Just over a year ago, Insight Co-Publisher Brian Rasmussen and I did a radio interview about our new startup company, Insight Publications. “Do you think it’s a bad time to start a new business?” the interviewer asked, already aware that the economy was losing its luster. I didn’t skip a beat. “Not at all!” I replied.
Actually, starting a company at a low point in the economy would keep us lean and sensible, I said. It would help us focus on what was necessary and ensure that every decision be met with creativity.
Even then, we had fostered several great partnerships that would help us with the foundation of our business – and even the roof over our heads. Bursting with passion and mustering more energy than we’ve ever thrown into any project before in our lives (except maybe children, but that’s a parallel universe), we did what we had to do and did not look back. Like so many startup businesses, we worked out of our homes, with laptops and cell phones, for the first six months. Our families were relieved when we set up our office on the second floor of the funky, art deco Zuelke Building in downtown Appleton (not because it’s such a cool space, but because we were at last out of the house!).
This past month, every time I referred to “April,” I was happily reminded that we’ve been at this a full year. We now have a lucky 13 issues of Insight under our belts, plus six issues of Insight on Manufacturing.
In newsrooms reporters say, “You’re only as good as your last story.” In magazines, of course, you’re only as good as your last issue. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the many interviews I’ve done with business owners over the past several years, it’s that your current product and future outlook will have far more to do with your success than how many years you’ve been working on it.
Early last month, we helped another startup business celebrate a success. Our creative partner, A2Z Design – which set up shop in 2007 on the 11th floor of our building – swept the Publications category with two Addy awards from the Fox River Ad Club for work in Insight magazine (see page 58). Principal Jeff Amstutz, our creative director, and art director Michael Miller won a gold Addy for last september’s two-page spread featuring Arketype’s Jim Rivett, and a silver for last July’s spread on Tim Schneider of Investors Community Bank in Manitowoc. We weren’t surprised when our premier cover photographer, Shane Van Boxtel of Image Studios, took The People’s Choice Award for a campaign he worked on for Spark Advertising.
Our cover story in this issue shares the stories of three companies that were launched in the past year or two, in spite of – in some cases, as a result of – the current recession. Every owner of a startup company knows success is not guaranteed, by any means. But whether you already own your own business or you’ve given it some thought, check out “Sassy Startups” on page 24 for a dose of inspiration.
It’s obvious that economic realities have settled on the doorstep of those who work in the frontlines of workforce development. Jim Golembeski of the Bay Area Workforce Development Board – himself an example of someone who once made a significant career shift – shares his perspective in Face time, page 17.
As a member of the Fox Cities Workforce Development Board, I had the chance to attend a national conference in Washington, D.C., in March. Keynote speaker Bill Clinton discussed the issues facing today’s workforce on the same stage where, barely 12 hours earlier, we were treated to a performance by the comedy troupe The Capitol Steps, who skewered our former president in style. But true to his old form, Clinton one-upped them.
“Everyone keeps asking, ‘When is this recession going to end?’” Clinton said. “They ask me this all the time, ‘When will it end? WHEN?’ So finally, I started telling people, ‘November 9th at 3:30 in the afternoon.’”
Hey, his guess is as good as anybody’s. It’s what we do in the meantime that matters.