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“If You’re In A Service Business, Always Have A Tangible Product You Can Sell Too” Words of Wisdom With Nancy A. Shenker

“If you’re in a service business, always have a tangible product you can sell too. Time is a finite commodity, which needs to be supplemented with a source of passive revenue.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Nancy A. Shenker, founder of theONswitch marketing, writer, and professional speaker. She has had a colorful career that spans four decades and her many titles have included Founder, Marketer, C-Level Executive, Entrepreneur, Tech Guru, and Timeless BadAss and Rule-Breaker (in order to innovate and grow companies — both small and large).

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

I have always had a right/left brain balance. After a near-miss with law school, I accidentally stumbled into a marketing career and the rest is history. I started my own business in 2003 after years of working in marketing roles at big brand companies. I’ve written four books and am now a regular contributor to and am on the “speaker circuit” at national conferences.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company.

Some of the best and biggest clients I’ve worked with over the years have been as a result of random connections — bashert as my mother would say. (She would be happy that I managed to squeeze some Yiddish into an interview.)

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I am all about coming up with creative new solutions to big challenges. For example, one of my clients has a pickle brand. I was able to get him major media exposure by coming up with unique recipes — in this case, peanut butter on a pickle — tasted a lot like Szechuan (sp?) noodles. I am also super-proficient in various technologies and I combine them with basic common sense and business wisdom. Taking complex concepts and distilling them into easy-to-understand and compelling stories has always been my “superpower.”

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Three people come to mind. Loren Smith was the head of marketing at Citibank. When I was coming back from maternity leave, he gave me a big job as his Chief of Staff, which was a tipping point in my corporate career. He was a great role model for breaking rules to innovate. Jim D’Arcangelo exposed me to the world of SaaS and gave me an opportunity to use my writing skills to drive leads (and be able to track the impact). Last, Nicki Pomije, who was my first and best friend in Minneapolis and has renewed my faith in PR people.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I now have the bandwidth to sit on a non-profit board (Tuesdays Children), which helps families of people who have died suddenly due to mass random violence. I also raised two amazing daughters who are way smarter and cooler than I’ll ever be.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I launched my Start-Up” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. It’s a constant roller coaster. The recession basically wiped out my early success (and then some) and cost me personal relationships as well. On the bright side, you can come back from disaster. You just need to be focused, learn from mistakes, and surround yourself with the right talent.
  2. If you’re in a service business, always have a tangible product you can sell too. Time is a finite commodity, which needs to be supplemented with a source of passive revenue.
  3. Choose the people you trust VERY carefully and cut ties with toxic people. When you run your own business, your “inner circle” is very important. That’s all I’ll say about that.
  4. Don’t ever ignore self-care. If you’re anxious, sick (mentally or physically), or otherwise in bad shape you won’t be effective in your business. In the early days of my business, I put myself last in the queue after clients, team, and family. No more. I’m healthier, happier, and more balanced overall.
  5. Keep overhead to an absolute minimum. Office space and equipment are good for the ego, but bad for the bottom line. I now work out of a co-working space and love not having the headache of “stuff.”

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this.

I would love to eat a meal or have a cocktail with David Byrne or Steve Tyler or or Betty White (or all of them). I love people who are creative and have “reinvented” themselves to appeal to all generations.

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