Mark Nelsen from Maximum Promotions presented the rules for starting and running a family business in an incomparable presentation on Tuesday evening.
“That was a failure,” he told those present at the Shipwreck Inn on Brant Lake. “I wanted to be a trial lawyer.”
The group was smaller than he’d hoped, but big enough to accommodate some people he didn’t know. Those he knew shared their experiences with others to help him highlight the points he thought were important to go home.
Nelsen shared a little about his family roots, noting that his mother was a caretaker, and shared one of his early work experiences – selling books door-to-door for five summers during his college years.
He also talked about a success in 2020 when high schools and colleges stopped buying banners – his company’s flagship product – due to the changes forced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Fate played a big role. We should have been broke, but we are not,” said Nelsen.
SD Manufacturing and Technology Solutions (MTS) management consultants helped him streamline his operations and identify a new market, flags and flagpoles, said Don Cuperus, center director in the Sioux Falls office. This enabled Nelsen to do better financially in 2020 than in 2019.
“It [Maximum Promotions] had more trash than he thought, “explained Cuperus.
For Nelsen, the experience was another learning opportunity that didn’t change his commitment to helping others start their own businesses.
“It’s beyond making money,” explained Nelsen. “We have the ability to influence people in ways that most people don’t.”
He stated that he indirectly affiliated with MTS because he had given a presentation 10 years earlier that was not well received by the intended audience. However, one person was impressed and learned about MTS through the relationship that resulted.
“Relationship building is the most important thing I do,” he said. He repeated this point several times during the hour-long presentation.
First he showed a video titled “Mark Nelsen: The Spirit of the American Entrepreneur,” which was filmed 10 years earlier. In the video he makes some points that he used as a stepping stone for his discussion.
In the video, he says, “If you ever want to find out about job security, create your own workplace.” He also says, “You get rejected; it’s part of what you sign up for.” Finally, he notes, “If you look around the world there are problems everywhere, so build to solve problems.”
He spoke about the nation’s problems with social security and national debt. He also discussed the outcome of the last election and described the former president without citing him as an example of a poor loser.
After Nelsen painted this bleak picture, he said, “I think America is worth fighting for.”
For him, entrepreneurship is one way of doing this.
“Entrepreneurship is about problem-solving,” said Nelsen, explaining that anyone can be an entrepreneur regardless of gender, age, religion, skin color, background or education.
“It doesn’t matter who you are. The marketplaces are fair,” he said.
However, to be successful, an entrepreneur must mitigate risks, according to Nelsen.
“Don’t bet on the farm,” he said.
Nelsen emphasized the importance of doing research and not doing business unless the answer to an important question can be in the affirmative: if we lose, I can live with it.
He asked Landon Wittrock of Colman to share his experience of starting a new business. Wittrock is employed, but wanted to open a tree business on the side. When he took his business plan to his banker, his banker said, “You need 25% less.”
Nelsen said it was the banker who mitigated the bank’s risk. When faced with a similar challenge when he started Maximum Promotions, he sold shares in his company. He also started working on developing a relationship with his banker.
“You show them your business plans, start developing a relationship and ask,” How do I do this? “Said Nelsen.
He asked John and Melissa Doogan, who own the Shipwreck Inn, to share their story in order to introduce his next point. John Doogan sells insurance and they run the business together.
Melissa Doogan stated they knew they wanted to own their own business and chose the bar and grill because she had restaurant management experience and the location was good. Both said they invested long hours and made some sacrifices.
“We are fortunate to have a place to invite our friends,” said John, indicating that they had important relationships. “The big thing for us was the people. I think that’s what kept us going.”
Nelsen believes it is important to have a secure income that the family can live on while they start a new business. In his case with his wife Barb, the roles were reversed.
“She had the safe job and I had the risk,” he explained.
Describing entrepreneurship as the game of life with steroids, one decision after another, he said that this energy is useful in some situations but distracting in others. He talked about the importance of listening and learning.
He talked about the importance of not falling into the traps that limit an individual’s ability to become an entrepreneur. Nelsen said that young people fall into these traps mainly because of the news they hear.
“They think they have to get a new house,” he said. “They think they need to get a new car; ‘You deserve a new car.’ And then there are credit cards. All of that take away the ability to take risks. “
Nelsen spoke about the importance of dealing with rejection, learning from mistakes and adapting. He spoke about the importance of goal setting and how to treat employees well. At the end of his talk, he reiterated the importance of building relationships, especially with bankers.
“Entrepreneurship is wonderful, it’s complicated, it hurts,” said Nelsen.