Company: JFK Services, LLC
Entrepreneur: Jim Kukral
Location: Cleveland, OH
Twitter: Jim Kukral Twitter
YouTube: Jim Kukral YouTube
Jim Kukral is an entrepreneur’s helper. He helps them with online marketing strategies and comes up with ways for companies to get noticed. His passion is helping the small business owner figure out how to succeed. Jim is someone that we have been following for years, and we are honored that he took the time to be interviewed in our Talking Small Biz interview series.
Jim is a serial-entrepreneur, always coming up with new ideas to help the small business owner market themselves. He has been creating marketing related websites for years and has authored many books on a variety subjects, including marketing and branding. In other words, he is a marketing innovator who is dedicated to ensuring entrepreneurs understand how to properly market themselves and their companies.
Below, Jim talks about many subjects, including why he is so passionate about helping entrepreneurs, why he thinks digital books are the future of publication, and why his Dad told him to never join the Army.
You have been an entrepreneur for many years, but there was a time when you were an employee. Did you always have the intention of becoming self-employed, or was it something that you just fell into?
Jim Kukral: I always figured I’d take a job just like everyone else in my family. My father worked as an electrician at General Motors for over 40 years. My mother was a school teacher for 35 years. So yeah, growing up, I thought I’d do the same thing. So I got out of college and took a job. Then I got involved in the Internet space in the early 90s and realized quickly that the world had changed and it was easier than ever to build a brand and business, without spending millions of dollars and years of work.
Deep down though, yeah, I was always fit more to be an entrepreneur. I don’t like authority and I like to do things my own way. My father once said, “Don’t join the Army, you don’t like to take orders.” He was right.
You pride yourself on being a regular Joe, a blue-collar guy from Cleveland who isn’t in it for the money, but who is happiest when helping small business owners succeed. While money is important, you aren’t single-minded in a pursuit to become a millionaire. This is quite a different approach from many other entrepreneurs who are in it only for the money. Where does this approach to business come from?
Jim Kukral: It comes from my roots and how my parents raised me. I’ve fortunately learned at an earlier age than most that money doesn’t mean squat. Sure, money makes things easier, but in terms of making you happy, no way. Ask any super rich person if money makes them happier and they’ll tell you the same thing.
I’m actually just finishing a book on this topic called Business Around a Lifestyle. You can find it at Jim Kukral’s Books. It’s about how to build a life you want first, around a business you want.
You are a believer in the power of giving – “When you give, you get.” – and have spent countless hours doing just that, asking for nothing in return. You have committed to giving more in 2012, knowing that you will get it back many times over. Why is it so hard for small business owners to understand this concept and instead feel compelled to chase the almighty dollar with every waking minute?
Jim Kukral: I think we’re all taught to chase the money, and The American Dream is built around finding something to sell and building a business on it. So it’s engrained into our brains from birth to do that. The truth, which only some people figure out in their lives, is that if you spend more time giving, you can actually build an entire career or business around being helpful and giving. Plus, it’s a lot more fun! I don’t blame small business owners for not seeing it. It’s hard to realize at first. Try it! See what happens.
You have been involved in many projects, ranging from online publishing to creating web videos to offering consulting services to being a best selling author to being a sought after professional speaker. You are a true serial entrepreneur. Are you the case of a guy with a passion for many things, or is it more that you are willing to try many things to see what sticks?
Jim Kukral: What you’re saying is that I lack focus? Haha, it’s true. One of my biggest flaws is that I never focus on just one thing, or one industry. I’m trying to correct that mistake lately by focusing on the self-publishing and book marketing industry. Don’t make the same mistakes I’ve made. Focus on a niche and stick to it and you’ll be better off. Being the expert at a lot of things is much harder to pull off, and to pay off.
Having been chosen as a 2011 Small Business Influencer, you were recognized as someone having an impact on small business in North America. You were also named one of the most influential small business people on Twitter for 2011. Obviously, you know small business! How important is it for you, personally, to do your part to help entrepreneurs succeed and have a prosperous business?
Jim Kukral: As I said, my mother was a teacher. I have it in my blood. I love helping people. It just makes me feel good! It’s very important for me to help other people live their life and business dreams. It motivates and excites me!
In December 2011, you were featured on Fox Business News with Neil Cavuto. On your website, you explained how this came about. What did this exposure do for your business?
Jim Kukral: It’s more of a credibility thing than anything. I can put that video on my site and it boosts my credibility to new clients, or readers, or anyone who visits my site. Directly, though? Nah, I didn’t get any business from being on that show. Media hits like that are fun to do but, in all actuality, don’t really help in terms of direct sales or anything like that.
In September 2011, you had the opportunity to speak at a TEDx event (see video below), which is a local version of the famous TED conference. That has to have been an incredible honor. How did this opportunity come about?
Jim Kukral: I was contacted by one of the TEDx organizers. They wanted me to speak and asked me to come up with a topic. I ended up speaking about happiness, and I thought it went very well. Obviously, I’m my own worst critic and I think I could have done better. Next time! And yes, it was an amazing honor.
You have written quite a few books. Your first book, Attention! This Book Will Make You Money, was published the traditional way and available as a physical book. Your subsequent books are available in digital format (e-books). You are a strong supporter of publishing books digitally, so much so that you have created Digital Book Launch to help others become self-published. Why are you so passionate about self-publishing books?
Jim Kukral: Because the future is in digital books. The bookstores are going out of business and the traditional publishers are fading away. This isn’t opinion; this is fact. Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon said recently that for every 100 print books they sell, they sell 180 digital books. Amazon has also said that they’ve sold over 3 million Kindle devices in less than 3 months at the end of 2012. Wow!
In my opinion, self-publishing is the way to go. It’s faster, you can make more money, and you own your own book. The problem for most is the marketing. Which is why I just launched my new book marketing site, Author Marketing Club. Stop on by, it’s free!
How can a small business owner benefit from publishing a digital book?
Jim Kukral: Funny you should ask this. I’m actually just finishing a book on that topic. It’s called Write A F#$%ing Book Already and you can grab it when it’s done at Jim Kukral’s Books. Basically, having a book can boost your credibility and help you do things like close new business, generate leads, and get a better job! Who wouldn’t want help with those things? Publishing a book nowadays is super easy and everyone should consider doing it.
In your TEDx speech, you talk about how you were working so hard in pursuit of the American Dream, that your body told you to slow down by treating you to a panic attack. You have since learned to have more me and family time, and enjoy life to its fullest. How important is it for an entrepreneur to step away from their business and just enjoy everything they are blessed with?
Jim Kukral: Yeah, you have to have balance. You will find out quickly, like I did, that if you put it all into one thing, your work, you will pay for it. Look around at all the people in the world who don’t have what you have, and try to remember how lucky you are, and how short life is, and try to live a better life.
In your experience, what is the most common mistake small business owners are making with their marketing efforts?
Jim Kukral: Not calculating direct return on investment. If you are spending $10,000 on advertising and marketing, and you’re not directly tying it back to more leads or sales to your business, you’re wasting your money. That’s the power of the Internet and what it can do; direct tracking. Don’t spend money just to spend money. Make sure it’s working!
Note: This interview has been edited for clarity.
Read more Talking Small Biz interviews with other entrepreneurs to learn what they are doing.