Friday, August 29, 2014

Need some advice? Call the big guys!

Sometimes a newly-minted entrepreneur needs some advice about their business. Let’s face it, there is only so much you can learn from books, classes and seminars. When that happens to me, I reach out to the big guys such as business moguls, other successful authors and even celebrities. Why not? The worst they can do is say no or just ignore your email or call.

Since graduating from the EBV-F (Entrepeneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families) program last year, I have placed many calls and sent many emails to those I believe may be able to help me get to where I want to go by offering advice or constructive criticism. In fact, criticism can help you avoid pitfalls that some other entrepreneur, namely one of these heavy-hitters, has already gone through. Why take those missteps when your contact can warn you about them? Below is a sample of some of the ‘Big Guys’ I have contacted. Some have been people I have met through the EBV-F program, but some are just people I contacted out of sheet admiration, knowing they would have some excellent insights into my problem at hand.

Dave Marx, owner of with his wife Jennifer Marx

I contacted Dave after being a fan of his PassPorter’s Walt Disney World guides for many years. I used it the first time I planned a tip to Walt Disney World and have used an updated edition for each of our five trips. Dave was happy to schedule a call in the early days of forming my company and provided me with valuable advice only a successful niche publisher could bestow.

A keynote speaker and founder of a large company

I read that someone was going to be the keynote speaker of the EBV National Conference which I would be attending, reached out to his organization and asked to speak to someone in his organization to get their opinion on selling my guide to a certain segment of the market as an entry point. I expected to speak to a manager or someone in the organization, knowing this gentleman is a busy executive and speaks around the country. The man himself had his assistant set up a phone call and I was blessed with 30 minutes of some of the most insightful business advice I could receive from a master business person. (Forgive the secrecy, but he would be inundated with even more calls if I gave up his name!)

Kelly Lewis, founder Go! Girl Guides

I contacted Kelly when I was looking around for a place to display my guide. She was putting together her first Women’s Travel Festival in New York City and I was thinking of attending as a vendor. I never went, but I did end up speaking to her on the telephone for a while. She was very helpful as a woman niche publisher who was where I wanted to be in a few years. She told me how she began her business, bestowing gems of advice as we spoke. Her guide helps women who want to travel alone navigate such exotic places as Thailand and as cosmopolitan as London. Her valuable advice saved me a lot of time as I travel her path.

I called Rob after meeting the author of another Cheap Bastard’s Guide at a journalism conference. I thought he was doing something similar to what I was doing in that he hired out the writers for each title or wrote the guides himself. When I met the other author, I had to find out how Rob was structuring his business or if he was working for someone else. My call to Rob ended up lasting almost an hour with him giving me his insight about how he did it and what I should avoid in my quest to build my brand and publish my titles.

These are but four of the dynamic people I have contacted to get advice about my business. They were all very open and free with their information and advice, leaving me with words of wisdom as I built my business, Pocket Parks Publishing. I figured if I was usually willing to help a deserving soul avoid some missteps, why wouldn’t any of these people if they had the time, but that is the key. Time. Make sure you focus your questions to one area when you finally get the person on the phone or in a coffee shop. Their willingness to take time out of their busy schedules to speak to you is out of the goodness of their heart. Be respectful of their time, keep it as short and sweet as possible, and move on. Afterward, send a handwritten note thanking them for speaking with you.

It’s not rocket science. We entrepreneurs have all been in the same place at some point as we have started and grown our businesses. Reach out to the masters of business to benefit from their wisdom. Remember: all they can do is say no. With all you have to do to launch a business, making a cold call should be easy.

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