building with it (no I didn’t throw any rocks at them, but I might have thought about it). My employees of course were concerned and believed that this was the sign of the end times. This organization was much larger than we were, bought product at a lower cost and could easily out price us. How did we overcome the issue? We upped our game. I pulled all the team together to discuss. Had a bit of a positive attitude motivational speech, but with some real conviction and heart. I meant what I was telling them. How we were going to not only survive, but thrive with the new influx of competition was simple. We were going to do what they did, but only better. In fact we were going to do what everyone else did, but better. Everything we did from that moment on was about perfection and delivering exceptional customer experiences. We not only survived, but that organization closed 6 months later.
Tell us something unique about yourself.
I am a big sci-fi fan. Even professionals can geek out on occasion.