We’ve launched Secrets of Success, a new weekly interview series here at Web.com’s Small Business Forum. I’ve asked some of the smartest, most innovative, most successful people I know to share their insights and success secrets.
Meet: Joel Freimuth, the president and CEO of Blue Pearl Consulting Firm, which was founded in 2011. The company creates, implements and maintains strategies helping their clients (mid- and smaller mid-market companies) find the best path to achieve their goals, and has been featured in Businessweek.
Joel has years of experience and expertise in management consulting, financial analytics, business development and strategic planning.
Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Joel Freimuth: I either wanted to be Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank, or Robin Williams. I alternated between the two (and no, I’m not pandering just because of his recent passing).
Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?
Freimuth: I started Blue Pearl Consulting because I believed we could better deliver on the promises other consulting companies made. I believed we could truly help our clients reach their goals, and I very much wanted to do that. Over three years into it, I am thrilled I took the chance.
Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?
Freimuth: I have experienced a number of significant moments on our way to getting here (which is on the road to success, but not yet there).
However, the most pivotal was when I woke up one morning, about a year or so into this adventure, and realized I had completely failed on certain fronts. So I said to myself, if a CEO is ultimately responsible for everything that occurs in his/her company, then it is time to start accepting that responsibility. It was very humbling and empowering moment.
I looked at everything we were doing and everyone working for me and asked if they fit into my business’s vision and mission. Where they didn’t, or where they weren’t performing, I let them go. While this was tough, I was becoming much truer to my company and our clients. I also performed a very serious self-examination, and identified the areas where I needed to grow. While there were—and are–many, I know because of that morning when I decided to accept ultimate responsibility for my company that I will be able to weather any storm. I am not dependent upon anyone else for BPC’s survival, just for its ultimate success.
Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?
Freimuth: Fire quickly. People who are not moving you towards success are not only holding your company back, but they are also negatively affecting morale. The longer they are with you, the more negative their impact on your culture and success. I know it’s a tough conversation, but it’s better to fire people and be successful than to be nice and be hampered.
Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?
Freimuth: Price and bill aggressively. The biggest problem most entrepreneurs have is related to cash flow. They forgive late payments, underpayments or non-payment. Don’t. You work. Your work has value. Don’t overestimate that value, but make sure you are paid for your work. It is not better to have a non-paying customer than no customer whatsoever.
Lesonsky: Do you have a small business prediction for the rest of the year?
Freimuth: I’m very bullish on small business. The opportunity to grow and expand is tremendous as customers are spending more money and really demanding value for their dollars. Small businesses specialize in delivering value for dollars.
Lesonsky: Do you have a favorite book?
Freimuth: My favorite book is This Time is Different, by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff. While all of it is valuable, the most poignant part of the book comes in the acknowledgements where the authors explain where the title for the book comes from. According to the quote in the book: “More money has been lost because of four words than at the point of a gun. Those words are ‘This time is different.’”
Other than that, I am also a big fan of Bill Cosby’s Fatherhood (which is oddly applicable to running a company).
Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?
Freimuth: Many people are more inspiring and eloquent than me. Two of my favorite quotes at the moment (and they do change over time) are:
1) “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”– Abraham Lincoln
2) “Hell, there are no rules here—we’re trying to accomplish something.” – Thomas Edison
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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.