Nadine Larder knows a few things about running a small business. And she’s willing to share her secrets with you in her new book, “The Secrets I Share With My Friends: Everything I Know About Building a Small Business .”
This is one of the most aptly named books I’ve ever seen. The cover shows two business women (one of them the author, the red head) sitting down for a drink together, and chatting. And that’s more or less how the book reads.
This book is written in a light breezy style sharing tips about starting and growing your own business. It gives you the impression of a friend sitting down with you every morning for 15 minutes over coffee, and giving you a small lesson each day. Those short business lessons are the “secrets” Larder has learned over a period of two decades in business.
And Larder has learned a lot. A mother of five, she left the corporate world after a career in sales. With $100 she started Printer Bees , which she describes as a one-stop marketing shop for small businesses, especially those in the real estate field. As you might imagine, with a name like Printer Bees there’s a focus on printed marketing materials on the website.
But before your eyes roll back in your head and you dismiss this as “old school” marketing — get this: Larder is a master of the electronic world.
In fact, I met Larder (@NadineLarder  on Twitter) in April while attending the Infusionsoft #ICON14 user conference, where she gave me a signed copy of her book. Infusionsoft is the sophisticated marketing automation software. Larder was one of three finalists for their Small Business ICON award. She also was a “Best in Class” winner  for Lead Nurture and Conversion.
In other words, the woman knows a thing or two about getting and converting leads using online marketing software.
And that’s one of the things that impressed me about this book: the way it blends online marketing and offline marketing. The book is particularly strong when it comes to practical advice about networking, branding, building an email list and following up on leads. She ties together offline marketing and networking, with online marketing.
Although marketing takes up a fair chunk of the book, it’s about so much more. Larder shares her lessons for starting and operating a business. For instance, she covers delegating. And she minces no words:
“I truly believe that many small businesses fail because owners don’t know how to delegate. They believe no one can do the job better than they can. In most cases, it’s simply not true. As an entrepreneur, you stand only to benefit from knowing where you’re needed and where you’re not.”
She goes on with another “in your face” dose of reality for business owners when she writes:
“If you’re frustrating the people in your business or, even worse, your customers because you drop balls, put things off, can’t get to it or refuse to do it, this is an indication of your weaknesses. Yup, it’s a ‘ding in the armor,’ and you’re going to have to face it, get over it, and get over yourself. You’re not perfect or the best at everything. Your business will suffer until you come to terms with it and begin to delegate your weaknesses.”
As any business owner who has started a business from scratch and grown it can attest, there’s truth in her words. Many of our businesses would have been better off had we trusted our people — or found someone we could trust — and delegated earlier. Instead, we spend too long mired in the details of our businesses. We’re busy working IN the business. Meanwhile, strategy and the bigger picture activities we should be working on get short shrift because we don’t have time. And then we get frustrated when our businesses don’t grow. Hello?
The book’s advice doesn’t stop with what or why. It also gets into “how to’s” that I found invaluable. There are short “how-to” nuggets throughout like this one:
“I have found the best way to learn what my customers want from me and my business is to sit with the customer service department once a week and answer phones. I strongly recommend you try this exercise. Use an alias if you wish to remain anonymous. I don’t use my real name when I want to answer phones, interact with customers, or sense firsthand what my team is experiencing. Using my real names messes with our systems because people want to talk to me again, and I’m not always available. When people call back looking for me (my alias), the team knows they can take over where I left off, letting the customer know I was temporarily filling in that day.”
Now that is real world advice for running a small business. If you’re like me, you’ll jot down a half dozen pointers like that to try out in your own business.
Oh, and I mentioned “light and breezy” earlier, but don’t get the wrong idea. That merely refers to the style of writing, not the substance in the book.
Yes, you’ll find sections like “10 Ways to Know Your Business Card is Tacky.” Sure, it’s amusing. (My favorite is number 7, “Your headshot photo looks like a mug shot from the last time you ‘did time’.”) But it’s also useful information. In fact, that style and the humor is what makes the book so readable, and the book’s information so memorable. Who wants to read a dry boring book? And what good is it if none of it sticks in your mind?
I love books where you know the author, like Larder, really has run a successful business. Some writers can talk a good game, but a smaller percentage actually know what they are talking about.
The one negative with this book is that I believe it only comes in paperback. There’s no Kindle or other ebook version I could find. I think it would get wider visibility if an ebook version were available.
“The Secrets I Share With My Friends “ is a gem of a book packed with insights for in-the-trenches small business owners. It’s real-life stuff … lessons you need for running your business. It contains advice just about any type of business can use. Whether you run a brick-and-mortar business, or an online-only business, there’s something for everyone, and I highly recommend Larder’s book. She will inspire you to change a few things in your own business.