Frank De Raffele founded the Entrepreneurial Excellence Radio Show and the Entrepreneurial Excellence Network Forum.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
Entrepreneurial Excellence Radio Show is a syndicated radio show for the small business entrepreneur and the future entrepreneur. Our show provides the information that small business owner needs to bring their business to a higher level of success. This is done through on-air seminars and live coaching, interviews with authors and in-depth discussions with Top CEOs. The show is on 5 days per week for one hour per day. All shows are archived on our site and are available to anyone at any time for free.
The Entrepreneurial Excellence Network Forum Meetings are conducted across the country. They are a monthly meeting for Business Owners only. It is a very structured three hour meeting designed to get bottom line results for the business owner. The first hour is committed to effective owner to owner networking. The second hour is an Educational Session. The third hour is our BOGS (Business Owner Group Share). We have 6 to 8 owners at each table and they discuss in-depth, an assigned topic matter about their businesses. (marketing, sales, hiring, leadership, teamwork, etc.) We have Licensed Associates across the country who conduct the meetings. This business model creates revenue in two ways. First, via the monthly meeting investment paid by our online members. Second, is by paid memberships, which allows additional services and advantages.
Our overall focus is for the small business entrepreneur to have a community of like minded owners that they can share ideas, experiences and concerns with. We believe in lifelong learning and everything we do is to help make the entrepreneur better through the gaining of knowledge.
How did you come up with your business idea?
For over 20 years I have been working with small business owners. What I found is that everyone had the same problems in different ways. I thought that instead of just me consulting and coaching them, I could bring some of my clients together and have a mindshare. I could see how they would be able to benefit from each other's knowledge, expertise and experiences.
Once I did that I thought that I could do that with many business owners. I then started a program of doing just mindshare groups for business owners. Once I founded the Entrepreneurial Excellence Radio Show I saw the extension of what I was doing with business owners as a natural part of the entrepreneurial community I wanted to build. We then began the Entrepreneurial Excellence Network Forum meetings. Business Owners loved the idea of coming to a meeting that was for small business owners only and in a non-solicitous environment. When we have a culture of Knowledge, Support and Sharing then a everyone benefits. As the program became more and more popular we began to bring on Licensed Associates across the USA.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
My first business was incorporated when I was in college with a partner. We started a Karate school. He was the teacher I was the business end. We grew the school to over 200 students in 4 months.
After college I left the business to my partner and started Innovative Video Productions. My degree from Syracuse University is in Speech Communications and Television Production. Through partnerships I produced television commercials. Some of my clients: Ford, Weight Watchers Resorts & Spas, Marcy Fitness Products, Liberty Mutual Insurance.
Did you write a business plan? Was it an effective tool for you?
I can say, without a doubt in my mind, is that if you do not have a written plan, you will lose money. You may not go out of business, but you will lose money and the likelihood of going out of business is even higher.
Successful business is about being profitable. Profitable comes from being productive and productivity is made up of efficiency and effectiveness. The more efficient and effective you can become in each thing you do in business the more productive you will become. The more productive, the more profitable.
This can only happen if you have a well designed business plan or what I would call a Strategic Operating Plan. This is what tells you how much you are going to make in the next year and how you are going to go about making it. This will show you the action steps, the behaviors that you have to do on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
I redesign my Strategic Operating Plan annually. This allows me to see where my time needs to be spent and it gives me benchmarks throughout the year to hit so I know if I am on track or not.
As a small business owner you wear all the hats. You have many responsibilities. The Strategic Operating Plan allows you to keep clear what is most important and therefore what your priorities are every day. A very important tool for success.
Temporary labor can be a great asset to an entrepreneur. Have you ever hired temps or contractors? Would you suggest this as a strategy for new business owners?
I think temps or contractors are a great idea. I used them when I first started and still use them today. You will pay a little more hourly but don't have any of the benefits and tax implications to worry about. Working with a temp agency is great. They prequalify people for you to interview. If you hire and don't like you can "trade in" anytime you desire. Love that.
I have also made great use of interns. We hire interns from the local colleges. We have had interns that work for free or very little. They get the professional experience and wet get hard working motivated employees with good social skills and a college education.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
Focus on marketing and sales. Nobody cares about your business as much as you do. If you don't like sales, do it anyway or get out of business now because you are just delaying the inevitable of going out of business. However, if you focus on your sales and marketing you will be successful. With focused sales effort you will get positive results.
Build a strong network around you. Take advantage of organizations like the Chamber, BNI and SCORE.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
LOL.....in almost every way. When we first go into business we have NO CLUE. No idea of what it is really going to take to be successful. I think many businesses fail because the entrepreneur did not have the right expectations going in to it. The ways it is different: amount of hours, initial financial investment, ongoing financial investment, stress, family understanding, amount of unexpected obstacles, ability to adapt an overcome, employee issues, client issues, legal issues....should I go on.
I don't mean to make this sound bad or scare anyone...however, it is hard. Just like anything else in life. No on can understand what it is like to be an entrepreneur unless they are an entrepreneur.
Before you go into business, speak to many people. People of different businesses, with different years of experiences in different industries. Get a realistic picture in your mind. Then make an educated decision.
I can tell you all the down sides....but, I would never do anything else. The upsides outweigh the down 100 to 1......no doubt in my mind.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Entrepreneurship takes many hours, many days, lots of stress , discipline and commitment. You must be ready to commit to your success, no matter what. Marketing and sales must be your priority. Without sales you have no business.
Excellent advice, Frank. Thanks for sharing your experiences with the entrepreneurs at Gaebler.com.