Author Bill Rancic: Getting Visibility for a Small Business

Entrepreneur and best-selling author Bill Rancic,  joins host Brent Leary.  Also joining them is Heather McLellan, Director of Intuit’s Small Business Division.

The topic is about a creative way to get visibility for your business.

Below is an edited transcript of the conversation. To hear the entire conversation you can use the SoundCloud player below the transcript.

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Small Business Trends: Bill, I am sure that a lot of people already know a lot of your story. But maybe you can give us a little bit of your personal background? Heather, why don’t you do the same thing after Bill.

Bill Rancic: I grew up in Chicago and at a very early age I started to have that entrepreneurial spirit. It started when I was ten and continued through college. I started a small business when I was in college and then right after college I started another business after having a brief stint in corporate America. After I sold that company, I got a call to do the show The Apprentice, the very first season. I was fortunate enough to be able to compete in that. I was the one who came out on top as the first winner, and now I am involved in several small businesses.

My wife and I own a couple of restaurants in Chicago. We own RPM Italian and RPM Steak. I have some real estate development projects that I do, and my wife has a clothing line that she does for HSN called G by Giuliana Rancic. We are pretty busy in the entrepreneur space as well as in the TV space. We do a show together called The Giuliana and Bill Show which airs on Tuesday nights on the Style network and it’s in its 7th season. So we have a pretty full plate.

Heather McLellan: I am here with Bill Rancic and I am a proud member of the Intuit Corporation. I have been there over a decade, and what keeps me at Intuit is the passion we have for small businesses.

The company was founded 30 years ago with the commitment to small businesses. What we want to do is to change the lives of small businesses in ways that they can’t even imagine. That is why I am so excited about Intuit’s Small Business Big Game. It is a program that Bill and Inuit are partnering together on and we hope to change the life of one very lucky small business owner.

Small Business Trends: Bill, can I ask you to tell us little bit about Small Business Big Game, and also tell us why you got involved?

Bill Rancic: It’s a program that has never been done before, at least to our knowledge. This is an opportunity where we are going to give one small business owner a fully produced paid for spot that is going to run in the biggest football game of the year. So to me, that was pretty exiting.

Instantly, I gravitated towards it. Then as we started to dig into this program a little bit more, I realize that there really isn’t a loser. Because right now, we are calling for small businesses to enter. All they have to do is go to Small Business Big Game. We are giving them 600 characters to tell us about themselves and their business.

Now everyone who enterers is automatically a winner because they are going to get 50% off of the QuickBooks products. So right then and there, Intuit is investing into these people and trying to arm then with the right tools for success.

The next phase as we go through this process, I am sure we are going to receive hundreds of thousands of applicants where we are going to narrow it down, we are turning to the 8,000 employees at Intuit. What they are going to do is they are going to pick the final 20 candidates. Through that, we are going to weed it down to the final four candidates. Then as we get to the final four, we are going to turn it over to the world. And the world votes – and one candidate will win.

Now let me just back up. One thing we are going to be doing along the way is we are going to be giving away grants. So as these business owners, these entrepreneurs are submitting entries, we are going to be giving way 25/ $1,000 grants that is going to help their businesses. Then the final four, all four of them are going to receive national ads that are going to run. Only one will receive the ad that is going to be run during the Big Game. But the three runner-up businesses are going to get a fully produced, fully paid for national ad that is going to run, which is pretty spectacular.

I looked at this and I said, ‘Wow, you know, this is gong to change the lives of a lot of small business owners.‘ Not just the one who wins the big ad, but a $1,000 grant to a small business – that goes a long way when you are starting out.

When you look at most small businesses, typically there is a lot family that is involved. So this ad that is going to run, it’s going to put them on the platform where the Anheuser-Busch’s of the world and the big auto makers of the world are.  It is going to take their businesses to the next level. Potentially, it could effect their kids and their kids’ kids. I thought, ‘Wow that is very unique. It is very special and I want to be a part of it.‘

Heather McLellan: Well for us, the insight behind this campaign is that small businesses are the unsung heroes of our economy. We want to put a spotlight on these small businesses in a way it has never been done before. So our insight is, ‘How can we put them on a world stage? How can we help them be successful?’ Those are really our two insights, and we think that by putting them on the Big Game we are doing something that, as Bill said, would be really life changing for them.

Small Business Trends: Can you tell us what the steps are to get involved and be a part of this contest?

Bill Rancic: I think our goal is to make it as easy as possible and that is what we have done. We have got the website Small Business Big Game , and the only requirement is that you have to be a small business owner. You have to have 50 employees or less. If you meet those criteria, you are eligible. You don’t need to be a customer of Intuit, that doesn’t matter. Certainly we would like that, but it has no bearing on the outcome. Then we ask that you tell us about your business. You have 600 characters or less to do that. And that’s it, you’re in. You are essentially on the path to being in the game.

They have until September 22nd to get to that first phase and then from there it goes on. We turn it over to the 8,000 Intuit employees and they go through the voting process and the criteria that is involved. After we get to the final four, we then turn it over to America. We are going to pick the final winner sometime in December. Because we will need enough time to go in and produce the commercial for them.

Whoever is going to have that commercial running during the Big Game, we are going to make sure that we arm them with the right tools and people, to make sure that they can capture all of the exposure and all of the opportunity that is going to come with this commercial. I think that is very important.

Small Business Trends: Heather, what about once you get a winner, this commercial runs and everybody sees it. Are you guys going to help them to prepare for the aftermath of all of this?

Heather McLellan: Actually, we are going to prepare both before the Big Game and after. So as Bill mentioned, we are going to be doing many makeovers for these small businesses. We will be going to the four finalists home towns and we will be making sure that we look at their operations, their marketing, etc. to make sure they are setup for success. Afterwards, we want this to be life changing for this small business. So we are there 100% behind them, supporting them in any way they need. We know this is going to have a long term effect on them. We will be right by their side.

Small Business Trends: How can folks watch and see this all unfold?

Heather McLellan: We will be marketing to the millions of small businesses who use our products today, so our existing customers will be aware of this. And for the world, we will be doing things on social channels. We will be running some advertising. The world will know. We will be making sure we bring it to them in all of the different ways possible.

Small Business Trends: Bill, any advice you can give folks who are interested in entering this contest?

Bill Rancic: My one bit of advice – chose your words carefully because you have 600 characters to get your story out. I think that is very important. So think about it. Be genuine; be authentic. That’s it – that is all you can do.

Brent Leary Brent Leary is the host of the Small Business Trends One-on-One interview series and co-founder of CRM Essentials LLC, an Atlanta-based CRM advisory firm covering tools and strategies for improving business relationships. Brent is a CRM industry analyst, advisor, author, speaker and award-winning blogger.