Does your organization need help moving from idea to action? Are you willing to take strategic risks so that your business can reach its pinnacle? Well we’ve got the solution to your problems. Gaea Honeycutt, of G.L. Honeycutt Consulting, is here to help your business flourish through partnerships … on this edition of Frank Relationships.
FRANK RELATIONSHIPS: GAEA HONEYCUTT ON BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT
Guests: Gaea Honeycutt
Date: August 18, 2013
Frank: Does your organization need help moving from idea to action? Are you willing to take strategic risks, so that your business can reach its pinnacle?
Well, we’ve got the solution for your problems. A masterful consultant is here to help your business flourish through partnerships on this edition of Frank Relationships.
Welcome to Frank Relationships where we provide a candid fresh and frank look into relationships with goals of acceptance, respect and flexibility. I’m Frank Love and you can find me, my blog and my various social media incarnations at franklove.com.
Once again, I’m joined by my insightful co-host, Dr. Gayl.
Dr. Gayl: Hey, Frank.
Frank: If you tuned in to last week’s show, you’re probably as disgusted as I am with her agreeing with me. It just was out of sorts. I’m not–
Dr. Gayl: You’re not used to that.
Frank: Good with it. No. Talk about blasphemy.
Dr. Gayl: I’ll get you back this week.
Frank: Yeah, hopefully we’ll get this straight today. What’s up, doc?
Dr. Gayl: What’s going on?
Frank: Make sure you check out the Frank Love Facebook page to find out who the guest for the week will be. We post that tidbit of information every Monday, about the guests that will host on the fourth coming Thursday. You can go directly to
franklove.com and link to it from there.
Leave questions or comments for me and my guests and we’ll answer them on the air. You can also tweet us @mrfranklove or you can, of course, call the studio at 202-629-3746 between 8:30 A.M. and 9:30 A.M. every Thursday morning. We record at that time every week.
Today’s guest has 20 years of experience in program management, evaluation and analysis, publication development and marketing communication strategy.
She’s worked with both the non and for-profit sectors, serving entrepreneurs, research and development companies and small businesses. She’s a board building, network developing strategic dynamo. And she’s here to provide her own brand of unique insight in how we can go about beginning, forging and maximizing strategic relationships in the business world, in order to grow our companies to the level of grandeur that we aspire them to reach.
She is no other than Ms. Gaea Honeycutt. Welcome to the show.
Gaea: Thank you. That is a fabulous introduction. I’m a little odd awed and inspired by whoever that person is.
Dr. Gayl: It’s you. Good morning.
Gaea: Good morning. How are you?
Dr. Gayl: I’m great. Thanks.
Frank: We’ve got a fabulous guest, but she’s got to tell our audience why she’s fabulous. If I am an entrepreneur, which I am, why should I listen to what Ms. Gaea Honeycutt has to say?
Gaea: In general, if you’re an entrepreneur or business owner, no one knows everything and sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know. There are several reasons you can hire a consultant like myself. It should be to bring a new prospective, figure out how to leverage different set of expertise or skills and really to introduce you maybe to other practices that may make your business more efficient, so you’re not reinventing the wheel.
When entrepreneurs hire me, they’re usually really looking for some help to get through a block of some sort. To get to a new point, to figure out what their plan for action will be, to achieve things that are really sort of sitting on the backburner and not quite hunting for them. I come in whether it’s long-term or short-term and help them figure out that’s going to be and what that might look like.
Frank: A lot of people see consultants as an expensive waste that comes in to tell business owners what they already know. Why isn’t this case?
Gaea: One thing about entrepreneurs is, they’re smart and they’re savvy and they can do a lot of things. And you have to do a lot of things as an entrepreneur, because you just don’t have that many resources, especially when you’re starting out and we tend to get into this box–and I say, “We.” I include myself–where, because you’re smart and savvy, you try to do everything.
No one is very effective trying to do everything themselves. And sometimes, the least play that was effective is figuring out how to promote ourselves, figuring out how to talk about ourselves and figuring out things about our own businesses, because we’re so deep in them that it becomes more difficult to work on them.
Frank: And there is the quote, “Learning how to grow your business and getting out of the realm of just simply running your business.”
Gaea: Yes, yes exactly.
Frank: Let’s say I’m trudging along, running a business that in its first year, made $200,000 in gross revenue. It seems to most that I’m doing well. What could I possibly be doing wrong? Or what is there to do next? And I know I haven’t even illustrated what the business does, so there’s but so much you can–
Gaea: I know.
Frank: Weigh-in on, but give me a little taste.
Gaea: Let’s talk, for example, about government contractors here in the greater D.C. area. A lot of them have previously worked in the government or they worked in the military, so they have great a great set of contacts when they’re starting out in their business. And they might not have a very strong business plan, which is really when you’re thinking about a business plan that you’ve research. That is akin to an architectural design about your organization and what you want it to be and where you want it to go and what that vision is.
And so, if you go into a business where you know the industry very well and you’re making that $250,000, that quarter of a million that first year and you’re feeling like you’re on top of the world and that’s great, but what happens when something like sequestration comes along and maybe your contacts are doing early retirement or your contacts don’t have responsible for what they used to have or they have many more responsibilities. What happens when you start to lose those contacts? What’s your plan for success when you’re not surrounded by and enveloped in the things that you know well?
And so, it’s very important to really understand your business and understand the things that make your type of business work well.
Frank: Let’s say, the reason I started my company is I’ve got a buddy–an old military buddy or something, somebody like that–and he called me, because he knew I could do the work and said, “Hey I’ve got this sweet deal for you, you develop the company, you get started, I’ll plug you right in.” What do I need a business plan for? The money’s already there. The opportunity is there.
Gaea: Well, the money is already there, right. It’s there right now. Is the money going to be there in 10 years? Is it going to be there in two or five years?
Dr. Gayl: And I’m assuming you’ll want to use the money efficiently and effectively. Right?
Gaea: Exactly. How do you market your business? How do you leverage that opportunity into more opportunity? I’ll give you an example. When I was running the Northern Virginian Black Chamber of Commerce, I was also responsible for an event called the Executive Circle Dinner, and I thought even one of our speakers is always a CEO–he was talking about how he grew his business.
Now he’s a multi-millionaire. He’s got a castle that looks like a castle, a six car garage, but 20, 30 years ago he’d started his business, he had about a dozen people working for him. He lost his only two contracts.
One contract was subbing to a company where he used to work at and the other one was an independent contract with NASA. Both of those–
Frank: Any idea why he lost those contracts? Did he say?
Gaea: Yeah. I don’t know why the one that he was still contracting at went away. I can’t remember why. But the other one with NASA, Congress put a goose egg. Just gave it zero in the budget.
You never know the whims of where Congress is going to be. You never know what will happen to a program or a contract, if they’ll end abruptly or suddenly the funding will be cut.
Those two contracts were his business. He had to let everybody go and start again from the very bottom. And that shows you two things: one is, you can’t rely on a limited number of funding streams or lines for business. And two, you can be resilient and you can bounce back from that kind of a loss too.
Frank: Marketing, let’s say you’re in the middle of fulfilling a contract, how much energy should you tactically put into marketing so that you get new business, when you have business and you need to be nurturing that?
Gaea: It goes back to the previous example about lines of business. Because you need to keep your pipeline active. It can take anywhere from one month to a year to get business, depending upon what industry you’re in and who your clients are. You need to be constantly, while you’re working in your business, working on cultivating new clients and courting them and getting them to the point where when you’re ready, when they’re ready, that business will start coming in and helping to support your company and helping you grow.
I would say you need to be sending anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of your time marketing and that can take a lot of different forms. I think when a lot of people consider marketing, they’re thinking about their website, they’re thinking about their collateral materials, brochures etc. But marketing to the government is one kind of thing and that really has to do with your relationships with the people who are making the decisions and then–
Dr. Gayl: Right.
Gaea; There you go, yeah. And then also there is the networking which again is building relationships. And a lot of people are afraid to network. They’re introverts or they’re a little overzealous, some other people. So, it’s really important to take the time to get to know people.
If you go to an event, you don’t have to meet everybody in the room. You have a goal with meeting two to five strategic contacts, who really are going to be great partners for your business and have that potential to be great partners for your business.
Frank: Now, how do you mean strategic contacts?
Frank: If I go into a room where I don’t know anybody, how do I get strategic?
Dr. Gayl: What type of homework do you have to do?
Gaea: You can try to do homework. There are so many events in this area where there are 400 people who are going to attend and they’ll tell you all the names, but how in the heck are you going to actually meet that one person in a room of 400 people, it’s hard to tell. But one thing you can do is go to the food table. Everyone’s always getting food. Everyone’s always getting beverage and so, that’s the easiest place to meet someone, is at the food table.
Frank: Do I keep going back? Do I go through the line and keep going back and put more food on my plate or do I just–
Gaea: No, and you don’t want to overload yourself in the beginning with food and you don’t want to be drinking lot of alcohol at the very beginning of an event, because you need to keep your wits about you and you need to keep one hand free so you can shake hands and pull business cards out of your pocket or your purse or what have you. But in particular, you go to that food table, you meet one person, you talk to them a little bit and maybe you guys go off to the side. If you’ve gotten your food, you talk a little bit more. You tell them, “Hey, this is the first time I’ve been to this event. Can you recommend somebody who I should meet? Who in this room do you think I absolutely need to talk to?” And then, they can introduce you. That’s one way to start opening things up. And as you get more comfortable, you can just walk and see groups that have a little bit of opening that they’re not tightly knit.
If they’re not tightly knit and there’s an openness to them when they’re talking, that means that they’re ready and willing to welcome somebody new into their group. Use that to your advantage, that being new to the event. You tell them, “Hi, I’ve never been here before and I wanted to meet new people,” and people are so much more welcoming when they think that you’re newbie.
Frank: I have a ongoing issue. Dr. Gayl’s–
Dr. Gayl: Uh-oh.
Frank: Looking at me like, “Yeah, just one?” But I don’t care when I go or how many business cards I have in my pocket, I run out and I get to the point where I’m saying, “I’ve just given out my last card.” Is that like terrible? Is that the dumbest thing you can possibly do at a networking event?
Gaea: Is to run out of business cards?
Gaea: I don’t think it’s the dumbest thing you can do. Just make sure you’re bringing at least 20 to 30 cards. And you don’t want to give them out everybody.
You could be dealing with a couple things. One is, you’re not coming to an event with enough cards, so try to get a sense of how many people are going to be at that event. And then number two is, how many people are you giving your cards to? Are they all people who you really need to make a business connection with? Are they all people who you really feel it’s beneficial to have a relationship with?
Everyone has their own inherent value and people are interesting to talk to and they’re doing interesting things, but remember that when you’re handing out your card or you’re taking cards, you need to follow up with these people to really complete that circle of networking experience and have meetings with them afterwards and feel that whole situation out.
So, if you come out of the meeting with 40 cards, you’re defeating your purpose. How are you going to follow up with 40 people, unless you have an outstanding assistant to help support that?
Dr. Gayl: That makes sense. That makes sense.
Frank: When do I need to follow up? The same day, the next day, next week? What?
Dr. Gayl: Yeah, because, remember you need to tone that down.
Gaea: The sooner the better. The sooner the better, and sometimes, if you’re not able to follow up with someone right away, send them an email or make the call, even two weeks later. If it’s someone you really want to talk to, don’t be shy. Go ahead and do it and say, “We spoke a couple of weeks ago at such and such an event and I really wanted to follow up with that and talk to you some more,” because everyone is busy.
It used to be when I first got started in business back in 2005 and I didn’t hear back from people, I got very annoyed. And then as I became busier, I started to understand that, it’s not personal, it’s always about them. It’s not about you. So, if you really want to talk to that person you haven’t heard from, take the initiative. Give them a call.
Dr. Gayl: What type of businesses do you work with? We’ve been kind of discussing, it sounds like, wealthier firms and business and organizations. What do you specialize in?
Gaea: I specialize on the four profit sides of small and mid-size businesses, in terms of the consulting services; also associations and non-profits. I have a background in running associations and running non-profits programs and of course, running a business. And for the better part of the last five years, I have been running the Northern Virginian Black Chamber of Commerce and that we founded back in 2008, to help entrepreneurs find a place where they could get services, where they could network. We were tired of going to D.C. and Maryland to do or supply diversity programs and to meet other black owned businesses.
And we knew they were Northern Virginia. Maybe not as many as Maryland or in D.C., but we knew they were there. I talked to so many businesses these last few years about what their challenges are and treating programs and doing research about what minority-owned businesses really need, what woman on businesses really need that they don’t even realize they need. And that gets into–
Dr. Gayl: What are some–
Gaea: Go ahead.
Dr. Gayl: What are some of the challenges that you found, if you can name a few off the top of your head?
Gaea: One is taking a risk and understanding when to take risks. So often we don’t tell people that we’re having trouble. We don’t go outside of ourselves or immediate circle to get resources. And when it comes to finance and accessing capital, we spend all of our own personal resources on that business and then start going to look for help and assistance from banks and financial centers. And that’s when it’s hardest to get the money.
Frank: Well, what should you do?
Gaea: It’s really important to figure out and develop relationships with bankers. And then, also–
Frank: Even when you’re doing well? Is that what I’m hearing?
Gaea: Even when you’re doing well. It’s best to go look for lines of credit and loans and those kinds of things when you’re doing well and when you have the resources already, because banks don’t want to give money to people who actually need it. And then, also there are so many alternatives nowadays for financing your business. Have you ever heard of Kickstarter?
Gaea: So crowdfunding through some place like Kickstarter or any of about a half a dozen other sites