Q.1 Kindly give our readers an introduction to your business. Please include what your business is all about, in which city you are located and if you have offices in multiple locations/ cities.
Ans: National Shopping Service Network specializes in gathering actionable data businesses use to improve their performance and customer experience. After starting out in 1986 as a regional company in the Denver area, we soon expanded to provide services to a wide variety of businesses across the United States and Canada. In 2017, the administrative office moved to Rapid City, South Dakota, which is located on the eastern slope of the Black Hills.
With increased competition, customer experience is a top priority for many businesses. Social media and online reviews can often make or break a business as well. With the best companies setting high expectations for customers, businesses can use our services to measure their customer experiences and ensure their goals are being met by frontline staff. We provide the data to help businesses reach their goals and, ultimately, improve their profits.
Our solutions range from mystery shopping programs to compliance audits, surveys and data collection. We provide the insight businesses need to learn more about the customer experience or make important business decisions. Some businesses have programs in place to monitor the experience at their place of business and others opt to have our evaluators check for certain compliance issues. In some cases, the programs are used to provide employee incentives to improve employee retention rates. The possibilities are broad, and we customize our programs specifically for each client.
Q.2 Kindly give us a brief description about yourself (it should include your brief educational or entrepreneurial background and list some of your major achievements).
Ans: After working for NSSN in various roles for over 10 years, I took over ownership and management in 2017 after the founders retired. I am honored that the founders were confident in my abilities and asked me to continue what they started.
I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Business and went on to receive my MBA in Strategic Leadership. I am proud to have started at an entry-level position with NSSN and worked my way to the top of this company. As a working owner/manager, I am heavily involved in the day-to-day operations and am happy to perform any task for the business whether it be daily administrative duties or making high-level decisions regarding business operations.
Q.3 What inspired you to (start a new business venture) or (to make significant changes in an existing business)? How did the idea for your business come about?
Ans: After years of experience in the hospitality industry, the founders of NSSN started the company when they recognized a need for businesses to have an unbiased review of service. I started working for the company and quickly developed a passion for helping other businesses improve their performance using the data we deliver.
When I took over the business, the website and reporting platform were dated and in need of upgrades. I got to work right away designing a new website, and I launched a reporting platform that is more modern and offers our clients an enhanced online experience. The reports are in an easy-to-read format and the online portal offers various reports and graphs for our clients to use when analyzing their data.
Q.4 What three pieces of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Ans: First, I would advise that they set up a network of people for assistance. Not necessarily just a network of friends on social media but getting in contact with experts and a support group of people who can help with questions that come up along the way. This could include an attorney, accountant, marketing expert, etc. These people can help point you in the right direction and save you time and stress. Trying to do things on your own to save money can be tempting but usually not worth it in the long run.
Second, do not hesitate to ask lots of questions and do your due diligence before making an important decision. Third, do not to dwell on mistakes or things that did not go as planned. Take them as learning lessons and move on.
Q.5 What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Ans: Communication would be a must-have skill. Whether you are working on sales to potential clients/customers or with your own staff, you need to be able to communicate effectively and professionally in person and through email.
An entrepreneur also should have tenacity. Being successful is about being determined, persistant, and simply not giving up when it gets tough.
I think another important skill is having confidence. Have confidence in yourself and have confidence in your clients and partners too.
Q.6 How many hours do you work a day on average?
Ans: On average, I would say I work about ten hours a day. I believe in getting a job done on time or earlier, and if that requires extra hours of work in a day, I will be in the office until it is done. However, I also believe in taking time off for myself and to spend time with family, so I am always sure to schedule that time into my calendar as well.
Q.7 To what do you most attribute your success?
Ans: I attribute my success to providing the best service to our clients. Client satisfaction is our top priority, and if someone is not satisfied with data we have provided to them, we will make it right without question.
Q.8 How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
Ans: The majority of our clients find us on the internet, so we mainly market online right now. I believe investing in SEO is important. I also use Google Adwords, which has been successful for me. Some corporate memberships are important to us as well and assist in our marketing efforts, such as our A+ rating with the BBB.
Q.9 Where did your organizations funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? How did you obtain investors for your venture?
Ans: I was fortunate in that when I took over the business it had been established for more than 30 years. Therefore, I did not need to obtain investors.
Q.10 What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
Ans: I think long-term success is achieved by building solid relationships with customers, employees, clients, and partners. I believe in treating everyone with respect and always working with integrity.
Q.11 Where you see yourself and your business in 5 – 10 years?
Ans: NSSN is currently at a size where I often take on daily tasks to help keep things moving along and to make sure clients are satisfied. I truly enjoy staying heavily involved in the business in that respect, but in 5 to 10 years, I see the company growing to the point where the percentage of time I spend doing those tasks will shift. The market research industry is growing and evolving, and I see NSSN keeping up with those changes and becoming involved in new types of research projects for our clients. I appreciate growth and change and am excited to find out what the future holds.
Q.12 Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
Ans: I don’t have a specific company that I can name as one I admire most. However, I am impressed and inspired by companies that start small, like in a garage or home basement, and soon become a widely recognized and successful business. I have also always admired CEOs who start at the bottom of a business and work their way up.
Q.13 How important have good employees been to your success?
Ans: Although they are not employees, our independent contractors are invaluable to us, and we would not exist or be successful without them. These are the people across the country who go out and complete the assignments we give to them. Those who are reliable and thorough are instrumental in our ability to provide quality data to our clients.
Q.14 How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
Ans: I think there are a lot of factors that would need to be considered in this type of decision. My answer would vary based on the situation.
Q.15 What motivates you?
Ans: A satisfied client. We work hard to exceed our clients’ expectations, and their satisfaction makes it worth the effort.
Q.16 How do you generate new ideas?
Ans: I often have new ideas come to me during brainstorming sessions and general conversations with my co-workers or networking group. They often have a different perception of a situation and make suggestions that I had not previously thought about.
Q.17 How do you define success?
Ans: To me, success is a feeling of happiness that comes from the satisfaction of knowing that my best effort was put forth to achieve a goal.
Q.18 What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Ans: Aside from things like setting my own schedule and being the one to make important decisions, my favorite aspect is the feeling of pride and excitement from the growth and success of the business.
Q.19 What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Ans: My most satisfying moments are when we complete projects for our clients in advance of our estimated completion date.
Q.20 What kind of culture exists in your organization? How did you establish this tone and why did you institute this particular type of culture?
Ans: We encourage creativity, open communication, and feedback. I think it’s important for everyone to feel a part of the business and that their suggestions and opinions are valued and appreciated.
Q.21 In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.
Q.22 If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
Ans: I worked in various positions for about 20 years prior to owing a business, so if I had to do one thing differently, I would work to own a business sooner in my career. I have found something I love to do, so the opportunity to do that sooner in my life would have been great. However, I also believe everything comes to us at the right time in our life, and I gained valuable experience during my journey to becoming a business owner.
Q.23 What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?
Ans: My greatest fear regarding the business would be going out of business, of course. However, when we fear something, we often let negative thoughts enter our mind, like ‘what if I go out of business’ or ‘what if my client cancels his contract.’ I manage those fears by turning the thoughts around and ask myself something positive instead, such as ‘what if I gain three new clients this month.’
Q.24 What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
Ans: My non-work time is spent with my husband, two kids and four dogs. We are fortunate enough to live in a small city near the Black Hills of South Dakota. There are so many things to see and do here. I love kayaking and hiking in the hills near my home. We also own a UTV that we drive through the many forest service trails. I also enjoy photography and have plenty of beautiful scenery to photograph here in the Black Hills.