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, innovative, most successful people I know to share their insights and success secrets.
Meet: JJ Ramberg. JJ is the co-founder of Goodsearch, a Yahoo-powered search engine that donates about a penny for every search you do to a cause of your choice and several other offerings (Goodshop, for instance) that also give money to good causes based on everyday consumer behaviors. But it’s more likely you recognize JJ as the host of MSNBC’s Your Business, the only television show dedicated to issues affecting small business owners. JJ is also a regular contributor to The TODAY Show and the co-author of It’s Your Business, a great book full of tips and advice for small business owners
Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?
JJ Ramberg: Good question. It switched often. And frankly still does which is why I’m both a journalist and an entrepreneur!
Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?
Ramberg: I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs, but I was never really compelled to start my own company until I had an idea that I thought had to be brought to life.
Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?
Ramberg: My company Goodsearch.com takes people’s every day actions and turns them into ways to support their favorite causes. So, each time someone searches the Internet at Goodsearch or shops online at 4,000+ stores via Goodshop, a donation is made to his or her cause. The year we started, we tallied up the earnings for the causes to send out our first checks in November 2006. For me, that was the pivotal moment because it was the first tangible proof we had that this concept worked!
Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?
Ramberg: Be open-minded and test your ideas as much as possible in the real world. You can ask questions in a focus group until your face turns blue, but you won’t really know how people are going to respond to your product or service until they actually have a chance to experience it.
Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?
Ramberg: Through my show Your Business on MSNBC, I’ve had the chance to interview thousands of entrepreneurs and small business owners, and too many of them turn a blind eye to their finances because understanding the numbers is not their strength. You have got to understand your finances if you want to keep your business alive.
Lesonsky: Do you have a favorite book?
Ramberg: Business book? I love the book Influence by Robert Cialdini. Of more recent books, The Unwinding by George Packer.
Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?
Ramberg: “I think I can,” from the book The Little Engine that Could. This is a book my mother, a very successful entrepreneur herself, read to all of her kids when we were kids. It was the attitude she had as a business owner and a person, and one that I try to have every day as well.