[quote style=”boxed”]”I feel that everybody deserves an opportunity to discover their hidden talents.”[/quote]
Jack J. Bergman is the President of Allied Business Network, a business membership program that offers small- and medium-sized businesses discounts on items that they use every day. Jack is a business thought leader and brings businesses together with abnsave.com, smartbizsavings.com, and businessadvantageplus.com. He welcomes anyone to reach out to him at [email protected].
What are you working on right now?
ABN is currently in the midst of a complete redesign of our website. As a result, we are reevaluating and rethinking everything in our current business model. In some ways, I see this as a cleansing, a time to reconsider how to best meet our main objective, which is to provide the best service to small and medium-sized businesses. This redesign will be a long process, but I know in the end, it will lead us to better serving our members.
Where did the idea for ABN Save come from?
I came up with my idea for ABN Save while running a buying cooperative in Washington DC. All the buying cooperative members I worked with at the time were electrical distributors and the participating vendors included the manufacturers who distributed their products to the electrical distributors. While leading the marketing team for TIED (The Independent Electrical Distributor), I put together a special service vendor list for our members. That special vendor list closely resembles Allied Business Network’s vendors today, actually.
I realized early on that all businesses, especially ones that have already formed an organization, should not only take advantage of group purchasing within their own industry but also take advantage of general supplies services.
How do you make money?
Allied Business Network is compensated by the vendor. The number one benefactor in ABN Save is the business member. We offer free membership, free information, free advice, free business directory, and, most notably, a network of free discounts. Therefore, since all our services for our members are free, we rely on our vendors to support our business model.
What does your typical day look like?
We start almost every day at ABN by examining our membership support. In other words, we look at how well the businesses that joined ABN are supporting our vendors by using their discounts. We are always trying to improve the participation rate.
Our day also includes strategizing on ways to partner with other potential organizations and with large groups of businesses.
How do you bring ideas to life?
ABN is your typically democracy-driven business. With a strong and steady marketing team, we deliberate, we debate, we decide, and then we implement. Simple as that.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
One trend within our business that constantly excites me is seeing a continual increase on an annual basis of ABN membership. 18 years ago, it took ABN over a year to pull together its first 100 business members. Today, ABN grows up to 100 members per day. Watching our membership numbers increase on a daily basis is what keeps me enthusiastic about my work and excited for each day at the office.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
The worst job I ever had was working on a retail model where I was part of a team that traveled the US to set up a chain of linen stores. These stores were identical in every city throughout the US. If you did not look out the window, you would not know where you were! My job was repetitive, tedious, monotonous, and mindless. But in the end, I learned all jobs require team work, persistence, and dedication to excellence no matter what the task or how tedious, monotonous, or mindless it may be.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
If I were to start again, I would do certain things differently in hindsight. But hindsight is 20/20. Even though that is a cliché, in this case it’s true.
When ABN started, search engines did not exist so ABN was only able to provide information after businesses joined. Even after a business joined ABN, it was a struggle for us since businesses in the very early 90’s only had one Internet connection, only had one general email box, and only used the Internet on rare occasions.
Now that I can see how successful ABN can be in terms of adding members and providing members with information through the Internet, I know ABN’s model is much more effective in a world reliant on the web. As a result, I think that I would’ve been better off waiting 10 years to start ABN.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I always recommend for every entrepreneur to have a business plan. A business plan is crucial; it’s a way to organize and recognize. Having a business plan not only forces you to write your thoughts about the business down, but also forces you to think through all your strategies for success and growth, as well as help you think through future problems you have yet to encounter.
Business models can always be adjusted in the future, but without one, the road towards success is much more unlikely. The reason why a business model is repetitive and done over and over is because you’re constantly re-strategizing and tweaking your model.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Entrepreneurs and business owners tend to try to control all aspects of their business, and in my opinion, this will not produce the best business model. I’ve tried to do this, and I learned the hard way that it isn’t the best way to produce results. Over time, I’ve learned to build trust in my staff and other consulting organizations, and only through time does this become easier.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
The buying group concept has still been largely ignored. There are many other small to medium-sized businesses that could be formed into groups to leverage their positions in their respected industries. By recognizing or discovering one of these potential industries and forming a co-op or corporation in a set industry could prove to be profitable for all parties involved.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
If I could, I would set up high school programs throughout the US, and potentially the world, to help kids at an early age discover their true passions.
I feel that everybody deserves an opportunity to discover their hidden talents. I think if I had the opportunity to be able to allow every human being the opportunity to meet his/her potential in life, I could help them understand and develop skills they may not know they naturally have.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
Very few people know that I am passionate about fitness and always have been. I enjoy all sorts of physical activity involving weight training, biking, boxing, etc. Fitness is something that I enjoy just as much as any other part of my day. For me, there is a similarity between business and fitness. I know for both I will gain a great feeling of satisfaction once I see my hard work and training pay off.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
Basecamp – makes internal project management clear cut, efficient and centralized.
Fiverr – for $5 you can get someone to do almost anything! Draw a comic strip, create a short video, redesign your logo; you name it and they can do it.
Elance – this platform has made outsourcing certain projects to freelance writers and designers much easier than it had been previously. We can read reviews about the freelancer before hiring them, which plays a very valuable part in determining if they’re the right fit for our needs!
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries: Ries focuses on efficiency and continued learning, 2 things that I think people easily lose sight of. It is an inspiration for success and innovation.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why? (please don’t include yourself)
@elonmusk: founder of Paypal, SpaceX and Tesla Motors, his tweets will get you thinking outside of the box.
@richardbranson: even with 300ish businesses under his empire, he still takes the time to give valuable advice on business and life.
@mattcutts: as part of the Google team, Matt provides valuable tips for anyone who owns a website or uses the internet.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
I laughed out loud this weekend when my family was heading up to Kennywood. My daughter impatiently asked if we were ready to go and my 4-year old son answered, “In one million minutes.”
Who is your hero?
I have many people whom I admire and respect and consider heroes. But if I had to choose, I would say the US military because they protect and sacrifice for everyone else.
Is making money and being successful the most important thing?
Absolutely not. Once your goals have been achieved at the highest level, you realize that the journey is much more important than the rewards.
Is ABN the biggest success in your life?
No! The biggest success in my life is my family. Being married for over 7 years and having 2 young, healthy kids are the biggest successes in my life.
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.