Randy Kirk opened his first business at the age of 7. His great grandmother had been supplying him with Christmas card and all occasion card samples to sell for 50¢ a box with half going to her. It was clear to him that he could do better by buying direct and also offering personalized cards.
From that moment on, there was never much doubt that Kirk would be an entrepreneur. Degrees in psychology and law from UCLA provided the credentials to open doors. While still in law school, Kirk was traveling the Western Region for an importer setting up territories and calling on potential buyers in 22 industries.
Too restless and filled with ideas to work for someone else, he struck out on his own at 27 and has not been employed since. After selling a medium sized manufacturing business in 2007, Kirk is enjoying working from home as a marketing consultant and writing his ninth and tenth books, due for publication in early 2014.
One of the most difficult problems facing Kirk these days is the restraints of consulting. While he is able to use the creative juices to make product recommendations, adapt packaging, open up new distribution channels, and find ways to communicate his client’s products and services, hardly a week goes by that some new idea distracts him from the immediate tasks in front of him.
What do you do?
While the title on my business card in marketing consultant, there is no way that anyone really understands what that really means. A better title would be part-time VP of marketing for very small businesses who can’t afford a full-time version.
Many (most? Almost all?) small businesses with less than 25 employees have nobody on staff that really understands how to market the business or the products and services offered by that business. The owners are commonly skilled at their craft, but not that gifted at spreading the word about the offerings at their business.
After owning 30 businesses in 50 different market segments, selling to mom-and-pops and the largest retailers in the world on virtually every continent, I ended up with a background in almost every type of marketing, from print to trade shows, product design to distribution channels, and from websites to email blasts.
As a result, whether my client is a manufacturer, lawyer, doctor, bike shop, bakery, or chimney sweep (all of which have been clients), I can draw on a vast repertoise of experience to help them attract business, improve delivery, and increase profits.
How long have you been doing it?
While I have been offering advice through books, articles, and speaking for over 35 years, the consulting business has been open for six years.
What inspired you to do this kind of work?
After writing and speaking about how to run a small business, I thought it would be fun to actually prove that my writing would work in practice.
How do you earn money? Feel free to be as detailed as you want.
I charge a flat fee per month (usually under $1000) for a basic set of services. Some services, such as website development, are extra.
Who is your target client/customer?
I have two verticals, lawyers and bikes shops. Other than that, I’m happy to help anyone from any field. My greatest actual experience is with manufacturing/importing.
What does a typical day look like?
Doing just what I’m doing now. Typing into a laptop. Research, analysis, creating content.
Do you have employees, contractors, or outsourced help? Tell us a bit about your company structure, however big or small.
I only use contracted help. Most is for content creation such as video editing, website development, and online listings.
Is there a trend in your industry that particularly excites you right now?
Google changes the game 6 times a year making me indispensible to any small business who wants to stay highly ranked.
Tell our community about one of the biggest business challenges you’ve faced and how you overcame it?
In 1993, my manufacturing business was hit with a major product problem that was costing us huge sums of money and lost reputation. I had never used an engineer. I put out an ad, then used the exact manufacturing problem I was facing as the test question for all applicants. I hired the one with the best solution. He fixed it, and the problem never came back.
Could you share a funny story or something quirky about your work?
I never wanted to have a boss again. That’s why I ran my own companies. Now, in my favorite company ever, I have 21 bosses.
What motivates you – being your own boss, making a lot of money, helping others, or some other reason?
It has always been about filling needs. I just see needs, and ideas come. Then I really enjoy helping others to success. That’s why I write and speak.
What frustrates you? How do you deal with it?
Bosses that don’t listen to what they pay me to tell them. Sometimes I fire them.
What makes you laugh?
25 year-old progressives who think they know more about what is good for me than I do, but who have no interest in the advice of years of education and experience that folks like me can provide them.
How do you maintain your/your employees’ morale when things are not going so great?
An over-the-top optimism. I earned an optimist of the decade award when I was a part of the Optimist International Organization.
Entrepreneurs tend to work a lot of hours on their ideas. How do you keep yourself balanced?
No time to think about being balanced. I raised 4 kids, active in church, write books, date my wife, take tons of vacations. Just prioritize the important things, I guess.
When you need guidance, where do you find it? Who do go to? Feel free to name more than one source.
Quality Christian friends. I am a member of Fellowship of Companies for Christ International. Also books, primarily with a Christian world view. Tons of online material, including webinars.
What was your greatest success in this business?
I was hired by a 99 year old company that had been in the same family for all those years. They were on the verge of extinction due to a big business mistake they had made. 5 years later their sales are higher than ever and the owner has money in the bank.
What do you hope others say behind your back?
Randy is a solid Christian man.
Are you willing to be a mentor to others who might want to reach out to you for guidance? If yes, how would you like to be contacted?
I do a small amount of mentoring. Through my email is fine.