This interview with Jill Kurtz, Owner of Kurtz Digital Strategy of Northern Virginia was conducted by Robin Suomi of Startup to Growth, LLC via email.
Q. Jill, thank you for taking time to conduct this interview! I know you are an active blogger and social media advocate, and I wanted to gain your insight about working with small business owners. Please start by giving our readers your name, and tell us a little bit about your company and how you work with small business owners.
Jill: My name is Jill Kurtz, and I’m the owner of Kurtz Digital Strategy, LLC. I provide consulting services to help organizations to build relationships with target constituencies. The primary focus is website, social media, and content strategy.
Q. Thanks, Jill. What is one little known fact about you that you would like to share with our readers?
Jill: My dad is the only person in his family who was born in the US. I believe that the dynamics of his family give me valuable perspective into communicating across languages, cultures and generations.
Q. In today’s multicultural world, I can see that can be a wonderful advantage. Thank you for sharing that. Now, would you list three words that best describe you and tell us a little bit about why you chose them.
Jill: Sincere – I want to help and do the best for everyone who I know. Joyful – I am blessed in both my personal and professional life. Efficient – I have been asked so many times “how do you get all that done?,” that I just embrace the label.
Q: Jill, I have known you for a while, and I see all three qualities when I work with you. Great choices. Now, why do you enjoy working with small businesses?
Jill: I like to work with decision makers who can make things happen. In small businesses, I get to work with those kinds of people all the time.
Small business owners are determined and focused. They don’t waste any resources – time or money. I know when I deliver something to a small business that the work is valued and will be used. That also lets me see the value of my work and measure results for my clients.
Q: I’m always interested in the “why.” Tell us what ignited the spark in you to start your business? How did it all come about?
Jill: I have accumulated more than 30 years of experience working in a variety of organizations. I wanted to be able to share my expertise across a range of businesses. And, frankly, I was tired of working for bad bosses who I couldn’t fire.
As the owner of my own business I get to pick my clients and projects. I select clients who are passionate about their work and pick projects that allow me to apply my expertise in new ways. I learn new things all the time and that keeps me energized.
Q: What is one entrepreneurial trait you like to see in clients you work with?
Jill: I like to work with entrepreneurs who are focused on a goal. That focus lets me develop marketing and communication strategies to get them there. It is really hard to hit a moving target, so I really appreciate clients who have a strong sense of what they want to accomplish.
Q: I would love you to share your insight with our readers. If you could give small business owners, specifically startups, your top three tips, what would they be?
Jill: Tip 1: You can’t be a little bit in business. (Just like you can’t be a little bit pregnant.) You must be all in, dedicated to your business, or you are just wasting time. You can’t be “having a business” and looking for full time employment or working another full-time job.
Tip 2: Build a community. Some people call them trusted advisors, others call them the board of advisors. Whatever you call them, have a group of people who are go to resources for you as a business owner. Make connections with people who overlap your skills as well as people who have skills that you lack. You want a robust team that you can tap to navigate whatever challenges come your way.
Tip 3: Don’t underestimate yourself and don’t overestimate what’s needed to be successful. I was talking to someone just the other day who had a business idea but was afraid of the unknowns. Finally, one day someone in the industry told him, “Just do it. It’s not magical.” We are all in a continuous process of figuring things out. To make progress you have to start. Just do it!
Q: Conversely, will you share the top three mistakes you have seen startups make? We can all learn a lot by understanding the pitfalls of others.
Jill: Mistake 1: Not setting/ignoring your limits. Know how much you can invest in your business without jeopardizing your lifestyle, how many hours you are willing to devote, etc. Only you can determine the right boundaries. Once you set them, stick to them. If you don’t you will be unhappy and potentially broke. Now that’s pain!
Mistake 2: Being all things to all people. Let me help here: you can’t. The more you can focus on what you are doing and who you are serving, the greater the chance your business will succeed. There are a zillion resources and opportunities out there. You will know which ones are worthwhile if you can determine which ones align with your focus.
Mistake 3: All work and no play. Be sure to build some fun into your days! Don’t let guilt prevent you from enjoying a sunny afternoon or catching a movie in the middle of the day. When you have fun you rejuvenate the energy you bring to your business.
Q: Great insight, Jill. Thank you for sharing those tips and challenges with our readers. Now, what is next for you and your company?
Jill: I continue to refine my service offerings to get that optimal balance of bringing expertise to benefit each client and learning new things that help me to grow. I have set goals for incremental year-over-year increases and will continue that until I reach my targets for both work hours and income.
Q: What one book/blog would you recommend small business owners read?
Jill: I have been blogging for several years about marketing and communication topics. My goal is to offer quick reads that can help readers no matter what role or business they have. My stats show that articles I wrote years ago are still helpful today, so I know that am building a valuable resource: https://kurtzdigitalstrategy.com/communication-in-a-web-saturated-world/
Q: Jill, thank you again for sharing your time and expertise with our readers. If our readers would like to get in touch with you, how can they best do that?
Jill: Please visit my website and contact me using whatever method works best for you! https://kurtzdigitalstrategy.com/
Ask the Experts Interviews Series: In this series we are reaching out to small business professionals across the nation from various disciplines and interviewing them about how they serve the small business community, asking for their wisdom gained through working with small businesses. Our goal? To educate entrepreneurs about small business, help them learn best practices, hopefully avoid mistakes, learn how to choose the right professional to hire, and in general educate our readers on topics they may not have thought of. Do you have a suggestion for us? Let us know at [email protected] We welcome your suggestions and comments!
About Robin Suomi, MBA, Founder of Startup to Growth, LLC. Success is rarely accidental. My passion is helping my small business clients move from concept through growth (many clients surpassing $1M in sales), unleashing their vitality, innovation and creativity as they launch or grow their successful and sustainable companies according to their vision. For over 10 years I have helped thousands of small business owners launch and grow their dreams through 1-1 and group small business coaching, technical small business consulting, mastermind groups, business plan classes, and other educational programs. As an adjunct professor, I taught Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management and Business 101 courses. Our services at Startup to Growth, LLC are delivered online and in-person.
In July of 2017 I am launching How to Start A Business: Your Successful Launch, an online course, which will educate potential small business owners about starting their own business. It will be a refresher course for the rest of us!
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