We’ve launched Secrets of Success, a new weekly interview series here at Web.com’s Small Business Forum. I’ve asked some of the smartest, most innovative, most successful people I know to share their insights and success secrets.
Meet: Jane Applegate. Jane, a longtime friend, is one of America’s leading small business management experts. The author of four books on business success, including 201 Great Ideas for Your Small Business, Jane is a former syndicated columnist for The Los Angeles Times. In 1991, she founded The Applegate Group, a multimedia production company that has produced a variety of on and offline content for big and small companies, as well as several documentaries and feature films. She has also written and produced long- and short-form cable and broadcast television programs.
Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Jane Applegate: I wanted to be a poet, but my father suggested that if I wanted to make a living as a writer, I should study journalism. Best advice he gave me. I’ve spent much of my life asking questions and profiling interesting people.
Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?
Applegate: I was working as the small business columnist for The Los Angeles Times when I landed my first book contract. Soon after Succeeding in Small Business: The 101 Toughest Problems and How to Solve Them was published, I got a call from American Express asking if I’d like to produce and host a series of small business tips for CBS Radio.
With that radio show deal in hand, I quit my job and started The Applegate Group, a multimedia production company covering small business and now producing a variety of film and video projects.
Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?
Applegate: Soon after I quit my reporting job, I was profiled by USA Today. That one story launched my speaking career. I went on to be the spokesperson for Sprint and spent several years touring the country, promoting my books at conferences and events.
Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?
Applegate: Never work with anyone who gives you a headache or a stomachache. Life is too short to work with toxic people. My first editor also gave me some good advice, which was to focus on the people and not the numbers when it came to doing business.
Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?
Applegate: Set your ego aside and ask for help. No matter how smart you are, you can’t possibly be an expert in everything. Surround yourself with great people who can offer expertise in the areas where you are not an expert. Form and informal advisory board of people you admire and trust to steer you in the right direction.
It’s also important to set deadlines—too many small business owners are left in limbo waiting for potential clients or customers to act. A quick ‘no’ is valuable because it allows you to move on.
Lesonsky: Do you have a small business prediction for the rest of the year?
Applegate: Most business owners I know are feeling optimistic and relying on smart technology to serve their customers and clients. I think this is a good time to expand your business and take a leap by hiring the best talent you can afford.
Lesonsky: Do you have a favorite book?
Applegate: Scale, by Jeff Hoffman and David Finkel, is a very practical and inspiring business book. Their seven principles for growing your business and getting your life back are worth following. [We recently reviewed Scale.]
Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?
Applegate: “No guts, no glory”… not sure who said it, but it’s my motto.
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