Brooke Folk is the President of Brooke SUPPLY Company, a sales and marketing company that has successfully promoted its clients’ products and services for more than three decades. Here in the first of a two-part interview, he shares his thoughts with BusinessOpportunity.com’s Entrepreneur Exchange on such topics as what makes for a successful entrepreneur most, start-up challenges and why technology isn’t always a good thing: 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...
If you grew up meeting the standards of what I would consider to be a self-discipline profile ― someone who took instruction well, but ended up doing it your way ― chances are very good that you will excel at being your own boss.
It's easy to say that you are a home-based business owner or that you own your own company. But if you find distraction enticing enough that you consistently favor it over getting down to the daily plans necessary to produce results, that’s an early sign that a trap is being set for your own destruction.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your first six months in business? How did you meet that challenge?
My greatest challenge was being organized enough that I could find daily payoffs for the effort I exerted. Teeny or tiny as they may be, it’s the daily rewards that give you the encouragement to keep going. I took instruction well. I was given a simple plan of walking door-to-door, but after a few non-receptive encounters, I had the impression that nobody wanted to buy anything, which made me want to stick my briefcase between my legs and go sit in the car and stew on whether or not I should call it quits for the day and just go home.
Meeting that challenge was simple. Regardless of how many doors I walked through where I made no sales, I made the commitment to myself that I would continue doing it for the rest of the day and not give up. I promised myself that I wouldn’t make a hasty conclusion that all the doors would produce the same result based on a few bad experiences and then quit. There were many days I received my rewards later in the day and floated home with elation and dollars to show for it. I guess one word sums it up…persistence.
What do you think is the greatest challenge facing business owners today and why? Any suggestions for how to address those challenges?
Technology is a double-edged sword. It can make us look bigger than we are, but at the same time it can steal dreams. Why? Because it is so easy to be lured into free emails, website builders, affiliate programs and the latest software and how-to informational programs that you begin to think it’s possible to make a full-time income on auto-pilot hype. It’s too easy to lose sight of our purpose of having our own business when that happens.
Technology can distract you from your own, necessary persistence. Everything it seems is just a click away, right? Then you try to justify your “click-a-mania disease” as being necessary for you and your business goals. The fact is that moderation is good. Hours of searching, clicking, downloading and then forgetting what you did in the name of business the day before is a result of overwhelming “techno-norm.”
All the unprecedented challenges on our time and finances posed by technology often yield no substantive gratification. They just drag us down. Try putting a sticky note on your desktop as a reminder to reduce wasteful clicks and unsubscribe from unnecessary incoming emails you never open.
Take time to think about what truly makes you happy. There is really nothing more important than that you feel good doing what you are doing and that you enjoy it. Focus your efforts on that and your offline business before you try to make what you’re doing into an online business. Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but after 32+ years as a home-based business owner and 15 years as an online business owner and promoter, I can tell you that the foundation of an offline business is paramount for success online ultimately, in most cases.
What is the single strongest piece of advice you would have for someone just starting out in business for themselves?
Don’t spend your life savings or go into huge, mortgage-like debt for a ready-made business. Choose a business offering that supports seller-financing if you can. They are hard to find, but those that do offer that option will give you far more confidence that they are genuine articles set up for your success. Continued support at no additional cost is another pearl to search for.
What would you say is the one thing that new business owners forget about or overlook when they’re just planning/starting out?
I’d say it would be sufficient operating funds for advertising or inventory, as well as compelling copy for flyers and promotional brochures.
What marketing strategies have you found to be most successful in growing your business?
My answer would be a simple marketing plan, coupled with the trial-and-error method to ultimately tell you what works best and then doing more of it.
What is it about the business/industry you are in that made it so attractive to you?
I have no limits to my own creativity or who my customers are because there’s something for everyone.
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?
#1: Poor customer service creeps in. A one-sentence email thanking a client for their new order and how much it means to you goes a long way in creating a warm, fuzzy feeling for your client. Warm and fuzzy feelings assure you will get referrals, the best means of growing your client base.
#2: Trying to do it all yourself to keep costs down. Sometimes “penny-wise, pound-foolish” fits like a glove; you have to learn to seek professional tips, advice and help from others. The pennies spent could reap huge rewards in both additional clients and dollars.
Please join us next time as we talk with Brooke in the second part of our two-part interview, where he talks about everything from what software and other resources have helped him along the way to what may, or may not, be his greatest weakness.
More about Brooke and his company: A home-based business owner since 1978, Brooke’s true joy is helping others realize their dreams of owning a home-based business. His company, BusinessCard NoteCards, allows other home-based entrepreneurs to start their own thriving business transforming business cards into unique, powerful sales tools for their clients. The company’s product line is currently expanding to include baby announcements, special events and party favors, among others.