Surviving Tough Times-Interview with Author, Successful Entrepreneur George Cloutier
Want insider secrets from a highly successful entrepreneur on how to survive tough, economic times?
Well, today you’re in luck. I caught up with George Cloutier, owner of the highly successful business, American Management Services, http://www.amserv.com/, to discuss his new book, “Profits Aren’t Everything; They’re the Only Thing.”
Here’s what he had to say.
Tell us about yourself and why you wrote this book.
After graduating from Harvard Business School, I founded American Management Services in 1986 with just $42,000 in seed capital. Today, we have more than 150 employees, and tens of millions in annual revenue.
AMS specializes in financial turnarounds and profit development for small and mid-sized companies across the nation. We’ve worked with 6000 clients across 400 industries, and we’ve implemented over a billion dollars in profits and savings. We’ve brought hundreds of businesses back from the brink of bankruptcy to profitability.
My book, Profits Aren’t Everything, They’re the Only Thing, is based on my years of experience working with troubled companies. It is a wake-up call for the 23 million small and mid-sized business owners across America. I serve up the unadulterated truth to aspiring and experienced entrepreneurs, with no apologies.
Why is Profits Aren’t Everything, They’re the Only Thing an important book for small business owners to read now?
Everyone knows that times are tough, but one of the biggest dangers of an economic downturn is the excuse it gives small business leaders to lie down and do nothing. Too many business owners are using the recession as an excuse for failure. My book shows them how to dispel that kind of self-defeating attitude and gives them specific things they should be doing right now to revitalize their businesses, even in this difficult economic environment.
How do you offer a “wake-up” call to entrepreneurs trying to get back on track due to the recession?
By forcing them to see that the success or failure of their business depends entirely on them. Recession or no, if their business is failing, it’s their fault. I don’t compromise, I don’t humor them, and I never let them off the hook. I also force them to ask themselves, “Why am I in business? What is my goal?” The answer should be “to make profits.” Any other answer and they shouldn’t be in business.
George, you mention some rules for small business success in your book. Can you share them with us?
Profits Aren’t Everything, They’re the Only Thing – It’s not about sales. It’s not about how many employees you have. It’s not even about your balance sheet. It’s ALL about the cash.
End Denial – Understand where the leaks are in your business and how, as the boss, it’s your fault. Look for red flags. Deal with the uncomfortable tasks you’ve been putting off.
Forget Sweat Equity – Too many business owners think that when they’re building a business, they shouldn’t pay themselves a salary. The inability to pay yourself a full salary is a red flag that there is something wrong with your business. You’re the one who takes on all the risk, so take better care of yourself.
The Best Family Business Has One Member – More than 60% of the small businesses I work with are family-owned, and that’s where most of their problems start.
Don’t view sales as an unwanted guest. Focusing on sales is the easiest way to grow your business in good times and sustain profits in bad times.
Teamwork is Vastly Overrated – Teamwork simply doesn’t work. There is no “$” in team. It only encourages mediocrity, because your team is only as strong as its weakest link. Focus on individual performances.
What should entrepreneurs avoid doing when starting a business and why?
They need to live and die by a real plan, right from the beginning, so that inefficient systems and bad practices don’t become ingrained in the company’s culture. They need to think about where they stand on their financial and operating plan every day of the week. And they should let employees know the plan and hold them accountable.
In your experience, what has been the most successful marketing or PR activity you’ve seen that has helped your clients succeed quickly and why?
It’s about perseverance and building relationships with media contacts. Being out there all the time is key so you have to keep refreshing your story angles and pitches. A multi-platform approach is the best. You want to be in every media outlet in your space: TV, radio, print, internet, blogs. Speaking engagements are also very helpful because they get you in front of people who may be potential clients.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
If small business owners wait until the tide turns to fix their businesses, they’ll drown. They need to stop putting off the inevitable and act immediately. By doing the necessary hard work right not, they’ll be ready when the tide finally does turn. They’ll be making real money again and they’ll never have to worry about surviving another recession again.
Thanks so much for your great tips and advice!
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