We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Lorne Thomas a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Alright, Lorne thanks for taking the time to share your stories and insights with us today. Alright, so we’d love to hear about how you got your first client or customer. What’s the story?
Oh, good question. I’ve been at this now for over 25 years so I’m going to have to think back. I don’t know if I remember my first client, but among the first with which I began a long term client relationship was a childcare facility franchise that started in Flower Mound, TX and eventually grew to five or six north DFW Metroplex locations as well as franchise locations in other states. I assisted with a wide variety of marketing projects… first with their corporate web-site, then print materials, and we eventually produced a promotional video for them. It was a great experience and I appreciated working with them. I believe that lasted for 5-7 years, then new ownership took over and you know the rest of the story. But what I loved was being an integral part of their initial growth and that’s why I do this. Nothing is greater for me than working with a business from the start, guiding them with their marketing tools and watching them grow. It’s very exciting.
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers
Sure. I finished an art & advertising degree program in Waco, TX prior to relocating to the DFW area in 1990. Right away I got my feet wet serving as an art director for a full service ad agency for 7 years, did a 4 year stint in the corporate world and picked up skills in web development, then moved on to a print ad company while beginning my freelance business, Blue Troop Web, Print & Video. My business offers the whole range of marketing tools for small business, designed to help them succeed and grow. What makes me different? I’ll say this… typically my competitors will jump right in, immediately after you sign a contract with them, and start cranking out your logo, web-site, print stuff and whatever you need, all at turbo speed to get you in and out the door so they can get paid. I take my time with the client and do my best to first identify their ideal customer. We identify them with a complete demographic sketch and then build their marketing tools around that profile. That’s where good business starts… with customer identification. What are their needs, their habits, their goals, etc. When this is the starting point, you can develop a long working relationship with them and keep them. It is much more cost effective to find, earn and keep existing clients than work, work, and work to find new ones.
Can you open up about how you funded your business?
If you wish to spend a ton of money because that’s what you think you have to do to start a business, be my guest, but I don’t advise it. I started moonlighting while I worked other jobs, was patient as my client list grew, and once stable income was managed, then I started my business at a full time basis. Depending on what industry you’re in, be as frugal as possible and consider every detail involved. Is a piece of equipment or resource you think you should have, absolutely critical for you to begin? Is the degree plan you intend to spend thousands of dollars on truly necessary to get you to the place you want to be? Listen, I can’t tell you how many folks I’ve talked to who came out of school (in debt) with an expensive piece of paper that does nothing in helping them start a business. I’ve hired graduates with 4-year art degrees from good schools that cannot design at all and have no work ethic. Ask yourself important questions. Is rented office space necessary or can I be home-based for a while? How can I acquire equipment or resources at minimal cost? Do I need a business partner or can I start this venture on my own? By the way, I advise strongly against business partnerships and would say to avoid them if at all possible. If you need to have something like because of diverse skills brought to the table, that’s fine, but if it’s for reasons of funding… 9 times our of 10 you’re NOT ready to start a business.
Can you tell us about a time you’ve had to pivot?
One observation I’ve had while running this business for 25 years is to take note of the economical and political climate of the time. I work with small business owners and believe me, they are very observant of the economy. When you work for a large corporation, you would notice this less. Smaller businesses are like small, low cars on the road… they feel every bump, jolt and hiccup in the economy. It’s very hard work for them just to survive. Every month is important for growth and they watch their numbers. When costs are increasing such as fuel, supplies, insurance costs, etc. they tend to hold on to their money. When the stock market crash of 2008 occurred, when the insurance mandate by the federal government took effect… the small businesses I worked with held onto their money tight. No one was buying new web-sites at that time. It really hurt everybody. We had to pivot our focus at that time to our existing client base and helping them through it. After 2017, the economy really grew and was roaring back to life, and business was great for everyone. Now, in 2022 with high inflation back after 40 years and supply chain issues, I’m seeing the small business owners hang on to their money again. It’s the ebb and flow of the economy. On a really good note, I’m now working with new business owners relocating to Texas from states like California, Michigan and others that are crushing small business with taxes and over-regulation. That’s been a plus .