From Time to time, clients ask me how I got into marketing. This is my story.
Winter of 2003 was a key time for me, when I ended eight years of service as a Communications Sergeant in the Army. While I took great honor in serving my country, spending six months in the desert with a logistic unit at the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, being in the Army quickly grew old. I wanted to do something else. Initially, I tried to change units to something more engaging, like Infantry, but was told I would have to stay with my current unit. As my enlistment ended I had a few choices: A. Stay in the Army and retire in 12 years; B. Get out and do something else. I opted for the latter.
On the surface, leaving the Army gave me an opportunity to have complete control of my life. I could go anywhere and do anything. I decided to open a camping store in my hometown. I read a book, "Small Business For Dummies". Designed a business plan, and jumped in head-first using my combat pay. I rented a small storefront, ordered as much inventory as I could, and advertised with the local paper and radio station. Within six months, I was closing the doors with over $4,000 of debt.
To say, "entrepreneurship kicked my butt!" would be an understatement. My life was ruined..
To say, "entrepreneurship kicked my butt!" would be an understatement. My life was ruined. Anyway the rest of that story is irrelevant but the things I learned as a small business owner stuck with me. Among them was the constant worry about the bottom line and how can you achieve ROI (Return On Investment). For me, my first business taught me to think lots about market needs, inventory, overhead, and customer base. While the Ozark Mountains of Southwest Missouri offers lots of opportunities for outdoor recreation, opening a retail store that focused solely on hiking and backpacking was a bad move, a small town of 5,000 couldn't support a business with such a small niche. For me to have possibly succeeded, I had to be bigger and focus on the region which meant competing with stores like Bass Pro Shop. I failed to understand how much and what type of inventory I needed to to meet demand. While my advertising worked, I quickly learned folks wanted products that met their everyday outdoor needs like shoes or coats. I rented a storefront that was too big and spent too much on overhead like utilities, phone, and dial-up internet service. Overall, I didn't see the bigger picture and was living in a fantasy world.
Since 2004, I have learned much. I went back to school and when my formal education was complete I had a certificate in Film Production and a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communication with a focus on Broadcasting. Over 10 years, I worked at a local television station as a cameraman and video, I demoed cellphones and pillows at a big box stores on weekends, I sat in a cubical creating content and recruiting other content creators for an online trade magazine, then I got a job managing a small town radio station where I had a morning show, sold advertising, and kept everything from the neon sign outside to the computers inside humming. Ironically, I've come full circle. I'm back to small business. To some, going back to a place where you had the most struggle would be foolish. Yes, naysayers are correct when they say, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." but we also know Edison created a working light bulb after many tries. Insane people don't step back and look at the problem. They don't seek knowledge that will help them achieve their goals.