Steven Bailey is the President of Sales and Operations for USAPetCONNECT, the largest network of pet-lover resource websites in North America. The company offers city-specific “sales ready” sites to ambitious animal-loving entrepreneurs who want to capitalize on the growing $58 billion pet products industry.
He recently took some time out of his busy schedule to talk with BusinessOpportunity.com’s Entrepreneur Exchange about everything from business ownership and its challenges to why he chose the industry he is in, as well as his “favorite little secret.” Oh yes, and don’t forget the mantra…
Steven, tell us a little bit about yourself and your background as an entrepreneur…
After an extensive 33-year career in sales, marketing consulting, technology and sales training, I’ve developed an overall reputation as both an effective communicator and an innovator. My ability to make that claim has come as a result of my successful entrepreneurial efforts in a number of fields.
I was a founding partner of Creative Alternatives “Guerrilla” Marketing Consultants in Phoenix, Arizona. I was also able to turn my passion for travel and adventure into a nationally distributed magazine and website. Other professionally rewarding endeavors include the launch of a video production company that pushed the boundaries of interactive multimedia marketing presentations, serving as VP of New Business Development for a streaming media technology start-up, and developing an interactive online university and certification program for a leading real estate publishing franchise. Most recently, I launched a national network of pet-lover resource websites in all 50 U.S. States and Canada, known collectively as USAPetCONNECT.
How does someone know if they have what it takes to own their own business?
People have asked me that question many times. Personally, I have been self-employed for most of my life in one way or another. I began my professional working career as a commissioned sales representative in the print advertising field. After several years of learning about sales, marketing and people, I took those skills and used them to launch a guerrilla marketing consulting business and, subsequently, a travel and adventure magazine. For me, being an entrepreneur is and has always been a lifestyle that has chosen me.
Everyone has what it takes. Especially in these times, the illusion of security in the job market is a past memory. The days of big employers “taking care” of their own are over. Rest assured that the skills you have been paid for and honed over the years can help you succeed on your own. What you do not know you can readily learn online. Or, you can find an opportunity that allows you to leverage the knowledge and experience of others until you become proficient.
What do you think is the greatest challenge facing business owners today and why?
Distractions. There are more blogs, more social networks and more emails calling for your attention each and every day. Time management and focus are imperatives. Sales and marketing is your mantra. You must find a way to schedule your time and attention each day. Repeat after me…sales and marketing, sales and marketing, sales and marketing. Everything else is a distraction!
What is the single strongest piece of advice you would have for someone just starting out in business for themselves?
Keep it simple! Keep your initial investment and your ongoing overhead low. This will allow you to breathe and make better decisions within your first year. If necessary, find a venture you can work part-time to start as you move out of your current situation and build your confidence.
What marketing strategies have you found to be most successful in growing your business?
Targeted websites and direct phone sales.
What is it about the business/industry you are in that made it so attractive to you?
I was looking for a growth industry with a passionate consumer base. This year the pet industry will well exceed $50 billion and is expected to climb to $74 billion by 2015. Plus, pet parents, as an audience, are just about as passionate or even more so than any golfer I have ever known.
After the initial start-up phase in business, what obstacles do business owners face as they try to grow their business and remain successful? Any advice for how to overcome those obstacles?
The biggest obstacle is in figuring out how to work on your business and not in it. The trick is to focus on your strengths and delegate or pay contractors to do the stuff that eats time and doesn’t make money. That would be my best piece of advice.
What on-line, software or other resources have helped you the most in managing all aspects of your company? Why and how have they been helpful?
For CRM initially, I’d say ZOHO (free) and then SalesForce.com. My favorite little secret is ScreenFlow, screen-casting software by Telestream. It allows us to easily create product videos and sales/marketing videos.
What process do you follow to successfully close on a lead and make the final sale? Any tips?
Most of my leads are Internet leads. As such, I always follow up with an email first because the elusive Internet shopper often wants more information and value before talking to a real person. I send links to my leads so they can obtain additional information. I also give them my direct line to reach me and make sure that they know I will be calling them to introduce myself and answer any questions. Until I can find out who the person is behind the email address, I can’t build a level of trust and communication. If I don’t take time to do that first, I have no chance of closing a sale.
If you own more than one business, how have you integrated your businesses to juggle it all successfully? Any suggestions?
My businesses feed one another. USAPetCONNECT was born out of a working marketing and technology company. The skills and the people that have supported that company are now an integral of this new project.
If you bought into an already existing business opportunity, distributorship, licensee opportunity or small franchise, how and why did you make that choice?
We are the ones who are actually offering a license opportunity for the reason that we were asked by many other like-minded entrepreneurs if they could operate one of our websites in their own area. Both of the first two enterprising individuals that bought a CityPetCONNECT website had previously owned a franchise, so they understood the idea of leapfrogging on a good idea and bypassing the significant research and development costs.
What is/are your favorite motto and/or quote when it comes to business? Any final words of encouragement and/or inspiration for the budding entrepreneur?
“We are limited not by our abilities, but by our vision.”
And another favorite from Mark Twain:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Live What You Love!