Crain shares tips for successful entrepreneurs

I recently had the great privilege of hearing a keynote speech by Rance Crain, president of Crain Communications and editor-in-chief of Advertising Age, Crain’s Chicago Business, Crain’s New York Business and TelevisionWeek.

In the professional field of business journalism, Crain is a household name, and Crain Communications is a company we all respect and try to emulate.

That’s why it was so riveting to hear Crain share his 10 Rules of Successful Entrepreneurship as he spoke to a room full of publishers and editors at the Alliance of Area Business Publications (AABP) summer conference in Nashville.

Crain was kind enough to share the script of his speech afterward with me and to give me permission to share its highlights with our Milwaukee readers. So, here are Crain’s entrepreneurial maxims:

(1) Timing. Crain recounted how his father, G.D. Crain Jr., founded publications such as Business Insurance and Hospital Management before those under-served markets had fully evolved. “He had to wait for the market to develop before he made his move,” Crain said. “Know when the time is ripe and also unripe when you launch a new product or service.”

(2) Have a distinct point of view “so that your product stands out from all the rest.”

(3) Enthusiasm. His father launched Ad Age during the Great Depression. “When Dad would go out on sales calls, he would talk about the great reaction Ad Age was having with readers, and the clients would say, ‘You really believe all this stuff, don’t you?’ And my Dad would say, ‘Yeah, it’s great.’ They told him they didn’t have any money at the time for promotion, but when they did, they’d be with us. And they were,” Crain said.

(4) Be lucky. “Or at least think you’re lucky,” Crain said.

(5) Be confident in your own ideas. Crain’s self-confidence led to the founding of his Chicago business publication.

(6) Treat your people with respect. “Nobody has the right to make people feel bad about themselves,” Crain said.

(7) Be opportunistic. Hearing a speech by a publisher in Houston inspired Crain to publish the Crain’s Chicago Business, which he said was a “game-changer” for his company.

(8) Be optimistic. “Don’t let a few naysayers throw cold water on a hot idea,” Crain said. Crain believes digital video production could provide a great platform for publishers. “It is my belief that video will be the best thing that came out of the Internet. I said a few years ago that it’s like we hit the jackpot and suddenly we’ve got the equivalent of a TV station for free,” Crain said. “I can see the day when we’ll have a Crain TV channel with videos from all our publications playing at specific times throughout the day and night.”

(9) Make your workplace a nice place to work. “And your good people will stay forever,” Crain said.

(10) Have fun. “What’s the point of all the hard work? And if you’re having fun, so will all your people, and what a great place to work that will be,” Crain said.

In closing, Crain said, “I would put enthusiasm and caring about your people at the top of the list of any successful entrepreneur. It’s all about creating an environment of confidence – confidence that your company will succeed and confidence that your people know you respect and trust their efforts to succeed.”

Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes.

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