Question : 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.
Answer : Federal regulations for air pollutants to protect public health grow ever more stringent. Particulate matter (PM), or “soot” as it is more commonly known, strongly correlates with asthma incidence in urban neighborhoods located in close proximity to major roadways. This sets the stage for the critical role that EnerBurn®, a diesel fuel combustion catalyst, plays in enabling asset-based companies engaged in road, marine and rail transport operations, as well as mining and construction companies to meet targeted reductions in exhaust emissions including PM. EnerBurn® is a diesel fuel treatment that improves the thermal efficiency of diesel engines by 5-12%, thereby reducing the exhaust PM emissions by 50 – 70%. This has tangible operational benefits for diesel fleets and translates to 300 – 500% ROI for fleet wide implementation of the EnerBurn®. JKG Fuel Solutions is a national distributor for EnerBurn®. Orders for EnerBurn can be placed by phone by calling Jane at (612) 209-3079 or on-line at the website: www.betterdiesel.com. EnerBurn can be purchased at retail service centers in California. For more information Call 1+ 855-501-1005 and ask for Britt.
Question : Kindly give us a brief description about yourself (it should include your brief educational or entrepreneurial background and list some of your major achievements).
Answer : My father built his own company after returning from the service in WWII; he defined to me the word “entrepreneur” when I ask him what it meant as someone who was willing to risk everything they had to make a go of building a successful business. I was in 5th grade at the time, and the memory remains clear to this day. My father passed away last year at age 90 years. He inspired me to go straight into graduate school after finishing my B.S. degree in Environmental Science & Engineering, rather than take a job “straight out of college”. The next 6 years were a tremendous training ground for nurturing many of the same skills necessary to be successful as a business owner, chief among them what some folks call “stick-to-it-tiveness”. Many challenges were encountered along the way that helped hone my skills in creative resourcefulness, self-reliance, setting reasonable goals and achieving them, and calling on others for a helping hand when needed, i.e., “working smarter through teams”. A major achievement was earning my doctorate degree in Chemistry and enjoying career advancement within the R&D divisions for 3 fortune 100 companies over the next 20 years. My most significant lifetime achievement is in following in my father’s footsteps to found, nurture, and grow my entrepreneurial start-up company JKG Fuel Solutions.
Question : 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?
Answer : I wanted to be more in control of my life and financial future. I also wanted very much to spend more time at home or traveling with family and to invest more in friendships and fellowship. Being an entrepreneur facilitates all of that and I love it. The inspiration for this business was not a sudden thing. Rather, it evolved over the course of a few years and was inspired by events along the way that forced me to think more about becoming an independent business owner.
Question : What three pieces of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Answer : 1) choose to do something you love, 2) build business relationships based on trust first, contracts second, 3) be quick to identify unethical operators and do not rationalize continuing to work with them; they will not change and will only cause you more problems down the road.
Question : What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Answer : 1) document everything, 2) keep everything you document organized so you can easily access it later, 3) keep a good computer back-up & IT service plan in place.
Question : How many hours do you work a day on average?
Answer : 10 hours inc. weekends.
Question : To what do you most attribute your success?
Answer : “time in the saddle” (development of expertise – I think it is fair to say that I have put in my 10,000 hours)
Question : What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
Answer : building sound joint ventures and business partnerships around a great, high proposition product or service.
Question : Where do you see yourself and your business in 5 – 10 years?
Answer : in either an executive or ownership role of a much larger company and looking forward to retirement.
Question : Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
Answer : Summit Brewing Company of Saint Paul, MN
Question : What impact do good employees have on success?
Answer : I do not have employees.
Question : How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
Answer : Probably too long; I am tenacious by nature.
Question : What motivates you?
Answer : I like challenges and I like being “an original”. My business model, while it offers a strong “value-added” proposition to the targeted market is still relatively unknown by them and this is definitely a challenge. For some reason this appeals to me; I have no interest in being a field already crowded with competitors.
Question : What are your ideals?
Answer : Integrity & honesty.
Question : How do you generate new ideas?
Answer : By talking with my clients to get their feedback, also by reading inspirational articles (usually internet based while “on the fly”), and by introspection and by brain-storming with colleagues.
Question : How do you define success?
Answer : Getting over-the-top excellent feedback from happy customers.
Question : How do you build a successful customer base?
Answer : Marketing, marketing, marketing….providing excellent customer service and showing that you care.
Question : What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Answer : Freedom from a fixed 40+ hour per week schedule and employee performance evaluations.
Question : What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Answer : Gaining that first critical step towards achieving financial independence,…positive cash flow!
Question : What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
Answer : Entrepreneurs don’t take direction from others very well which limits their success as employees; successful employees are just the opposite – they don’t think twice about being told what to do, they just do it and do it fast, efficiently, and with a “can-do” attitude.
Question : What kind of culture exists in your organization? How did you establish this tone and why did you institute this particular type of culture?
Answer : Truth reigns supreme. Especially when it comes to claims of product performance. My background as a scientist sets a very high standard for product performance evaluations and I know that my clients expect no less than I do. This is doubly important in the fuel additives industry as it counters a long-standing reputation, and well-deserved one at that, that the vast majority of products made by fuel additives suppliers do not live up to their claims.
Question : In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.
Answer : passionate
Question : If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
Answer : I have no idea. I have learned so much at every stage of my career and it has all been extremely valuable.
Question : How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?
Answer : In a very positive and healthful way; I am closer to my family and have stronger relationships than ever.
Question : What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?
Answer : My greatest fear is too much debt. I managed it by avoiding loans and lenders. Rather, I self-funded the start-up phases of my business.
Question : How did you decide on the location for your business?
Answer : My business is not location dependent because diesel engines are used practically everywhere. My company has recently expanded into California to build a retail chain of suppliers there. California air pollution regulations are the most stringent in the country – so the customer-driven need for EnerBurn® is more acute for companies based there.
Question : Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
Answer : Yes. For a business that is based on a product or a service I believe the formula consists of a mix of: 1) market timing, 2) a good value-add proposition, 3) a solution to a problem or a need that is experienced by at least 2 million prospective clients, 4) good working relationships with key stake holders, 5) patience, 6) a steady stream of funding, 7) a solid marketing plan, and 7) a commitment to work hard.
Question : If you could talk to one person from history, who would it be and why?
Answer : President Harry Truman. He lived his entire life to the highest standards of ethics, kindness, humility, and a commitment to self-improvement. He was dedicated and worked hard to succeed at every stage of his life and at every opportunity that presented itself. Mr. Truman was known to get along with just about everyone, even at a early age. Harry Truman lived through and was part of some of the most dramatic changes in modern society and he always rose to the challenges. His quiet strength of character and innate intelligence were noticed by other figures of authority and he was given even more responsibility and even more challenging roles. There is no hint of evil intent or ambiguity to Mr. Truman’s character, and an overblown ego was completely absent. Mr. Truman set the gold standard of a life lived by a code of resolute goodness vaulted by an unfailing intellect, positive good will towards others, and an incredible work ethic. I would loved to have had him as a mentor.
Question : Who has been your greatest inspiration?
Answer : My step-son who overcame so many challenges as a child, adolescent, and teen-ager to become a completely open, positive, down-to-earth, values-driven artist who loves his life, friends, family, and his work.
Question : What book has inspired you the most? (OR what is your favorite book?)
Answer : a biography of Amelia Earhart that I read in grade school.
Question : What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made?
Answer : Not trusting my gut when I perceive that there is something wrong, usually as it pertains to a business partnership of some sort. I have often made the mistake of thinking I could fix or alter a bad situation by sticking with it. I have since learned that walking away from a bad situation needs also to be considered as a viable option. I wise person advised me once that “sometimes the best response is no response”…this is also a good thing to keep in mind as an option when dealing with difficult situations or people.
Question : How can you prevent mistakes or do damage control?
Answer : I try to work out a “Plan A” but also a contingency “Plan B” and possibly even a “Plan C”. With clear goals in mind and careful planning and forethought I manage to keep my mistakes to a minimum. When I do make a mistake or mis-step, I immediately apologize and try to set things right. A key to not making mistakes is 1) listening for when there is no upfront agreement by others, and 2) not moving forward based on unspoken assumptions.
In business, a clear agreement between parties needs to be in place from the outset. I also try to remain as self-reliant as possible. As the old saying goes, “if you want something done right you have to do it yourself.” Said another way, I am responsible for my own success; it cannot be assigned to others.
Question : What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
Answer : Reading, cooking, trail walking, swimming, and socializing with friends & family.
Question : What makes you happy?
Answer : my cat Oscar, spending time in the company of good friends and loving members of my family, good health, a great relationship with my husband of 18 years, and cash reserves in my bank account.
Question : What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?
Answer : free weekends, spending on luxuries, personal travel and entertainment, the prospect of a less secure retirement.
Question : If you were conducting this interview, what question would you ask?
Answer : How many years/months did it take for you to become successful? How many years/months did you expect or plan for it to take?