How My Company Came Back From the Dead

Image of a bridge with post title

It was July 3, 2009, almost Independence Day – a day I celebrate four ways: as an American, the mother of an American Government professor, a single woman, and a small business owner.

It was almost Independence Day when the biopsy showed I had uterine cancer. Over the course of the next three years, I would come to realize just how deeply dependent we humans are on each other, and how my tendency to be fiercely independent would be tested.

I had owned and managed a successful copy writing and graphic design company for the better part of nine years on that day. I worked with Fortune 100 companies, regional nonprofits, and hundreds of small businesses across SE Michigan. I and my company –  The Write Concept, Inc. – were well known and well respected.

Fast forward past radical surgery, a year of chemotherapy, and two more years of exhausting residual side effects, and my business would have been in the morgue had that “fiercely independent” side of me not risen from its chemo stupor, demanding immediate action.

Resuscitating a mostly dead business requires strategy, energy, and patience. Many of my previous clients had changed jobs or retired; some had gone out of business in the economic downturn. I had to study and adjust to the dramatic technological changes in the marketing arena, update my social media skills, and reconnect with my network. Slowly, things began to happen, projects and revenue came in, and my friends and colleagues celebrated the 14th birthday of The Write Concept in March 2014.

The truth is, every small business goes through life cycles, and you must be on guard every day, filling it with life and energy, to stay strong during the downturns – and they do come – whether it is a slow season, or for a challenging reason such as cancer.

Four Things that Brought My Business Back to Life:

  1. Self-determination. I knew that I could have no doubt of success, that if I was not convinced of success, or depended on a “safety net” of any sort, I would fail.
  2. Good People. I aligned myself and partnered with those I knew would support me and my business, and I turned a deaf ear to the naysayers – especially the “little voice” inside my own head.
  3. Give Back/Pay it Forward. I’ve always been into social entrepreneurship, doing all that I can to promote and support my network. Whether you call it karma or the law of reciprocity, sooner or later what you do comes back to you in the same manner in which it was given.
  4. Tending to myself. Working 12-16 hours a day did not make me a champion. It made me ill, short of temper, and less effective. I created a new schedule for myself, which includes eight hours of sleep, time for family, and time for the golf course.

What are your tips/suggestions for breathing new life into a nearly dead or failing business? Share them here, please!


The One-Word Difference

When William Shakespeare penned Romeo’s famous line, What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, he invoked a universal truth —how you perceive a thing is more important and more powerful than the name you assign it.

Most of the time, that is.

But as Frank Luntz, head of the Luntz Research Companies in Washington, D.C. points out, choosing one word over another can make a huge difference in how your company is perceived.  In his book Words that Work, Luntz shares statistics and insights from the political arena that also apply to the business world:

“… by almost two-to-one, Americans say we are spending too much on welfare (42 percent) rather than too little (23 percent). Yet an overwhelming 68 percent of Americans think we are spending too little on assistance to the poor, versus a mere 7 percent who think we’re spending too much.”

As Luntz points out, welfare is assistance to the poor. The difference in public response is in the positioning and phrasing. Welfare has a negative connotation. Assistance to the Poor sounds compassionate and charitable.  His results were similar in a survey regarding taxes to further law enforcement versus taxes to halt the rising crime rate. While the terms essentially point to the same thing, one was viewed as increased administrative costs, and the other as achieving a desirable result – making our world safer.

Back to Business

How your customers view your product or service is directly related to the words and phrases you choose to use in marketing and advertising, just as public opinion is swayed by the conscious word choices of politicians. According to Luntz, for example, accountability trumps professionalism and responsibility because it is the only one of the three that implies enforcement. Learn to weigh the impact of your words and designs carefully, and you’ll soon find that attending to Shakespeare’s question, What’s in a name? can make a difference in your sales, and help you turn thorns into roses.