Luke is the Founder and CEO of Main Street Media, a company that is capitalizing on the fact that digital publishing and all that it has to offer businesses—small businesses in particular — is just now being fully realized and appreciated.
It offers a totally turnkey and truly unique online publishing system in the form of Main Street Magazines, one that enables any small business owner to turn his or her customers into loyal fans who are routinely engaged, excited and energized.
Thanks to Main Street Magazines, small businesses everywhere now have a groundbreaking marketing tool that not only allows them to draw the interest of new customers, but enables them to make the most out of their most valuable asset…the customers they already have and want to keep!
With more than two decades of experience in business, Luke says that, despite having a university degree and like so many other entrepreneurs, he’s learned most of the real stuff he’s needed to know to become successful in business ‘on the street.’
Thankfully, he took the time not too long ago to share some of that hard-earned knowledge and insight with our readers in what is surely one of our most informative and appealing Entrepreneur Exchange interviews to date.
Luke has a lot to say, and it all definitely makes for a worthwhile read. We hope you enjoy it as much as we have and get just as much out of it…
How does someone know if they have what it takes to own their own business? Tell us a bit about how you made the decision and why.
Since my very first job as a dishwasher in a local restaurant, I’ve always found myself looking for ways to do any job faster and more efficiently, while at the same time having more fun doing it. I never cared much about what the job or task was, but I soon realized that most job descriptions are designed to control the behavior of the employee, not to invite them to contribute to making the work flow more easily.
While I loved the paycheck, I was more interested in doing my job better than anyone else… not so much on taking short cuts to make my job easier, but finding short cuts to make the workflow more efficient.
If you find yourself looking beyond the job or task — ‘out of the box,’ so to speak — then you’ve also got what it takes to own your own business…
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your first six months in business? How did you meet that challenge?
I started my first business importing stone sculpture from Zimbabwe. I didn’t know anything about sculpture or marketing. I was just in love with the beautiful pieces these artists were creating. Surely everyone would want to own a piece, I thought. Big mistake! I see many entrepreneurs and business wannabes committing the same mistake: They believe that having a great product will bring the masses to their door…the “Do what you love and the money will follow!” trap. There is some truth behind that saying, but most people take it too literally. And it costs them big time.
Building a better mouse trap is of little value if people don’t have a problem with mice!
You have to first identify a market — a pressing problem that people want relieved or a pleasure they want to gain. Trying to sell something people don’t want or need is a tough job!
What do you think is the greatest challenge facing business owners today and why? Any suggestions for how to address those challenges?
We’re moving through a very disruptive phase in the business environment. It does provide a lot of opportunity, but there’s also a great deal of uncertainty. There are too many choices. This leads to an inability to be decisive, something that is essential for success. I call it the Baskin Robbins Syndrome… too many choices. You spend your time sampling this flavor and trying that one. You’re actually afraid to make a decision. And even after making a decision, you second guess yourself on whether you made the right one.
The inability to make a definitive decision results in procrastination…”I’ll decide tomorrow,” you say…and you slowly become impotent. An entrepreneur needs to be on the leading edge; that’s where the vision is the greatest. Looking down or back kills the entrepreneurial spirit. It leads to compromising complacency.
More information is usually not what’s needed. It’s taking action on the information you have. You can’t learn how to balance yourself on a bike by reading a book. You have to get on it to learn that.
What is the single strongest piece of advice you would have for someone just starting out in business for themselves?
To borrow the meme from Nike…Just Do It!™ You don’t need all that ‘stuff’ that we’re told is necessary to start a business. You don’t need a new iMac, the latest app, a glossy business card or an email list with 10,000 names on it. You need to start.
Success is a mind game! Get your head in the game and everything will come to you.
My greatest learning times were when I was up against the wall and I had to rely on my head space to find a way through. That’s why reading and seeking out mentoring from successful people is so important. You’re not the first one on this journey. You’re not the first one facing a given problem.
That’s the ‘Woe is me’ attitude…
Find a mentor who is further down the path, and learn what it is you need to know. Our educational system is designed to create employees, people who feel secure in the herd mentality. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you have to hang out with the people who don’t have that inclination. They have the lesson material you need to move forward and be successful.
Instead of buying another course on managing a business, why not take a business owner out for lunch and pick his/her brain? They have the real-world experience…the stuff that really matters.
What would you say is the one thing that new business owners forget about or overlook when they’re just planning/starting out?
They think that having all the right tools…the best retail space, the perfect product offering, etc., etc. is what it takes to be successful. But ultimately it’s all about making the sales, whether it’s real estate or bottles of vitamins. Way too much time is spent polishing the product or service — trying to make it sell itself. Very few products attain that sort of stature… the iPhone is a good exception to this rule. For most things, more polish isn’t what is needed. It’s getting out there and marketing and selling.
What marketing strategies have you found to be most successful in growing your business?
Over the years, I’ve tried just about everything, most advertising vehicles anyway—Welcome Wagon, trade shows, flyers on car windshields, novelty items, and, not so long ago, sending out 10,000 emails a day. Most marketing is motivated by wanting the big hit, the biggest return for the smallest amount of investment.
But ultimately what works best for me is one-on-one. If I can get in front of a person — or get someone on the phone—then I’m in my element. It’s a slower build, but ultimately I’m not looking for the masses. I just want a few good clients.
And that’s true for most small businesses. They don’t need tons of customers… just a handful of good, loyal ones. It’s much easier to fish with a pole than fishing with a net.
When I designed the Main Street Magazines model, I started with a goal and a fixed date to achieve it. Then I worked backwards. How many publishers would I need to bring on board, and how much would they need to sell in order for me to reach my goal?
When you work backwards to the present moment, you’re creating the route for how you are going to get where you want to go. Of course you’ll have to make adjustments and there will be detours, but your route is always there to orient you and keep you on track.
What is it about the business/industry you are in that made it so attractive to you?
I’ve been in the publishing business for more than 25 years. I watched print media go from being the major medium in most towns and cities across the U.S. and Canada to today, where anyone with a computer and some technical skills can become a publisher.
Publishing used to be a broadcast medium, the so-called ‘pay and spray’ model. The local newspaper or magazine controlled the message delivery to its audience, and advertisers had to pay them to get their messages across.
Today, you don’t need ‘them’ anymore. The days of the need for a middle man where getting the word out is concerned are over. Anyone can go directly to an audience. Digital media allows businesses to narrowcast their messages directly to the audience they want to reach. That’s very powerful.
I now show businesses how to leverage digital media to connect with their customers at a fraction of the cost of using the old, more traditional methods. It’s mind-bogglingly simple and, because it’s digital, the medium can be shared across all platforms very easily.
When I sit down with a potential publisher and show them how it works — how simple it is—their first inclination is to complicate the process. But we don’t need any more complication or stress. Today, the person who can simplify a process is a winner.
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?
Most businesses really don’t understand or appreciate the value of an existing customer. They spend their marketing dollars chasing new customers, but spend next to nothing keeping those newly acquired customers happy and loyal.
It’s foolish spending money to chase new customers when the business could be reaping the benefits that come from paying attention to existing ones — benefits like their loyalty, referrals and repeat business. Loyalty comes from building a relationship with your customers and gaining their trust; not taking them for granted.
We designed Main Street Magazines to provide local businesses with a turnkey publishing system that enables them to connect easily with their customers.
The various niche magazines we offer deliver editorial content that entertains, educates and engages like nothing else. It’s an affordable way to turn customers into raving fans…the kind that keep coming back because they feel a connection to the business.
Unless you’re selling exclusively online, most of any small business owner’s business will come from the local community, and that’s where you need to focus your marketing efforts.
Wow your customers, and they will love you back!
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?
I’m really good at a few things. Most people are. The problem with many entrepreneurs and business owners is that they become a ‘Jack of all trades, master of none.’
If you own a small business, you need to be a master of your business destiny. To be a master you have to get really good at doing what you love to do. Get the Jacks to do the work you can’t or don’t want to do. You can’t do everything better or the best it can be done yourself, and if you think that you can, what you’re really saying is, “I don’t have the patience to teach you this task.”
As long as that is your attitude, you’ll be tied down to it. Believe me, there are lots of Jacks and Jills out there who could serve you very well.
All of that said, one of my primary resources is to outsource tasks and projects that our business needs. There’s a global marketplace of talent available, but there’s also a learning curve when it comes to how to leverage it and make it work. Since this approach is so important to our business model and its success, I spent some time learning how to master it.
What did you do before you decided to become your own boss, and how have those skills helped you in your current business?
I was in the hotel and restaurant business for many years. That’s a great industry in which to learn. Then I moved into the publishing industry. Every job, every career, has opportunities for learning new skills and refining old ones. I don’t believe entrepreneurs are born; they evolve from taking advantage of the situations they find themselves in at any given time, and not just business situations. You can learn from volunteering, parenting, having relationships, etc. It’s a mindset that says you can create your world and that you are responsible for it, regardless of how unfair that seems at times. I never stop learning; it’s fun.
What process do you follow to successfully close on a lead and make the final sale? Any tips?
We label people who sell as salespeople, but everyone is in sales. When you’re dating, you’re selling yourself. When you’re talking, you’re selling your perspective on something. When you have to make a decision with someone, you’re selling yourself. Negotiating with your teenager is a sales job.
But salespeople often get a bum deal. Few people return their calls. Or a prospect makes a promise and doesn’t follow through. It’s appalling how people in sales treat other salespeople. What’s with that?
I’ve stopped chasing people, but I let them know:
“Hi Bill. I’ve tried several times to connect with you regarding (whatever), but you seem too busy to respond. If I’ve missed something, please let me know; otherwise, I need to focus on taking care of my other clients.”
It may be tough love, but 90% of the time the prospect has no intention of getting back to you anyway so what have you lost?
If someone is really interested in what you have to offer or say, they’ll get back to you. If they don’t, move on. It doesn’t serve you to chase and hope for a catch. Go fish where there are fish.
If you work from home, what are the greatest benefits to doing so? What are the drawbacks, and how do you manage them?
I abhor the corporate culture. For the most part it’s stifling, pretentious and it destroys innovation. My home office overlooks the town harbor. I watch the boats come and go. I enjoy the birds at my feeder. I crank the music up when I want. And when I’m ‘in the groove,’ I’ll work well into the night. What’s better than that?
But, working from home also requires discipline. It took me years to find balance. In the beginning, it’s all new and nice. Then it becomes drudgery. You want the ‘water cooler’ chitchat that goes with the 9-to-5 routine.
I make a point of connecting with people every day. It could be the grocer, the mailman or the neighbor. The social contact is essential. I also use Skype and talk with members of my team on a daily basis. I don’t feel isolated at all. But as I said, it took a while to get to this point.
If you own more than one business, how have you integrated your businesses to juggle it all successfully? Any suggestions?
I created Main Street Magazines because I wanted a marketing vehicle through which I could sell whatever I wanted. I encourage our publishers to use our magazines to sell their stuff. It’s a win/win. When you own the marketing channel, you have a lot of marketing power.
We also incorporate a ‘giving back’ element in each magazine. Each magazine has a full page dedicated to a local charity, which is decided upon by the participating business(es). We’re also funding partners with the Hippo Water Roller, an innovative technology that delivers water to rural areas of Africa.
We’ve integrated several things into our business model that help others take personal and social responsibility. Cross promotions, working with other businesses, partnering for mutual benefit and support…they are all part of fostering and maintaining good business practices.
If you ask other business owners, “How can we work together for mutual benefit and support?” you get them thinking.
If you bought into an already existing business opportunity, distributorship, licensee opportunity or small franchise, how and why did you make that choice?
We designed and built this model from the ground up after realizing the old publishing model was collapsing. Rather than trying to fix it, we asked, “How can we create something more equitable and fun such that many people can share in its success?” I don’t want to own it all; that’s the old model of doing business.
Main Street Magazines is unique. No one is doing what we’re doing. And there’s room for lots of local publishers to come on board. That’s why we set it up as a business opportunity for entrepreneurs who want to be actively involved in their local communities.
We also made it affordable so almost anyone can leverage the asset we’ve designed. I don’t want or need a big organization. I’d rather work with a small group of dedicated, enthusiastic individuals who want to own a business and secure their financial future while also raising a family, or coasting to retirement.
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?
Here’s my lineup:
“Working together for mutual benefit and support.”
“Success is a mind game.”
“Are you thinking like a lion or a gazelle?”
More about the Main Street Media Business Opportunity:
If you’re someone who wants to be your own boss and start a business of your own in the exciting and burgeoning online digital publishing industry, you owe it to yourself to learn more about Main Street Publishing and its complement of fully customizable Main Street Magazine options.
This incredibly affordable and proven business opportunity enables you to build a profitable business of your own by showing other business owners how they can engage, entertain and gain the loyalty of their customers in new and exciting ways like never before.
There are no royalties or franchise, service or subscription fees, no overhead fees or hidden charges of any kind. And there are no minimum purchases, pricing restrictions, inventory requirements or restrictions on territories…just the tremendous opportunity for you to build a great business in a fun and growing industry, be your own boss and take control of your own financial future!
If you’d like to learn more about Main Street Media, Main Street Magazines and this tremendous business opportunity, don’t wait another minute.