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  • Want to Start Your Own Business? Just Pick Up a Shovel

    People ask me all the time, “What’s the secret to running your own business, Judy?”

    Well, some of it has to do with luck. A little over 30 years ago, I decided to start a small company in an industry where (countless) others have failed. And today that idea has grown into a successful, million-dollar venture. Of course, it’s not just luck that got me to my fourth decade — it’s taken a lot of hard work, sleepless nights, weekend shifts, etc. And it has taken faith, and lots of it: often, in fact, when I think I can’t go on, or don’t want to, and am ready to give up, I find a little inspiration, something to believe in, and I don’t give up. Maybe that’s the secret: Never give up! Ever.

    Direct mail was crowned king by companies
    wanting an affordable way to do marketing.

    During the early years, there were so many companies doing what we did, and we were successful despite ourselves. Most of the work we did was pretty basic: put ink on paper, get it into the mail stream, send an invoice, get paid, and that was that. Those were the good ol’ days, when companies mailed thousands and even millions of pieces of mail. It was the trend. There was so much work available, and companies were not as cost-minded then. The rules in place to prepare mail weren’t very technical, and paper costs were low, while the cost of buying print ads in newspapers was very pricey. So direct mail was crowned king among companies who wanted an affordable way to advertise and do marketing.

    Our luck changed as the economy changed, and the government made new rules that affected the ways small businesses could hire workers and paid taxes, etc. Other opportunities to make money appeared, like buying your building and other real estate, but I never did that. In fact, I’d bet I have paid landlords millions of dollars over the years; I have moved 9 times, at least! On the other hand, my landlords have been a blessing for me, when I needed them, and I have friends who went out of business because they could no longer afford their buildings. So maybe I was lucky after all!

    One thing that has never changed
    is the need for hard work.

    One thing that has never changed is the need for hard work. At one time, I was farming out all my business to direct-mail companies and just selling product. But that wasn’t enough for me. When a mailing took more time to complete than I anticipated, or if an error occurred on their end, it drove me nuts. I knew I could do better, and I did by educating my own workforce and surrounding myself with team members who cared about our clients and our products. To my clients, many of whom were and still are nonprofits, getting the messages out on time and correctly is the key to success. The desire for doing something I can do, and doing it well, or even better, has helped enormously to keep me in business for 30 years. My customers wanted great service — such as understanding all the nuances of working with postal regulations and print needs — and they needed a company like mine that took pride in being the most up-to-date and educated vendor around.

    Finally, in addition to luck and hard work, I’d add that it took guts. It wasn’t an easy decision to move from selling product to choosing to run my own full-service company. In fact, it was extremely risky. But it just made more sense, and it was worth it. I could control the workflow and the final product and the outcome — and the income.

    In other words — and this is the most honest answer to the question I get asked time and again — if you want to run your own business, you must believe that you can move mountains, even if you only have a shovel. Thirty years ago, I grabbed a shovel and started moving dirt. And I kept going until I had a mountain piled in front of me.

    Judith E. (“Judy”) Antisdel is Founder and President of AT Direct in Baltimore, Md. She has earned professional designations ranging from US Postal Service Non Profit Specialist to US Postal Service Mail Manager. She is a frequent guest speaker at symposia and workshops offered by the federal government and various non-profit organizations. Connect with Judy on LinkedIn and find more info at her website.

    Things you’ll find at AT Direct Mail Marketing: “direct marketing” “direct mail” “direct response marketing” “direct response” “response marketing” “direct response ad” “direct response advertising” “mailing campaign” “mailer marketing” “direct response media” “direct response ads” “what is direct response” “direct marketing agency” “direct response copywriting” “direct marketers” “direct marketing firm” “direct marketing channel” “campaign direct mail” “direct mail solicitation”