There are some “rules” of business success most entrepreneurs abide by. But many also have their own “secrets”—things they do or believe that helped them achieve success. In “Secrets of Success,” a weekly interview series here at Web.com’s Small Business Forum, I ask some of today’s smartest, most innovative, most successful business owners to share their insights and success secrets with you.
Meet: Rebecca Germain, the founder and owner of Midwest Scrapbook, an online scrapbooking supply distributer. Rebecca started selling supplies on eBay eight years ago as a hobby. She has seen her business grow consistently, with 25 percent year-over-year growth, to the point she now sells over 120,000 unique products on her site. You can find Rebecca on Twitter @midwestscrapbk.
Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Rebecca Germain: I vacillated between wanting to be a teacher and a doctor. I just knew I wanted to work with people. While I didn’t end up following either of those career paths, I still ended up working with people, as so much of my time is spent in customer service. I am always in touch with my customers. Repeat customers are a huge part of the craft business, so it is important to be able to answer questions and ensure that I provide an enjoyable experience for them.
Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?
Germain: I wanted to be able to stay home and raise my children, as well as supplement my household income. I had always had a passion for crafting, and thanks to eBay, I was able to start selling goods from my home. Even now, after my business has grown as much as it has, I am still able to travel with my family and work from anywhere in the world. My customers can always count on a response, even if it comes at a weird hour.
Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?
Germain: The pivotal part for me was realizing the importance of ensuring that the online shopping experience is not a faceless one. eBay provides many small business tools that make selling online feel easy, but it is crucial to put in the extra effort to make sure that you come across like a real person when communicating with your customers online.
Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?
Germain: That customer service is absolutely key. I am selling a commodity, I am aware of that, and that means price isn’t the competing factor. What sets us apart is the customer service [we offer], and providing an enjoyable buying experience in this commodity environment.
Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?
Germain: Apply the golden rule to the business practices. It’s simple, but so important. When faced with areas of conflict, do whatever it takes to make the transactions right. We all make mistakes, and things happen, but it’s important to treat others the way you would want to be treated. This trust you earn with those you interact with will pay off down the road.
Lesonsky: Do you have a small business prediction?
Germain: I don’t have a specific small business trend, but have been running a small business long enough to know that the landscape is fluid and constantly changing. So my prediction would be to expect change, in any industry. With this prediction in mind, I would advise small business owners to stay on top of their businesses. A good way to do that is to communicate with your customers in order to identify trends. Whether it be by customer service or social media, it’s important to always be listening.
Lesonsky: What’s your favorite book?
Germain: I love mysteries. If I have the free time, I love to “check out” for a bit and burn through a good mystery novel in a day.
Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?
Germain: I am not sure who originally said it, but I have always enjoyed the quote, “Be a girl with a mind, a woman with an attitude, and a lady with class.” I have two daughters and I think this quote aligns with a lot of the lessons I hope to impart to them.
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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.