Author Susan Baroncini-Moe on Adopting Your Own Business Style

by Kristine Hansen on April 29, 2013
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“My job is to look at what’s not working and make it better,” explains Susan Baroncini-Moe, the business and marketing strategist behind the firm Business in Blue Jeans in Indianapolis. “What roles are people playing in the business? Or is it the branding of the business?”

Baroncini-Moe (pictured) specializes in working with small-business entrepreneurs. She’s condensed many of her interactions with clients over the past 15 years into an easy-to-digest book, Business in Blue Jeans: How to Have a Successful Business on Your Own Terms, in Your Own Style, which is due out June 4. “I give my clients homework, and there is homework in the book, too,” she says.

The Intuit Small Business Blog recently caught up with Baroncini-Moe to chat about how entrepreneurs can infuse their personal style and spirit into a company.

ISBB: What inspired you to write this book?

Baroncini-Moe: A lot of times, people start businesses because it’s something they’re really good at. But being a good stylist, for example, doesn’t mean you’re good at running a salon. Maybe you love clothes and you’re really good at picking clothes, but you don’t know how to run a store. Why isn’t the business growing, or how can I prevent myself from having growing pains? The fundaments are always the same and have lasted the test of time. Everything I do is based on really solid business fundamentals. Everything else is strategy and tactics.

So many people are struggling and need the help. Regardless of what’s happening in the economy, there’s a certain skill set and a certain amount of knowledge a business needs to have in order to grow. You have to know how to brand your business to bring people in. You have to know how to serve your customers and know how to build a business that’s profitable. You have to know how to achieve success and not sabotage it.

Was there a time when you put your own spin on a traditionally minded business practice?

A lot of people talk about personal growth and how you have to invest in yourself. I talk about “brain junk,” the mental baggage that gets in your way, the stuff you have to get rid of to be more successful. I talk about leading into your marketing, which is a fusion of thinking about how you’re showing up in the world and being conscious of how your business is run. For example, my firm gives a certain percentage to charities that are important to me.

It takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to grow a business and to have the right people in place to make that happen. There are lots of ways to build conscious marketing into your business plan. For example, when the Container Store is opening a new store, they reach out to a local charity or organization and say that a percentage of proceeds from opening weekend will go to you. They pick a group with a similar demographic to their target customer. The people who support that charity become ambassadors for the launch weekend.

What is “brain junk”?

There are different kinds of brain junk. There are fears about money. Some people fear they’ll never have enough, and they’re not worthy to receive it. Some of the stuff comes generationally. In my case, my grandparents went through the depression and were very affected by it, and my mother was affected by it, and it in turn affected how I handle money.

There’s something I call “grasshopper mode,” where we look at ourselves in comparison to others who are more successful. They seem like giants to us, and we feel like little grasshoppers, but yet there are people who look at us as giants. It all depends on what your perspective is in that moment.

Replacing those negative voices in your head and coming up with strategies to counteract this brain junk is the first place to start. It affects everything else that you do. If you have brain junk around how big you think your company can grow, and you think you can really only create a job, not a business, for yourself — or if you are really only thinking small for your brand — it is going to have a small feel to it. From a web perspective, it’s going to make it very difficult to compete with the “big boys.” Replacing those negative voices with positive messages will have a big impact.

What do you hold a Guinness World Record for?

It is for the longest uninterrupted live webcast, “Break a Record with Susan,” which I achieved in June. I turned the 36-hour, 23-second event into a business and marketing extravaganza. I brought in a large number of my friends: We had 33 speakers and nine sponsors. It was a live event online but also broadcast in Indianapolis, so anyone could watch it over 36 hours. I brought in a bunch of experts and best-selling authors. I did some live business makeovers and panel discussions and a lot of other people did presentations.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to start a business?

To get started, the thing you have to know is what’s at the cross-section of what you love and what you’re good at. That’s where your success will come from. That gives you motivation to keep going. It makes it possible for you to make authentic promises you can keep and really deliver on.

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