Interview with Neil Ducoff, Founder and CEO of Strategies.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
Strategies provides business and leadership training and coaching services to small and medium-sized businesses.
When did you start the business?
September 13, 1993. We're located in Centerbrook, Connecticut.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
I had a commercial printing company, and I've a number of other businesses prior to that, including a marketing company, consulting, speaking and a couple of salons.
How did you come up with your business idea?
Having had prior experience in publishing and business training, I wanted to start my own company to publish Strategies magazine and expand into seminars and coaching. First, people in business need guidance and training that's highly applicable to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and the people who get in the trenches who don't have the time to take away from their companies or go through long training programs. They're on the front lines and need the knowledge and tools to fight on the front lines and grow a successful business and keep it from getting in trouble. Second, it is personally rewarding for me to be able to help business owners and leaders and see them grow. It's really rewarding beyond words.
Have you hired additional staff? What is your greatest human resources challenge?
Yes, I hired additional staff. I began the company with an editor so I could create a quality publication. The biggest challenge is finding people who have the passion and ability to present the business concepts I teach and do it at the same level of quality.
With the current economy in a slump, what cost saving tips would you have for a new entrepreneur?
Anyone starting out in business has to have a cash-flow plan to project revenues and expenses. You also need to be realistic that whatever you've planned for the initial start-up expenses, it will far exceed it. For any expense that you're considering, you need to apply the nice-to-have versus gotta-have world. In the euphoria of starting a business, everything is a gotta-have and that's where start-ups get into trouble. Be lean and mean from Day One.
Finding employees to work in a new and growing business can be a challenge. How did you find your employees?
Most of my employees came through networking, customers who really embraced the vision of the company and wanted to be part of it. Nothing is greater than having someone say they want to work for your company, and be able to represent and do the work of the company.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
This brings us back to public speaking. I provided my services in the beginning for free for trade shows and conferences to get my name out there. And I really found there is no greater marketing than being able to speak to potential customers about key issues in business and offer solutions. Then, it's just natural they say, "I want more," and they wind up signing up for seminars and coaching. It's a very natural way to grow a business.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Invest the time and money to learn how to be one extraordinary public speaker. Your ability to get in front of people and deliver your message will be the single most powerful means of having people understand what you do and want to take advantage of your services.
Thank you so much for sharing your time and experience with us. We wish you continued success.