Thomas Green Responds To Business Questions

Thomas Green here with Ethical Marketing Service. Today, I would like to go through some questions that have been requested.

The first one is from Marc Bloemers. Marc has asked: Is it possible that businesses, both large and small, exist primarily to make a profit for their owner or the board which controls it and that employment is only a luxury when they require the help at the wages the company can afford to pay? I think it’s possible for many businesses for that to be the case, but if you go into business you get to choose why you’re going into business and what your business is going to be about. There are many businesses created these days which have a particular cause; so they might donate a particular percentage to charity or they have a specific purpose for being in business. There are some companies that have a particular mission. Ethical Marketing Service exists primarily to create jobs and that’s the reason why we’re in business. So, a summary would be that yes, it’s the case that some companies operate that way and it wouldn’t necessarily say it’s right or wrong, but you get to choose. If you want to be in business for that reason that’s fine, and if you want to be in business for a different reason then that’s up to you. You make your business for the reasons or purpose that you choose.

Next question is from Emmy Saab, and Emmy asks: Is it hypocritical to open an e-commerce business if you consider yourself an environmentalist? It’s not hypocritical if you have a business which is environmentally friendly, especially if when every purchase is made, that is a product which has already been recycled, whereas if it was from another company or another store where they had to create that product then that would have a detrimental impact environmentally. The other thing to consider is that if you’re selling something which is required for people to live so, for example, food, your e-commerce business is about food, then the whole point of being an environmentalist is not necessarily for the planet but it’s for the people on the planet. And so, it’s completely necessary for you to sell food because we require food to live. That being said, if you open up a fast fashion store then yes, that would be a bit hypocritical. The flip side of that would be sustainable fashion or perhaps second-hand clothing or something and then that wouldn’t be hypocritical at all. It really depends on what you’re selling. E-commerce, if you’re looking at it from an environmentalist perspective, I wouldn’t say e-commerce is a bad thing. It depends on what it is you’re selling in your store.

Next question is: You already have a meeting with a client at 3:00 pm. Before that at 2:30 pm your high-profile client tells you to go to his office. What will you do? A couple of points to note, the first one being that in these types of scenarios communicating with people is often the best thing that you can do. Speaking to both of them and explaining what situation you’re in can often give you the solution that you’re looking for. If that’s not the case, then as a business owner no-one gets to tell you what to do. If you have your high-profile client and you’re in a position where you have to do everything that they say and you’re not willing to lose that client, then it is the case that you have to rearrange the meeting at 3:00 pm. But as a business owner, you don’t have to do anything that you don’t want to do and people can’t tell you to do anything. They can ask you to do things and if you’re not willing to do that thing then you have to deal with the consequences there. On the one hand, it’s about priorities and on the other hand, it’s about the types of clients that you want to work with. If you don’t want to be told what to do in that way then you wouldn’t have that client in the first place. And the other principle which I would definitely encourage you to adhere to is, you teach people how to treat you. In this instance, the question is phrased as ‘your high-profile client tells you to go to his office’. Well, if you allow someone to do that then they’re going to regularly do that unless they’re paying for that service, then I would encourage them to go through a particular process in order to get access to your time.

Next question is from Alexis Todd, and she asks: How long does it take to build a liveable income solely from your business? There very well may be statistics on this, but the actual answer is however long it takes you to get sales which amount to the income that you need to live on, and in some cases that can be very quick. If you’re very good at making sales then it may not take you very long. If it takes you a long time to build up that client portfolio then that’s how long it takes. Now, I’m unaware of what that timeframe might be for some people, but if you want to improve that or if you’re looking to influence that number then it’s about how good are you at getting the client that’s going to give you that income for your business. So, it’s all about sales and marketing.

Next question is from Jin Kariya, and Jin asks: What are great small business ideas for a young person in Canada? I would answer it’s not necessarily specific to Canada but perhaps anything that would apply to the many people within countries that are watching this. I’ve said before that it’s not necessarily about the business idea but the implementation of the idea. You see many different business ideas all around you and those are the ones which I would consider you to be in. You have to also think about what your strengths and weaknesses are and also how you want to spend your time. Think about the proof of concept, so what are the successful businesses that you could go into? Know that it’s about the implementation, it’s not about the idea. Think about what you would like to do on a daily basis, and there are some principles there, one of which is to follow your effort. What are you interested in? One of which is to follow your passion. What would you do if you didn’t get paid for it at all because that’s just going to be sustainable for you? And then I would leave you with a quote – I can’t remember where I heard it – but the quote is, find something that you love to do and then put your whole heart into it.

Next question is: How does constant innovation create radically successful businesses? I would say that constant innovation improves the probability that you would have a radically successful business but there’s certainly no guarantee that that’s the case. There is something which springs to mind and that is, the people who are first to market tend to do quite well and it’s simply because they got there first. If you are constantly innovating then often it’s the case that you’re going to be there first and what can happen is that people associate your brand with that product or service. An example of that is Coca-Cola. When people are buying coke, they ask for a coke, but there’s a competitor which is Pepsi. People don’t typically ask for a Pepsi even though the product is pretty much the same, and in taste tests, people have preferred Pepsi, but people request a coke because they were the first company in that space. If you’re constantly innovating then you’re looking at how your business will be operated perhaps years from now, attempting to take that progress and instead of it being in the future it’s in the present. And that’s not where most of the competitors operate. Most competitors are following rather than leading and that’s the reason why constant innovation can really help in order to make your business a success.

Next question is from Mary Scott, and she asks: A new coffee shop opens up for business right down the street from a very popular existing coffee shop. What is the best advice you can give for the new coffee shop owner for his business to succeed? In a lot of those types of businesses, whether it be coffee shops or restaurants, in almost all the instances the owners of those businesses don’t really know how many people are going to come in that day, and the reason is because they have a very reactive approach. So, whoever comes in, the footfall is just however much money they’re going to make that day. If you’re competing, especially against an established business and they’re just right down the street from you, really what you need to do is find some way of acquiring your customers’ details. That way, you can communicate with them and tell them why they should be at your shop on a particular day, and then you can do things like events. And each event – it could be a particular holiday, so whether that be Valentine’s theme or Easter theme or beginning of winter or the beginning of summer – you can essentially have a theme for a particular day and communicate with your customers. The summary of it is that you’re not just selling coffee. If you fall into the category of businesses and all they do is they sell coffee and that’s it, then you’re very much susceptible to the whims of whoever is going to come in that day. I would say that you’re far less likely to succeed in using that approach, whereas if you’re doing something different you can communicate with your clients and you’re not just selling coffee. That is a way for you to influence whether or not that shop will be successful or not.

Next question is from Andrew Bieler, and Andrew asks: Is there a multi-level marketing business that I can start at 16 years old? The answer is probably, but I would say should you start an MLM business when you could choose absolutely any business to go into? At the age of 16, you can choose to do absolutely anything in the world. As you get older you will realise that doing something meaningful is very important. Although I don’t know you, Andrew, I am confident in saying that you have the potential to do something much more than just an MLM business. There are many, many problems that need to be solved in the world. Although I don’t have extensive MLM expertise, as I understand it you wouldn’t be contributing much. Also, I think that about 98%, or something like that, maybe it’s 96%, of people that enter MLM businesses don’t end up doing that well from it. What I would do if I was in your position is I’d use the years that you have in your late teens to learn a skill that you can solve a problem for people, whether that be creating a product or providing a service, and then start off as a self-employed person just doing it yourself. And then as you acquire these skills, as you become an expert in that particular profession, then you can think about starting a business where perhaps you can then get other people involved in it and start employing people. Business is about value and my perception is that MLM isn’t providing much value, and I would argue that you have a much better probability of being a success in business doing your own business rather than marketing someone else’s.

Next question is from Keith Lyons, and Keith asks: If there is a global recession starting in 2020 and your self-employed business or small business doesn’t get any more work, how will you cope? I’ll take each part of that question, with the first part referring to a global recession. Whether it’s global or not, it only really matters if it’s a recession where you are or perhaps where your clients are that is going to impact you. I would perhaps strike the global part of that and just say it’s a recession. It is the case that – at least the UK anyway – we are in a recession. There’s a phrase which says that it’s only a recession if it’s a recession for you. So, there are plenty of opportunities still available and although it can be a pretty damaging thing, it’s not damaging for everyone. And so, as long as you know that you at least have the potential of going into a different business using the experience you’ve already got and being just fine.

The next part of the question is about your self-employed business or small business doesn’t get any more work. There are a couple of scenarios there. One, which you have an existing business and it’s possible to operate in that business but you just can’t get sales anymore. If that’s the case, if there’s a business in your industry doing just fine, then I would say that you really need to work on your sales and marketing because if it is possible for other people to do well in business then you can model their behaviour and get their result. The other scenario is if it’s actually not possible in your industry to get work anymore, in which case the only real option you have is by going into a different one or perhaps changing your business to cope with the new environment. An example of that is if you’re a restaurant and you’re not allowed to open; you have to then get on the internet and you have to do takeaways. And it may not be desirable, it may require some tough decisions, but you don’t have a choice so you have to do it.

The last part of the question is, how will you cope? And providing you have resolved to keep your business alive, you have to do anything and everything that you can to keep your business afloat, whether that means adding a new service, going into a different product, educating yourself, making tough decisions, or downsizing, but if you give me a specific example, I’d be happy to answer it

Next question is from Mpho Bosupeng – sorry if I pronounce your name wrong: What do you think of make money gurus whose businesses were funded by their parents? Should they give any business advice? I don’t think where the funds came from is relevant. If you take the extreme example, I think Donald Trump has said many times that his business was started with money from his parents. And whether you like his politics or not, he did have a successful business by most people’s standards. I would probably separate that from the rest of the question. If you view “make money” gurus in the way that I do, I would say the main issue is that they are willing to stretch the truth to the degree that you could call it outright lying. I think in some instances they do provide value, so the last part of that question, I think, is a fairly easy one which is, should they give any business advice? In most instances, even if they’re learning from other people and then regurgitating that advice, it still can be of value. I just think the main issue with people who are doing heavy pitches online and selling ‘how-to’ information is that they don’t tell the truth when they’re pitching their products.

Next question is from Lisa Geddes, who says: I started a self-employed art business a year ago. Recently things have been close to dead. Should I throw in the towel? I don’t think you should throw in the towel Lisa, but if you have expenses and you currently aren’t getting any sales then I definitely think that you should minimise your expenses as much as you can do. The thing to bear in mind about difficult times is that they don’t last forever. There will be a time when things change and people start to have more of an interest in art once again, and you want to be in a stronger position then than you are in now. I would attempt to minimise your expenses as much as you possibly can do and then think about ways that you can be in a stronger position when things start to pick back up again. So, use this downtime to both be better as an individual and also put your business in an advantageous position, so that you can make the most of a recovery. That advice, however, is contingent on the fact that you want to be in the art business. I’m presuming that you do.

Next question is from Asanda Sibobi, who asks: What is that one thing that you are looking for? This is your business and for you personally. If I’m understanding the question properly, I’ve said a couple of times on these videos that the reason why I’m doing what I’m doing is to be proud of myself. When you continue to ask why you’re doing things, so why are you in business, why do you want to do well, basically when it gets right down to it, what I want is to be proud of myself, both regarding the business activity and also how I conduct myself personally. That’s my answer and knowing that that’s the answer regulates all the actions that I take, both in business and also personally.

Next question is: When should I legalise my business? That’s from Sabrina. I think the answer to that question depends on how serious you are and also how likely it is to succeed. I actually don’t think there’s a generalised answer that I can give you that’s going to help, but I can tell you that I was a self-employed individual doing what I do for about a year and a half before it became a limited company. And there are costs associated with incorporating a company, so I would say it’s better to wait a little bit of time to ensure that you’re getting revenue and that you’re trading properly rather than incorporating straight away.

Next question is from James Akinson, who asks: What should I sell for my first e-commerce business? This is quite a subjective one because if you require to be engaged with your product, if you want to be interested in it, and also if you’re in an industry where it’s beneficial to be interested in your product, then that would be a criterion or that would be one criterion that I would say is important. If, however, you’re not remotely interested in what the product is, you just want a highly profitable one or one which has a high margin, then you would look at all the high margin products and that would be the thing that would guide you in what you’re selling. Then you can also consider whether or not you would have a balance between those two. Personally, I think that if you’re going to be in business and potentially you might be in business for decades, then you really want to be interested in what you’re selling. I would look at the things that you’re interested in. I would also look at the proof of concept, so whether other companies are doing well from being in that industry, and then I would merge those two.

Next question is from Missy Lyons, who asks: What type of a small business could a registered nurse start that would be profitable? Being a registered nurse is not something that I know that much about but the immediate thing which springs to mind is a care home. From what I understand from care homes, at least in the UK anyway, the demand exceeds the supply which is exactly where you want to be. There’s going to be some property costs associated with that, so either you need to get creative with financing or perhaps partner with someone who’s willing to do that with you. You probably need some additional qualifications, but it does mean that if you need to use your skills as a nurse to care for people who are in your nursing home then you can do that. The only thing that I would emphasise is that if you are starting a business, you are the business owner, I wouldn’t spend much time doing the job that other people could be employed to do. That being said, I don’t know what your situation is so I’m only really saying what springs to mind for me.

Next question is from Richard, who asks: How can you promote a security guard business to get clients and contracts? Promotion is only really valuable if your potential clients can be found in one place or multiple places. I would think about where it is your potential clients can be found, who is that typical person for you, and that should give you a clue as to where you can find them. If that’s not clear for you, then I would look at examples that you can see where there are security guards, and start looking at the marketing or advertising that that competitor company has been doing and that might start to give you an idea of where they’re finding their customers.

Next question is from Elvis, who asks: Why do you create an app for your business? What are the pros and cons? A con can sometimes be expense because there are some cheaper alternatives but typically you need a developer to create an app. And the reason why you create an app for your business is it’s just another way of staying in touch with that client. You can send notifications to an app and you’re in touch with them, essentially. It would be good if I could get an example of which business you’re in so I could give some specifics, but think of it very much as you have someone’s attention on that app, and that’s valuable if you can communicate with them and that communication ends up in some form of sales for you.

Next question is: Is it okay to go into some debt when starting a business? That’s from Christopher Smith. I would do your best not to go into debt. That’s a personal preference. The next step away from that is if you require, for example, a piece of machinery to do a particular job and you know from purchasing that particular piece of machinery that you’ll be able to generate the revenue which pays off that debt, I would say that’s probably okay. The only time that you would want to go into debt where that’s not relevant, and let’s say you’re borrowing money to advertise, is if you’re extremely good at sales and you’re highly confident that the debt can be repaid from the sales that you can generate. I think people tend to willingly go into debt and business is difficult enough without also paying back a loan or making payments at the same time.

Next question is from Manoj Kumar, who asks: What are these successful evergreen small businesses? In today’s society, I’m not certain that there are evergreen businesses anymore because of constant innovation, but if you want to be safe for the foreseeable future then I would consider some sort of housing maintenance. That might be plumbing, some sort of handy work repair, perhaps window cleaning or lawn maintenance, basically, anything that’s not that easy to innovate at the moment. But I actually think that nothing is free from innovation, so you might also consider doing many of those services to make sure you can diversify.

Next question is from Harish, who asks: I want to open a tax preparation and bookkeeping business. What are some essential things? I am presuming that you have some experience with tax preparation and bookkeeping. The next essential thing for you is going to be the acquisition of clients for your business. If you have the deliverables sorted, meaning the service itself, the essential thing is how you’re going to get your client, and then a lot of the rest of that activity is going to be just general operations of your business. But the essential thing is going to be the revenue. You get revenue from the sales which means you need to get good or you need to have someone who’s very good at getting sales for your business.

Next question is: What do you know about email marketing strategies that people rarely know? That’s from Jerry Joo. One thing which might help is that email marketing is just communication from one person to another, so although you might be sending emails out to thousands of people at a time really, it’s one communication several thousands of times. What I mean by that is that if someone sends me an email, I’m reading that once and it’s from one person or perhaps one business, so really it should talk to me as an individual and not a group. It should be addressed to me and it should say something that I’m interested in because I’m not going to read something that I’m not interested in. So, whilst there is an element of professionalism that’s needed with a business email, I would look at the personal communication that you make with your emails and attempt to recreate that with your business email marketing because people will very quickly switch off with anything that’s not addressed to them, which they’re not interested in, which has corporate-speak and which is not a communication from one person to another.

Next question from Alexis Turner is: How do you find small businesses to design stuff for? I don’t know where to start or how to reach out. I think a lot of businesses aren’t making the most of the reach of social media. Some of them are creating content in order to try and make the most of that reach and what you can do as the designer is look at the person who’s the spokesperson for that company, so in my instance, it would be me, and you can make an animated version of me. And you can say this is what I’ve designed for you, would you like to buy my animation so that you can use it in your social media? They can then make posts for Instagram or Facebook or whatever platform that they’re using, and they don’t have to put images or videos out of themselves because you’ve designed something for them. That is a way that you can use your design skills to help businesses and you’re more likely to get a positive response if you do the work upfront and say look what I’ve designed for you, rather than asking them if it’s something that they want.

Next question from Devin is: Why aren’t more businesses set up like a worker co-op? I think the answer to this question comes around – not necessarily the profit emphasis. I think people are willing to share profits but I think they’re far less likely to want to share losses. More businesses fail than they do succeed. And so, if it were set up like a worker co-op, it means that all of the owners, which would essentially be employees, would be liable for those losses. And so, I actually think that in a lot of cases it’s better to be an employee than it is to be an owner because if that business loses money then the owners of that business, which in this instance would be all the employees, are liable to pay for the losses of that company. And that is why there is a structure of owners and employees.

Next question is from Sadia, who says: As a small business owner, what do you think of social media marketing? I think that a lot of small businesses have tried social media marketing and have decided that it doesn’t work for them. But it’s really important to ask the question, are there any examples of people making social media marketing work in your industry? Because if that’s the case, if there are examples, then it means that it’s not social media itself, it’s how you’ve gone about using it. And so, much in the way that perhaps you as a skilled small business owner, there are people who have attempted to go into your business but haven’t been able to because they don’t have the skills, whereas you do have the skills. It’s the way you do something, not necessarily the thing itself.

I hope that’s been of value to you. If you have any questions for me, feel free to put them in the comments. And if you need help with your digital marketing, visit us at and I’ll speak to you soon.