Karen Cummings – Co-Owner of VISION Marketing & Consulting

[quote style=”boxed”]Good brainstorming, teamwork and dedication! A lot of good ideas take a while to take hold, it’s patience and dedication to that idea that will help you see it through to success.[/quote]

Karen received her Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. She graduated magna cum laude and participated in the Barrett Honors College. Her marketing background includes work with event coordination through the Barrett Honors College, small business consulting with the City of Phoenix and experience in sales, marketing and advertising in the healthcare industry. Most recently, she worked as Marketing Director for a local physical therapy company where she managed community relations, sponsorships and events and was involved in public relations and physician marketing. She is a Certified Social Media Strategist and has an extensive background in a number of social media platforms, leading all social media efforts with her previous employer.

What are you working on right now?

Currently VISION Marketing & Consulting is working with about 16 micro to small businesses, primarily within the health care industry. We partner with these businesses to provide effective and affordable marketing strategies to help them grow.

Where did the idea for VISION Marketing & Consulting come from?

My business partner, Veronica Shaw, and I came up with the concept of our business when we were exposed to a number of small physician practices lacking even the most basic of marketing materials to build their business.

How do you make money?

The majority of our clients are working with us on a monthly retainer basis, with a minimum of three-month contracts.

What does your typical day look like?

Oh, that’s difficult! Because we work with all of our clients in different capacities a typical day for me could vary widely. Also, since we are a small business ourselves, and pride ourselves on offering affordable solutions, we keep majority of our services in-house – which means each of us on the VISION team is handling a wide variety of service offerings. For me, a typical day could range from building a website, managing social accounts and designing a new logo for a client to Relationship Marketing where I am out in the field representing a client and building relationships with their referral sources. I spend most of my days in the office, but also a good chunk of time out ‘in the field’. And in the meantime, I’m working to grow our own business!

How do you bring ideas to life?

Good brainstorming, teamwork and dedication! A lot of good ideas take a while to take hold, it’s patience and dedication to that idea that will help you see it through to success.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Social media’s growth! For small businesses, social media is SO important. It allows you, as a small business, to compete with the big guys in terms of building brand awareness and developing customer loyalty. As a small business you have the advantage of being small, which means you can really show the personal side of your business, who’s behind the scenes and why people should choose you over the competition (show this in a non-salesy way of course). If you have a passion for what you do, you can really make it show with the help of social media. Not to mention, to me, social media is fun! ☺

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

Another tough one, I had a difficult job prior to starting my business with Veronica, but I wouldn’t say it was the worst thing ever – especially because I did learn so much from it. I learned how important it is to adjust your approach on everything you do to accommodate the individual(s) you are interacting with. I learned the importance of risk-taking and quick decision-making. So many great opportunities can be lost from the inability to act quickly. I also learned the importance of communication in accomplishing tasks, staying on deadline and creating an overall positive work environment.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

If I were to start again with VISION, I may look at developing a more specific client criteria to truly identify which types of businesses would work best with VISION. Saving everyone time in the long run. When you are first starting, you want to take whatever you can get, and that may not always be beneficial for your business or the client’s. Luckily, I feel we’ve made some great adjustments over the last two years that have helped us more accurately identify the best types of client relationships.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Make lists! I know this doesn’t apply to everyone, but as a business owner, your head needs to be in fifty places at the same time and it becomes VERY easy to start forgetting things. Until you’ve developed protocols and processes for everything (and even after that), keeping lists is a great way to stay on top of all pending tasks, projects and deadlines. I like using Teux Deux, but there is a wide selection of tools available.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Something I am still working to overcome, is allowing myself to be interrupted. Again, as an entrepreneur you have a million things going on at the same time, it’s so important to stick to a schedule you’ve developed yourself instead of letting others control your day. You developed that schedule based on priorities and you should trust yourself that it is the most important thing to accomplish at that time. Something that has helped me overcome my number one distraction/interruption is designating two times a day to check my email – instead of checking it incessantly throughout the day. Another tip I picked up from an entrepreneur on LinkedIn is to view your inbox as a ‘yesterbox’, only committing yourself to get through the emails you received the day before, unless of course urgent matters come up.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

Fighting childhood obesity has been a passion of mine for a while now. I served as Board President on a local childhood obesity program for over five years, and it was nearly traumatizing some of the situations we would see with today’s children. My husband was a personal trainer for the program and together, and with a team of professionals, we addressed the issues that these families were facing and were able to make some really dramatic changes. Hands-on efforts and more support are what children need, while most parents need education. Not just education on what is healthy and what is not, but education on why it is important to take this time now to instill healthy habits in their children, and not wait until it is too late.

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

MailChimp – simple and effective email marketing platform I’ve used. Beautiful interface, recently updated to enhance your experience and your results and so easy to use.

Teux Deux – I mentioned before for a simple and clean to do list.

LinkedIn – great networking tool for connecting with like-minded business people, abundant amount of resources and articles from experts, and an easy way to connect with potential customers and referral sources.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I really enjoyed Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier, the founders of 37signals. It offers you a new and refreshing insight into owning business, what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ with business and ways to instigate success and growth (just the right amount of growth).

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

@FastCompany always has the latest and greatest in creativity,
@SMExaminer for hundreds of social media tips & updates,
@HubSpot for their free business e-books and tools.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

I just went to the Tempe Improv this last weekend and laughed A LOT. I love seeing stand up comedy and I love laughing. It’s a nice break from the stress of everyday business, and always funny when you can relate to their jokes!

Who is your hero, and why? Is it too cheesy to say my husband?

He is an extremely hard worker who very rarely complains and is almost ALWAYS easy going and stress-free. He manages to help others as often as possible, but also puts himself first. I strive to be like that. I’ve got the hard worker and helping others parts down, it’s just a matter of using him as inspiration to maintain the laid back, easy going demeanor and remembering to look out for myself!

Did you see yourself doing what you are doing now, ten years ago?

Yes and no. I didn’t know ten years ago that I would be going into marketing, but I did know that I would own my own business. I’ve been passionate about starting something of my own since before I started college, and I’m happy I found marketing as the passion to pursue.

What would you consider one of your biggest accomplishments?

On top of finding my husband, the most perfect match for me that I could image, I am very proud of the fact that I started my business with Veronica in 2011, when I was only 25 years old.


Karen Cummings on LinkedIn:
Karen Cummings on Twitter: @kcummingsaz