What Matters To The Next Generation of Entrepreneurs

Last week, I lectured at the J. Mack Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University in Atlanta. I want to tell you what I learned from the students, some of whom are pictured below before the start of my lecture.

Among other things, I shared some of my best tips on using new technologies to launch and manage a thriving business. But the most interesting part was sharing my own entrepreneurial story, including that my husband and I run INDIE together. The men and women were equally curious about that, and their questions were an amazing snapshot into the minds of the next generation of entrepreneurs. Here are some of their most pointed questions, and my answers:

  1. Do you ever take a vacation? I told them that I don't take as many as I'd like, but that I do enjoy at least one beach-type vacation with my family each year. I qualified this by letting them know that vacationing with two young children is not a vacation, and that I need a vacation when I return from vacation with them.

  2. When should you trademark your brand name? I told them they should research the strength of their brand name first, and then file a trademark registration as soon as possible shortly before or after they begin using the name. I also told them that it is equally important to reserve your brand name at the major new media sites. (More about how we did this for INDIEgu here.) I told them that whether or not your trademark is registered, it is likely to be infringed upon, but that if you register the name at new media sites, third parties have far less of an incentive to use your brand name.

  3. How often do I have to blog? I told them that I blog every day on most weeks. I also shared that the quantity of blog posts is not as important as the quality of each one. If you can't blog a lot, blog a little, but make them good posts that have a long life so you and your readers can refer back to them over and over again.

  4. How do you think of things to blog about? I told them that, if you are leading a business, you won't have to think of anything to blog about. Things will make themselves known as obvious blog posts. For example, I told them, I would blog about my evening with them, as I am now. I didn't have to make this up. It happened as a part of my life as a business leader. I told them that if they remain connected to their customers and their communities, they will never really have to make up a topic to blog about.

  5. Who actually own the business you and your husband share? I do.

  6. How does your husband handle that? I told them he handles it very well, but only because we are both team players, and I don't feel like I'm any more important to the business than he is, just because I am the founder and owner. Likewise, he doesn't think he's less important.

    I shared with them that, at the end of the day (or my life …), I don't want my business next to me. I want him next to me. The fact that we share not only a life and children, but also a business, makes our relationship at once richer and more challenging. I shared some of the challenges so they could see that there's more to it than what is shared in public. I want them to be ready, really ready, if they ever own a business with their spouse.

  7. How do you split up the money? I told them that, after salaries and expenses, we fold the money back into the business and use a portion to pay into retirement and other savings accounts. I told them that we have an accountant and a financial advisor, and that we share information between the two of them so we can make the best decisions. I also told them that, if I could do just one thing over again in my business, it would be to pay more attention to financial issues earlier on.

  8. How do you and your husband manage a relationship and a business? As I answered this question, they had lots of follows ups. It quickly became clear that they were more curious about than other things. I opened up quite frankly to them in ways I will not share here at my blog. Suffice to say that I told it like it really is from an intimately personal perspective, without dressing it up. I think I served them well. The real truth always does.

    I also told them that when our marriage experiences challenges, the thriving business we lead together gives us one more reason to double our efforts to keep our personal relationship strong.

  9. Is this really a good time to start a business, with the economy being what it is? I told them, unequivocally, that it is. I shared that there is less competition because the wanna bes are pretty much weeded out by now. I also told them that startup expenses are lower because most things they'll need (including credit) cost less in a down economy. I told them that launching now puts them in the best position to grow and expand when the economy improves.

    Having said all of this, I told them that they have to be more careful than ever with their money. Don't spend any that you don't absolutely have to spend. At the same time, don't scrimp on the things that really matter and help your brand look and perform at its best.

Question: What other things would you share in answer to their pointed questions?

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About Donna Maria Coles Johnson

Donna Maria is an author, podcaster, attorney, and the founder and CEO of the Indie Business Network, providing affordable product liability insurance and mentoring. Donna Maria teaches Makers and Creative Entrepreneurs how to use technology and community to build a profitable, sustainable business.