With over 20 years in business for myself, I smile as I look back. I’ve had some painful experiences as all business owners do, but I tried hard to learn something from every failure. And I’ve had many striking successes that reminded me that I was on the right track. MBM Marketing has evolved dramatically since 1999 and I’ve had a great time evolving along with the business.

Before starting MBM, I was working for a major regional bank, and my entrepreneur husband was always telling me, “Stop making money for other people—you can do this yourself.” I had considered that possibility — but a turning point was sharing the idea with my boss at the time. She jumped up, came around her corner office desk and said,

“Hell yes, if anyone can do it you can!”

That was the moment I gained the confidence to act. Up until then, starting a business was just an idea. But I also remember the day I made the commitment to myself. I woke up, stood in front of a mirror and declared, “You can do this. You’re going to do this. You’re going to start your own business.”

Back then, there wasn’t a concept of brand in the direct marketing world. And I thought the advertising world was giving little thought to branding’s effect on ROI. I saw many companies diluting their brands with conflicting messages to their customers. I was passionate about the idea of a single, focused brand voice — and MBM Marketing was born and remains committed to that idea today.

Frankly, I was surprised with my early financial success, and it was just a matter of months until I started bringing on part-time and then full-time employees. MBM went from a real, viable idea to a real, viable, profitable company! And when I signed my first retainer contract in January of 2000 I started the tradition of opening a bottle of champagne to celebrate every new client and milestone. (That tradition still stands, but today I buy much better champagne.)

A new business always faces challenges. One of my first was a call from a furious client who had put his partner in charge of managing our work together – and when she’d spent more than he had approved, he took it out on me.

That taught me to always have the budget approved at the very top.

Another challenge was when I took on a formal partner, which turned out to be stressful financially and emotionally.

I learned to be excruciatingly clear about values, processes and culture — not just goals.

Fast forward to 2019 when I lost that original client – the one I’d worked with for 20 years. I always figured when that client left, I would reassess my business and myself.

So I spent 6 months thinking really hard about what was important to me, what I enjoyed doing and did well, and what clients told me they found most unique and helpful. During this self-indulgent navel gazing, I also looked back at past successes and what provided real value to my clients.

It all boiled down to branding — but not in the traditional ad-agency sense of branding.

It was the foundational MBM Brand Discovery process that not only articulated the authentic brand, but also uncovered challenges and opportunities within the company that the CEO wouldn’t be aware of if we hadn’t done our work.

I got really excited about focusing and refining the MBM brand process to enhance what it revealed for clients. This was going to be the new chapter of MBM and me! So as I have for many years, I turned to my good friend and colleague Kurt Steinbock who’s always been a supportive and truthful sounding board.

Kurt will share his thoughts about this new direction and bring you up to date in Chapter Two of our story.