Small Business Success Q&A #21: van Schouwen Associates

Let’s get 2014 off to a great start with this interesting Small Business Success Q&A featuring Michelle Van Schouwen, a colleague of contributor Mark Auerbach. Michelle has agreed to write some posts for us this year, too. So this will introduce you to our newest blogger. Pay particular attention to what she has to say about creating proprietary systems. A great idea that I’ve seen work well for a number of my clients.

Name: Michelle van Schouwen

Company: van Schouwen Associates, LLC

Location: Longmeadow, MA

Founded: 1985

No. of employees: Four full time, four to six consultants – this is new, since we used to try to have people on staff for every possible need. Now we operate as “strong core and consultants” and so far, it’s a winning approach in a fast-moving marketplace.


Twitter name: van Schouwen Associa@VSAmarketing

Blog: Outside the Box

Business description: van Schouwen Associates (vSA) is a B2B marketing company that enjoys customer relationships throughout and beyond the United States. We’re known for vSALaunch™, our proprietary, modular and scalable system for B2B marketing launches. van Schouwen Associates services are also highlighted by strategic marketing planning; public relations including media relations, social media and content marketing; digital marketing including Web development, technical communications tools and interactive outreach; advertising programs; and more.

Why did you decide to start your own company? By the time I was in my mid-twenties, having worked at one endeavor or another since age 11, I realized that I preferred being in the driver’s seat, developing new ideas and customer relationships and most of all, having the chance to build my own company. I was happy to take the risks so I could enjoy the independence and the considerable upside of entrepreneurial life.

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’ve been unwilling to fail. It’s a great question. I’d say I’ve been driven by wanting to protect and preserve the company, client interests, staff wellbeing, and my own ability to keep on doing this. This determination to “protect and preserve” has, at various times, meant working long hours, taking reduced compensation for the company’s sake, having to lay off valued staff, and even working through a time of personal tragedy after my first husband (and then-partner in van Schouwen Associates) died suddenly. The rewards of nurturing and growing van Schouwen Associates have included business achievements that make me proud, great relationships with customers, staff and associates, a nice standard of living, and continued independence. That’s worth hundreds of late nights and a modicum of worry.

Best business advice you’ve ever been given: The best advice has become a mantra for me. It came from a book I read many years ago, Make It Happen Before Lunch by Stephan Schiffman, and is possibly rephrased here: “In the long run, energy is fate.”

Worst business advice you’ve ever been given: I don’t recall the worst advice. I must have mind-erased it.

What was the toughest thing you’ve ever had to do as a business owner? The toughest thing I’ve had to do was to continue being as valuable as possible at work after Steve van Schouwen, my first husband, died suddenly at age 49. We were partners in the business as well as spouses, and while I’d always managed the business and financial end of our company, and while Steve had always shared his technical and creative processes and even passwords with the staff and with me, the personal loss was immense.

What advice would you give to someone just starting a business? That depends on the person starting the business as well as the business they are starting. I mentor with a great organization, Valley Venture Mentors, which fosters entrepreneurs. I’ve learned that what each entrepreneur needs is unique, so the support or advice I can offer varies accordingly. Of course, I am a continual advocate for smart marketing to move a business into the public eye once its offerings are ready.

Favorite all-time business book: Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman is perhaps my favorite, because exceling in a high-value business consultancy requires the most advanced thinking one can muster, and it’s good to tune the brain to do its best work.

Favorite business book read in the past year: This year, Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip Heath was a valuable read, because we were looking for a new way to package and market vSA’s best services, and the content of that book helped me initiate our own product launch: vSALaunch™, a proprietary, modular and scalable marketing system to propel business-to-business offerings forward. Voila!

Favorite online source(s) for business information/advice: Google! From Google, I can get nearly anywhere and learn nearly anything.


  1. This post is great, please keep going. I am looking forward to hearing from you

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