My name is Patrice Emanuel. I’m the owner of P/Strada, a management consulting company in Kansas City. I’ve been in business for 17 years, and in my process of starting a business, I’ve had a lot of opportunities: I’ve made money, I’ve gone out there, and now I’ve brought it back home.
From Following Orders to Being the Boss
Yes, I run a home-based business. We have five core areas that we work in: project management, commodities, training, staff-augmentation, and coaching for the foundation called FastTrack. FastTrack is where we teach aspiring and current entrepreneurs how to build the business plan, the marketing plan, and the financial forecasting.
I’m originally from Kansas City. I went to college, went into the ROTC program, and went into the military for 20 years. I was active duty for 20 years as a biological nuclear chemical officer with emphasis in Advanced Technology and Project Management. But the real question was: after I retired, what was I going to do? How would I prepare for entrepreneurship? The crazy thing about entrepreneurship is that sometimes things inside of you are bigger than you are. When you’re out there making a difference, when you have the tools and talents and abilities—that is when you know you’re supposed to be doing what you’re doing.
I started at home. I had to make routine habits so that I could be successful at home before I took my business out to my first incubator. At home, I had to set habits and consistent routines that would help me achieve my goals and objectives. One of the first things I did was decided that on Mondays, I would stay in the office for as long as I could. Tuesdays and Thursdays were the days I was most available to go out to organizations or events. I knew that, in order to succeed as a small business, I had to physically get out and network. And I wasn’t really interested in making money. You need the mindset that, in the beginning, you’re not going to make a lot of money. That’s not the goal. The goal in the first year is to set the foundation for what you want.
Many Ways to Get Started
There are many ways to get started. Some people work one job and, in the evening, they work on their business to set the foundation. When they get to the point where they have more money coming in from that secondary job than their primary job, then they start working full-time as an entrepreneur.
When you’re running a business, you may start out doing one thing, and doing that one thing well. But the market sometimes demands that you assist them in something else that is not your primary function. Our company also does state, federal, and local contracting. For the contracting, the government looked at the fact that I was a service-disabled vet, a woman-owned business, and a minority—and those were things that went into play in getting to work with the government. So when you fill out the government paperwork, make sure that you fill it out correctly so you assist others in understanding what your business is.
I filled out so much certification paperwork that companies asked me to come in and assist other small businesses. Since that was not my core area, I had to make the conscious decision as to whether or not that was something that we wanted to include in our business. So sometimes, for a period of time, you may have a secondary thing that you doing that may not directly be part of your management consulting or your project management.
Free (Or Cheap) Publicity-Showing What You Know
When I first started, I had limited funding for marketing. What I decided to do was to take a different approach and create my own public statements (forms you fill out to say you’re an expert in a certain area). If you can become the resident expert, all the local newspapers will want comments on your particular area of expertise.
I became an expert in doing government contracting, so I would always have radio, television, and newspapers calling me and asking for my comments. I also went a couple of small business radio stations and asked that, if someone couldn’t be present, to call me within 48 hours and I would have a subject to talk about on the radio. That way, I could get free advertisement from being on the radio.
For the organizations I was a part of that were small business related, I would offer volunteer services so I could have my business card or logo included. There are different ways to advertise who you are, who your business is, and the impact that you have in your community. For example, I learned how to go to a cleaning company, where they would take shirts that I already had and charge $10 to put on my logo and name.
There are cheaper ways to do things as a thinking entrepreneur, and we have to be creative in that endeavor. Finally, for public-speaking opportunities, I always have four or five subjects to discuss in case someone can’t come forward on a speech for any organization in the city. My name is already out there for the organizations because I called them all. All of this is free service; you have to get out there first. The worst thing is if you have a concept, theory, or idea and nobody knows you.
Your Entrepreneurship Toolkit-What You Need
Make sure your company develops a couple of key things:
- biography with a photo
- resumes of yourself or anyone working with you
- one page capability statement
What I do is, after I meet people, I automatically send them my one-pager. Then I turn around and send them a bio or a little bit about the company, and I try to set up a time when we can talk for about 15 minutes. I always turn back around and send them something within 24 hours.
It’s critical to have that turnaround. Take those business cards and put them into your MailChimp or ConstantContant because that starts your mailing list. If you have things coming up, you can send something out to keep them informed. That starts the wheels rolling on getting known in the community for the things that you do.
Working For Yourself Doesn’t Mean Working Alone
I was at home for two years and it got to a point where I thought that I probably needed to do things a little differently. So I made a conscious decision to get out there put skin in the game. That means you have a physical presence someplace where people can come and be with you, spend time with you, and see you.
The first place I went was to an incubator. Why an incubator? Number one, it gave me a platform place to start. Most people know where the incubators are located. Second, it gave me office space and a conference room, which gave me the ability to say, “let’s sit down and have a meeting real quick.” Technology is really popular; a lot of people want to do video conferencing with more than one person, and incubators can accommodate that. They can make copies, assist you with training, and have people accessible to you.
When you’re working alone, you feel like no one understands your pain. When I was in the incubator, it afforded me the opportunity to talk to people about whether my campaign was realistically achievable and whether the marketplace would buy into it. It was really nice to be in a location where people who are like-minded can support all the things you have coming up in your future.
Balancing Your Life And Your Family
If you’re an entrepreneur and you’re just getting started, it’s always important to make sure you have spouse and children buy-in. When my son was young, I made a conscious decision to stop working at 5. From 5 to 9, I would not be working because I had to make sure that my home life was somewhat balanced as well as my work life.
So between 5 and 9, if my son had any school problems, if he needed money for the next day, he had the time to get get those questions in. After 9, I started back working and he would know that. This gave me the opportunity to have a little work-life balance. It did gave me an opportunity to set valuable time for cleaning up, cooking dinner, making sure the home was taken care of, and that he felt supported in this process.
Stay Plugged In
It’s also important that you remain plugged-in and educated as to what’s going on with your social media in your particular area. The worst thing in the world not conscious of something important going on. That’s why networking is important; it’s critical to get out there and talk to people who are like-minded and have theories and concepts that can help elevate your business.
I would always tell you: be open and ask for help. If you have an area that you know is your weakness, you may be able to hire somebody, but you yourself need to understand the basic fundamentals, especially when it comes to financing. You need to make sure you know what your balance sheet is, what your profit and loss looks like. Make sure you understand how your business flows. If you don’t understand your money, you really may not understand your business. You have to understand where you are in the cycle of your business to determine whether or not you have to reinvent or redefine some of the characteristics of your business.
My name again is Patrice Emanuel. I’m with P/Strada, located in Kansas City, and it’s more than a pleasure to have the opportunity to talk with you. If you have any questions, you can always email me firstname.lastname@example.org.