An Interview With Jerome Knyszewski

A good company focuses on customer and profits but a great company focuses on how it makes people feel — be it customers, employees or strategic partners.

Aspart of my series about the “How To Take Your Company From Good To Great”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Prati Kaufman.

Prati Kaufman is a Marketing and mindset coach combining 20+ years of marketing experience with energy assessment to help entrepreneurs turn their unique ideas into profits. She empowers entrepreneurs in creating synergy between marketing efforts and their own exceptional power of the mind, and embrace processes and systems

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

One day in March 2017, I was sitting in my cubicle at work and wondered if I wanted to spend the rest of my life here and the answer was a loud NO. I decided to have an exit plan — save for a year and then quit. Next day when I was back in my cubicle, I knew it was time to take a leap of faith. I went home and talked to my husband and the following day I handed in my resignation letter. That was the start of my entrepreneurial journey.

I signed up with IPEC (Institute of Professional Excellence and Coaching) to be trained as a coach and, at the same time, I wanted to do something to bring the community together so I created a business plan to start, The Kitchen. The Kitchen aim was to provide a space for local residents to connect and learn about each other’s cultures, creating a sense to connectedness and belongingness. For me, food has always been a way to connect and experience different cultures and people. So, The Kitchen was a natural path to me.

I was meeting many people to understand the viability of the project and realized that many of them were entrepreneurs who were struggling with marketing and having the right mindset. Being a problem-solver as I am, I decided to combine my 20 years of marketing and the powerful mindset work to serve entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

The uncertainties, the long days of work with no immediate results combined with negative chatter of my mind made me want to quit almost daily at the beginning. If not for the support of my family and friends who believed in me way more than I did in myself, I am not sure if I would have kept going. I also wanted to set an example for my son, inspiring him to follow his heart even when the path is not the easiest.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

One of web consultant mentioned defining the MVP (minimum viable product) and I asked if it meant Meaningful Venture Partnerships. It was embarrassing to say the lease. Apparently, MVP is one of the most common acronyms used in the industry.

I have since stopped assuming and ask the person what the acronym stand for. I also make sure to spell out the acronyms when using them.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Our biggest competitive advantage is our highly experienced team sharing the same passion about delivering the best customer experience. Having experienced people is great. But if we don’t share the same passion and values and it’s hard to drive the company forward, let alone making it a great one.

Our second competitive advantage is that we are strategic and provide a big marketing agency experience to entrepreneurs and small businesses. We may be small in size but we are not here to play small. We see each client as a business partner of ours, not just a client as we want to be their ultimate in-house marketing agency. As a partner, we also line up the right resources for their business growth.

One of our clients had been working on an idea for 10 years and was still nowhere close to having a website which would communicate the vision. When we partnered up with her, within six months, we built a fully customized website and developed a strategic marketing plan that helped her reach out to investors with confidence. The project also won an award for the best idea in venture category in CT Entrepreneur Award

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

First and foremost, think like a CEO from day one. Be strategic with time, money, resources and people you work with. Second, ensure that all initiatives are anchored in the vision. third, choose the team mates and strategic partners who share the same values. fourth, write down the processes, automate when possible and embrace technology. Last but not least, have fun and enjoy the journey. If you are not having fun, burn out is inevitable.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

There are so many of them. Without the support of my family, friends and mentors, there was no way my business could have become a success. Right now, I’m grateful for my team in India and our strategic partners who are the back bone of everything we do. I’m surrounded by some of the best people who inspire me daily.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?

A good company focuses on customer and profits but a great company focuses on how it makes people feel — be it customers, employees or strategic partners.

Great companies are committed to excellence, growth and innovation. They invest continuously in cultivating great leaders and staying great.

Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.

1. Ensure employees are happy:

I have seen so many companies focusing on customers and forgetting the most important asset- the employees. When we take care of our employees, our customers will be taken care of.

2. Leaders must walk the talk:

In my last corporate job in a health care company, the CEO lived the values he wanted everyone to embrace. Most people admired and felt inspired by his leadership which translated into a happy and healthy work culture.

3. Be value driven:

Don’t cut corners and go for short-term benefits. Being value driven is necessary to attract and retain the right talents. Focus on the big picture, that is company’s vision, mission and values, then we can rise above our differences and personal agenda.

4. Care for customer experience:

It takes a lot of work to build trust and credibility with customers. It is far more cost effective to retain the customers than acquire new ones. A happy customer is a loyal customer. And the best source of lead generation is happy customers as they want others to have the same amazing experience.

5. Don’t ignore processes and systems:

I always tell every entrepreneur to think of their company as franchise even when they have no plan to franchise. Franchise businesses are successful because they have a success model in place. They have worked on the processes and systems which can be implemented by anyone. Scaling can be very challenging without the processes and systems in place.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?

To me entrepreneurship is all about being purpose driven and having a desire to make a difference. Social impact needs to be part of the company’s DNA, not an angle. A people-centric approach is good for the souls and will have a far greater impact than a money-centric one.

What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill? From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?

Look at everything you are doing objectively. Recently, I had a someone reaching out for marketing help because she had hit a plateau. But she wasn’t willing to do things differently and wanted to continue with the same band aid approach instead of thinking strategically about the tactics.

What you have done has gotten you this far but for different results, a different approach is needed. So often we continue doing what we know, what is familiar. But that’s when it’s time to hire someone and have the willingness to get out of the comfort zone.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

Invest time in personal growth and cultivating a strong mindset. Crisis and challenges are part of having a business. When the times are tough, being stressed will only attract more stress. That is time to go inward and let the answers you seek come from within. Keep going and pivot as needed but don’t rush into things because everyone else is doing it. If for some reason the company had to shut down, don’t beat yourself over it. You have done it once; you can do it again. Believe in yourself.

Invest time in personal growth and cultivating a strong mindset. Crisis and challenges are part of having a business. When the times are tough, being stressed will only attract more stress. That is time to go inward and let the answers you seek come from within. Keep going and pivot as needed but don’t rush into things because everyone else is doing it. If for some reason the company had to shut down, don’t beat yourself over it. You have done it once; you can do it again. Believe in yourself.

At the beginning of the pandemic, we lost major accounts but at the same time more companies were going digital. Instead of focusing on the loss we put all our effort in customer acquisition and our business grew by 200%. Tough times don’t last, strong companies do.

In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?

Realize that the company is bigger than the profit and loss spreadsheet. Profit is important but people are far more important. Create a heart-centered culture where everyone feels valued, connected, seen and heard. Create a space where people embrace the differences and are not afraid to communicate with each other honestly

As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?

Choose the platforms where your customers are and speak to them in their language Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and understand their buying journey. On average, a potential customer follows you on at least 3 platforms. Your marketing initiatives needs to put you in front of them on different media at the same time and have various touch points throughout the buying journey. Be strategic with marketing initiatives and know that it takes time.

Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?

The old mindset was that companies could tell customers what to buy. Now we need to educate, engage and help them make an informed decision about buying. Customers are way more informed now and don’t want to be sold. They want to be part of a movement and what you stand for as a company. Having a good marketing strategy will help you identify where your customers are, what they want, how best to communicate with them and all your distribution options to get in front of them. Be strategic with your tactics and show up consistently across various platforms. Be authentic, stay relevant and empower your customers. In turn, they will be happy to do business with you.

Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?

1. Truly care for customers and focus on developing long-term relationships.

2. Learn all that you can about the potential customers before meeting them

3. Listen and read between the lines about their challenges

4. Deliver more than promised.

5. Spend time in market research

6. Always look for ways to create better customer experience

The customer experience doesn’t start when you get the customer-it starts the day the company is born. It needs to be part of the company’s DNA. Build a team who is passionate and cares about customer’s success.

What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.

Social media is necessary for building trust and relationships with customers. It is an amazing tool to engage with customers directly, to learn about their concern and solve problems on the spot. It is one of the tools and should be treated as such. The goal of social media should be to drive people to the website or a physical place.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

1. Not thinking like a CEO: Understand what skills and resources are needed for growth and learn to delegate.

2. Ignoring long-term growth for quick gains: Focus on initiatives which will yield the most ROI (Return on Investment) in long-term even if it requires initial investment.

3. Being penny wise and pound foolish: Someone I know used a pirated software to create a quiz that wasn’t compatible with CRM. The person spent hours transferring the data manually and sending nurture emails. Go for the best solution, not cheapest.

4. Having no marketing budget: It’s like buying a car but not able to buy gas. There is no way a business can really grow to its highest potential without marketing.

5. Be tactical with their marketing: Website, social media, email marketing, networking, events, blogs, videos- every single online and offline marketing effort needs to build on each other. Be strategic and create an integrated marketing experience for your customers

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Make entrepreneurship part of high-school curriculum. Entrepreneurship teaches people to learn about self, money management, navigating challenges, working collaboratively with diverse people and believe in their dreams. It is the crash course in having real life experiences and cultivating a powerful mindset.