We caught up with Deb Neuman, a renowned business expert, broadcaster, columnist, public speaker, corporate trainer and coach to many small businesses in Maine.
Q: A Maine Women article recently stated that nearly 80 percent of the economy in this state is based on small business and that one of the crucial driving forces behind it is women. Does that surprise you comparatively to other states you might have lived/worked in?
A: This is a trend we're seeing nationwide. There are numerous theories floating around as to why-- but something I have seen during the recent economic downturn were more women (and men too) who viewed being laid off or down-sized as an opportunity to start their own business. I know one woman who was laid off and spent months trying to find a new job until she realized that even if she did - there were no guarantees she wouldn't be laid off again. That's when she decided that there was more risk inherent in working for someone else than for herself and began polishing up her business plan instead of her resume. She is now close to opening her own a business - a dream realized after thinking about it for many years.
A: I've owned a number of businesses including an Inn and tour boat operation in Bar Harbor and spent many years in business and economic development working with small businesses as a counselor and lender. The radio show came about after I had an "a ha" moment and thought that a positive, upbeat talk radio show about small business might inspire others to start businesses and provide 'support' for those already in business. Networking led me to meeting the station manager and he decided to give me a shot. That was more than five years ago and the show has now expanded beyond Maine. It would have not happened without the support and encouragement from many people and the opportunity to interview great guests who continue to inspire me and my audience.
Q: What was your "former life" before becoming what looks like your dream job today of being a media personality and small business coach/trainer? Who encouraged you along the way?
A: Absolutely! I've always believed in planting and nurturing lots of seeds. You never know when one will sprout. But you also have to recognize when one is not going to make it and rather than investing more energy and resources into it - get it out of your garden - move it to the compost pile. Ask yourself why it didn't work - learn a lesson from that and plant something new! This also helps to protect you from the "all your eggs in one basket" circumstance which is risky! Every one of us needs a back-up plan - other seeds in our garden to harvest as necessary.
Q: Your success appears to be based on diversifying your talents. Is that what one has to do in today's still sagging economy, particularly in Maine?
I've learned much more from what didn't work than from what did - and I survived! So, I'm much less fearful of failing than I am of never trying - of never reaching my full potential. Of looking back and wondering "what if"? I have a 24-hour rule. When I fail or make a mistake or something falls apart that I was hoping for - I allow myself 24 hours to mourn and be bummed out about it! (This may involve a little wine, chocolate and retail therapy). Then I move on - stronger and smarter and ready to get back on the horse! Over time you do look back and recognize that everything truly happens for a reason and often - as difficult as failures may have been at the time - they may well be a blessing in disguise that you may not recognize until many years later. My parents taught me a great lesson when I was in school. If you are pulling all As and Bs - maybe you aren't challenging yourself enough. So when I got my first D (in chemistry) - rather than scold me - they commended me for trying something far outside of my comfort level. We should encourage ourselves and our children to reach beyond our comfort levels. Failure is only failure if we don't learn and grow from it. Success comes to those who fail.
Q: Every small business has its successes and failures. What have you learned from yours?
To find out more about Deb Neuman visit www.debneuman.com and her "Back To Business" talk radio show visit: http://www.bizbuzzradio.com