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UNCHARTED: Business Moral Compass with Benita Samuels

Facing uncertainty can be challenging – being a business owner facing uncertainty is tougher.

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Starting the conversation:

What is the right thing to do?
Goals and plans are necessary, and what we think about what the moral compass of the business is to make sound decisions.

Host: Jess Dewell

Guest: Benita Samuels


This is Uncharted, a series of candid conversations about facing uncertainty. When we are called upon to be courageous, the strength of our leadership is tested. Red Direction has developed a library of resources to help you stay aligned, and in particular, to develop your True North. Now, here’s Jess.

Jess Dewell 00:31
Welcome to today’s Uncharted. With me is Benita S. Samuels, and Benita began her career in New York City. And she marketed for companies like Tyson Chicken, Nestle and Disney. She worked with artists, including Mark Wahlberg, Mary Tyler Moore, Billy Joel, Richard Simmons, and others. Those are some of my favorite people. I mean, holy cow. And so what she’s done through her global marketing is to bring it to you and to me. She shares her knowledge, specifically to small business owners in a way that allows them to be empowered and use the skills of digital marketing on their terms in the way that will benefit them and the goals that they have. I’m so glad to have you with me today, Benita. Hi.

Benita S. Samuels 01:19
Hi Jess, thank you for the lovely introduction.

Jess Dewell 01:24
You are welcome. You know, so we haven’t known each other too long. But you’re one of those people that when I met you, you have this energy about you. This go-getter. I’m going to go go go and I’m going to get get get because I can. Does that. Is that an accurate first impression of you?

Benita S. Samuels 01:43
I would say so. I almost kind of feel like there’s a mirror between us.

Jess Dewell 01:52
We could very much be. I love that. I love that and thank you. So we’re going to just jump right in right the concept of Uncharted is all about where we’re at right now. And my question to you is, six months ago when you were planning 2020? Did you even consider something like this happening? And did you have some sort of an, like a, I don’t want to say a Plan B because I don’t like contingencies. But I do want to say like, and I don’t like contingency. So that’s not the right word, either. But do you see where I’m kind of trying to go with this even though I can’t come up with the word?

Benita S. Samuels 02:25
This answer’s no. I don’t think anybody could really have. I mean, there are those few bet had some visibility to what may be coming. But for those of us in the general population, no, I mean, I came into this year with a plan and a vision and a goal. And I still have that same plan, that same vision and that same goal, what has transpired over the last two and a half months has maybe resulted in some back and forth to get righted to achieve that goal. But in that back and forth as I traverse this situation, I guess is that I feel a sense of being blessed with people around me and opportunities that you know, kind of step back to what you said originally, the whole concept of moving and shaking every opportunity. This one is an example I have latched on to or asked for and you know, I’ve had the chance to work on my business as well as in my business and I think that for me, when I get to the other side of this or when we all get to the other side of this my intention is that I will have planted some beautiful seeds and they will be growing and I will prosper as a result.

Jess Dewell 04:10
Are you willing to share with us how much you are setback at this point in time from where you were expecting to be in?

Benita S. Samuels 04:18
Well, so from a fiscal standpoint, I am actually tracking right now exactly where I was last year. So I would say that my income is flat. My goal for this year was to increase my revenue by almost 50%. Now, some people are going to say, “Well, that was crazy to start with.” But I didn’t know I didn’t believe was crazy to start with because I have a plan. And I know this is what I have to do to generate this type of client and this many clients in order to get there and I am still believer that I am going to achieve that. It’s just going to happen more in the back end.

Jess Dewell 05:00
Isn’t that amazing? And that type of openness is something that I’m not seeing a whole lot. So I just want to call that out and say, “Hey, okay, I’m still doing the work.” And there will be a result of that work. It just may not be today. Right? Yeah. Yeah. Is that.

Benita S. Samuels 05:18
By the way, if I end up the year flat, I still don’t think that that is a loss.

Jess Dewell 05:28
Heck, no, especially when there are stats out there right now that are talking about companies that don’t have a three month runway. And they don’t have some they don’t have that the plan that they made. They didn’t feel was adaptable to this particular situation, which I find fascinating. I was having a conversation last weekend and we were talking about the things that we really needed to take stock of our business and I would be curious from you. What are you using in your business to just make sure you’re keeping the pulse and understanding what’s necessary? So you can contract in the right ways. And you can expand in the right ways right now.

Benita S. Samuels 06:12
So, so this is just I just entered the third year of my business. So I always felt like year three was pivotal, because they say, you know, year three is an indicator of kind of like that, that second benchmark of longevity and success. You know, either you make it the first year, okay. And then the next year is year three.

So I had all of these plans in place for year three, where I was going to do a little bit of rebranding, I did a whole accounting in in year two of who was my client, where was my revenue coming from, and I reframed my entire business offerings and how I offer them in January. So where I’ve had to be fluid is in getting in front of people. I would say that I have taken incredible advantage of every digital networking, or workshop that made sense to me, wherever I could.

There are clearly some networking groups that I’ve gone to that I won’t ever actually go to in person, or if I do, it will be often, but because they were offered in a virtual space, I could go and I’ve met people and I’m making those connections. The other part that I’ve tried to be fluid which is I have come from a point of service, I would say, offer offering where I can to help people or give support. And honestly I’ve given away a lot of my time and my my knowledge because one, it’s important for everyone to find success and if I can help them achieve that then that’s, that’s one step forward for somebody who’s going to remember and that’s the second thing is I do believe that helping people today it might be six months it might be six years they’re going to turn around and say, I remember and so that’s part of the you know, planting the seeds as I said, and so that that’s one another thing I’ve done a lot of. I will also say that I’ve I’ve been putting myself out there, I’ve done videos which I haven’t done before uncomfortable with that. I have done quite a few speaking. And podcasts. I’ve done podcasts prior. But I’ve done more speaking, I’ve done teaching. So all of those things are new to me as well or maybe not new to me, but new in the sense of putting them out publicly. And I think that has opened up my awareness of other things that I can do or bring into my business model that in turn will cultivate awareness and leads for me.

Jess Dewell 09:34
So when we’re thinking about that, and it’s, it’s awesome to see you looking at the future. How much of your past are you using to make that future? Or are you using like the current moment and the most recent past? Are you using farther back in the past?

Benita S. Samuels 09:49
Well, I think everything in our past influences are present. And I don’t think that, at least for me, and I can’t speak to others, but I don’t think that The circumstances of the pandemic are such that you should completely do a 180 I think that you need to look at what you offer, and how can you leverage what you offer and your your years of experience to, um, to mold your your services or your offerings differently during a different circumstance. Will I continue to offer my free half hour Q&A? I, I probably will. I wouldn’t have offered that before. But I probably will. Because I think that it’s a service that can provide me leads but it’s also a service that provides provides value to somebody. So I think that that I’m using both my past and I use my past. I mean, you spoke about who I work with, I use that as as a point of differentiation. Mm hmm. And I use the present of having to learn differently or new things or implement things that I wasn’t sure I was going to be implementing now.

Jess Dewell 11:16
Can I ask you a really totally off the wall question?

Benita S. Samuels

Jess Dewell
Did you work with Mark Wahlberg as a singer or as an actor?

Benita S. Samuels 11:24
As a singer.

Jess Dewell 11:26
New Kids on the Block?

Benita S. Samuels 11:28
Yes. Well, no, he wasn’t a new kid. His brother was, he was. That’s true. He was Marky Mark. Yeah, I worked with him. I don’t know if you remember back in the day he did a fitness video. I did a fitness video with him. And yes, I have been known to oh God, this is embarrassing grease his chest.

Jess Dewell 11:49
That is embarrassing. That’s Wow. How do you today on your business? Fantastic. You know, that’s really cool. I have to tell you, I like, I like all of the Marks. Yes. Marky Mark, all the Wahlberg’s I guess. That’s Yeah.

Benita S. Samuels 12:09
He is he is grown into a pretty cool guy. Yeah. Yeah, I think that’s good.

We here at Red Direction can only fund programming with the financial help of our Supporter Listeners. To learn more about the additional benefits and value support our listeners receive, go to reddirection.com. Now, back to Jess.

Jess Dewell 12:35
I’m thinking about what you, you know, how you show up for your clients from services that you provide, and you said you were working more on your business. Talk to me about how how you’re applying what you offer to your own business right now and is it helpful?

Benita S. Samuels 12:49
Am I applying what I offer to my own business? Absolutely. So a few things So one, I would say, you know, one of the big things that I do a lot, as just you know, as I work with my clients on LinkedIn, I work on optimizing their profiles. And I work with them over a program, which is part of the outcome of what I’ve been doing these last eight weeks of a structured program for learning how to use the tool. And one of the things that I created during that process was this content mapping, where we build out basically 50 plus content topics that you can write about that are evergreen that are your expertise. And before I started the process, I did it with myself. And I will tell you that most days when I’m posting on social media, I refer to my content that I did, because it just is such a handy tool. You don’t have to put a lot of thought and by the way It’s all your expertise. It’s not you, it’s, it’s nothing that you’re digging for, or having a client, you know. So that’s definitely one for certain. You know, another part is I work with business owners on get helping them overcome some of their digital and social anxiety. So being out there doing videos, you know, it’s a whole lot easier to encourage my clients to do videos when I’ve done them myself. Um, and also, using more digital marketing to promote and benefit my business. I’m in the process. I’m very close to finishing up my rebranding, and then I’m going to be pushing that out and communicating out across different digital platforms in order to make sure people know that I’ve rebranded not that I’m going to be anybody different. It’s just it’s getting closer into my areas of focus. You know what I started my business. I was marker and like many new business owners, I would do whatever you pay me for that was in my wheelhouse. And in the, in the time of doing this, this evolution, I have seen that most of my focus is in on the digital and social space. And so I’ve narrowed that in so I’ll be more branded in that space.

Jess Dewell 15:18
That’s fantastic. I tell you what, one of the things so I’m thinking about this and the service that you’re providing and the opportunity to give at every point, which is important because that’s a recognition that, you know, the people that you’re targeting are impacted by all of this too. And the fact that you may end up being flat at least right now and and that’s okay. That’s pretty amazing. I wish I was just flat. And that’s okay.

Benita S. Samuels 15:49
At the end of May. We’ll see we’ll see.

Jess Dewell 15:51
But you know, and I can honestly say, you know what, I wish I was flat, but we knew that this type of contraction was going to be coming I and when I made a mistake. As soon as I found this out, right, as soon as I understood that there was going to be some sort of an impact. In fact, one of my clients saw before I did because of who his clients are, and I was like, oh, okay, this is closer than I thought it was. I guess now I got to start thinking about this too. So I want to say thanks to him, because I was that was one of the things I was like, Well, we’ve got to start understanding what that is, and what are we doing and where can we, you know, really evaluating? Did we are we spending on smart money, right? Are we just spending money and we’re not actually leveraging it? Because now every dollar matters, every minute matters more than ever before. And so I think about this concept of focus and overcoming these obstacles. Is there anything that has come up for you that was really unexpected, that like jarred you that in these last couple of months that you really had to face and overcome.

Benita S. Samuels 16:58
So I had signed a big client in the very end of February. And I had for the first time ever in my business offer to pay in full with a discount, and they had accepted that and I went through. So I had a three part process of doing an assessment than a strategy and then moving into their social presence and managing their social for them. And I had completed all of the assessment and was working on the second part. And the end of the first week of March, I got a call and they say, how much work have we done? And it has nothing to do with you. But we need to pause and we need you to send back a lot of money. A lot of money. and I immediately went into Well, you know, let’s talk about why you’re doing this. And you know why being in the digital and social space right now is so much more important than ever before. Because I recognized that pretty quickly. And they, they said, you know, that’s not really where our head is right now we have to focus on keeping the lights on and getting our boys paid. And so I asked him if I could think about it. And I, they said yes, because, you know, obviously, I was caught off guard. And I spent the next 24 hours reaching out to some people for some counseling, and getting their insights for some of my mentors, and doing some digging down deep inside of me, and I was counseled by most everybody not to give any money back. And that’s not what I did. I figured out based on where I was how much time I had invested and based on the deliverables what had been spent if it wasn’t a pay in full, and I gave them the rest of the money back, which meant that I had multiple months of income that would have been sitting on my books gone. But I made the decision based on my own moral compass of what I felt like I needed to do in that if I was working for another company, and it was a matter of my boss being able to pay me and keeping the lights on. That was something I want my mock boss to do for me and you know, I’m you we’re talking about companies not having, you know, 30 60 90 days of overhead of cash flow to to manage their businesses. I’m fortunate in or I work hard, however you want to look at it in that in that my business, I don’t have a lot of overhead and I am very fiscally responsible. And that’s the way I’ve always lived my life in my family too. So I knew that we weren’t going to be destitute in a few months. And so, I just took a deep breath and said, Okay, this is what I’m going to do. And the interesting thing, how did I weather that? Well, you know, a lot of a lot of emotional talk to myself of, you know, you’re gonna be okay, you’re gonna be okay, you’re gonna be okay. And a few days later, I had a client who I’d worked with for a couple of years and who had had caused in November, call me and asked me if I could take on this project and get it finished. And then the next week, I had another big client call and decided they just wanted to do project work with me. So that was another big hit, but I had picked up the one that had come down. And the next day, because it was three weeks later The next day, the client who had asked for the money back called me and I got a voice message that said, Banita, do you have a few minutes to talk? I’m sitting here, and I think that we may have made a mistake. And we want to talk about just sending you the money back. And it did come back. And I’m working hard for them. And I guess the moral of that part of the story is that I did what I felt was right. And I certainly had a pit in my stomach and fear, but I didn’t let that control me. And this is I ended up.

Jess Dewell 21:52
Isn’t that amazing? I wonder, you know, there might there was a lesson in there for you as much as there was a lesson in there for that client. And the fact that it sounds like I can, I can only imagine you talk about it. And I’m like that was so graceful. And I bet in the moment, even amidst all of the rollercoaster wave of emotions, who do I call? I can’t and in my mind, I don’t know what I would have done if I would have gotten advice contrary to what I was thinking, or contrary to what my core moral compass was, and you navigated that and you navigated a gigantic hit to your bottom line. And look at what happened.

Benita S. Samuels 22:35
You know, I’m not I’m not a big fan, and forgive me if any of the listeners are in this space, but I don’t I don’t consider myself a big Frou Frou-ey you know.

Jess Dewell 22:45
I’m not either.

Benita S. Samuels 22:46
But I will say that over the course of the last year and a half working with my coach. She has taught me a lot about having self belief and having a belief system that, you know, it’s gonna work itself out. And I believe that I’m a hard worker, and that between my work ethic and a belief system, it will work out. Now, this one worked out really fast. So you may not always be that fast, but it’s true. And that’s, you know,

Jess Dewell 23:30
Here’s something here’s what I wrote down as I’m I listeners and people who are going to be watching I take notes and many colors. And not only did you show compassion there, but your plan. Having that solid plan seems to have allowed you to really meet what shows up, even when it’s like the farthest possible thing that you ever thought would happen, but having something that has been thought Having something that anchors allowed all those emotions of space and what needed to come and when I call it letting go really, you know that you were talking about that self belief piece. I that’s not Frou Frou I think that’s really real. And I think that is an that is a reflection of how how strong you are in your belief not only in your moral compass but in the way that you do business. And that’s going to shine through for every single one of your clients.

Benita S. Samuels 24:30
Thank you.

Jess Dewell 24:31
You’re welcome. And I mean, from the little bit that I’ve seen of you, that’s how it works. And I and I think that that self belief has to matter. And we and it’s not enough, right it has to be there and it has to be solid but it’s not enough your plan was necessary. your understanding of and and just, I don’t want to say making peace but accepting Okay, this is what my business is going to be right now.

Benita S. Samuels 24:56
Digging deep in working in and figuring out What it is that you have to do get through today? Right, in order to today? Yeah, yeah, in order to get to that next day to move past it.

Jess Dewell 25:11
Yeah, that’s right. I mean, a lot of businesses that go through the first five years, you know, they talk about slaying dragons. Well, I think you, I think in 2020, anybody who’s in business for themselves might be finding themselves way back when in the start, if they are, if they’re older than three years, right with which, by the way, is an amazing success. And I’m excited to hear how that’s going. Because people have got, you’ve got something people want, you’re able to connect with people in a way that they wanted. And that means the opportunities here so what trends could come up next, here’s where here’s where my brain goes, right being in the moment and saying, Okay, this is what is Alright, I’ve plan the best that I can emit each day like what you’re doing, but th en what are the opportunities that I’m seeing based off of this because what you are doing, you are poised for people who are going to be like, Oh, we never put a lot of attention here and now we need to.

Benita S. Samuels 26:04
When I made the decision to go into business for myself, I’d had an opportunities in the past and I was always to really fiscally afraid. That’s the truth, just afraid. And when I made the leap of faith, I said, I’m going to be successful. I’m going to be successful. I’m going to make this work. And that continues to be my drive every single day. I’m going to figure this out. I’m going to make this work. And what I discovered last year was kind of like, a bit of an aha for me is that so I, you know, no secret here. I’m middle aged , what I discovered is there are a lot of people, especially small business owners, that who are my age who have this underlying , anxiety or fear, or whatever it is about digital and social media. And I think that when I walk into a room, or get on a zoom, and they see me and say, she’s middle age, there is this sense of relief that I can relate to that person. And so for me, I feel like though we talk about our history, the years that I have, I mean, I had an opportunity to get into digital early. And I took it, I didn’t know what it was going to be. And so today, I’m probably further ahead than some because at my age because I had that opportunity. And now I’m using it to my advantage because I can help my generation, leverage those tools to grow their business to figure out how to take those connections that they make on LinkedIn and turn them into conversation so that they can cultivate relationships and clients and so you know, Every day it’s about I’m going to be successful. I’m going to make this work and discovering all those little nuggets that are going to propel me forward and that success.

Jess Dewell 28:11
Yeah. And that’s what it’s about.

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