Through the Eyes of a Triple Threat (Entrepreneur, Author & Contributing Writer): 5 Minutes with Eric T. Wagner

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As a start-up founder, you probably would love to sit down with a successful entrepreneur and fire off your most burning questions. Even further, you’d likely jump at the chance to get insider information from an author and contributing writer to esteemed, well-respected business publications. Well, what if one person has all of these accomplishments under his belt? Wouldn't you be so eager to grab coffee with him and hear what he has to say? Lucky for you, there is such a person - and his name is Eric T. Wagner.

Years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Eric and his lovely wife, Susan. We’ve kept in touch and Eric was gracious enough to help me out with my blog post today! If you’re looking for some motivating and attainable advice from a highly accomplished and inspiring individual, you’ve come to the right place. In the Q&A below, Eric answers questions about common start-up challenges, successful exits, how you can be better at pitching journalists and much more. Hope you enjoy!

  

You’ve been a successful entrepreneur for over 30 years. Do you think the challenges start-ups face have changed over time? What’s the biggest obstacle for today’s entrepreneur?

Absolutely yes, but not in the way you may think. When I started doing this thirty years ago, you had no Internet, no access to information, and most people looked at you with crazy eyes when you told them you were going to start a business. But today? Wow--so easy to start a business in comparison. The ability to learn the core principles of entrepreneurship by simply searching on Google, access to mentors, coaches and an entire ecosystem built specifically to help start-ups succeed, and last but not least--our ability today to 'rent' infrastructure makes it so you can start a company with little to no money. 

So the biggest obstacle for today's entrepreneur? I'd say it's the same big obstacle that existed 30 years ago: founder dysfunction. Simply the reality that most entrepreneurs who fail today do so because of something wrong, but fixable, within themselves. 

 

Many founders of start-ups would love to be acquired someday or make some other sort of “successful” exit. Do you have any advice for how to make sure your actions today are consistent with eventually reaching this kind of goal? 

Yes--I would say the worst thing an entrepreneur of a start-up can do today would be to focus on some kind of future exit with big dollar signs as the only measure for success. Why? Mainly because the challenges and hardships of starting a business with any hope of it becoming successful depend on a founder's passion, purpose and tenacity. If the only thing sitting on the other side of success is the thought of some kind of successful exit, it's not enough. 

Real success comes from pouring your heart and soul into a company whose mission and purpose you care deeply about. When an entrepreneur does this, the natural outcome can be a highly successful company where the founder ends up with multiple options to cash in, if he or she wishes to. But again, the hypothetical pot of gold at the end of the rainbow itself is not a good reason to start a business.

 

You have a unique position as both an entrepreneur and also a writer for Forbes. Do you have a tip or two for start-ups that are handling their own PR efforts? Any pet peeves as a journalist who gets pitched often or – conversely – anything that helps a business leader stand out in your crowded inbox?

Great question. Yes--crazy as it sounds, not only do most start-up businesses do it wrong when trying to get PR, but many professional PR people do as well. Listen, I'd offer these 3 tips to entrepreneurs looking to handle their own PR. And trust me, you can do it better than I've seen many pros do it. 

  1. Build a list of the top 20 writers/journalists who cover your industry, niche, whatever.
  2. Focus on building a relationship with them. How? Read their articles. Subscribe to their newsletter. Follow them on social media and share their posts. Make a kind comment on something they've written. Reach out and start a conversation WITHOUT pitching them first. Ask them how you might be able to help them. And, for Pete's sake, never just send a cold press release and expect them to do anything with it. When I get those things myself via email, picture this: my index finger pressing the delete button.
  3. Stay in touch and become politely persistent. Trust me, if you have something worth writing about and you help the journalist find a great angle they can use, they will come back to you over and over and over as a resource. Your goal is not to get something published one time, it's to build a great relationship where they continue to use you and your business as part of their ongoing storytelling.

 

Through your program for entrepreneurs, Mighty Wise, you teach about the power of core principles, mentorship and connections. How can a founder start the process of finding a trusted mentor, or a network of likeminded folks, to rely upon? 

Glad you mentioned this and before I answer, I want to back up the importance of mentorship with a quote from Richard Branson: 

“Whenever I’m asked about the missing link between a promising entrepreneur and a successful one, mentoring is always my answer.”

I can't tell you how many entrepreneurs wait until it's too late to try to find help. This is sad to witness because they didn't have to wreck their company that way. So, our ability to connect and collaborate makes all the difference in the world. And we don't have to rely solely on local resources to fill this need because we can find mastermind groups, other entrepreneurs, and plenty of qualified advisors just a few keystrokes away on the Internet. 

 

You authored the book Walk through Fire, which is an owner’s ally through the ups and downs of business. Is there one piece of wisdom you include in your book that has made the biggest difference for you personally in your own ventures?  

Another great question and wow--hard to pick just one. However, having said that, I would go back to your previous question about mentorship and collaboration. In all the years I've been doing this, one thing is clear--entrepreneurship is a team sport. Yes--you can have a small company and of course, many start-ups have a total of one employee--namely the founder. But even in this situation, an entrepreneur must have a network of people they can turn to for help. Believe me, we all have blind spots and if we don't have people around us to give us a different perspective, we're setting ourselves up for failure. So my final piece of wisdom? Get connected with advisors and peer-group entrepreneurs starting today. 

 

About Eric

Eric T. Wagner considers himself a husband and father first, blessed with a loving wife and beautiful daughters. He has been a successful entrepreneur for 30+ years and is the founder and CEO of Mighty Wise. Eric authored the book Walk through Fire: Rise Up, Face the Inferno and Build your Dream Business, and is currently a contributing writer for Forbes and Entrepreneur. See more here: erictwagner.com. 

Through the Eyes of an Angel Investor & Start-up Expert: 5 Minutes with Marty Zwilling

One of the most commonly overlooked aspects of PR is the potential impact it can have on attracting investment opportunities. For today's post, I've turned to someone immensely well-versed in these areas... author, angel investor and entrepreneur Marty Zwilling. I was so thrilled he took the time to help me out with this post! Below, he answers some of your questions about the process behind angel investing, how PR can help start-ups and positioning your business plan for success. Enjoy!

As an investor, what 2-3 things do you look for that separate the promising start-ups from the ones you view as less likely to succeed?

I’m a strong believer that the people make a business, rather than the idea. Thus I look first at the executive team, for prior experience starting a business and prior domain experience. Second, I look for traction – is the product built, do they have customers and revenue, have they met any other milestones? Third, I look for some intellectual property (patent, trademark) that provides a competitive edge or barrier to entry. There are many entrepreneurs with big ideas who can’t execute well.

Does press coverage help start-ups who are seeking funding? Is that exposure and credibility something that investors care about?

Yes, press coverage is very valuable, in the sense that it means the entrepreneur was able to make it happen. Getting the right press coverage is a marketing and promotion challenge, and good marketing is required in every case today, so investors are impressed with people who can produce it. The old adage of, “if we build it, they will come” is dead. Some people argue that even bad press is better than no press coverage. At the same time, most investors will claim to believe nothing they read in press releases or promotions.

Since investors want to feel confident in the marketplace viability of a company they're considering investing in, how do things like customer testimonials and case studies help give some proof of viability? 

Customer testimonials and real customer case studies are very powerful viability and credibility statements. We all know that most customers won’t bother with a testimonial unless they are very impressed, or totally satisfied with value received. These are many times more valuable than a startup’s own assessment of its solution's value. By definition, it means you have real customers (not just an idea or a plan).

You've seen thousands of business plans. What is one of the top mistakes start-ups make in this area when looking for funding?

I have seen many, many business plans, including too many that look like product plans or marketing plans that would convince customers to buy the product. Entrepreneurs need to realize that investors are not buying the solution; they are buying a chunk of the business. Thus the business plan has to convince me that this is a good business – the opportunity is large and growing, the problem is painful for real customers who have money to spend, the price exceeds the total cost by a large margin, competitors can be held at bay by pricing or intellectual property and you have an exit strategy so I can get my money out. If even one of these things is missing or addressed poorly in a business plan, it probably won’t get funded.

About Marty
Marty Zwilling is the founder and CEO of Startup Professionals, a company that provides products and services to start-up founders and small business owners. He writes a daily blog for entrepreneurs, and dispenses advice on the subject of start-ups to a large online audience of 785,000 Twitter followers. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes, Entrepreneur Inc., and the Huffington Post. He has published three books: Do YOU Have What It Takes To Be An Entrepreneur?, Attracting an Angel and StartupPro: How to set up and grow a tech business. He is also an accredited angel investor with Arizona Technology Investors (ATI).
Website: www.startupprofessionals.com
Email: marty@startupprofessionals.com

Get it while it’s Hot: "DIY PR" Book Available Now!

If you can’t tell, I am over-the-moon excited to announce that my book has made its debut in the Amazon marketplace. It’s finally here!

For two days only, I’m making it available via a FREE PROMO so I encourage you to click here and give it a read while it doesn’t cost a thing!

If you like it, please let me know by sharing a rating and review. And if you have suggestions for improvement, feel free to email me at rebecca@diy-publicrelations.com. I really value your input!

The price will be raised on November 10th, so I’d recommend heading on over to Amazon and making use of that fabulous one-click purchase feature I’ve succumbed to so many times ;)

Also, the print version will be released in a few weeks so if you prefer good old-fashioned paper and ink (that’s usually how I like it!), feel free to hold out a little longer and get the real deal then.

Either way, many thanks to each of you for your interest and support. I hope to help make an impact on your businesses!

Happy reading,

Rebecca

Unveiled: Meet Your PR & Content Digital Kit

It’s been awhile in the making, but I have finally crossed the Ts and dotted the Is on the digital kit I’ve made in conjunction with my book! Reading DIY PR is an awesome start, but if you really want to make some headway and launch your own efforts after doing so, you can purchase this kit to help you.

Check out this page to see the full list of what you’ll get included. Some people may think to themselves, “Nice upsell, Rebecca! But I can just find all of this online somewhere.” And the truth is, yes – you probably can. But it’ll cost you some serious time and energy. If I know entrepreneurs like I think I know entrepreneurs, you don’t have the time to spare to go digging around the World Wide Web in order to track down all this handy information.

Furthermore, some of the pieces I offer correlate specifically to areas of instruction within the book. So if you want to stay on track and be aligned in all of your efforts, it’s best to know that all your pieces and parts will be working cohesively together.  

My main goal in providing this extra benefit is to save you time and give you the tools you need to hit the ground running. I really hope you get some valuable information out of this digital kit, and that it helps you launch your PR & content programs immediately!

Also, I’d love to know what you think. Is there anything I missed? What could I include in a future version of this kit? Your feedback means so much to me.

It’s time for kickoff!

Rebecca

P.S. The kit is on sale for a limited time only, so get it while it's available at a reduced price!

Countdown to Launch: One Week!

I can't believe it's almost here. This "small project" that I started working on just a couple months back is finally wrapped up and I'm days away from sticking a pretty little bow on top of its head.

If this is your first time meeting me or stopping by my site, allow me to say hi (oh, hey!) - and rewind a bit! My name is Rebecca and the project I'm talking about is a book I wrote called DIY PR: Public Relations and Content Hacks for the Lean Start-up.

If you've ever been intensely overwhelmed by the thought of handling your own PR efforts, this book is for you. If you've ever been wonderstruck (or flat out annoyed) by the term "content" that people throw around carelessly and unsure if your business really needs it, this book is also for you. Heck, if you've even wondered what on earth people in PR actually do all day, this book is a peek behind that mysterious proverbial curtain. 

My main goal in writing this book is to help start-ups. I know how it feels to breathe life into your own company, and I know what it's like to watch loved ones struggle - and succeed - in their own businesses. I love entrepreneurs, and I hope my insight into PR and content can give you a leg up in furthering your company's goals. 

So, in one week's time, I invite you to give my book a read! I'll be offering a FREE PROMO for two days only through the Amazon Kindle Store. Take a look, and feel free to give it a highly complimentary, glowingly effusive, remarkably favorable rating and review (a girl can dream, right?)! But seriously... Mark your calendars for November 8th, and get ready to get super cozy with PR and content!

My most sincere thanks in advance for your support.

To your wildest success,

Rebecca 

P.S. I'll be launching the book first in digital form through the Kindle store, and a few weeks later as a physical book for all you print junkies out there - myself included :)