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Intro: Welcome to the Smart Energized Entrepreneurs Podcast with JP Stonestreet, episode Numero Quatro.
JP: Today, I am really happy to welcome Denise Brummond of RockSalt Spa to our podcast. Denise is a great example of a successful entrepreneur. She started her business a little over a year ago and it’s doing fantastic and she has a lot of great advice to share with us entrepreneurs, especially new entrepreneurs about some of the most important lessons that she learned along the way. This is a great podcast to listen to all the way to the end. Denise has tons of great nuggets of advice. So, without further ado, let’s welcome Denise Brummond of RockSalt Spa. Hi, Denise and welcome to this episode of the Smarter Energized Entrepreneurs Podcast. Thank you so much for joining me today.
Denise: Thank you for having me JP.
JP: You bet, I am really excited about this interview. You and I met, geez, It’s been about two months, almost two months ago.
Denise: Almost two months.
JP: Yes, and we met at your business, RockSalt Spa, and why don’t you tell us a little bit about what your business is.
Denise: RockSalt Spa was born in 2012. I opened my doors December 5, 2012, despite all of the craziness in the banking industry and it being an election year. I fought through all of the battles that the banks had to put you through at that time in order to get funding to open up my doors. The RockSalt Spa is here to help people through salt therapy and massage therapy. Those are the two things that we focus primarily on and so they would be otherwise known as Halotherapy which is just the Greek word for salt and salt therapy has been known for hundreds of years to help with respiratory illness, sinus conditions, asthmatic problems, lung issues and even improve overall wellness for athletes, and people who are generally healthy overall.
JP: That’s great. I had the opportunity to sit in one of your rooms for a while, while we met and I could definitely feel my sinuses clearing up just by sitting in the room. I think we were in there for about an hour.
Denise: Absolutely and what I tell people on a day-to-day basis is that it’s like a day at the beach with a higher therapeutic level of salt, so the salt acts as internal cleansing agent and it’s going to clean the body from the inside out and that’s what going to keep us healthy.
JP: Yes, that’s great. So, you have been in business a little over a year. Did you have your one-year anniversary party?
Denise: I did, I had a client appreciation for my one-year anniversary and I just invited all of my regular clients who helped make my first year successful.
JP: Cool, how did it go?
Denise: It was fantastic even we only had almost a week of zero degree weather in Denver, which is very unusual, I still had a fantastic turn out and all of my regulars came to support me and thanked me for being trying to keep them healthy and feeling wonderful. So, we had a great turn out and it was really a lot of fun.
JP: That’s great. How did you market that event specifically?
Denise: With that event, I just spoke to my regulars coming through and I reached out to a few people via email. My business is built on a lot of people who come on a regular basis whether it’s couple of times a month or a couple of times a week, so mostly I get to see a lot of my regulars on an ongoing basis. Then folks who have been on vacation or maybe haven’t been there, I just reached out to them and let them know directly, but instead of celebrating a year for myself or for the business, I really wanted to put the focus back on the clients because they are the reasons why we are in business and successfully in business for our first year.
JP: Yes, it’s so important to keep the focus on the client, but definitely it’s a great thing to celebrate being in business for a full year and doing well and having enough clients to actually invite to a party. So, that’s definitely we are celebrating.
Denise: Yes, and I think what was the most fun for us was the diversity and that was always kind of an underlying attention of mine which is providing a base for very diverse group of people to come and to be here. So, that was really fun to see different people coming together and I got a kick out watching who talked to one another and are connected they didn’t see each other when they came for different sessions, in other words my morning people did not cross paths with my evening folks, but at the party you have both people kind of interacted and talking with one another. So, it’s kind of growing into its own little community which is really nice and side note to successful business on a year.
JP: Yes, the community thing, we talked about that when we were meeting and what you are doing really is a community oriented thing. The people that use your services they have similar world views, similar interest and I think it’s a great opportunity to create a community around health and wellness.
Denise: Well, and allowing this base for people to remember that that’s what the United States is really built on, the people that have the same interest, so that may not look like us or have the same career like us, I think that’s kind of really fun piece of the business for me is just to continue to watch that grow.
JP: Yes, tell me about the inspiration. What was your inspiration for starting your business?
Denise: About 16 years ago, I had a spinal cord injury JP and that took me on a curve learning a lot about my body and learning a lot about the different ways to heal the body. So, throughout my journey in the last 16 years, there is just always a driving desire within my soul to be able to give back to the community all that I have received from people voluntary body work to opening doors for me to offering me jobs and so, I just always wanted to be able to give back somehow and through that journey I also knew that it was going to have to do with health and overall wellness, so through the years I just kind of kept that seed growing within me and it grew into being salt therapy as a starting point for me because I have received so many health benefits from it myself. I started doing salt therapy myself four years ago and my health has improved dramatically. So, it just grew out of a desire to help others and to be able to prove a space for different healers to come to and share their gifts under one group.
JP: That’s great, a lot of businesses start because of a personal reason like that that you have some sort of an experience that changes your life and you decide to start a business to help other people have that same experience and same change to their life and I hear that a lot from a lot of different people saying that was their motivation and that is one of the reasons why I think you are successful is because you have a personal motivation. Sometimes when people start a business, they start it just to make money or because they think it’s something they should do or may be it’s something they are good at, but they don’t necessarily care about, those businesses struggle a lot more than a business that started by someone who has a real passion for what it is that you are doing and I think that’s a major reason why your business is doing so well.
Denise: Thank you, I appreciate that very much.
JP: Yes, you bet. Tell us how much experience you had specifically relating to this business before you started it?
Denise: I had only the experience of receiving the Halotherapy as a client myself, but as overall business as an overall entrepreneurs you know what was very beneficial for me is that I had had quite a colorful career prior to putting this business plan together. That actually helped me and I say colorful because to some people they never really knew where to put me or place me within an organization because I have worked in training and development, I have worked in human resources, I have worked in information technology, I had managed different size groups of people and different levels of peers. So, my blended background actually helped me from the banking perspective because they understood that I had had a very background, but specifically with opening a business and specifically salt therapy, really I had zero, zero experience other than being a client and then bringing in all of those other pieces.
JP: So, you spent a lot of your time before you started, probably learning the business and getting after a spin?
Denise: I did a lot of research. I reached out to other business owners who had businesses similar to this and I read and I researched and I actually took the challenge very similar to my Master’s Degree. I just did a lot of research, I did a lot of reading, I took a lot of notes, I asked a lot of questions and then I asked for a lot of help. People like yourself who volunteer helping entrepreneurs like myself through the support organization that was huge for me because I could rely on very successful professional people to help me kind of put the pieces together.
JP: Yes, you got a lot of help from Bob Davidson, right?
Denise: I had a lot of help from Bob Davidson, he has been fantastic.
JP: Yes, and Bob is another SCORE mentor and he actually mentors me, even mentors me mentors in my opinion.
Denise: Yes, he has been fantastic and I hope to be able to get back to the same types of people as myself down the road a little bit when I have little more success under by belt.
JP: Yes, that would be great, SCORE would love to have you. Okay, let’s talk about the challenges that you faced and how you overcame them. So, what was your biggest challenge so far in your business?
Denise: I think initially the biggest challenge was the banking and kind of pulling all of the financing together and then once my doors were open and I secured all of the business financing, I think just balance, balance is the biggest challenge for an entrepreneur making sure that the floors are swept and mopped, making sure the books are kept up, making sure all of the customers are happy and that you are doing your marketing, all of these pieces take a lot of time than you think, so I think balance and just life balance was probably my biggest challenge my first year.
JP: Yes, that is the hardest part for any entrepreneur is the balance between the business and the personal life. I know I have struggled a lot with that when I was first starting out a long time ago and I worked all the time. Day and night when everybody else was sleeping, I was working and it is hard because there is so much to do and there are so many things you want to do. The nice thing is it doesn’t really feel like work, at least it didn’t for me. I just enjoyed doing what I was doing, I still do so much that it doesn’t feel like work, but sometimes some of the personal aspects of my life suffer because of it.
Denise: Yes, I think that’s a very common thing with entrepreneurs that it’s an interesting point that you bring up and it just occurred to me right now when you said it’s that it’s actually living, so you are kind of blending just life with work, but we’ve been trained to think of work as being this thing we have to do and those of us that loved the entrepreneur path, it doesn’t feel like work and so that’s kind of a mind shift into life, like we are living in a different way and sometimes that means sacrificing a lot as well and I think that was another big challenge for me is the realization of how many sacrifices you do need to make your first year.
JP: Yes, that’s a great point, it really is that it is a way of life or being an entrepreneur is a way of life. It’s not a job or it’s not work, it’s just a way of living because even when you are doing something personal like you are going to the grocery store, you start to talk to somebody and then you somehow go, you weave in business into that. It’s like when you are an entrepreneur, you are never off work.
JP: It’s always ongoing, but the thing is you love doing it so much, it doesn’t feel like work and for people who are just starting this process or thinking about it, I can’t talk highly enough. I feel like I’ve been an entrepreneur my whole life and so I sometimes take that for granted until I meet other entrepreneurs who are just starting out and they point that out that this is a way of life and it’s such a high quality of life as long as you are earning enough to pay the bills, that’s the challenge of being an entrepreneur that you are responsible, you are not guaranteed to paycheck unless you earn it.
Denise: Right, absolutely and I think another point is for me, I want to be able to capture so much of what the journey looks like for me, so I can help other people to avoid some of the pitfalls. Sometimes you can be a little bit overly consumed by it as you mentioned where it can sometimes impact your personal life and I think that there is a healthy obsession with the business and I think that there is an unhealthy obsession with the business, but I think overall helping people to understand what they are good at and what they are not good at because I think there is a lot of people I liken it to management. When I used to work in HR, I worked with managers and there were some people who were just cut out to be great managers and there just couldn’t be another path for them and then there were other people who thought they were good managers and wanted to be good managers and so they had a lot of development to take place, but they could become good managers and then there were other people who were managers who just weren’t really cut out for that, may be they were really great arborist, but they really didn’t want to manage people or lead people I liken that to entrepreneur them as well because there are people who believe they should be, there are people who might like to be and then there are people who think they should be and may be they should be.
JP: Yes, that’s true. That’s one of my goals in life is to help all of those people in the first two categories, take the leap and make that. Not everybody is cut out to be an entrepreneur and I tell people that it’s not for everyone, but there are a lot of people out there who should be entrepreneurs and aren’t for whatever reason, may be they don’t know how to start, don’t know where to start, don’t know what to do and my goal in life now is to help all of those people who should be entrepreneurs, but aren’t, figure out how to make that leap.
Denise: Awesome, yes I would agree 100 percent there is just lots of people out there that may be it’s fear, may be it’s money, may be it’s resources, but tapping into those people is only going to make our world better.
JP: Yes. So, you mentioned money again, you said one of your first challenges was getting the financing. That’s a big question that a lot of the people I meet with have because as you know with the economy all of the banks are getting a little bit looser with the belt or the money. It’s still a big challenge. It’s one of the largest challenges that entrepreneurs face is getting access to capital. So, what was your secret? How did you go about doing that?
Denise: Well, I wouldn’t say I have a secret, but persistence. I was very persistent and with every “no,” I knocked on five more doors. So, I got a lot of “no’s” and I had what I thought was a pretty textbook scenario, but I kept getting no after no after no and so I just was very persistent and I also knew that those challenges when somebody tells you no are opportunities for negotiation and so I reengaged, one of my favorite classes in grad school was negotiation and everything is a negotiation. So, even when the banks would tell me no at a particular dollar amount that I was asking, I would go back then and say if I developed a great relationship with them, I would say okay no at that point, but what about this point and so I just kind of kept negotiating once I got a little bit stronger because I think after several no’s instead of letting it bring me down, I used it as an opportunity to create a more inertia with myself and be a little bit stronger, be a little bit more sound. I knew I was going to get my doors open and I knew somebody was going to see what I saw that it was just a matter of getting to that person. I don’t think there’s any magic secret other than being persistent, being strong with your numbers and your profit and loss statements and your business plan, not wavering one second that I knew this was going to be implemented someway somehow and so I just had 100 percent belief what I did.
JP: Yes, I think that is a secret that a lot of people don’t understand is the value of persistence. A lot of times, people that are successful just stuck with it longer than the people that weren’t successful and there wasn’t any other thing specifically that led to the success other than just sticking with it and I think one thing you mentioned is interesting too is the value of the relationships. You met with these people, you started seeing them more often, they got to know you, you didn’t walk into the bank and go up to the loan officer and they gave you money, it took a process. They wanted to make sure you are serious that you are in it for the long haul. You formed these relationships with the lenders and over time they grew confident and your ability to execute and that is another thing that’s really important not only the persistence but also the ability to forge these relationships.
Denise: Absolutely and I think just very much like interviewing in hindsight because sometimes there are pieces to the puzzle that I forgot to offer up and I would later think “Oh I wish I would have told the banker about this or I wish I would have told them about that.” So, it’s kind of like going into with a game plan how you would in interview what are the key points if you want them to know about you and what pieces, for myself like overcoming spinal cord injury and choosing not to live in a wheelchair for myself, those were the pieces to the puzzle that I kind of regard about that they saw some level of persistence and desire for success and that kind of shifted their thinking a little bit. So, I think there is a strategy that people can use to approach banker that I could probably recommend some ways that might help the things that I did not do my first ten meetings.
JP: Yes, that would. Why don’t you tell us what one piece of advice that you would give about at your interactions something that you learned about bankers other than what we’ve already talked about?
Denise: I would say that one of the most important things that I would recommend is asking them questions as well. Again, with interviewing analogy sometimes I would go in and just wait for them to ask me questions and you want to get to know your banker as well. You want to know what kind of programs you have to offer entrepreneurs, what’s your background. The most current banker that I am involved with right now used to be an entrepreneur, that’s who I want to be aligned with. A year ago I may not have known that that was important, but now a year and I do. So, I think just asking them questions and finding out where you have similar alignments will help the relationship along as well.
JP: Yes, that’s great advice. Again, that’s more of the relationship building and I know that you are fantastic at that, I could tell that within five minutes of meeting you at your business. That’s one of the reasons why you are successful is that you are really good interacting with people and forming those relationships and that’s why you are on this interview right now is because of that, your ability to relate to people and I know that’s why Bob likes you so much.
Denise: Well, thank you. I have a gift to gab.
JP: Yes, you do. Okay, so owning a business is not all bed of roses. There are lots of thorns in owning a business. So, how do you cope with some of those stresses of owning a business beside salt therapy?
Denise: Yes, salt therapy definitely helps, although people are always surprised how little I actually can sit and relax in the room similar to lot of other business owners, you don’t get to enjoy a meal in your own restaurant sometimes, that’s just the case.
Denise: I would say again back to the balance piece is really critical for me. I am somebody who regenerates my stuff by being out in nature and so getting out for a hike, getting out for a walk, just remembering to do those things that beat you even if it’s only for 20 minutes, just that little bit each shift can sometimes help with the mental clarity so that’s definitely a piece and then having somebody who is kind of by your side so you can balance stuff off of or voice some frustrations and what do you think about this that I go to for different reasons, in other words I have got a good support system around me, so I might go to Bob, David and friends if I had some financial, “I want to try this, what do you think about this?” or if I am frustrated “Gosh, September is slow for me, why is September slow for me, what can I do next year to make September not slow?” I might go to another one of my marketing contacts. So, just having a good support system around you to be able to utilize them for the right moment and the right issues has really helped me a lot.
JP: Yes, it does help to know that you are not in it alone and a lot of entrepreneurs they fall into that boat where they think “Well I just have to do everything myself” and it’s one of the things that I try and help people realize that you are not in this alone, there’re lots of other people in the same boat or at different places on that journey that can help you and a lot of times it’s just nice to know that some of these things you are not the only one experiencing them.
Denise: Yes, I think that’s a really important point and that sometimes your relationships shift in that pursue as well. So, people that you might have relied on before may be you don’t rely on them as much, but you have new people that you do and certainly surrounding yourself with other people who are entrepreneurs, business owners, or ex-entrepreneurs or business owners, that’s critical for me.
JP: Yes, I 100 percent agree with that and I know that my relationships have shifted too as I have started this new business, this new venture I am doing and that I am surrounding myself more with entrepreneurs than people who aren’t as much.
Denise: Absolutely. I think it’s the natural progression.
JP: It is, it definitely is, a lot of it is just because you’ve more in common with those people and sometimes you lose some of those commonalities with people who don’t understand why you are doing this crazy thing and why you are taking this huge risk and a lot of people don’t feel comfortable even being around somebody who is taking risk that they are afraid to take.
JP: I like that you said that you like to go hiking into nature. I am the same way, my significant other, Amelia, and I during the nice weather we hike almost every weekend and then since it has turned cold we haven’t been doing it as much and we were just taking yesterday how much we missed that and I think we are going to try snowshoeing to get out there.
Denise: I was just going to recommend it, snowshoeing is brilliant for people who hike.
JP: Yes, we actually bought snowshoes last year, we took a late season trip up to the mountains and went for a hike and there was still snow everywhere, so we actually went and bought snowshoes and then at the end of the week, we went back to that trail and the snow had almost all melted.
Denise: Oh my God.
JP: It was in first week in June and it was just the tipping point, so we didn’t actually get to use our snowshoes.
JP: So, we are going to try and use them in the next couple of weeks.
Denise: Wow, you will love it and it’s such a workout. You can’t go as far as you think you can go your first few times out.
JP: Yes, it looks like fun, so we will give that a shot, but it’s so important to do things like that and get yourself out of the office and do something that you love. When I was in LA a couple of weeks ago, I went down to Huntington Beach on the pier and watched the people surfboarding and that’s a great way to get out and it was in the middle of the day in the middle of the week, I am guessing that a portion of those people were probably entrepreneurs, probably all range of professions out there, but there were probably a 100 people out there surfboarding and whatever it is that floats your boat, you have to make time for it when you own your own business and I say make time for it because it’s just easy to just get lost in your business and keep working and you have one more thing you want to do and then before you know it, it’s time for bed.
JP: You have to make that. You have to make time to do those things to help cope with the stress of owning your own business.
Denise: Absolutely and you mentioned your significant other and I think it’s important to remind entrepreneurs that the person that you are sharing may be a home with or your life with that person has feelings and thoughts behind the business as well and whatever your boundaries are, whatever your agreements are, I think it’s important to continuously revisit those because they might change and that person, for me I know that, Rob has stated that it felt lonely at home. He wasn’t used to me getting home at 8 o’clock at night when I had normal 9 to 5 jobs, so sometimes there is a shift that occurs that communication is key in order to keep that relationship going and I think that’s definitely another year one lesson learned for myself is that relationship at home is critical and it’s important not only to do the hiking and the snowshoeing and the mountain piece, but it’s also a nice reminder that that relationship at home takes energy as well and so kind of looking at a 24-hour a day, how are you going to spend your time and how are you going to make sure that your loved ones feel loved.
JP: Yes, that is so important. Amelia and I were talking about that this morning because I am starting to travel more with my business. I was in LA couple of weeks ago and luckily she had a business trip there at the same time, so we were there together which was nice, but I am heading to Vegas this weekend for a conference and she is not going to be there and then we are actually going to be back in LA at the same time, but it’s like two ships passing in the night. I don’t know that we will actually see each other when we were there because we are in different sides of town and it’s going to be a real challenge now because she travels with her business and if our travel schedules don’t align, it’s going to be hard, so we’ve already talked about how we are going to make time for each other and we may have to rendezvous places while we are traveling to make sure that we can maintain our relationship.
Denise: Absolutely and as far as you guys are doing great just by having the conversation I think; there is a very high level of divorce that happens with entrepreneurs as well that is not shocking to me after my first year because it takes consciousness to be focused to continuous communications with that person and if you are not dedicated to the relationship to, that can fall to the wayside, so I think that’s really awesome that you guys are keeping the communication going.
JP: Yes, I know you mean that the divorce, my marriage did not survive the business, it is not like it was the only thing that was wrong, but the business didn’t help. I worked all the time. I worked all day, we had dinner, I would go back to work, my now ex-wife would go to bed, my daughter would go to bed, I would go back to work and then I get up and I would start the whole thing all over the next morning and that really wears thin on someone who is not an entrepreneur at heart, they just don’t understand and it was a real challenge in our marriage because we definitely saw the world differently.
Denise: Yes, understood.
JP: Yes, it was a challenge, but we live and learn.
JP: I definitely figured out how to balance things a little bit better now that I am older.
Denise: That’s key as well, but such is the experience and waking up and knowing that you can make a different choice today and so now you have a new relationship that you can make different choices, that’s beautiful in and of itself.
JP: Yes. So, what is your most favorite aspect of owning your own business?
Denise: I would say being in control of the best customer service ever. Every place I worked, we had mediocre customer service and I was always somebody who love to giving the best customer service no matter what and the most angry person I walk in is a challenge for me to turn around and they were thanking me at the end of the call whatever interaction. I think that’s my favorite part, I love giving great customer service everyday and the people who maybe…one day I didn’t have heat, that was the challenge, so there were three people who were affected because we didn’t have heat for a little bit of time that day and I just made it my mission to win them back and I did. So, I love that part of being an entrepreneur just making sure that I can always give them best customer service ever.
JP: That’s great. When you have something that you care passionately about, it makes the customer service a lot easier too.
JP: Yes, so that’s good. For me, the thing that I love, I love helping people that’s why I do this, that’s why I am doing this now is because I just love to help people, I love to see that sparkle in their eyes when they start their business or when they reach a milestone and that’s extremely rewarding from a professional perspective. From a personal perspective, you know what I love the most? I love running my errands on Tuesday morning when there is nobody out in the stores that’s what I tell people, that’s for me the best part from a personal perspective, being entrepreneur is the flexibility and the freedom to do what I want, when I want to do it.
Denise: Absolutely, that is a big perk.
JP: Yes, it really is and I now you are probably in your store a lot, but have help, you are not completely on your own, so I am sure that you take the opportunity to go do some of those things during the week to avoid all the big weekend crowds.
Denise: Yes, absolutely. I am closed on Mondays right now and that’s like you, I run a lot of errands or do a lot of my things on Mondays and I think about three months in, I said I don’t think I am ever going to work another Monday.
JP: Yes, that’s great. I have a motivational speech that I have called “Make Monday the Best Day of Your Week” and you have done it by not working. I do it by working. To me when I wake up on Monday morning, I am just so excited to get back started, get back at it, refresh from the weekend. A lot of people, they dread Monday so much and if you dread your Monday, it means you are not doing what you are put on this earth to do.
JP: If that’s the case then you go to do something different, you have to find out what your passion is, what your calling in life and you have to do something different because life is too short to hate Mondays and to spend all week looking forward to Friday.
Denise: Yes, absolutely. I had a couple of jobs previous that were, I get the Sunday night blues.
JP: I am familiar with that too. I had a job for a while, I was a development manager, I had a large software development team and every morning at 9 a.m., every morning we had a staff meeting where I went in, I got yelled at by my managers because the project was overdue and I had just taken over this project, it had been going on for years and so my first day to my last day, which lasted about two months on that job, I got yelled at everyday at 9 a.m. for this project that I just inherited. You talk about Sunday blues, oh my goodness, that was terrible.
Denise: Yes, the toxicity, I could say that probably most entrepreneurs that you meet, do not miss the toxicity of the environment that they were chained to previously that’s definitely a big perk of having your own business and being in control of that is toxicity is not part of my life and my business right now and it’s beautiful.
JP: It is, it’s a great feeling. All right, let’s just switch to how you are so successful? Tell us how did you get your first five customers?
Denise: My first five customers came from talking about the business through my banker relationships, through my friends and family, so there was so much in networking for me that happened before I even had my doors open that my customers came out of probably pure curiosity, not knowing anything about the salt therapy business, but just about my excitement and we did nine weeks of construction and all my lessons learned and I was not what they consider a closed book by any stretch. I wasn’t afraid to tell people the challenges we ran into, one being that I expected construction to be four weeks long, may be five at the most and it ended up being nine weeks, so I wasn’t afraid to tell people my less than wonderful attributes of getting the doors open, but I was excited through the whole journey, so people came out of curiosity, people came out of wanting to share in that excitement. So, my first five customers probably didn’t even come for the first three weeks I was open, I sold a lot of retail items and gift certificates my first month open, which was in December 2012 and everybody said you are crazy for opening during December, you are not going to have any customers, you are not going to have any sales, and I made my first month’s rent in that month without even having a lot of customers because I focused on other things like the gift certificates and the retail items. So, you have to be creative.
JP: Yes, that’s great advice too that you have multiple streams of income, one of those lights that you sell, explain those, I want to get one of those.
Denise: They are actually Himalayan salt lamps and they are starting to become quite popular. You will find them all over the place now, at the Whole Foods and places like that sell them now, but they actually emitted a very light amount of salt into the air, so they are wonderful to put next to your bed to help people who snore, have any sort of breathing restrictions at night or sometimes people have nighttime allergies that they wake up real congested and those salt lamps will help alleviate those symptoms throughout the nighttime. They are wonderful in the house, they create a negative ion environment and are wonderful all over your home, but they are most effective next to your bed.
JP: That’s great. You could have easily started your business and said, “I am just going to do salt therapy” because that’s the core of your business, the reason why you are in business, but you also do massage and you offer massage therapy in the salt therapy rooms, you sell these lamps, you sell other products, you have gift certificates, you have definitely diversified your offering to maximize your revenue and that’s an important thing for early entrepreneurs to understand as it helps to have multiple things to sell because you have different people who want different things.
Denise: Correct, but keeping them aligned, I think one of the mistakes that I made early on was trying to branch out of little too far from the salt, in other words I had scarves, shirts, and jewelry and I was kind of making it into a boutique in my lobby area and that is one thing that I would have done differently. So, when people tell entrepreneurs stay focused that includes what services and what different things you are offering, so it’s good to diversify in my opinion, but for myself I probably diversified a little too much my first six months and now I am kind of refocusing that to just be around kind of salt items. If people want to shop, it’s not really a boutique, that’s not what I want to go after, so there is kind of a delicate balance between diversifying, but also being very focused with complimentary items to your business.
JP: That’s great advice because that happens too, even the best of us. We are like, “Oh I will just do this” or “I like this, so I will do that” or “My client base are women over 40 and so I am going to carry things that women over 40 like whether they are related to the business or not” and we all make those kinds of mistakes that the important thing is to learn as quickly as possible and adjust and adapt and then move on and it’s great that you learned that lesson so quickly. Did Bob tell you, did he have any input on that because I could see him saying, commenting on the focus issue?
Denise: Yes, he probably told me to focus more and I probably didn’t listen…one of my faults was just saying yes and I also wanted to not only help people but I wanted to help the community when I first opened my doors, so if anybody came along and said “Oh I saw these bracelets or I make this jewelry or I would have these scarves,” I just wanted to help other people in their businesses because I was so excited about my own, so that was probably my own not hearing Bob and his recommendations which is probably another recommendation I would like to tell entrepreneurs though you are very excited and that excitement is good, make sure you pause momentarily to listen to the people who are giving you advice.
JP: Yes, and that’s a good point to make too is that you want to help people, but sometimes you have to say “no.” If it’s not the right decision for your business or for you personally, it’s okay to say “no” to people and especially if you can follow that up with may be giving them a referral or some advice, but not everything is going to work that people pitch you.
Denise: Yes, and I think you bring up a great point JP is that not only is it okay to say no but it’s critical to say no. In my case, those first three months I was just so excited, I was just yes, yes, yes, oh sure, I will carry your things and I will have this and I will have that and that was critical for me to not do that. It would have been better have I not, so I think it’s learning to say no sooner would be another recommendation for me.
JP: Yes it is and it’s so hard, saying no is so hard because you feel like you are disappointing them and letting them down and a lot of people are avoiders, I know that I struggle with that because I don’t want to let people down and so I have a tendency to say yes when I should be saying no, so it happens to the best of us, but we have to recognize as entrepreneurs sometimes we have to do things that are uncomfortable and one of those is telling people no when we know it’s the right thing for us.
JP: So, what have you found to be your most effective marketing tools or techniques for your business? I know we talked about that, that was one of the main reasons why I came to see you was to talk about some of your online marketing efforts and social media marketing. So, what have you found to be the most effective just overall in your business?
Denise: Overall, Facebook actually really been helpful for me. You and I talked before too, like Twitter not so much, I mean that just wasn’t a great avenue for me, but Facebook because I am building kind of a community that has been really helpful. I ran a Groupon and Groupon did phenomenal considering that was a brand new business and it was a new kind of therapy that people don’t know about. I wouldn’t recommend the Groupon avenue for most businesses, mine was unique in that and new enough that it was an okay risk for me to use that avenue and it panned out great for me because it reached about 1000 people that I wouldn’t have been able to reach myself. The main thing that I did is followup. Whenever I had a new customer come in, I followed up whether it was through – a lot of times I wrote handwritten postcards to people to say “Thank you for visiting, let me know if you have any questions,” just reaching out to them again somehow someway, I would set my own goals each day to have five followups for instance. It doesn’t sound like a lot if I had 20 people through, but I figured even if I was getting a quarter of it, and I would strategically pick the people who may be are on the fence, may be they had more questions that didn’t get answer because it was too busy. So, I would kind of look at who was in the previous day and then I would reach out to them in one way or another and I have been able to turn almost 70% of my customers into repeat customers that way.
JP: Wow that is fantastic advice. I wrote a blogpost several months ago called “Your Fortune is in Your Followup” and that’s one thing that people neglect the most that they shouldn’t and that’s the followup because they think “Well I have a customer, great,” and then they don’t do anything else to follow up with them or they think I have a lead, “Oh I have this lead, I spoke with them, I think they are going to buy” and then they just wait for the client or the customer to make a purchase and they don’t follow up and people are busy I would say, it’s nothing personal, everyone is busy, we all have competing priorities, they may have just forgotten and that followup may be the difference between a sale and not a sale.
Denise: Absolutely and even people who come through my business and may be have expressed that they lost a loved one or they had a really challenging week of work or something like that, sometimes I would just drop them a postcard in the mail just to say, “Sorry that you had a rough week, please know that you can always come to the RockSalt Spa to be able to relax, refocus on what’s next for you and I would be happy to host you again” kind of thing and sometimes I have people come back and say “Do you know that that one little postcard made my week?”
JP: That’s great.
Denise: That just goes back to the customer service and I love that your blogpost was about followup because it’s becoming a lost art. We are just so quick to get on to the next thing and when my massage therapist and I strategized what our goals are every month, we go back to our existing list of customers instead of recreating the wheel every month, we go back to our existing people who already been here, who have already enjoyed it and we reach out to them and say “When do we schedule you this month for a massage?”
JP: Yes, that’s great advice, to follow up not only with potential clients and customers but past clients and customers. Your best sale or your best client is someone who has already bought what you are selling and those are the ones we often neglect.
Denise: Yes, which is still is kind of like throwing a dollar bill out of the window as you’re driving down the road, why would you do that?
JP: Yes, it is ridiculous. I am not sure if I told you, but I have a new business coach. I hired a business coach for myself, did I tell you that?
Denise: You did mention it, but I didn’t get a name or any detail.
JP: I actually met her a few years ago at a Millionaire Mind Intensive Seminar and then I just bumped into her purely by accident and she was meeting with my investment manager at a Panera and I was there for another meeting and I saw her and I thought “Wow you look really familiar” and she said “We met at the Millionaire Mind” and then she went on about my business and asked me what I was doing and asked me about my daughter and I literally spoke to this woman for may be 15 minutes and it was about three years ago and I thought wow if she can remember all of those details about me and I recognized her but I couldn’t place her and that’s one of the challenges that I face is that if I tell people don’t be offended if I don’t remember you because it’s one of those things where I had a really hard time with that. I am much more likely to remember your website and your business than you and it’s just the way my brain works, it’s really unfortunate, I am working on it. It’s a work in progress, but I was so impressed by her that she was able to do that to remember me and so I asked my investment manager about her and he is like “Yes, she is a great coach and I think she would really be good for your business.” So, I hired her and one of the first homework assignments she gave me was to read a book called The Seven Levels of Communication. Have you heard of that book?
JP: The Seven Levels of Communication, and I went home and I looked it up and I went to high school with the author. I couldn’t believe it. I actually contacted him about the book because I am about half way through it and one of the major things that they are talking about is this followup and they say that you should write handwritten notes like what you were just describing as one of the most powerful ways of following up is a handwritten note, either a “Thank you” just “Thinking of You” or something and you send it to potential customers, past customers, in fact look for one in the mail, I am going to send you one for doing this podcast interview and that’s one of the things that I learned from this book and I can’t wait to actually talk to this guy. His name is Michael Maher and his brother was actually in my grade. We played on the same little league baseball team when we were kids. It’s amazing what a small world it is, isn’t it?
Denise: My world, wow. I will definitely check out, look out as I am always looking for more good stuff.
JP: Yes it’s a good read. It’s a good story. I like the way he told the story. I have to finish reading it before I leave for my conference tomorrow that was my homework assignment, so that’s what I will be doing in this afternoon.
Denise: Awesome, I love it.
JP: Yes, check that out The Seven Levels of Communication.
Denise: Okay, got it down.
JP: Okay, let’s talk about what inspires you. Do you have a hero or somebody that inspires you?
Denise: Marianne Williamson. She is probably my one biggest hero and I am not sure if you are familiar with her work. She has written a lot of books and she has just recently in the last six months announced that she is running for a seat in Congress. She has not been able to make the changes that she would like to from outside of government, so she decided that you can’t beat them, join them. She is going to insert herself which is fabulous, but she was a big trailblazer for A Course in Miracles years ago. She didn’t write the book, but she got it on the mound through teachings and what not and then she has went on to write a lot of books. So, I have followed her for probably 15 years and I just love what she stands for, I love what she believes in. I love that she speaks her truth and she has tried from the outside circles to implement positive change in government and she just hasn’t been able to be successful as she likes, so now she just going to go for it and get into Congress. So, I volunteered on her campaign because I just believe in what she has done. She has helped all kinds of organizations, she has helped deliver food to homeless people, she has helped with healthcare and AIDS and she is just an everyday hero that a lot of people just don’t even know her name and I was surprised. So, she is definitely one of my heroes. If I can make a third of the impact that she has on the world then I will feel like I have done my part.
JP: That’s great. It’s great to have somebody that you can look up to like that and kind of model yourself after. I know I have a whole list of people that I admire and my so-called heroes. My grandpa was probably my biggest hero when I was a kid. He was a businessman and retired and I just learned so much from him and playing golf with his cronies. They were all retired entrepreneurs or executives and so I totally understand what you mean by having somebody in your life that is so influential that can give you advice or just not even necessarily advice but behavior that you can model.
JP: Yes, it’s great. I always say most people have somebody that they look up to, but it’s really important for an entrepreneur to have someone like that who is the goal where you want to be.
Denise: Yes, I think in addition to being very inspirational, Maryanne Williamson is just brilliant, I just see her as so intelligent and I have gone to hear her speak and she is one of these people that she is a fantastic speaker. It’s as if her lips can’t keep up with the brain activity. She has got so much to say and so much to get out and I just appreciate that because my brain works and I just am hungry for information and learning and growing constantly that I just really appreciate that in somebody like her. So, coupled with all the good that she had done in the world and her positive message with all her books that she has written, she is just somebody that like I said if I can be a third or make a third of the impact that she has on the world, I will feel like I have done my part.
JP: Yes, and you brain does work very fast. I remember when we were talking about, we were calculating an ROI for one of the marketing for a direct mail campaign and I was zipping through the ROI calculation out loud and you kept with me every step and a lot of times people were like “What is that, where did you get that number or what does that mean?” and I was so impressed that you are like right there, you got the answer at the same time that I did, I thought wow your brain works really fast.
Denise: Well, that wasn’t always the case in school because I got a little bored sometimes.
JP: Yes, that happens to most entrepreneurs. So, Denise is there a book that you recommend may be one from Marianne or another one, something that influenced you.
Denise: Actually JP, I just finished yesterday, somebody had recommended for me to read From Good to Great by Jim Collins.
JP: Yes, I have read that book, it’s a great book.
Denise: It’s phenomenal and I just finished it and although it’s not necessarily focused, and even the person who recommended it to me said, “You know, it’s not really for entrepreneurs, it’s not really for small businesses.” I sat down in all of the pages that I put little stickies on, I went through and compiled all of my notes last night because I found a nugget or two in every chapter and so I compiled all of those notes myself just to remember, but the concept is there is plenty for small businesses as for entrepreneurs if you wanted to see it, but I just loved it because it talks so much about some great ideas, but also just consistency and how to go from good to great and there are a lots of people in the world who would be fine with just paying the bills and having the business and being good and then there are those of us who don’t ever want to just accept good, want to be great. So, I just love that book, I just hung on every page and I have read from cover to cover and took all my notes out of it and I just loved that the author mentioned things like going from good to great requires transcending the course of competence, I mean just powerful sentences like that that for me get me at the core and remind me that this is why I am doing what I am doing. Also, he spoke a lot about just having discipline and I think a lot of entrepreneurs may be didn’t know always fit in the corporate kind of environment, but we have a different skill set of what they consider discipline and like you mentioned with learning, I wasn’t a traditional learner going to school and it didn’t mean that I didn’t have discipline in certain aspects. It just meant my discipline factors were different and so I just loved it. The author speaks to a lot of that and he did a ton of research for that book and I found it most astounding that over all the companies that looked at over a 30-year period of time basically 25-30 years was their criteria that only 11 companies made the cut of all the Fortune 500 companies and so that tells me that the percentages we are dealing with entrepreneurs and getting businesses what you are doing for people, the percentage of success is so small that we have owe it to ourselves to figure out what that is and teach other people how to do that to increase those numbers.
JP: Yes, that’s great. I know that book was a lot about large corporations and how some of them are good, some of them were great and how some of them went from good to great, but there are a lot of lessons on the book that you can definitely apply as a small entrepreneur, a small business owner as the concepts were all the same, a lot more about offering great customer service and treating your employees really well. There are just all kinds of things and it applied to every kind of business.
Denise: Absolutely and not getting to outside. If you remember, they talked about the three circles and keeping your business within those three circles and having the flywheel, that the flywheel is building omentum over a period of time, though it is not always a race and I can remember telling people in the early first six months that I was open that kind of felt like I was being a turtle that I was going really slow and building little by little, but I was so proud of the fact that everyday I had return customers and new customers and then I just kept building on that. Though it felt slow to me, people were always still surprised that it was so consistent and I think that that’s what so key about that book is that it’s all about those key pieces being consistent and slow growth. There is nothing to sneeze at a slow growth because growth is still growth.
JP: Yes, and I tell people who are just getting ready to start that this is a marathon not a sprint. Starting a business is actually kind of both, it’s a sprint and a marathon, but it’s more marathon than sprint because it does take concerted effort over a long period of time to be successful. There is very rarely do you hear of an overnight success and even then it’s usually looks like an overnight success, but they have been working on it for years when nobody knew about it.
JP: That’s really a common perception in the dot com world, my background is in web startups and that’s the common belief is that “Wow I can start a website and be a millionaire tomorrow,” rarely does that happen, it generally takes, even the quickest ones were months of effort, the majority were years of effort and over time with growing and changing and building connections before it actually took off.
Denise: Yes, even Sam Walton story was in that book from Good to Great and I didn’t even realize that it took him seven years until he had a second store. So, he had his first store for seven years, that just puts things in perspective and it wasn’t until 20 to 25 years later that it burst because they worked out all the kicks and sometimes it just takes time, it’s kind of like growing up. I embrace every few decades that I get to live because it’s a different way of seeing the world, it’s a different way of experiencing it and I can see how that’s pertinent in business as well.
JP: Yes, I just wrote an article this morning about Wal-Mart in China was selling donkey meat and it had some sort of other meat in it and I thought “I wonder if Sam Walton ever dreamed that he would be selling donkey meat in China.”
Denise: Absolutely not.
JP: I bet he didn’t, but it’s amazing to think and that’s a great example, the company that went from good to great. So, Denise if you had to do it all over again, would you do it?
Denise: One hundred percent yes.
JP: So, why is that? Would you do anything differently and why are you so adamant or so convinced that you made the right decision?
Denise: I think because my over a life satisfaction and being able to be around people that I chose to and then I get to have come to my business is just a different way of life and going back to our earlier comments about work and life, it just feels like I am living the purpose that I was put here to do and I don’t even know work as work any longer. That definition just isn’t the same for me. So, the quality of my life is so different and so much more peaceful that I can’t for a second think about not doing what I have done. What I do things differently, almost everything. I would do all kinds of things differently, but the underlying excitement and the purpose drove me through all of my mistakes and I would do a lot of things differently. I would ask for help earlier. I think my first few months of being open, I was trying to just do it all myself and I had a lot of people on the sidelines saying “How can I help, how I can help?” and I didn’t know how to delegate, so I could engage my previous management experience and delegate it better and ask for help in the areas that I wasn’t so good at earlier. That would definitely be one of them. I think I had a lot of pride in it and I think one of my suggestions for entrepreneurs would be to not let your pride get in the way of asking for help.
JP: That is great advice because that happens a lot. We think we should know everything and so we are afraid to ask somebody because it might make that look like we don’t know everything and it’s so important, that’s why I have a coach. I coach people and mentor people, but I have a coach. I have talked to Bob for years now about my business and I talk to other people, so you would think that if I help other people then why do I need to talk to somebody? Everybody needs to have somebody that they can confide in and get advice from because sometimes you just can’t see the force for the trees.
Denise: Absolutely, yes.
JP: That’s great. So, you got to swallow your pride and ask for help. There is nothing wrong with it; in fact it makes you look like a stronger person by asking for help.
Denise: Absolutely and tying back a few things that we have talked about today, going back to the bankers too, not one person really asked me about where my life balance was at the time that I was asking for business support and I would say that that’s kind of what the critical questions for anyone considering being an entrepreneur is to ask themselves “What is you life balance today?” I always hear people say that they want to get out of the corporate world and have a better life work balance and as you know JP, the pendulum actually swings to its intense, so you don’t really get that initially and it’s really life resilience how you deal with the challenges to get to that place and so I would always encourage asking people who want to become entrepreneurs is two critical questions, “What’s your current life work balance?” and asking yourself the hard question “Why is it not in balance, is it really the job, is it really that workplace, or is it time management, is it your own pitfalls?” because I think a lot of us would like to blame the corporate environment, but it’s really may be your own time management or like you mentioned JP that you are just not doing what you are cut out to do, so I think asking really honest critical questions of yourself first, but then also making sure that you don’t have a glamorized view of we are entrepreneurs, isn’t it?
JP: Yes, it’s not like they make it out in the movies.
Denise: No and you are not going to be the Zuckerberg of the world overnight and I am sure that there are times that he was cleaning the toilets and mopping the floors and picking up after people and different things, but I think that’s really critical is just making sure that you are clear that balance is what you seek make sure that you are not escaping one thing to go to another without fixing whatever the other thing is like I mentioned may be time management or whatever that other missing link is and just be prepared that everything changes.
JP: Yes, it does. Well, Denise we are over an hour already, can you believe it? Time has flown.
Denise: I know, I can’t believe it, thank you so much JP for taking your time to interview me, this has been fantastic.
JP: Yes, you bet. Okay, so I just have one more question for you. I ask everybody this; what is the one piece of advice that you could give someone who is thinking about starting their business?
Denise: Be prepared for anything.
JP: Explain that.
Denise: I would say be prepared for anything meaning that when you get the “yeses,” it’s fantastic. When you get the “nos,” okay, figure out what you need to adjust and how to go forward stronger, ask questions. Just be prepared. I think people tend to get excited about starting the new business and they are seeing it kind of like a snow globe kind of view and you want to make sure that you are seeing everything that you can possibly be prepared for, a lot of what we have talked about today surround yourself with other strong entrepreneurs who have been at various different stages, people who are brand new who have an excitement, people who have been in 10 years, people who have been doing it 20 years, surround yourself with diversity, but similarities as far as what you need to accomplish where you are going and keep that seed growing inside of you. It may not be time now, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not time a year down the road. So, I think the biggest piece of advice, just be prepared for anything. I lost two other locations before I found this one that I am at currently and I was devastated at those two, but those weren’t the right places for me to be. So, sometimes universe has different plans and you have to be able to adapt, so that’s what I mean is be prepared, but also be willing to be adapting to whatever curve balls get on your way.
JP: That has great advice because there will be curve balls, starting a business is like a rollercoaster, there are all kinds of ups and downs, but you just have to be as prepared as you can be for each of those peaks and valleys.
Denise: Absolutely, be prepared and roll with the punches.
JP: Yes, all right Denise, that brings us to the end of this Smart Energized Entrepreneurs Podcast interview. Thank you so much for joining me.
Denise: Thank you for having me JP, have a fantastic weekend in Las Vegas.
JP: Thank you, I will try. It’s going to be mostly work, but I will try to have some fun while I am there.
Denise: Okay, wonderful and you keep me posted on how I can help you too and I can’t wait for what comes in 2014 for both of us.
JP: Me too. Thank you so much.
Denise: Thank you.
JP: Okay bye.
Wow, that was an information packed interview. Hopefully, you learned a few things from Denise’s experiences. She had lots of great advice for new entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs that are starting a new business, marketing advice; she even gave us some reading material, lots of great stuff from Denise today. I am so happy that she agreed to do this podcast interview. Thank you also for sticking with it to the end. All of the links for anything that we discussed during this podcast will be in the show notes on my website at JPStonestreet.com. It will be in the podcast section. If you want to learn anything more about any of those things that we talked about or get access or links to the books that we mentioned, go there now. Also, I would love to hear your thoughts about any of the comments that Denise had or that I had. So, go to JPStonestreet.com and leave some comments under the show notes for this podcast. Until next time, I am JP Stonestreet with the Smart Energized Entrepreneurs Podcast.