Insights From 25 Years in Business
by Marcia Yudkin
On January 4, 2006 I
celebrated my 25th anniversary of successful
self-employment. Looking back, I've identified four lessons
learned to share with you.
Lesson #1: Your first big success contains clues to a
dynamic that comes easily to you.
Figure out how to harness that strength, give it a good run on a regular basis and
you'll experience a champion series of successes.
On January 4, 1981, my first published article appeared in
the Sunday New York Times. One tantalizing sentence in my
query letter to them two months before had opened that door
of opportunity: "In January, I will be retiring from college
teaching at the age of 28 and want to write about what it has
been like to be a professor, compared with the way I saw
professors when I was a student."
With that sentence, I promised an out-of-the-ordinary story
skillfully told. This they wanted.
For me, words have opened doors over and over again. I'd be
loony to forget this.
For others, impulsive calls or old connections sparked their
first and later successes. Repeat what worked!
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Lesson #2: Customer comments can contain pure gold.
Many of my most in-demand services came about from a
suggestion made by someone who wanted to do business with me.
A decade ago, someone emailed, "I want to learn how to be
you. Can you teach me?" I emailed back, "What do you mean?"
We worked out a tutorial program through which I passed on my
marketing consulting skills. With minor updates, that
training program has proved a consistent seller.
Years before that, a Harvard professor called and said he
couldn't make my seminar. Could I present it to him at his
office, privately? I met with him weekly and gradually
realized what I was doing for him had a name: Consulting.
Undoubtedly others would want that too, I guessed, correctly.
When I started teaching seminars, the topics I knew the
most about were already taken. The director of the
Cambridge Center for Adult Education suggested "So You
Want to Write a Book," a class that generated long waiting
lists year after year.
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Lesson #3: Important strengths are not always obvious.
While I knew from the get-go that I had a knack for the
written word, I had several misconceptions or blind spots
that it took years to overcome.
I believed I couldn't captivate an audience. In my
family, I was the quiet one, the bookworm. To me, good
speakers were extroverts like my uncle, known for
storytelling and oratory. I taught reasonably well, though,
and with practice, shone as a speaker and radio performer.
I also assumed I couldn't sell. I briefly had a business
partner who excelled at schmoozing, but my seminars and
referrals worked much better than her networking. Finally
I understood that I did very well at bringing in business.
Only in the last few years, because so many clients and
subscribers have mentioned it, have I realized that my moral
beliefs and practices set me apart from some other marketers.
It wouldn't otherwise have occurred to me that considering
moneymaking in the context of honesty and service could be a
Attract Ideal Clients
Instead of Chasing Anyone and Everyone
No need to run yourself ragged trying to bring in customers only to discover that they’re a poor match for your offerings, your personality or the way you’d prefer to run your business.
Instead, consciously and deliberately focus on who you want to attract.
Put out the word. Your
reward: happy, long-term buyers.
Lesson #4: Keep your feet firmly on the ground instead of getting swept up in
what seems to be the hot new thing.
During the Internet gold rush, many of my peers scrambled to
get their piece of the action. Some closed down dependable
businesses in favor of unproven concepts or high salaries
at companies that didn't last.
I had job offers that would have required me to suspend the
business I'd worked hard to build. So I said no. And I did
not redefine my focus to online-only expertise, specializing
in tactics that can quickly become obsolete. Consequently,
my income dipped only slightly with the dot-com crash and
By understanding and applying the fundamental principles of
marketing and persuasive communication - knowing who you're
selling to, differentiating a company from competitors,
generating targeted offers - I have competence that can't go
out of date.
And unlike those who flitted around during the dot-com boom,
I still have clients who've been hiring me and singing my
praises to others for more than ten years.
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Yudkin's mentoring program, Marketing
Marcia Yudkin to speak to your organization.
Marcia's advice on overcoming your toughest
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