Mark Kane is the CEO of Credit Wise Advisors, LLC, the country’s largest and most trusted provider of business credit-based funding solutions for small businesses. The company offers a comprehensive boot-camp sales training program for ambitious start-up entrepreneurs and existing business owners who want to capitalize on this fastest growing segment of the small business services industry.
Mark received his BS from the University of Massachusetts and his MA from the University of Chicago. Having worked in the small business credit and funding solutions arena specifically for 15 years now, he recently took some time to talk with BusinessOpportunity.com’s Entrepreneur Exchange to share his outstanding insights about starting a business and running it successfully.
How does someone know if they have what it takes to own their own business? Tell us a bit about how you made the decision and why.
It's a gut feeling. It's a sense you get when you see how others run their companies, and you say to yourself that you can do just as good if not better. Plus, it comes from having others tell you what you're worth or what you can and cannot do. Sometimes I think we're hardwired and it's in the genes; however, I believe anyone can be a great business owner if they are committed to doing what it takes.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your first six months in business? How did you meet that challenge?
The biggest challenge I had was in feeling that I just was not doing enough. I think there is a point where you realize that it's not quantity but quality of time spent. You find it hard to accept that sometimes it's okay to just think, and then realize that a few hours of quiet planning can result in days of tremendous execution.
What do you think is the greatest challenge facing business owners today and why? Any suggestions for how to address those challenges?
I'd say, and naturally I'm biased, but the biggest challenge is money…the funding of the business. And more specifically, it’s separating your personal credit from your business. Believe me, if I knew then what I know now just about this one subject, I think things might have been radically different―in a good way. The funny thing―and I talk to hundreds of business owners― is that they'll take the time to build their personal credit and start at an early age. They understand that it's a process. Not so with their business. Why do you think 19-year-olds can't qualify to buy homes or even get an AMEX credit card? You need history to prove you are credit-worthy. But business owners automatically think they should "qualify" for business loans when they haven't demonstrated their ability on that level.
What is the single strongest piece of advice you would have for someone just starting out in business for themselves?
Don't wait until it's raining to reach for the umbrella. It's too late. My favorite insider joke is that banks will always give you an umbrella on a sunny day. So if you "need" money for your business, make sure you get it before that “need” arises. Otherwise it's too late, and you're going to get soaked!
What would you say is the one thing that new business owners forget about or overlook when they’re just planning/starting out?
There are nine critical errors that just about every new business owner makes. They don't take the time to set things up properly. There are some simple steps every business owner needs to do to make sure they are compliant, and what I mean by that is that every business inevitably wants to get some funding. And because they didn't understand the importance of getting compliant from day one, they don't realize that this could be the very reason they are not getting the funds that are potentially available to them. On top of that, they are intermixing personal with business credit, and they don't realize that at some point this will bite them in the butt!
What marketing strategies have you found to be most successful in growing your business?
For me it's been the use of the internet. I use it to reach out to the individuals with whom I want to try and develop relationships. One of the best “deals” I ever struck was as a result of my sending an email at 3 a.m. to a "contact us" on a website, which then helped me get a strategic piece to my product offering.
What is it about the business/industry you are in that made it so attractive to you?
I love helping people. In fact, by education and for the first few years out of grad school, I was a psychologist. However, back in the 80s, a new psychologist didn't necessarily make much money. Someone told me I'd be good in sales, and I decided that if I was going to help people it was just as easy to help them with their money problems as it was with their psychological ones. And I could make much, much more in the way of income. The funny thing is that sometimes the money problems ARE psychological problems. So it was natural for me to move towards business owners and entrepreneurs since I've always felt a strong bond with them, and I consider myself both an entrepreneur and small business owner.
After the initial start-up phase in business, what obstacles do business owners face as they try to grow their business and remain successful? Any advice for how to overcome those obstacles?
How to grow your business exponentially would be a big question and an obstacle. The question really is, “How do you start adding zeros to your annual income?” I think there is a fear of thinking too big. It’s the "What if I fail?" syndrome.
What on-line, software or other resources have helped you the most in managing all aspects of your company? Why and how have they been helpful?
I tend to use customized stuff. However, for the past year or so I've been using InfusionSoft. I started off by calling it "ConfusionSoft," but between the improvements they have made and my making a real commitment to their program, it's really helping a lot.
What did you do before you decided to become your own boss, and how have those skills helped you in your current business?
Like I said, by education I'm a psychologist, so I'm always looking for ways to improve someone’s life. After leaving the field of psychology, I became an investment banker for some 17 years. This gave me a somewhat unique perspective on business because I got to see firsthand the good, the bad and the ugly. It's at this point that I figured I couldn't be any worse, but I believed I could be a whole lot better.
What process do you follow to successfully close on a lead and make the final sale? Any tips?
I've moved away from thinking I have to sell to everyone right away. I'm more patient and wait until those prospects raise their hand. This is where something like InfusionSoft really helps. Plus, the use of webinars enables me to reach a much broader audience rather than the old-fashioned one-on-one presentations.
If you own more than one business, how have you integrated your businesses to juggle it all successfully? Any suggestions?
I always seem to have more than one business or opportunity going at a time. Again, discipline is king, and you have to figure out how to cut down on the distractions. It's about planning your work and then working your plan. Believe it or not, that was the first business lesson I was taught when I made the switch to business back in 1982!
If you bought into an already existing business opportunity, distributorship, licensee opportunity or small franchise, how and why did you make that choice?
I definitely would not recommend my approach for everyone. I have found over the years that I have that sixth sense about something if it feels right, so I sometimes just make that leap of faith. I've been very fortunate that I've won more than I've lost as a result. I look at it this way….As long as you can at least break even, then if nothing else, it's another lesson.
What is/are your favorite motto and/or quote when it comes to business? Any final words of encouragement and/or inspiration for the budding entrepreneur?
My only motto is this: Dreams determine what you want. Action determines what you'll get.
More about Credit Wise Advisors:
With more than 18.3 million small businesses nationwide, many of which are in serious need of comprehensive small business credit counseling, the market for Credit Wise Advisors’ products and services is considerable. Whether you are an individual who is interested in starting your own business from the ground up or an existing business owner searching for complementary offerings to service the needs of your small business clients, you owe it to yourself to find out more about this exciting opportunity.