Welcome back to part two of our interview with Brooke Folk. Brooke 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 second of our two-part interview, 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:
What online, software or other resources have helped you the most in managing all aspects of your company? Why and how have they been helpful?
Here’s my list:
What did you do before you decided to become your own boss, and how have those skills helped you in your current business?
- Quick Books online for simple invoicing is about $10 month.
- PayPal is invaluable, and they deserve their fees just for the convenience and professionalism they lend to any business.
- Stamps.com for about $15 monthly. Convenience and again a more professional business appearance, plus time saved from not having to deal with the lines at the PO.
- Efax.com for $16.95 month. Get your faxes from anywhere. Saves a lot of paper when you don’t have to print out all your faxes.
- OpenOffice.org’s free download opens Word-type documents and files. It’s a great way to once again look more professional, and it offers very helpful tools.
- Microsoft Publisher for designing just about anything, but it costs bucks. A more economical alternative are the www.BellTechSystems.com software packages that include my favorite Business Card-creating software for about $30.
I began my career as a radio announcer in 1966, which then led me to my position as the sales manager of a radio station. I then branched out into medical supply sales when on the auspicious day of November 30, 1978 I laid down my clip board ― actually let it drop on the warehouse floor ― walked out of corporate America and, within two weeks, started a sales company of my own. The experiences of radio announcing, sales, office organizing, customer support and global communications prepared me for what I continue to do today ― talk to sell.
What process do you follow to successfully close on a lead and make the final sale? Any tips?
My weakness lies in doing this critical step, and I know it. I’ve read enough articles, self- help books and sales management guideline materials for a lifetime, but I still can’t go along with the mainstream way of thinking on how you should bang leads to death.
All I know is how I feel when I’m being followed up with. Sometimes it goes on so long that I feel myself getting not only rude with the follow-up person, but I’m already sick of whatever it is they are trying to sell me as well. I’m a puppy-dog approach kind of a fellow, and I’m more comfortable following my own feelings and leaving some dollars behind rather than beating up a sales prospect with my hype.
I tend to provide detailed information about what I’m promoting to the point of overload. I make it convenient for the prospect to know what they want to know. I’m all about full disclosure of my contact information so that my clients can get every ounce of information about my product from me. I follow up to be sure they got the information they wanted and to let them know that I’m here for them. Unless they sign up for a newsletter, they will only be contacted one more time by me, when I offer them the option to have their information removed from my database or continue with a once-in-awhile message from me, which may pertain to my home-based-business offering for example.
If you work from home, what are the greatest benefits to doing so? What are the drawbacks, and how do you manage them?
I started my home office in December 1978 when the drawbacks of a new start-up from home became immediately obvious. First there were the all too convenient distractions that come from being in comfortable surroundings. That’s why it’s so important that your office be divided from your living space by a door or that it is on a different floor or even in a separate, ‘business- designated’ room. Family pets are ok in your business space, but an open door to children can be counterproductive, unless special measures of understanding with youngsters and your spouse can be arranged.
For many years I opted to be completely dressed in my business clothes even though I wasn’t going out to meet clients that day. It put my frame of mind in business mode, and it put a sign up for observation from others in the household that ‘I may be home, but I’m in business mode.’
Another drawback for some is that they will find themselves working morning, noon and night without important breaks. But I love that part because I enjoy what I do and don’t need a lot of idle time where I do mindless, non-productive tasks like mulching (in my view).
Benefits include keeping precious, office-space rent dollars in your household, and taking full advantage of government-approved deductions is wonderful…plus all the other deductions allowed because of owning your own home-based business.
If you own more than one business, how have you integrated your businesses to juggle it all successfully? Any suggestions?
Once you own a business, I find it’s easy to carry the principles learned in one over to another. However, you must remember that you are only one person. If you plan on managing more than one business, it will soon be obvious that you will be the one that suffers. You will also then find that the business you give the most attention to will more than likely be the one you have the most affection for. Play yourself thin just for a short time to evaluate the one that makes you dollars and that, more importantly, makes you feel good. Delegate to another family member or principle the other business venture(s) so that they can give it (or they) the attention it deserve(s). All my businesses interact with one another because that is what I knew would work best for me and meet my wants.
If you bought into an already existing business opportunity, distributorship, licensee opportunity or small franchise, how and why did you make that choice?
I once purchased a rack business and had a location person acquire locations for setting up the tool racks on consignment. That business wasn’t for me. It wasn’t professional enough in my estimation. I spent $15,000 for that opportunity, and I didn’t come close to breaking even because I knew within weeks that it wasn’t my style and the bill of goods that the sales rep sold me didn’t even come close to the resulting sales. Valuable lessons learned were to ask a ton of questions and then ask some more, talk to retailers or other business owners who have similar, successful businesses and ask them what their typical monthly earnings are. Why did I think it would be great for me? It was all about the silent sales techniques. Do nothing other than place the racks, go by on a weekly basis, restock sold product and reap the profits after paying a percentage to the store owner. That was more than 30 years ago, and to this day I’ve never found the magic, hands-off business that want-to-be entrepreneurs desire in an offline and, for sure, an online business. No matter how savvy we think we are, we still fall for those sucker punches full of sales-manure sometimes, don’t we?
What is your favorite motto and/or quote when it comes to business? Any words of encouragement and/or inspiration for the budding entrepreneur?
I mentioned it earlier: There is nothing more important than that you feel good!
When you feel good, everyone who comes into contact with you will benefit. It’s Universal Law, just as sure as gravity.
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.