Want to build or improve your small business? Whether you're dreaming of creating the company of your dreams or wondering how you can better market an existing business, you need to focus on decisions that will likely be most effective and rewarding.
We checked in with Will Adams, the marketing director of Tarkenton Companies, who has some great advice for business professionals.
What is your professional background?
Prior to joining Tarkenton Companies in 2010, I served as a Sales Director, Talent Acquisition Coordinator, and Logistics Manager for Target Corporation® and Toys R Us®/Babies R Us® stores. Those were great experiences and contributed greatly to my professional development.
Although I liked what I was doing at the time, I wasn't passionate about it. And there's a big difference between liking what you do and being passionate about what you do.
I'm fortunate in that I'm now in a role that I'm truly passionate about - so much so, I have a difficult time shutting it off. As the Marketing and Business Development Director at Tarkenton Companies, I get to help people that I have so much respect and admiration for: entrepreneurs and small business owners. I'm able to listen and interact with them every day. In a sense, I become part of their team and get to share their challenges and successes with them. It's such a rewarding market to serve.
Tell us about Tarkenton Companies. How does it serve small business and entrepreneurs?
Simply stated, we help entrepreneurs and small business owners have a better chance of making it. We do so by providing educational, mentoring, consulting, and small business software services. We help hundreds of thousands of small business people through several brands such as GoSmallBiz.com, SmallBizClub.com, Click2Corp.com and Tarkenton.org. All are centered on our stated mission of helping small businesses start, run, and grow.
Who should be using the services of Tarkenton Companies?
We're very focused on the small business entrepreneur - the micro-businesses, sole proprietors, and small businesses with less than 10 employees. While these people generate more new jobs and make more positive contributions to our economy that anyone else, they are too often misunderstood or overlooked. We understand their struggles; and over the course of 20 years, we have built our entire organization around supporting their needs.
When you were first starting out, how did you use data to help grow your business?
We recently launched a new product (more on that later) and data has driven nearly every decision we've made. For example, to measure simple things like messaging, we've looked at what words and images people respond to the most, what actions they take based on those messages, and how they behave when they visit the website to learn more. We use data to shed light on those questions and make the appropriate decisions on what to do next. The effective use of data can help shorten your learning curve, helping you gain traction much sooner than you would have otherwise.
What plans do you have for further growth now?
We're really focused on entrepreneurship education right now. In partnership with the Terry College of Business at UGA, we recently launched the Tarkenton Certificate in Entrepreneurship. It's a comprehensive, MBA-level program that helps prepare people for everything they might encounter running their own business.
This is an opportunity for us to reach an underserved, under-represented, and hard-to-find group of people - a group that generates more new jobs than anyone else in this economy. They have never had access to the kind of thinking and resources that big business has. They are on their own, but this program is an opportunity to change that dynamic.
This tremendous course and its great content will make them smarter, because education and learning should never stop. We've made sure this course is open and affordable to anyone, no matter what their educational background is or whether they're someone looking for a career change - someone who wants to finally be their own boss, or a young aspiring entrepreneur just getting started.
We believe that what we're doing will have a huge impact on small business America, our education system, and how we prepare and train entrepreneurs.
How important do you think it is for companies to make data-driven decisions?
It's very important. To some degree, almost every decision a company makes is data-driven.
Even before the advent of "big data," smart business people listened to their customers and based their decisions on what those customers told them. And the smart ones still do that.
Now, we just have new ways to gather and analyze that kind of information. For a business to be a business, it must understand who its customers are and what they want, and then find better ways to get what they want to them. Data plays a crucial role in figuring that out.
What sort of feedback do you receive from other companies who have used your services? What sort of things would you like to communicate with businesses that you haven't already?
The most consistent feedback we receive revolves around our steadfast support of our members. Our team is fanatical about support, doing everything we can to help our members.
Small business people face so many challenges in their daily operations; and knowing they have someone who's there for them, to listen to them and help them when they need it, is very comforting to that business owner and rewarding for us.
Please share with us anything that you think has contributed to the success of Tarkenton Companies. What are some of the things that you have learned along the way?
If I could boil it down to two things, I would start by first saying culture. And I'm not talking about ping-pong games in the middle of the day or Luau Party-type culture; I'm talking about genuine mantras we live by. It starts with our Chairman, Fran Tarkenton. His approach to business is built around one core belief, which is that the mission of business is to help people. It's not to make money. Money is the byproduct of when you do right by your customers and business partners. He's taught me and everyone in our company what that really means.
The second mantra we embrace is that of failure. While we don't love to fail, we understand that it's part in the process of success. We're not afraid to fail, so we're more willing to try new things and take action. We embrace failure, learn from it, and use it as motivation to continually improve our processes, products, relationships, and service.
Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
Put the interests of your customers, team, and partners first. If you take care of those three, you'll have a much better chance of success.
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