“To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
-- R. Buckminster Fuller
Bucky Fuller. Genius or madman? Both, probably, along with being a master of reinvention.
He tried his hand at reinventing shelter, transportation, geometry, even himself. Look up “iconoclast” in the dictionary. Is there a picture of him breaking something? Ol’ Buckminster seems relevant right now. Reinvention is going around these days. It’s contagious. We’re all reinventing life in COVID normal. People are reinventing the telling of history, which may or may not be a good thing. (It depends on how many facts are being ignored and how many fictions are being invented as fact.) And even here, round the CoupleCondo, reinvention is afoot. Does reinventing a business sound familiar? You may find something useful here. Maybe even profitable.
This tale starts with a business afflicted by neglect.
As you may know, my mother’s health had been going downhill for a couple of years. She passed in early April. During her decline, I’d stepped back from our business, Slow Burn Marketing. It was my choice. Mr. Parker supported me. But the business suffered. When I was ready to get back to the business, the business I’d left was not in the same condition as I’d left it. And while that was by design, it wasn’t comforting. The irony? One of the things our business does is help people reinvent their business.
The solution? Just build it up like before!
We built Slow Burn from nothing to begin with. One! More! Time!
Oops, it’s COVID time.
People’s heads are in a different place. Rules have changed. Business as usual has given way to Business Unusual. Now what? Searching. Head scratching. Weighing solutions. Looking at new models. We did this for a couple of weeks. But when you’re in the middle of Business Unusual, weeks can seem like years.
However, Business Unusual also looks familiar.
It’s a down market. People are losing jobs. It’s a time when a lot of people start new businesses. That’s what happened in 2008 when we started our business. And when we did that, it was as if the world said, “Perfect! We’re in! Sign us up!”
Business Unusual is a time when people get pushed out of jobs and decide to take control.
Sitting on a new idea? Carpe diem! Fed up? Shake it up! Tired of working for The Man? Become The Man! [Insert preferred gender identification here.]
We know these times. We also know that we have an expertise that people need.
We have a keen understanding of how to brand a business. After years in branding small businesses, writing several books, and speaking on stages worldwide, some like to call us experts. (We prefer “specialists.” Once you claim expert status, someone wants to knock you off your expertise.) So, we have a tool that the budding entrepreneur can use. Now what?
When we hit on it, we felt like idiots. Why did it take a pandemic for us to think of this?
We decided to create a new model for what we sell. We are a boutique agency. By definition, that means we can serve only a select few. But now, let’s offer a new way for the new business owner to brand a business effectively without the heavy cost of coming to us—or any other agency, for that matter. Let’s build our system into a DIY course for the self-starting entrepreneur! Genius! Done! Mic drop!
Wait. You mean there’s more? Now we have to build it so they can come? Damn. OK.
We put our heads down, dig in, work around the clock, write a book, question ourselves, turn to VAs who don’t help as much as we’d hoped, learn new digital platforms, build PowerPoints, create graphics, shoot dozens of videos for sales and lessons, order transcripts, create worksheets, do our own troubleshooting, bang our heads on the desk, write web copy, rewrite web copy, re-rewrite web copy, think we’re done, find we’re not…
There’s more, but you get the gist.
And the entire time, we keep checking in with each other.
Are we being clear enough? As helpful as possible? As USEFUL as we can be for the entrepreneur looking to make her businesses stand out and attract a loyal audience? Is it working? Is it good? Are we second-guessing good guesses? Are we building a new model that makes the existing model obsolete? WWBF? What would Bucky Fuller do?
So many questions. But the one question that never surfaced?
Our commitment to the worth of a) this project or b) each other. And after two decades of cockeyed optimism and knucklepreneurship (that’s where you come out swinging), we know how to work hard if not always smart. But suddenly, it happened. Lightning Branding is live! Two courses. One’s a total DIY. The other includes a lot of support from us. Holy wow. That was crazy. And the feedback has been more positive than we could have hoped. People are entertained, they’re having fun, and they find it USEFUL. Praise the deity.
We know we’re not done. Far from it.
There’s still a ton of work ahead. We have plans for that as well, but this does feel like a milestone. And today we’re celebrating by knocking off at a sensible hour and taking an afternoon at the lake. And then…back at it tomorrow. Possibly even tonight. (Rust never sleeps and neither do we.)
Deep breath in. Deep breath out.
Would you like the FREE taste of reinvention?
Get your free copy of our new book, Lightning Branding: How To Generate Revenue Faster With An Electrified New Brand. It's yours FREE by clicking here.
If you’d like intel about our new Lightning Branding courses, both do-it-yourself and we-do-it-with-you editions, click here.
Hope that helps.
Aren’t we all tired of phrases like, “In these uncertain times”? Yes, we all know things are funky. But as small-business owners, we also know that there’s no such thing as “certain times.” When have you ever been guaranteed anything?
That said, things have shifted. For many business owners, it’s not for the better. We all have the same two options: 1) sit and wring our hands, or 2) engage in proactive change. Ah, yes, the C word. “Change.”
Change is not in most people’s comfort zone. But you and I are entrepreneurs. When we get uncomfortable, we thrive. We go in for another C word: “Chance”. So, take a chance and change.
During this COVID craziness, some of our favorite CoupleCos are making impressive changes to stay relevant and useful to their customers. The winery Phifer Pavitt is hosting virtual wine tastings. Alpine Distilling is making hand sanitizer. Freedom Chiropractic is offering virtual office visits through a HIPAA-compliant web portal. WatchTower Coffee & Comics is selling products via delivery, including their new, handcrafted Tongan Caramel sauce (which is also selling out, just by the way—it’s outstanding).
As you may know, our primary business is Slow Burn Marketing. We specialize in big-brand thinking for small-business marketing. And Slow Burn is making a pivot. Even before COVID hit, things here were slowing down. This was due in large part to me stepping back from the business to be there for my mother, whose health was declining. Mr. Parker was incredibly supportive. (Thank you, babe.)
But, with only half the manpower and half the skillset, our business felt the impact. My mother has now passed (thank you for your kind words and support), and we are faced with a new question: What next?
And there’s that catchphrase that keeps coming up: “These uncertain times.” We thought, hey, we started Slow Burn Marketing during The Great Financial Crisis of 2007-2008.” Uncertain times, indeed.
But, history shows that many new businesses (especially ad agencies) launch with great success in “uncertain times.” So, we’ve just decided that “these uncertain times” is code for “excellent opportunity.”
We’re in the process of creating a DIY branding book and online courses for the business owner launching or redefining operations in “these uncertain times.” These are the times when nervy entrepreneurs (nervypreneurs?) go out and do stuff.
But not all entrepreneurs, especially newbie-preneurs, understand branding. Many can’t afford the price tag that comes with being a Slow Burn client. But that shouldn’t stop us from trying to be useful or them from having access to credible brand thinking.
And frankly, now that we’re doing it, we’re asking ourselves why we didn’t do this sooner. But making a shift often requires taking a shove. We’ve been shoved, and we’re doing something good with it. (As I type this post, the book is just back from the proofreader. It’s very exciting.)
A big thanks to all of you who’ve inspired us by being proactive, making necessary shifts, pushing forward, even thriving in (yes) uncertain times. We wish you continued success.
Hope that helps
Are Blaine & Honey Parker Relationship Experts?
Hardly. And does the world really need more of those? Instead, we are a couple who have worked together for over 20 years. We've learned a few things along the way. And now, we're traveling the nation interviewing other couples in business together. Join us for the ups, downs, ins, outs, laughs, tears (even though Honey believes Blaine has no tear ducts), and the inevitable, practical insights into being a better couple--in life, business and everything.