On this episode Josh speaks with Fabi Preslar, author of “Fabulous F Words of Business Ownership”. They discuss several of the words including “Failure”!
Fabi Preslar is the owner and president of SPARK Publications, a national, award-winning, custom design firm specializing in niche magazines and independently published books.
Her firm’s publications enhance credibility and distinction – enabling individuals and organizations to thrive and excel.
Preslar was named 2017 Woman Business Owner of the Year by the National Association of Women Business Owners – Charlotte Chapter, and the firm was honored as the 2018 First-Generation Family Business of the Year by the Charlotte Business Journal.
In today’s episode you’ll learn:
- What about fear is something we should pay attention to?
- Is there an option to fail on a way to success?
- What is a difference between profit and cash?
- How to stay focused while gathering knowledge?
- How to write and independently publish a book?
Narrator: Welcome to The Sustainable Business Radio Show podcast where you’ll learn not only how to create a sustainable business but you’ll also learn the secrets of creating extraordinary value within your business and your life. In The Sustainable Business, we focus on what it’s going to take for you to take your successful business and make it economically and personally successful. Your host, Josh Patrick, is going to help us through finding great thought leaders as well as providing insights he’s learned through his 40 years of owning, running, planning and thinking about what it takes to make a successful business sustainable.
Josh: Hey, how are you today? This is Josh Patrick. You’re at The Sustainable Business podcast. Thanks a lot for stopping by today.
Our guest today is Fabi Preslar. She is the CEO of SPARK Publications. She has a new book out which has a really interesting title, so we’re going to let her tell you what it is and what it’s all about. We’re going to spend the next 23 minutes or so talking about that new book.
So, Fabi, thanks a lot for joining us.
Fabi: Thank you, Josh, and good morning. The book is called Fabulous F Words of Business Ownership: Redefining Choice Words to Help Fuel Your Small Business.
Josh: When you say “Fabulous F Words” I know one word that comes to mind immediately.
Josh: And I’m assuming it’s not that word.
Fabi: It’s not that word because business owners use that word just whenever they need to and it comes out as just in the most opportune times. We’re talking about all the other F words such as fear, failure, fog, focus, so all the really good f words.
Josh: Let’s start off with fear because I find that one of the more interesting words that people use in business, especially when it comes time to start learning how to become operationally irrelevant and learn how to delegate.
Josh: What about fear is something we should pay attention to?
Fabi: Well, first of all, you’re going to have it. It’s just apparently a fact of life. And what I’ve learned is that it’s just really, just to get a little bit more comfortable with my fear because it tells you a lot. I mean, it lets you know where your doubts are, your insecurities. And also, the things that you don’t know as well as you feel like you need to, to take the next step.
I’ve learned to kind of re‑define fear in a way of being able to work with it better. But, it’s there. It’s got some issues with trust, especially when you’re talking about moving into the next sustainable phases of your business. It is all encompassing at times.
Josh: So, which sustainable phase of your business are you referring to?
Fabi: You had just mentioned, from CEO, and kind of stepping back a little bit, and having employees that are running things more from day-to-day – from the operational side. I am there. I’ve taken a lot of twisted side roads to get there. I started my business from home, as a solopreneur. And then, grew it without a lot of the skills that were needed and made a lot of mistakes.
Josh: What was your biggest challenge in overcoming fear yourself?
Fabi: I don’t know that I’ve completely overcome it. It’s just one of those things that I’ve really learned to make a little bit more peace with. I, by nature, have a lot of self-doubt. And I have limited knowledge in so many things that I throw myself into, so the fear, sometimes, just start showing me that there’s new things that I need to learn about which then takes you into failure, which I’d love to talk about that a little bit as well.
Josh: Yeah. Let’s talk about failure because I actually don’t think we fail, I think we make mistakes but we don’t fail.
Fabi: Well, I see it as failure but I’m not a failure. And that was a really big jump for me to actually realize, is that– yeah, some of those mistakes just are learning tools. And, sometimes, they’re tools to help us realize it’s just not the right time. So, because it is an of word, I still call it a failure. Sometimes, you have mistakes and then the really big mistakes I see as failures. But, again, it’s in redefining that.
A cool story about that is that when I first started this business, 20 years ago, I had the motto, “No option to fail,” which was the worst thing I could ever do. I would get people to say, “You go, girl. That’s the right attitude” and it really wasn’t. I think the right attitude is actually going, “You know what, you’re going to fail at least 10 times before your business succeeds.” I don’t know. I think that’s a healthier way to look at things.
The small business owners that I mentor now, I let them know that failure’s all about pushing your boundaries. And it’s all about trying things that you didn’t know you could do or that you had all the information to do, so not every try and innovation is going to be a win. But yeah, huge mistakes and failures.
Josh: Yeah. I guess, I’m going to have to push back on failure because in my world, failure means you go bankrupt or you have to close your business.
Fabi: And sometimes that happens [laughs].
Josh: Well, it does happen. And that would be a–
I mean, when I look at my business career. And I’ve been doing this for about 40 years now so I’m really old. But my first business, I almost went into bankruptcy about four times. We were right on the precipice many times. Had we gone over, that would’ve been a failure because the business would’ve failed. But every single time, I learned a ton by the things we had to do to correct our problem. And I learned there are so many more things that you can do as a business owner to protect yourself that you really don’t think is possible until you’re forced to do it.
Josh: For example, we flat out ran out of cash. Bank wouldn’t loan me any more money. My suppliers were all driving me crazy. We were 90 days overdue with literally every supplier we had. And I was thinking that I was going to have to close my doors. But before I did that, I went back to all my major suppliers that we owed hundreds of thousands of dollars to and I re-negotiated our deal where we termed out what we owed them, went on COD, and we eventually dug ourself out of that hole.
Now, nowhere, in any business literature, have I ever seen, “This is how you avoid bankruptcy.”
Josh: And I’m going to tell you that it happens a lot more than anybody ever thinks. We just don’t talk about it because we’re embarrassed.
Fabi: Exactly. And that’s the purpose of the book on that level about redefining those kind of thing.
Exactly what you just said. I mean, I had– I called it my big face punch year. It was a year of disappearing cash, clients, and employees. I could’ve easily gone down that road. But I had to change my mindset. I had to tap into that equity line. Get loans. I mean, it’s just what you do if you want the business to succeed. But I never saw that as a failure year. I was just failing in areas of that, making some big mistakes.
Josh: So what kind of big mistakes were you making? Because I find that we learn more from mistakes– in fact, I can tell you, for a fact, we never learn by doing it right but we do learn a lot when we do it wrong.
Fabi: Yeah, and I’m on that course, full speed ahead [laughs].
Josh: So what kind of mistakes were you making?
Fabi: We had a division in the company that was my favorite one. At the time, it was our book division. And it wasn’t profitable. We had some amazing clients. And we were doing really great award-winning work, and the clients were getting great success with it. And I was looking at my profit and loss statements and realized that, “You know what, this is just– we just work too hard to do that” and decided – without consulting with my CPA, that I needed to just not promote that division anymore and just kind of shut it down.
Well, what I didn’t realize is that was our spring cash flow. And so, I completely cut off our spring cashflow. And then, we lost a major client. And, as the year went on a little bit, I had made the decision to let go of some clients that were not kind. The money was good but it’s like the entire staff just dreaded coming into work. And so, I let those go.
It was just some bad mistakes of cleaning house. And just as we cleaned house, then there were some mergers and acquisitions with some of our larger clients. It just felt like everything had went away.
And then, after finally sitting down with my CPA – who is actually our outsourced CFO, and really was looking over everything. He goes, “You realize that was your spring cashflow?” And I was like, “Well, I do now.” And so, I just started rebuilding that.
And that is actually a really strong division for us now because I’ve re-worked the operations end of it, the productions end of it. And now, it’s not the most profitable part of our company but it’s one of those what we just truly enjoy, get a lot of great recognition for, and are finally doing okay with it. So just making decisions without the right help sometimes is a big mistake.
Josh: Well, you actually just touched on one of my obsessions with private business.
Fabi: Okay, yeah.
Josh: Which is the difference between profit and cash.
Fabi: Oh, yeah.
Josh: And here’s one of the things I’ve always said is that public corporations run on profit. For them, that’s important. Private corporations run on cash and profit’s not nearly as important but cashflow is.
Fabi: It’s king. Cash is king.
Josh: Yes. One of my stupid sayings back when I had my vending company was, “Happiness is positive cashflow” because we often didn’t have it.
Josh: So, I would often be grumpy because I didn’t know how we were going to pay bills.
Fabi: That’s a scary thing.
Josh: It is scary. Well, it’s sort of fear. And as much as it was fear. And it was kind of crippling until you actually start taking action. The way I have found to get out of fear is do something – anything. It doesn’t matter what you do, just do something. Tony Robbins has a great definition of fear. He calls fear – False Evidence Appearing Real. The truth is, an awful lot, I think that’s true.
Fabi: Yeah. I mean, especially when you get really good and creative and justify the fear.
Josh: I mean, we always– yeah, we talk about a lot. I don’t know if this makes any sense with your fear and cashflow is that, there’s four types of cash we need to create in a business. The four types is enough for the owner, an emergency fund – so when you have that cashflow crisis you have something to fall back on, money to fully fund innovation and marketing, and money to fully fund a retirement plan because your business does not likely get you to retirement by itself.
Josh: And the one area I see business owners are really falling down on is, they know they need to do three, but that emergency fund, they never even think about, much less establish.
Fabi: Well, that’s the one that I’m building up first, above all those others. It’s just–
Josh: Well, that’s a good thing.
You know, Bill Gates, when he started Microsoft, was paranoid about running out of cash. And he thought- and Microsoft still runs this way, by the way, that they needed a year’s worth of operating expenses in the bank.
Fabi: I have heard that and I’ve actually shared that with folks that are coming out of corporate-that want to just launch into their small business, that’s the first question I ask them. “So, do you have enough operating and your own payroll cash in the bank for 18 months?” because everything changes after that first year.
Fabi: And when they come and say, “There’s no way to do that.” I said, “Well, just imagine what it would be like to be out of cash, nothing to pay your bills with, and you just thought all that money was going to come in.” I said, “It doesn’t.” That first year and a half are brutal.
Josh: Yeah. Well, that’s why- I have this theory about family business, in that, the second generation business always has a tougher time, in some respects, than the first generation. The first generation’s really tough, which is where you are, which is establishing the business.
And to make a business work, you have to be pretty tough and the folks who are–
Fabi: Or get there.
Josh: Yeah, are pretty tough. –tend to take that pretty toughness. And this is more a male thing than a woman thing – men and women thing, into their homes and they abuse their children because they’re very tough. And they don’t really stand for a lot of mistakes – from anybody, anywhere, anyhow. And when the kids finally get a chance to run the business, they don’t want to hear it from anybody, so that’s their challenge. But it’s an interesting thing, I think, that’s going on.
So, tell me about another f you have in your F book.
Fabi: So, I find that along with that with forage. Foraging is like that gathering of knowledge and information. I find that I was guilty of this. And I see a lot of business owners and entrepreneurs do this. We gather and gather knowledge. We go to every conference and lunch and learn and everything that we can.
And then, at some point, you have to stop becoming an information addict and connection junky. And to succeed in our businesses, we’ve got to focus on at least that one direction, at least that one product or service that we can get that up and launched and strong, and bringing cash flow and be profitable before we start creating 42 other things, which is actually the funnest part of the business, but I see it sink a lot of people.
Josh: Yeah. I call it the best result for the least amount of effort. Or, in my case, I’m really lazy and I hate doing hard things.
Fabi: Yeah. So you get innovative and do stuff. You know, that’s how we’ve done a lot of our automation is just because of sheer laziness or not wanting to invest in additional staff, so you automate better.
Josh: Fabi, talk to me a little bit about your business because I actually find your business kind of interesting.
Fabi: Okay. Well, SPARK Publications is a creative firm. We specialize in publication design and independent publishing for our clients like large national associations, independent trades. Then, we design and produce their member magazines or their trade magazines.
And then, the other part of that is the custom and independently-published books. And those are all done with a purpose. So, they have to fuel a platform or fuel your business. We don’t take on too much fiction, although we have taken on three and they did really well because they were building a platform for that particular topic or book.
So, it’s all really creative long-form design is that what we’re doing. And we’ve also translated that now into interactive microsites. It’s all telling stories in a beautiful, visual way.
Josh: Oh, interesting.
Do you act as a full publisher or are you what they call a hybrid publisher?
Fabi: We are an independent publisher which acts like a hybrid. But we don’t collect royalties. I’ve set up our firm to be 100% royalty-free, so it’s 100% work-for-hire. We design and produce. We consult on the initial manuscript to make sure that it will be marketable to the audience. Then, we do all of the editing, the writing and designing for different clients, so it’s very customized.
Some of our clients come in with a fairly good manuscript. And then, we help them take it to the next level. I’ve got other clients that come in and they’re like, “I know I need to write a book but I do not have time,” so, depending on their budget, depending on the type of editorial assistance that we can help him with there.
But the designing for marketability, the covers that we create and the inside – the interior pages are all very much created with the purpose that our clients need to put out there. And then, comes the marketing and the promotion and consulting on the distribution.
So yeah, if I brought in a ton more of accounting folks, we could probably do the whole royalty thing. But I’m just so not interested in doing that at this point. And being a business owner and I would say recovery and control freak, but I don’t know that I ever will. You know, that’s who we work with. We work with those that want to be 100% owners of their intellectual property. And so, we set it up just like a full-service publishing house but they own the whole book.
Josh: So, if somebody comes to you and says, “I want you to do a book. I’ve written it. I would like you to help me design and market.” What’s the fee that they can expect to pay?
Fabi: Our entry fee starts at about $5000 to $6000. We find that most of them hit that sweet spot about $6000 to $8000. It just depends on the level of illustrations, or photography, or additional design services that they need within there. And then, depending on whether they want to traditionally print – they’re going print on demand, they’re e-books, they’re audio books, it just– that becomes additional on that end. But usually, from that $6000 to $8000 is typically what we find.
Josh: And somebody who needs help in writing the book, I am assuming that’s another $15,000 or $20,000?
Fabi: It could be less. It depends on how good of information you already have.
We find that sometimes that could be within $3000 to $5000 in order to work with the structural editor Those that do want complete ghostwriting services – those do start probably about $10,000 to $15,000. Again, depending on the length of the book, the amount of information resources you already have and how focused you are. We have found that some clients with less focus, well, it costs a lot more.
Josh: That would make sense.
Josh: I found that writing a book, compared to marketing a book, was a piece of cake.
Fabi: Oh, yeah. And I don’t think either one of them’s ever easy.
I just wrote this book and I’m not a writer. I mean, by trade, I’m a graphic designer and that’s 35 years ago. Writing was the exact same process we put our clients through. So, working with a structural editor. I mean, I re-wrote the book six times. Not all of our clients do that. But, again, I’m not a good writer. I’m a good storyteller and not a good structural writer, so I had a lot of help with that. So, I had a structural editor, and a copy editor, and a proofreader.
Josh: Cool. I had the same when I wrote my book.
Josh: Yeah, in fact–
Fabi: That’s what it takes.
Josh: Well, what I learned writing the book is I’m okay with what I want to write about and how I want to write about. But I’ve never been trained in story structure.
Josh: And what my content editor or I call her my book coach was but she really taught me about story structure and how to create a story with the hero’s journey and to go from a terrible place, and that you find the hero which guides you, and you go through this process. And, at the end, there’s an epiphany. That’s a formula that just is basically in every good book.
Fabi: And movie.
Josh: Right. Well, especially movies.
Josh: It’s way more true in movies. I don’t know if you’re a fan of Donald Miller but I’m a–
Josh: –a huge fan of Donald Miller and his methodology for Storybrand and storytelling. If you want to write, I think that’s a great place to start is reading his book, by the way.
Fabi: I think so, too.
Josh: Fabi, we’re almost out of time today.
Josh: Your book sounds really interesting. So, how–
Fabi: I think it’s going to be backwards if we do it, but there we go.
Josh: Nope, nope. It’s actually coming up the right way.
Fabi: Oh, good.
Josh: The Fabulous F Words.
By the way, that is a great title for a book.
Fabi: Well, you know, I came into this world as in F word, so I have the right to do it, so [laughs].
Josh: Yeah. That’s absolutely true.
So, Fabi, how do people find you?
Fabi: Currently, at fabipreslar.com, so F-A-B-I-P-R-E-S-L-A-R.com. And, from there, you can hire me for consulting, or speaking, or buy the book.
Josh: Is the book on Amazon – all the usual places?
Fabi: It is. Through mid-November, I’ve got them going through my website so I can custom sign for everybody.
Josh: Oh, cool.
Fabi: And then, after that I’m just doing it print-on-demand through Amazon.
Fabi: We’re just having some fun with it, just had a big launch party on Friday. And that was great.
Josh: Oh, nice. Congratulations on getting your book out.
Fabi: Thank you.
Josh: I can tell you that it’s a really big deal. I mean, having gone through the process myself, I have a tremendous amount of respect for anybody that puts a book out.
Fabi: Well, it’s just an added thing that I can now share, again. This is my second book that I can actually share all of the good, bad and the ugly with our clients as we help them independently publish their books. And that’s through SPARKpublications.com.
I also have a book. It’s called Sustainable: A Fable About Creating a Personally and Economically Sustainable Business. It’s a novel. You can get it at Amazon. It’s in print or Kindle version, depending on which one you like to read. But if you happen to go to my book website, sustainablethebook.com, you get a free 20-minute coaching session with me where I guarantee you get at least one good take home idea that you can use. And I wrote a 37-page cheat sheet e-book on how to implement all of the stuff that we talk about in Sustainable because it is a novel and we’re telling a story, not a how-to. And as my sister said, “I hate how-to books. I never finish them. I actually finished your book with enthusiasm.”
Fabi: That’s good.
Josh: I like the model and I’ve been running that way for a year – a long time.
This is Josh Patrick. We’re with Fabi Preslar. You’re at the Sustainable Business. Thanks a lot for stopping by. I hope to see you back here really soon.
Narrator: You’ve been listening to The Sustainable Business podcast where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around a hundred years from now?” If you like what you’ve heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick at 802-846-1264 ext 2, or visit us on our website at www.askjoshpatrick.com, or you can send Josh an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for listening. We hope to see you at The Sustainable Business in the near future.