Interview with small business expert Melinda F. Emerson

Who is SmallBizLady?

Melinda F. Emerson, known to many as SmallBizLady is America’s #1 small business expert. As CEO of Quintessence Multimedia, Melinda educates entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies on subjects including small business start-up, business development and social media marketing to fulfill her mission to end small business failure.

She also writes a weekly column on social media for The New York Times, Forbes Magazine named her #1 woman for entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter, she hosts #SmallBizChat Wednesdays on Twitter from 8-9pm ET for emerging entrepreneurs and she also publishes a resource blog - Succeed As Your Own Boss. Melinda is also the bestselling author of Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works.

We recently sat down with her to get her thoughts on building and managing a successful small business.

Pronto: We've all heard the stats regarding the high failure rate of many businesses. What sort of advice would you give business owners whose businesses have failed, or are struggling?

Melinda F. Emerson: I don’t see failure as a bad thing, it’s all part of the process of eventually running a successful business. You don’t fail in business, either you win or you learn - and some lessons are more expensive than others.

If you think about yourself and your business in terms of growth and not goals you’ll always have the right attitude about any situation.

P: Can you briefly sum up the most important attribute a business owner must have in order to be a successful manager?

ME: You must treat your employees like they are your #1 customer. If you don’t care about your employees, they won't care about your customers. And you won’t be in business very long.

P: What are a few key things a business owner must do in order to build or manage a successful business?

ME: I believe that to build and manage a successful business you:

  1. Must have a niche target customer - people want to work with businesses that specialize in solving their problems.
  2. Must communicate with your existing customers often as they are the best potential source of additional revenue.
  3. Need to hire smart people, and actually empower them to make decisions in your business.
  4. Should stay on top of industry trends so a technological shift doesn't put you out of business.
  5. Should build a business that can run without you.
  6. Need to develop ways to manage stress.
  7. Must make a point to nurture your personal life as well as your business life.
  8. And lastly, grow your personal leadership skills. If you don't learn to lead, no one will follow you.

P: Who would you say is your favorite/most successful entrepreneur? Why?

ME: Oprah Winfrey has been my favorite entrepreneur since I was in college, she’s the reason why I became an entrepreneur. To watch her at this stage in her career still learning and growing is as inspiring today as it was in 1990 when I started following her business progress. She is a business hero in so many ways.

P: What would be your number one piece of advice to any person with a current stable job who wants to launch a small business, or has an idea for a business?

ME: Develop a life plan before you ever write a business plan so that you get really clear about what you want out of life first. Then, build a business that aligns with your personal and professional goals. If you develop a business that does not fulfill your personal ambitions you could trade a soul-sapping job for a small business that feels like a noose around your neck.

P: Great! Thanks for your helpful advice, we appreciate you taking the time to chat with us. 

If you would like to learn more from Melinda, why not follow her on Twitter, or read her fascinating blog articles.


Alex Phelps

Alex Phelps

Product & Development Lead