Small Business Success Q&A #15: Shawenon Communications

Susanna Opper

Susanna Opper was one of the very first professionals I connected with when I moved to Western Massachusetts in 2002. When I e-mailed dozens of Boston friends asking who they knew “out here,” Susanna was one of just three names that came back to me, which speaks volumes about the great divide between Eastern MA and Western MA, doesn’t it?

I have been a long-time subscriber to Susanna’s monthly e-newsletter, Web Words. She always provides good information about communicating effectively with your key audiences. I highly recommend you sign-up for Web Words; I know you’ll find it valuable. (See link below.)

I hope you enjoy what Susanna has to say about what it takes to run a successful small business.

Name: Susanna Opper

Company: Shawenon Communications

Location: Alford, MA

Founded: 2002

No. of employees: just me, with a lot of help from my friends


Twitter name: SusannaOpper

Newsletter: Web Words

Business description: Shawenon Communications collaborates with small businesses, solopreneurs, professionals and not-for-profits to get their messages across in the written word.

We specialize in electronic communications, including e-zines and other forms of email marketing, Web sites and social media. We also ghostwrite articles and other business communications. As a solution provider, we resell Constant Contact’s email marketing service.

What have been the keys to your business success? My business is about relationships. I see my clients as my partners and friends. They know that I do my very best for them and that I have their interests at heart. They can count on me to keep my word and provide quality results.

From years of experience, I’m fast study on understanding client issues. I listen to their real needs, which are sometimes not what they think they need. When we shift the task to meet the actual objective, the results often exceed expectations.

Best business advice you’ve ever been given: Don’t worry when you’re so busy that you don’t have time for business development. That’s the way it goes in consulting (or any very small business). There will be highs and lows. Just look for both the lows and the highs to be trending up. When your income dips after a big project, as long as it’s better than last time, you’re on track.

Worst business advice you’ve ever been given: Don’t get bogged down by your instincts and intuition. That’s just worry speaking. Put your head down and go for it!

Toughest thing you’ve ever had to do as a business owner: Ending a client relationship before the project is finished is always tough. I just recently took on a client even though very reliable sources who knew this person really well said I should run fast in the other direction. I said, “I can do this.” Not surprisingly, it didn’t work out. The project went way over budget and there were communications mix-ups that were almost comical. The work that got done went out on time and met the objectives, but it was so painful.

What advice would you give to someone just starting a business? Do what you’re passionate about. You’re going to work really hard and the true rewards will be in satisfaction not dollars. Be sure you understand the difference between starting a business and running one. If you aren’t going to like what you’ll be doing every day, don’t do it. And finally, and most importantly, get wise advice and find a good mentor.

Favorite all-time business book: Flawless Consulting: A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used by Peter Block

Favorite online source(s) for business information/advice: Hidden Tech’s

list serve is a wonderful resource that I rely on for advice and counsel and referrals. I also use a few online groups on LinkedIn.

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