Small Business Success Q&A #12: Nessen Kohlasch & Associates

I first met Victoria Nessen Kohlasch in what seems like another lifetime, but it really was only a little over 10 years ago. (Of course that was another century, so no wonder it seems so long ago!) She was executive vice president of Marketing and Human Resources at CRIC Capital, LLC, a real estate investment firm in Boston that had hired me to write copy for a marketing brochure. I recall really enjoying working on the project with her.

Since then I moved to the opposite end of the state and Victoria become her own boss. Our paths crossed again about a year ago, this time in cyberspace thanks to the wonders of LinkedIn, which wisely suggested she might be someone I knew…or perhaps it was the other way around; I honestly don’t remember. But what you will find memorable, I believe, is Victoria’s terrific advice below. Her answers reminded why I liked her to begin with; they’re super smart, just like her.

Please take special note of what she says is the worst business advice she ever received. You can learn a lot from bad advice!

Name: Victoria Nessen Kohlasch

Company: Nessen Kohlasch & Associates

Location: Lexington, MA

Founded: 2001

No. of employees: 3 and counting

Website: www.nkassoc.com

Twitter name: @vkohlasch

Business description:

Victoria Nessen Kohlasch

We are a marketing consulting firm dedicated to helping our clients meet their strategic growth goals. Every day, we rethink how we approach our client work. We are not an agency, but a partner. Our clients are passionate, entrepreneurial organizations who look to us for strategic thinking and sound advice. Our team has years of experience working with clients to design ingenious solutions that work. Using internal resources, technology and a good dose of common sense, we develop creative, cost-effective strategies that complement our clients’ style and culture and help them be intentional about what to do and how to do it – ensuring that each deliverable moves them one step closer to meeting their growth goals.

What have been the keys to your business success? In other words, why do you think you’ve succeeded when so many small businesses fail?

I think there are three primary things that have kept us thriving over the past 9 years:

1.    Doing great work that then inspires our clients and contacts to share us with their peers/colleagues

2.    Being creative and ingenious but grounding our work in common sense and logic

3.    Never resting on our laurels, constantly listening to the needs of our target audience and adapting to those needs

Best business advice you’ve ever been given: When we first started NK&A, one of our advisors said: “Never tell a client you can’t do something for them when asked. If you are a marketing expert and they need a plumber, find them one (a good one who will represent your brand well) and connect them.” Because of this attitude, we have helped clients solve much more than just marketing problems. They see us as people who fix things – people who know the right contacts to get a job done and get it done well. Clients come to us because they know there is nothing we won’t do to help make their lives easier.

Worst business advice you’ve ever been given: A sales trainer once told us to never give away free advice or information until a potential client is hired. It made us think, “This guy must know something we don’t!” So we stopped offering up solutions and suggestions when meeting people for the first time. Business slowed to a halt. We learned that when selling a service, if people can’t hear how you think, work and problem solve, how will they know if you are any good? Some of our best clients have been people who tried to initiate our suggestions on their own, but soon learned how complex marketing strategy and implementation can be, and subsequently called us for help. Our clients have never second guessed what it takes to make something happen, and they always treasure our input. In hindsight, that sales trainer wasn’t following his own advice!

Toughest thing you’ve ever had to do as a business owner: Admit I needed help. I was determined to do it all myself, from integral things like bookkeeping and statistical analysis, to mundane things like proofreading and cleaning my office. Let’s be honest, there are some things that I’m just not meant to do (number crunching ranks pretty high) and other things I simply don’t like to do. So I surround myself with really talented people who complement who I am and what I do, and I find I am much more successful because of it.

Advice would you give to someone just starting a business: It is one thing to be good at something, but if you can’t effectively communicate it and enroll people in the possibility of what you do, you will never succeed. When you start a business, you must determine if you are willing and capable of selling yourself and your product. Not everyone can do that.

Favorite all-time business book: Without a doubt it would be Orbiting the Giant Hairball by Gordon MacKenzie. This book was a means for all of us at NK&A to live vicariously through the author’s exploits while at Hallmark. I admired his continual willingness not only to innovate and create inside the restraining walls of a large corporation, but to see an underlining desire and need of others to be creative, and to make that space within the company. It has inspires us to always listen to our clients’ call for ingenuity and innovation, and to help create the spark that ignites their business and success.

Favorite business book read in the past year: I’d have to go with Outliers – The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. He digs into the analysis of people like a savvy marketer would. He starts with the more obvious demographics before delving into his psychographic analysis. His ability to skillfully tell a story helps to draw out the psychographic findings in the book and debunk obvious assumptions, such as “People with high IQs are smart and successful,” or “Only the best athletes make it to the pros.” He provides plenty of analysis and arguments to support his point of view, and he leaves you with a desire to really get at answers to the kinds of questions you contemplate daily. It’s fascinating, and great fodder for marketers like NK&A.
Favorite online source for business information/advice: Definitely TED.com. I turn to TED before the TV. It is great exposure to a wide variety of topics and experts. The best part about TED is that within 17 minutes you can gain great insight into economic theory, modern dance, or the latest thoughts on motivation.

1 comment

  1. Priscilla says:

    Great information.

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