Roundpeg Narrowing its focus helped Roundpeg find the right hole Networking also makes a difference for marketing firm
Lorraine Ball is a human energy bar who seems to have more ideas than there are minutes in a day.
She left her job as vice president of creative services for Conseco Inc. in early 2002 to start her own business focusing on team building and strategic planning for large companies-only to discover that in the post-9/11 world, big companies weren't investing in their people.
"There was a lot of turnover," she said, "and retention wasn't where their focus was."
So Ball began targeting entrepreneurs. They were investing in their business and making decisions quickly. And although they didn't have as much money to spend, they were spending. Ultimately, she shifted the focus of her new company, Roundpeg, to focus on marketing small businesses.
The decision paid off.
Today, Roundpeg has grown from one employee (Ball) to four, revenue is expected to increase 66 percent-to $200,000-this year, and the business has moved from Ball's home to a building she and a partner bought on 106th Street.
The majority of Roundpeg's clients are companies that are fewer than 5 years old and have less than $1 million in annual sales. Ball prefers to work with them at startup-writing business plans, direct mail pieces and Web copy and designing logos and brochures.
She also puts on classes for small-business owners through the Central Indiana Small Business Development Center and the Neighborhood Self-Employment Initiative.
Ball's clients include Sunny Moon Great DJ Entertainment. Moon gathers brides' names, either from bridal shows he attends or through niche publications and Web sites like Perfect Wedding Guide. Roundpeg follows up immediately with personalized notes to the brides and information about Moon's services.
"The majority of the people in his industry don't have that level of turnaround," Ball said. "They're deejays."
Moon said he's always gathered the names of potential clients, but getting back to them wasn't his strong suit.
"I wasn't doing it near to the degree that she and her staff have helped me upgrade to," he said. "It's great if you've got a lead, but if it takes you 3-4 weeks to get to it, they may have a) already gotten married or b) hired somebody else. She's been super in assisting me in things that are not my strength."
Ball said starting Roundpeg was a much bigger investment of time than money. She spent months getting advice from people she knew across the country from her years at Conseco and meeting potential clients in Indiana. She joined several networking organizations, including Rainmakers, of which she's now president.
Under Ball's leadership, in about 18 months Rainmakers' membership has nearly doubled, to 1,000.
"I think I did a good job," said CJ McClanahan, Ball's predecessor as president and host of "Let's Talk Business" Sundays on WXNT-AM 1430, "but when she took over, it got a much-needed shot in the arm. It went from 'We're moving along, we're growing' to ... 'Boom!'
"She brings a real, genuine enthusiasm for people and for growth that I think is very difficult to find anywhere else. Anyone who's around her gets a boost of energy."
Networking is something she strongly advises other entrepreneurs to do.
"Making a conscious effort to get to know other business professionals in the community has been the single biggest gamechanger for me," Ball said.
She also suggests other small-business owners sharpen their focus: Concentrate on a narrow area and become an expert in that part of your field. "It's hard to be an expert in everything," she said.
When she decided to stick to small business, she was able to spend more time researching and learning the trends. Because of that focus, Ball might lose potential clients occasionally. But as she said, there are 65,000 companies with sales under $1 million in Marion and the eight surrounding counties. She can't handle all of them, even with all her energy, though she typically handles about 30 at any given time.
"I'm an amazing juggler," Ball said with a laugh. "And I don't actually sleep."