You Think You Own Your Business? You don’t

Lisa D. SpeaksThe story: My dad was an entrepreneur and he had a hard time getting funding. He bootstrapped it and refused loans. He went to my uncle for cash to start the business. My uncle turned him down. So he started anyway. First exterior painting. Then interior painting. He was on a roll.

Then there was an oops that threw a wrench in the works of everything he was working for. An unplanned occurrence. Something he wanted but didn’t know was in his near future. My mother was pregnant with me. I was an oops. Little did I know this simple, seemingly innocuous fact would be the start of a life in which I impacted 20,000 small business owners just like my father, who needed guidance on loans, on structure, on business plans, on budgets, and on profit and loss for his business.

And so it was, that my birth forced my father to be creative in coming up with the cash to pay for doctors, my mom’s prenatal care and the hospital stay. He did it. He came up with the cash by working with the doctor and the hospital to pay along during my mom’s pregnancy. But I then I did something I rarely do, something I’m known for never doing, something Seabron wishes I would do on a regular basis. I came early.

Circumstances Conspired to Stop Forward Momentum

My father didn’t have a chance to finish the payment plan before I came. There were complications. I was born with the umbilical cord around my neck. That took extra care, a longer stay in the hospital, and of course, more money.

To pay for it all, my father had to do something he swore he would never do, something he refused to even discuss with my mother, or my brothers, my uncles, my aunts or anyone else. In fact, for someone to even suggest the idea the person would instantly lose my father’s attention. He did something we know well. His face turned into almost a mask and no matter what anyone said or did the mask said one thing, NO.

Before I share what it was he did, I’d like to bring in the main point of this presentation, in fact it’s the only point of this presentation. Own your business. No, I mean really own it, all of it. All of the communications. All of the financials. All of the personnel. All of the emergency funds. All of the vendors supplying you with the products and services you need to build your business. Own your business.

Image of My Father’s Perfect World

My dad, Gordon Sparks, and me at age 7.

My dad, Gordon Sparks, and me at age 7.

In a perfect world, my father would have done all these things. He is the smartest man I know, God rest his soul. He would have had a back-log of clients, waiting to have him paint their homes. He would have gotten contracts from the government both local and federal. He would have partnered with maintenance men, lawn care professionals and other people who served his market.

He would have networked and he would have been able to buy an RV and travel the United States with my mom. He would have been able to pay for my college education without me having to be saddled with loans until I was well out of college. He would have gotten the best doctors to treat my brother whose epilepsy was raging out of control with seemingly no medication to treat the symptoms.

He would have done all these things. But instead, after a year in business he took advantage of a great opportunity for financial security for our family. He got a union job at the Philadelphia Naval Yard. He worked there for as long as I could remember. When he died he left my mother with a nest egg and continual benefits to be paid out to her for the rest of her life upon the event of his death. And he did die; one month after my 13th birthday.

Some say he succumbed to the asbestos that lined the pipes deep in the belly of the ships in which he worked day and night. Maybe it was the smoking habit he picked up as a kid growing up in the tobacco capital of the United States, North Carolina. Maybe it was the hours he worked and the extra hours it took him to get from our home in West Oak Lane all the way out to the nether regions of South Philly; an hour bus ride if he caught the express and a two hour ride if he caught the local. I have to wonder, if he had social media, email, and a blog, would his business have survived the unexpected event of my birth. I’ll never know. That is where my passion begins. Someone else’s father or mother is out there pouring everything they have into their business, but they don’t own it. And they find themselves working for their clients instead of working for themselves.

 If you don’t have this, you don’t have much of anything

Do you own your business? I mean, really own it? If Twitter went away right this second, would you have access to still communicate with your Twitter followers? What about Facebook? If it disappeared right now, right at this second, would you still be able to get in touch with your friends and followers on that platform?

I know the answer. You know the answer. And it is a big, fat NO. What is the value of your business? When you sell your business, what’s your biggest and most enduring asset? What’s the asset that appreciates in value instead of depreciates?

It’s your customers. It’s your leads. That’s it. That’s all you really have.

How college buddies became billionaires without turning a profit

A couple of young men developed an app. College buddies. It’s the classic story, played out since the founding of Facebook and Google. In such a crowded space in social media, skeptics wondered how they’d ever gain popularity or a piece of the social media pie.

They built up a little buzz and teased people before their release date. Within hours they had 25,000 users. They knew at that very moment, that they would be very, very rich. Just as they predicted, Google bought the platform for $1 billion, earning them a place in the pantheon of successful startup founders. Guess which platform I’m talking about? It’s Instagram the photo (and now video) sharing tool.

The craziest thing, Instagram made not one dollar before Google bought it. In fact, it still hasn’t made a profit. Why buy something that hasn’t made money for $1 billion? The followers. The users. The enthusiasts. The people who can not live their lives without using the platform. The people who check the platform the moment they wake up at night and before they go to sleep. The people who check the platform to find out if they missed anything in the massive flow of information in the world.

Google bought people. Google bought attention. Google bought eyeballs. And they are set to mimic Facebook in terms of monetization of those eyeballs.

From on the dole to on a roll

You remember when I mentioned my father and the one thing he swore up and down he would never do? He went on public assistance to pay for the balance of my hospital stay. Why did he vow never to do that? His father never took public assistance and this was during the 20s and 30s when the Great Depression was in full swing and my grandfather faced the real threat of losing the house in which my father and his six brothers and sisters called home. My grandfather wrote to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, explained his situation and held on, taking any work he could. Just then President Roosevelt stopped all home foreclosures, saving the family home and giving my grandfather the breathing room he needed to gather up the money to finish paying for the house.

There my father was, forty years later, on the phone with the nurse administrator, making plans to go on public assistance. My birth caused a stir, for sure. After dad took the job at the Navy Yard, he went directly to the assistance office and got us off the dole.

He didn’t own his business. He didn’t have social media. He didn’t have the embarrassment of riches facing you right now just outside of these doors in the form of government contracts with local municipalities and large contractors eager to have you on board with their efforts to boost the economy for the largest employer in the United States, small businesses just like yours.

The Solution: How to truly own your business

What’s the first step in owning your business? Well, of course you need an idea; a solid idea that gives birth to your invention. Anyone ever create something original and just have sat on it? I know I have. Terri Laurenceau takes our ideas and creates a roadmap to make them achievable. I’ve worked with Terri since January. As a result, she created a special document on how to take your idea for an invention and make it come to life before your very eyes. I wanted her to charge you for this. When I read the report it was really that good. But Terri wants you to have this report for free. Take full advantage of this offer and click here then enter your email address. She’ll send you the report and add you to her must-read email newsletter list.


With step one It has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with paperwork, business registrations, applications, or profit and loss statements. The first step in owning your business is owning your relationship with your current customers. The second step in owning your business is finding your potential customers and gathering their contact information, specifically their email addresses.

Where do you get these things. You get them by doing these 10 things:

  1. Know why you want your own business.
  2. Define what you will and won’t do in your business.
  3. Understand who it is you are serving.
  4. Find out where they are and hang out there.
  5. Listen to the chatter from your ideal customers on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.
  6. Suggest helpful resources and solutions to the problems many of your ideal customers face.
  7. Create a page on your site where people can enter their email addresses and get weekly communications directly from you.
  8. Be awesome.
  9. Get help. It’s inexpensive.
  10. Remain curious.

Those are my 10 commandments for owning your own business. After all this, then register your business, get certified, join a networking group such as BNI, donate 10% of your profits to the charity of your choice. Not making a profit? No problem. Donate 10% of your time to your favorite nonprofit.

It is doable. Small businesses are doing it every day, and they’re all around you. The question is, are you ready to join them or will you remain where you are?


Where do you play? What is effortless for you? Determine what that is, and get someone else to do the rest. It is inexpensive! Use I have a guide on how to use this tool to get what you want so you won’t get burned. I also include a list of vendors I have used and the ones I trust implicitly to provide the best service for you and your business. Stay tuned for the launch sequence of that gem.

A few things I outsource:

  • Press release distribution
  • Event promotion
  • Presentation design/PowerPoint design
  • Graphic design

Big thanks to all of the people who gave me the courage to write what I like to call a “naked post” about the history of my family and how it relates to truly owning your business.

About Lisa D. Sparks

Lisa D. Sparks, a well known small business marketing expert, has shared results generating insights to more than 20,000 business owners in the United States. Through live workshops, teleseminars and manuals Lisa consults with national and international companies on starting and sustaining profitable email marketing, social media and blog campaigns. Lisa leverages her expertise to help small business owners unleash their voice through blogs, emails, web content and social media content.

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