Mark’s Tips for Building Your Business Empire

Mark may be easily mistaken for a background player in the shadows of “The Pasternacks,” but he is our secret weapon. He has been at the helm of multiple successful businesses, beginning with a booming Skittles enterprise at age seven. Ever the salesman, Mark persuaded me (Nicole) to move to a new city and start a new business the day after our wedding. Mark also gave me the confidence to build my own business, and he is my top resource when I need entrepreneurial advice. Mark has learned numerous strategies to build a business, kickstart its success, and make it a source of peace and freedom. The three he is sharing today apply to both old and new entrepreneurs. 

Mark sitting at his computer doing work and running a successful business

Working hard from day one

Ever since I (Mark) can remember, I’ve been hustling one way or another. My parents didn’t hand out freebies or pay $20 allowances. The most my brothers and I could hope to earn from a full day of chores, was $0.25. Even then, we still had to save, give, and set aside some for taxes. If we were lucky, we pocketed $0.10 to use freely. My dad always told us, “If you want something, work for it, because it’s not going to be handed to you.” 

As Nicole said, I started out selling Skittles on the school bus in second grade. I’d convinced my parents to take me to Sam’s Club, where I would buy ten-packs of Skittles for $5.00, and sell each pack for $2.00, making a profit of $15.00. Before long, my work history included delivering newspapers on multiple routes, bagging groceries, scooping Graeter’s ice cream (an Ohio favorite), and being a server at a restaurant. I think I worked as many jobs as I legally could by the time I turned 16. 

Mark sharing ice cream at Graters, his first job

Some of my favorite memories were made while working with Molly, who is now my sister-in-law, at Graeter’s.

Hitting my stride

When I turned 16, I needed a summer job so I could pay for a car. I knew I could make more money working for myself than from any other job I could find at 16. I began by recording bands in my parents’ basement for $50.00/song. That evolved into producing 20+ live, local shows in the third floor event space at Old Bag of Nails in Uptown Westerville. I’ll never forget the best night I ever had. I brought home $900.00, after paying the bands and tipping the servers. That’s when I realized that entrepreneurship was my passion. Ever since, I’ve been starting, stopping, and thinking up new business ideas all the time. Now, not all of them have been a success. In fact, most haven’t. That’s all part of the journey. 

photo of Mark's first successful business, recording bands

Three of my favorite tips for building your business

1. Create Systems

Systems bring sustainability. Every business task that you must repeat requires a clear and detailed system for completing it. This will allow you to either do it yourself with maximum efficiency, or make it really easy for someone else to do. This allows you to spend less time in the minutiae and more time building your business and being creative. Systematizing repeated processes frees you to brainstorm new ideas, serve your clients better, and ultimately make more money in less time.

Nicole and I have done this in all of our businesses. In wedding photography, this has looked like a welcome guide for brides, which answers all the frequently asked questions. In sales, it has manifested as a step-by-step system to create lengthy proposals in 10 minutes.

2. Develop Partnerships 

This is one of the fastest ways to build businesses.  Ask yourself who has a business that complements yours. Perhaps, for example, you offer different products and services, but you serve the same clientele. When you develop partnerships, everybody wins. Your partner wins because they expand into your network. You win because you expand into theirs. And your shared customers win because they can access your products or services, and your partner’s, all in one place.

Also, the more we network and make genuine relationships within our industries, the more our businesses grow. Our connection allows us to refer work back and forth, and helps build community. We are here for everyone’s success. One person’s success does not mean another person’s failure. We can all cheer each other on, be successful, and have meaningful relationships!

3. Find Your Niche

You can’t be everything to everyone. This was one of the hardest lessons to learn as a young business owner. I wanted to serve anyone who needed my services, but by doing so, I ended up serving no one to the best of my ability. As soon I focused my attention to one very specific area, my business took off! 

Consider the following:

  1. Who are my best customers? Identify them in as much detail as possible.
  2. Who do I love working with, and why? 
  3. Which customers create the least amount of stress in my business? 

Once you’ve answered those questions, focus on attracting only those types of customers, and accept  rejection from the rest!

Whatever business you’re thinking about creating or scaling, these three strategies are guaranteed to get there faster. You can run your own successful business and thrive!

Mark teaching his son how to run a successful business and working together

Now I’m busy creating the next generation of entrepreneurs running successful businesses

If you loved these tips for building a business, you’ll love our FREE GUIDE on how to take your marriage, family, and business from surviving to thriving. If you feel tired, burnt-out, and stressed, or if you’re wondering how we make it all, these are the exact tips that took our life out of survival mode to living the life of our dreams!

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