Male: You’re listening to the Dr. Lisa Radio Hour and Podcast, recorded in the studio of Maine Magazine at 75 Market Street, Portland, Maine. Download past shows and become a podcast subscriber of Dr. Lisa Belisle on iTunes. See the Dr. Lisa website or Facebook page for details.
Male: The Dr. Lisa Radio Hour and Podcast is made possible with the support of the following generous sponsors: Maine Magazine; Marci Booth of Booth Maine; Apothecary by Design; Premier Sports Health, a division of Black Bear Medical; Dr. John Herzog of Orthopedic Specialists; Sea Bags; Mike LePage and Beth Franklin of RE/MAX Heritage; Ted Carter: Inspired Landscapes; and Tom Shepard of Shepard Financial.
Dr. Lisa: This is Dr. Lisa Belisle. You are listening to the Dr. Lisa Radio Hour and Podcast, show number 108: “Economies of Scale,” airing for the first time on Sunday, October 6, 2013.
Today’s guests include Philip Conkling, founder of the Island Institute and contributing editor to Maine Magazine, and Shannon Kinney, founder and client success officer of Dream Local.
I did not learn how to host a radio show in medical school, nor did I learn how to create the business that would enable a radio show to become financially sustainable. Although some of the skills that have been important in my doctoring career – learning how to listen, how to problem solve and how to organize, to name a few – have proven equally critical in my radio show life, there were many skills I had yet to learn. Now in our third year of the Dr. Lisa Radio Hour and Podcast, and on our 108th episode, I continue to learn new skills and practice the ones recently acquired.
Here in Maine, the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well. We work with the resources we have, creating new and interesting products to share with the world. No small feat given our geography and relatively small population base. This is our birthright. We are farmers and fishermen, mill workers and river guides.
We are fiercely independent, and at the same time admittedly interdependent. We rely heavily on our community as we pursue our entrepreneurial paths. I’ve relied heavily on the community at Maine Magazine and the Maine Media Collective as I’ve learned the skills necessary to bring this radio show to life.
More importantly I’ve learned which skills I lack, and which tasks are more efficiently and effectively performed by others. This week’s radio show guests, Philip Conkling, founder of the Island Institute and contributing editor at Maine Magazine, and Dream Local founder and chief client success officer Shannon Kinney, understand the entrepreneurial process.
Entrepreneurs themselves, they have brought their unique talents to Maine, creating and nurturing organizations that act as valuable resources for our community. Their organizations brighten the face of the local economy. Like me, they’ve learned many of their current skills as they’ve gone along, never assuming that their formal education would meet all of their future needs, and always seeking to hone the skills that would make their businesses a success.
I’m fortunate to spend time with individuals such as Philip Conkling, Shannon Kinney and the team at the Maine Media Collective. Long after my graduation from medical school, my education continues. We hope you enjoy our conversations with Philip Conkling and Shannon Kinney, and find your own entrepreneurial spirit nourished today. Thank you for listening.
Dr. Lisa Our next guest is someone that I first met on a Maine island, in fact at a lobster festival just off the coast of Mount Desert Island. This is Philip Conkling. He is the president of Philip Conkling and Associates, formerly of the Island Institute, in fact the founder of the Island Institute and also a contributing editor now for Maine Magazine.
I didn’t know him as the man with all of this really impressive background when I first met him on this island. What I was impressed by then, Philip, was the fact that you and Peter Ralston cared so much about this little tiny fishing village off the coast of Maine to yourself show up personally and see what was going on.
Philip: Yes. Frenchboro was … I remember the first time that I saw it, it was before the Island Institute and it literally seemed to be just slipping into the sea. The houses around the harbor had not been renovated in a very long time, and the school population was down to a single student. Really, the year that Peter and I started the Island Institute, David Lunt for whom the Lunts have been on Frenchboro since, as he says, forever, called me up. He said, “I don’t know what you guys do at the Island Institute, but we are afraid our community is going to turn into just a summer colony unless we can attract new families here with kids to put in the school.”
That really was … it marked the beginning with David Lunt’s vision of getting … He thought he could get a piece of land, donate it to the town and build six or seven new houses to attract what became known as the “homesteaders” or the homesteading project. Of course, islanders, being very practical, they called them “breeders.” That’s what we need here. We need young families with kids to keep the school going. It took a long time, but it was successful. All the houses were built and they’re all occupied, and the school is … it’s actually a two-room schoolhouse now with upper and lower grades, and a pretty full house.
Dr. Lisa: Why do the islands matter enough to actually create an entire institute around them?
Philip: Right before the beginning of the 20th century there were 300 year-round island communities. They really defined the character of the coast of Maine, because all of the transportation patterns were in the water. The deep water channels connected the islands and the entire coast of Maine with ports all over the world, and we shipped our products to Europe and to the Caribbean, and ultimately to the seven seas of the world.
By the time I came along beginning in the mid ‘70s when I started to visit islands, eventually I discovered that of those 300 island communities there were only 14 left. If that kind of decline had occurred to a species of wildlife, of course there’d be an endangered species program. Because it was humans and because we’re so mobile, until you stop to think about it, it’s just people’s shrug: “Well, that’s just the way it is.”
Those 14 communities that remained were pockets of some of the most passionate people about what it takes to keep a community going, and they weren’t … they hadn’t given up, and it seemed like that was an admirable thing in that friends from far and wide might get inspired by their example of community.
Dr. Lisa: Some of your interest came about through work that you did in forestry. In addition to having a degree from Harvard, you also went to the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and you have a master of forest science and natural resource management. You went from the woods to the waters, but the ecology of it, it sounds like, had some fascination for you.
Philip: Yeah. Basically, what happened to me is that I graduated from college in a time of … there was great unrest and upheaval, 1970. The expression was then, “If you turn the country up on its side, everything loose rolls into California.” I went to California, I taught school for two years up in a little gold mining town in the Sierras. I loved the wide open spaces of the West, but the first question that everybody asked you in California back then was, “Where are you from?” because nobody seemed to be from there and everybody was headed somewhere else.
I missed the rootedness of the East, particularly of New England where I’d gone to college, and so Maine was the place that had both space of the West but the rootedness of New England. I came here kind of on a wish and a prayer. I had one friend who hired me to help he and his wife winterize their family’s summer house in Cherryfield, Maine in Washington County.
They were ultimately defeated in that, but I had made so many noises about, “I’m going to Maine, and I’m going to spend the winter there,” and so on and so forth, I felt like I couldn’t leave. I stayed after they left. I got a little cabin to care take and did what everybody in Washington County did, which is I went into the woods in the winter to cut pulpwood for International Paper. I dug clams in the spring and the fall, and raked blueberries up on the Barrens in the summer.
I did that long enough to realize that I loved the people and the culture, and decided, “I need to figure out how to work with my head as much as with my body,” and so I went back to forestry school. That was how it happened.
Just parenthetically, I wanted to go into the North Woods because I thought, “That’s really where…” I had read Thoreau and all of that, and it seemed like just the most romantic part of Maine. Between my two years at forestry school was a housing recession, so none of the companies were hiring interns. I saw a little notice on the forestry school bulletin board, “Collect baseline ecological data on 12 Maine Islands,” for this volunteer organization back then, it was the Maine chapter of the Nature Conservancy. They had no staff, now the largest environmental organization in Maine and in the country, the national organization.
Yeah, I just started visiting their islands that they had not been to and collecting information for them. It was just completely mind-boggling what … I thought they were all going to be the same. They were just all different. They all had some kind of human … all variety of human uses. Those uses had deflected their ecological trajectory into different complexes of plants and animals. It was like the uses of the past were indexed in the landscape.
Dr. Lisa: Give me an example of that when you’re talking about what the trajectory looks like and when you’re talking about a human on an island and what that means.
Philip: There are probably 20 islands called Sheep Island off the coast of Maine. Those were islands that were pastures for sheep. You didn’t need to build any fences, so basically you would cut down the trees and burn them, and that would bring grass back. You’d put sheep out, and unlike cows and other livestock they get all of the water they need out of the vegetation that they’re eating. Then in the wintertime, if they stay there in the winter they forage off of seaweed in the inner tidal.
So many of the islands just became like pastures. Of course there’s Cow Island and Hog Island and all of those kinds of things, but there are also 33 major island quarries scattered along the islands. They weren’t on the mainland because there was no easy way to transport granite from the mainland. It was where the shipping lanes came, right past these places like Dick’s Island and High Island and Crotch Island off of Stonington, and islands off of Mount Desert, Black Island and Hurricane Island is probably the most famous.
One of the things that I was supposed to do in those early … in that very first island project for the Nature Conservancy was to visit Hurricane Island, which was the headquarters of the Outward Bound School. They had permission to use the Nature Conservancy islands for their programs, but the trustees of the Nature Conservancy wanted to know, “They put students out there without anything to eat, and with just a tarp and a jug of water. What kind of ecological impact are they having? Are they grazing our islands down?”
I met the Outward Bound people, and they then hired me to survey the 200 islands that they had … privately owned islands they had permission to use. That was a three-year-long project. At the end of it, I had been to more islands than anybody else. That’s sort of what then springboarded me into starting the Island Institute.
Dr. Lisa: Here on the Dr. Lisa Radio Hour and Podcast you’ve long recognized the link between health and wealth. Here to speak more on the topic is Tom Shepard of Shepard Financial.
Tom: Maine is an island of sorts. On this island, if you want to have fun, take steel rails and turn them into a twisting, looping, falling thrill ride. If you want to go somewhere, take the same idea and turn it into a network of interconnecting tracks. If you want to have fun, carve out a dirt track and go fast around it. If you want to meet people places, then take the same idea and turn it into a network of interconnecting paths, roads and trails.
If you want to have fun, connect a circuit to an explosive device and blow things up. If you want to empower the people you meet, take the same ideas and harness energy to make life easier.
If you want to have fun, create a way to make lots of money. If you really and truly want to find meaning in the things you enjoy, then take money and your dreams, and get your value connected to the network of people you meet going places to have fun.
I can’t think of an easier place to make this come together than right here in Maine. You are two degrees away from meeting the people that can make your fun dreams a sustainable reality.
Come and live in Maine. Get connected.
If you need help, we are right here in Yarmouth and Harpswell. Let’s get connected at [email protected]. Man, we’d so enjoy helping you evolve with your money.
Male: Securities offered through LPL Financial, member FINRA SIPC. Investment advice offered through Flagship Harbor Advisors, a registered investment advisor. Flagship Harbor Advisors and Shepard Financial are separate entities from LPL Financial.
There was a time when the Apothecary was a place where you could get safe, reliable medicines, carefully prepared by experienced professionals, coupled with care and attention, focused on you and your unique health concerns.
Apothecary by Design is built around the forgotten notion that you don’t just need your prescriptions filled, you need attention, advice and individual care. Visit their website, apothecarybydesign.com, or drop by the store at 84 Marginal Way in Portland, and experience pharmacy care the way it was meant to be.
Dr. Lisa: The October issue of Maine Magazine features an article that you wrote about entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs in Maine. It’s interesting to think about entrepreneurs in Maine, because as you point out in the article, they’re not a new thing. We’ve always had people who have had to figure out what the resources are around them, and extract something for them in order to get fulfillment in their lives or get paid, pay their mortgage, pay their rent. There seems to be a generation now that’s harnessing technologies that have not been in existence the way that we’ve had pulp and paper in existence.
Dr. Lisa: What was it like to be exploring this business-like ecology?
Philip: What I loved about this assignment was meeting people who had an idea and were really willing to risk a lot to test their idea in the marketplace. When you start something yourself, you know how … you don’t know at the time how risky it is. You look back and you think, “Thank God I didn’t know what I know now, because I never would have started.”
It’s really hard, and yet what I loved about these stories was discovering not only example after example after example of people starting their own businesses, but how … There is now an ecosystem around them that just didn’t exist, I don’t think even five to 10 years ago, or at least I wasn’t aware of it. The ecosystem of angel investors, small business advisors, people who have come to Maine or have been successful in Maine that are willing to serve on the boards of directors of these new companies, and mentor them, and give advice. It’s not quite as, “You’re just on your own, you’re going to succeed or fail, and God bless you.”
There is a fabulous network of both public and private organizations: The Maine Technology Institute, the Small Enterprise Growth Fund, the Maine Angels, groups like that that are all highly networked with each other. The Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development. Peter and I used to say to each other in the early years of the Island Institute, “There are only 11 people in Maine, and everybody just trades places all the time so it looks like there are more of them.”
The value of being small is that a lot of people know each other. That means that, “You know who you should talk to about your idea? You should see this person. They’re likely to be interested.” In a sense, it’s easier to leverage a good idea in Maine. That’s the value of smallness. Whereas if you’re in Silicon Valley, or LA, or some of the bigger centers of entrepreneurial development, Route 128 in Boston, it’s a lot harder to get people’s attention. Good ideas rise to the top quickly, and have a support network. That’s what’s different.
Dr. Lisa: This past summer I spent time working as a physician temporarily in Greenville and also Sangerville, and spent time in the towns of Newport and … It was very interesting for me to see what the impact of the local economy had on health. Specifically what the impact of the loss of, for example, mill jobs had on the local townspeople.
It seems like this is a good time. I mean we have corporate structures that have crumbled, things that we thought were always going to be there; banking institutions, other financial institutions, they’ve gone away just the way that the mills did in Maine. It seems like this is a good time for growth, for creativity. Maine seems well positioned to embrace this.
Philip: Yeah. If I could generalize a little bit from the lessons we learned in Island Communities, I think it applies to all Maine communities. That is that when we first came to the islands, we’re from “away.” I was not born on an island. I grew up in the Hudson River Valley of New York. Peter grew up in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.
The distinctions of being from here and from away were very … it was just a real black and white kind of thing. One of the things that we kept saying to say seasonal residents, “There is a way to help. You shouldn’t get all focused on people saying you’re from away.” That can feel insulting to people and sometimes people who feel like, “I’m not going to participate because clearly, people in my community don’t want people from away to be too involved.”
Our job was to help translate between those two cultures if you will, or those two populations, those who are from here and those who are from away. Every small community has lots of people from away that they come here for the quality of life, for the small town, the values of persistence and frugality and thrift and honesty and hard work. Those are really compelling values.
We would say to islanders, “There are people that admire your community and want to help. That’s not a bad thing.” Getting that dialogue going between people who are from here and from away, who really want the same thing. Everybody wants schools to work, to remain open. If you’re thinking of moving here or if you move here, just because you may have made that decision, you want your kids to have whatever opportunities may exist for them in the whole world. Everybody wants good schools, whether you’re from here or away. Everybody wants small businesses that work and provide services. Everybody wants an environment that’s not degraded.
There’s plenty of common ground, plenty of things to rally around. That’s what I think is easy to miss when you get stuck on cultural signals that may seem like initially, “Well, either they don’t want me or I don’t want to be a part of this.”
Dr. Lisa: I think I hear you saying as that there is room for creativity and there is room for people who have a different backgrounds and have been in Maine longer, and there are ways that if people are willing to start working together that we can actually rebuild what we may have lost.
Philip: Yes. It’s really the idea of the commons. We have town commons, town greens. They are the literal heart and soul of most communities, and it means that you come there to find common ground. At town meeting you’re looking for common ground. These are wonderful, just very powerful traditions in our history and culture.
There’s a lot to draw on. As long as you don’t get all hung up on just who … The phrase that I remember my neighbor telling me after our four boys were born here, I said, “I may not be a Mainer, but my boys will.” He said, “Just because a cat has kittens in the oven don’t make em muffins.” He was being funny, and it was funny. You can’t take that seriously. You can’t feel excluded by that. It’s just part of the culture that you have to embrace.
Dr. Lisa: I hope that you and your wife and your muffins or non-muffins, your four boys, I hope that you continue to enjoy this next stage in your life. It sounds like you’re doing some very exciting and interesting things with Philip Conkling and Associates.
I encourage those who are listening to go to the October issue of Maine Magazine and read the article about entrepreneurship, because it’s a fascinating read. Thank you for being with us. We’ve been talking with Philip Conkling, contributing editor of Maine Magazine and now of Philip Conkling and Associates.
Philip: It’s been my pleasure. Thanks so much, Lisa.
Dr. Lisa: As a physician and a small business owner, I rely on Marci Booth from Booth Maine to help me with my own business and to help me live my own life fully. Here are a few thoughts from Marci.
Marci: In simple terms, economies of scale are achieved when efficiency and productivity go up without increasing the cost of doing business. Essentially, you’re able to accomplish more by making certain systems and processes are in place to ensure that output meets demand.
Sound simple enough, doesn’t it? You would be surprised by how many small businesses don’t apply those same theories to their own financial operations. What can be done to make certain that invoicing, collections, bill paying and payroll are integrated to take advantage of this economies of scale? The short answer, a lot. You are able to do more and create more. You just need to know where to look.
I’m Marci Booth. Let’s talk about the changes you need: boothmaine.com.
Male: This segment of the Dr. Lisa Radio Hour is brought to you by the following generous sponsors. , Mike LePage and Beth Franklin of RE/MAX Heritage in Yarmouth, Maine. Honesty and Integrity can take you home. With RE/MAX Heritage, it’s your move. Learn more at rheritage.com.
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Dr. Lisa: Shannon Kinney has become somewhat well known within the state of Maine. She is the founder and client success officer at Dream Local Digital. Shannon initially came from Spruce Head, a little tiny town up the coast of Maine. Went to California, made her way in the big city and then decided, “I got to come back here.”
We spend a lot of time talking with people who have followed their dreams, so we thought having somebody whose business is Dream Local made a lot of sense. Thanks for coming in today, Shannon.
Shannon: Hi. Thanks for having me.
Dr. Lisa: Shannon, you were interviewed by Philip Conkling in an article for Maine Magazine about entrepreneurs. You’ve done a lot of things in your life, including being an entrepreneur, but you started before working in more of a corporate setting.
Shannon: Yes, I did. I spent many years in newspapers, in the media industry. When I became interested in the internet in 1995, I started getting management roles and corporate roles to help big companies understand how to leverage the internet. It was a terrific learning experience, but I’m really excited now being able to set a culture and tone of my own at our own company.
Dr. Lisa: It’s funny to hear you talking about the internet when it was new.
Dr. Lisa: It’s so far along now compared to what it was. How did you know that the internet was going to become an important place for people to learn how to do business?
Shannon: When I started seeing how people could make connections across any geography or any topic of interest, I understood that people would flock there. We started here actually in Portland, Maine getting mainetoday.com up and running. When we began to see how audiences responded to being able to consume news and information and connect to each other, I knew that was the place for me. I started here in Maine, but then went to start cars.com in Chicago right after that, and then on to Silicon Valley to have a bigger impact in the industry.
It was a terrific experience. It taught me a lot about business, about culture in a very accelerated fashion. You can have 30 years of corporate life in one year in the internet, which I was very blessed to be there that early. Now the minute I was in a place where I could control it myself and really wanted to set my own tone, I knew Maine was where I needed to do it, so I came back.
Dr. Lisa: You had to work your way up. You had to spend quite a lot of years getting the skills necessary in order to become a success in your field.
Shannon: It’s true. It’s true. I was away from the Mid Coast for 15 years, I was out of Maine for eight of those years, to really hone that craft. At the time I left there wasn’t a real culture of entrepreneurship, there wasn’t as much of a culture that I could find at least, of professional development in that field in Maine. I didn’t have choices to stay.
I’m grateful that I left. I’ve been exposed to so many other things. As I said to Philip Conkling in the interview, I noticed one day that all of the art in my house, every time I had three days off in a row, I was coming back here. I thought, “I need to start a plan so that I can get back there when I’m ready.” It was a three-year plan to come home, but I’m grateful to be here now. I’ve been here for seven years now.
Dr. Lisa: You made a stop back along the way.
Shannon: I did. I spent two years in Boston before I moved back to Maine, because I wasn’t quite sure I could handle the reentry from Silicon Valley to Maine yet. I spent a couple of years on the North Shore of Boston to work in Boston for a while, help some clients and companies there, and then spend weekends up in Maine to gradually reenter the culture here. It was a great move for me.
Dr. Lisa: Tell me about Dream Local. Tell me what it is that your company actually does.
Shannon: We help small businesses and medium-sized businesses market themselves online. We offer solutions in websites, in social media, email marketing, search engines, and then we also work with larger companies like web development firms or newspaper companies so that they can offer those services to their advertisers.
Our mission is to help as many small and medium-sized businesses in North America as we can. We reach that through ourselves and through several other partners. We’re currently in nine cities and slated to be in 26 before the end of the year, and about 60 by the end of 2014.
Dr. Lisa: Although you’re based here in Maine, you’re actually reaching a far greater geographic area?
Shannon: Right, we are. We’re helping businesses in local markets all over North America. We have about … today about a third of our clients are here in Maine, and we started … Our roots are here. I wanted to use Silicon Valley expertise to help local businesses here. Now we’ve cultivated what we’ve learned and we share it with a lot of other markets as well.
The majority of our employees are here in Maine. We have some in other states and other cities. They’re terrific, we’re very grateful for them, but the root of the company is here.
Dr. Lisa: I believe that we’re in a place now where most people recognize that the internet is an important part of conducting business. I think we’re still in a place where people are realizing how social media can have an impact: Facebook, Twitter, even LinkedIn. Was it hard initially to convince people of the importance of having a website, or is it hard now to convince them of the importance of having a Facebook page?
Shannon: I find that initially when we started in 2009, we didn’t have flocks of businesses running to the door to understand it. We had a lot of clients who understood they wanted a web presence, but they weren’t convinced that social media was going to make a difference.
Today though, it’s a little different. It’s evolved quite a bit in the past several years where businesses at least recognize the importance of having their brand there. Because so many people are there, over one billion people are on Facebook, 250 million on LinkedIn, 500 million on Twitter. They hear about it a lot and recognize, they’re interested in figuring it out but they don’t have time, and they don’t know what to do.
The other things businesses are becoming really aware of is the need to show up well on search engines. Because so many of us rely on Google along to just find somebody’s phone number or anything that we need. That shift in consumer behavior has really made businesses aware that this is something that they need to succeed on well in the short term. We’re excited to help them.
More than half of all searches are actually on a mobile device too. Those of us who have smartphones are a lot better at using them. We understand how to use the search engines and try to find what we’re looking for. We try to help businesses be found in that space.
Dr. Lisa: It’s something that I think that we all recognize, well, many of us recognize the importance of, and I do know that there are businesses that hope to capitalize on the social media or on a web development, and hire somebody who … like a kid. They think, “I’m of a certain age. I don’t really understand this, but my teenage brother understands this, so I’m going to hire my teenage brother.” That doesn’t always get the results that they’re looking for.
Shannon: It’s so true. We have businesses that do exactly what you’re saying or that try to do it themselves when they have time, which is a famous phrase that we all use, myself included. What we think is really important for businesses, it’s like anything else that you’re doing, you really need to have a plan and a strategy.
The first thing that we work with our clients on is understanding their business better and what their goals are, so that we can help them come up with the best plan for them online. The fact that we’ve worked with businesses nationally helps us, because what will work for a roofer here in Mid Coast Maine may also work for a roofer in Bakersfield, California or in Kanosha, Wisconsin. We’re able to bring in the best practices that we see from around the nation to our businesses in the local markets, which has been really successful.
Having that strategy and that plan is so critical. Also understanding the difference between how you would speak to a consumer on different networks, how we talk to somebody on Facebook is different than how we speak to them on Twitter or on LinkedIn, and not every network is needed for every business. A plan is really important, and that’s something that we pride ourselves on is understanding our clients very well.
Dr. Lisa: The goal of the Dr. Lisa Radio Hour is to help make connections between the health of the individual and the health of the community. The Goal of Ted Carter Inspired Landscapes is to deepen our appreciation for the natural world. Here to speak with us today is Ted Carter.
Ted: We live in a very coarse and ugly world today. The media surrounds us with a constant barrage of predatory commercials, murders, chaos, economic peril, wars – on and on.
John O’Donohue, one of my favorite theologians writes, “Even amidst chaos and disorder, something in the human mind continues to seek beauty.” Land and landscape offer this refuge. When I work with clients I always envision how these lovely landscaped areas will offer a home to all those that enter, that will help soothe them and make them whole once again. Refreshed and in balance, they can now return to the harsh demanding world that awaits them beyond this magical oasis.
I’m Ted Carter. If you’d like to contact me, I can be reached at tedcarterdesign.com.
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Dr. Lisa: There is something also that I think you’re speaking to somewhat, which is the voice and helping clients even understand not only what their mission is, but how do you put that out there? What is the voice that you want to have?
Shannon: I think for each client it’s a little bit different, but in every case it has to really sound like them. We try to understand their tone, their mission, the way they present themselves in their other types of marketing. Particularly, we spend a lot of time on their target audience like, “Who are you really trying to reach, and what motivates that person?”
Interestingly enough, many small businesses don’t know the answer to their real target audience, because they’re so used to buying traditional media where you can’t really target. You’re either in the sports section or the lifestyle section. They don’t realize that I can find women with houses between 150-250,000 who are professional.
Once we have an understanding of who the audiences are and who the company is, it helps us develop a voice together with our client to make sure that we’re on the right page before we start blasting anything out online for them. In many cases we work with our clients to do things like plan their events or other things, because they feel like we really do understand their voice or we do design – print ads for Maine Home and Design for example, for clients that feel like, “You know what I’m trying to say. Help me say it there.” That’s a big part of what we do.
Dr. Lisa: I do enjoy spending time looking at Maine Magazine, Maine Home and Design, and trying to figure out who is working on their strategies, who’s working on their marketing, how it is that they are … what the messages they’re trying to get across, and is it really being effectively offered? It’s not a criticism of either of the magazines, because some of these ads are done in house, some of these come from other places, but I’m not sure that people understand just exactly how important marketing really is, because sometimes the ads that are sent in don’t reflect what I think people hope that they do.
Shannon: Or they may not reflect the audience of the magazine, which is interesting. I think that’s a great point. It used to be that people weren’t so overwhelmed by information. The average American today, 76% of Americans are overwhelmed by the news and information thrown at them every day. It means we read things differently. We expect something to speak to us, to garner my attention and time to look at it.
Marketing, it’s not about advertising anymore. It’s now about marketing and understanding who’s the reader, and how am I going to get their attention in the most compelling way. For us, when we went to design our first ads for one of our clients in Maine Home and Design, spent a ton of time thinking about the audience, looking at the other ads, having people here look at the ads, “Do you like the design? Do you feel like this is going to flow well with the magazine?” That is part of the process now to make sure that they’re going to be as effective as possible at reaching the audience that you need to reach.
I was running through the Portland Jetport a couple of months ago, late as usual. I saw this advertisement on the wall that said, “When can you stop working?” Instantly in my head I’m like, “Never. Keep running. Get on my flight.” I come back and I’m going down the escalator, and I see it again over baggage claim, “When can you stop working?”
This ad was for a financial services company that if they had said something like, “Manage your 401(k) yourself,” I would have been like, “Who has time for that?” and kept running like I probably would have even read it. When they said, “When can you stop working?” it spoke to me and made me pay attention to what they were trying to say. That’s how marketing needs to be today, whether you’re on Facebook or Twitter or a billboard, or Maine Magazine, you have to understand who your audience is and try to speak to their language not yours.
Dr. Lisa: I’m familiar with that ad. I think it’s something that really grabs a lot of people, and it’s very well placed because there you are, you’re in the airport. Maybe you’re going on vacation or maybe you’re going to some business trip. I think that’s very true.
I think in the past there has been criticism of media and marketing as being manipulative, and there’s this whole idea that people who are marketing are like “Mad Men.” That we’re all just trying to … we’re just all pawns in this big chess game. I don’t really think that that’s true.
Shannon: Right. I think there were many years where traditional advertising was very much like that. It was trying to create a need in people and solve that need. Today, with the rash of information that people have thrown at them every day, now people are savvier and they’re empowered to find information on anything that they want to know.
If I feel like I’m concerned about a health problem I can go to Web MD, look it all up, see what people say about it. Today’s consumer is much more motivated about being empowered, informed, and saving them time, because now with all of this information, all of these more connections that we can keep, we’re all busier than ever before.
We try to position our clients at least as resources in their space, so that we can help people understand what might be the right way to think about their product or service. I think the, “When can I stop working?” is a billboard example of that. Instead of telling me I should have a portfolio, they’re speaking what my pain point is.
In many of our cases, we’re writing blog posts about what type of roofing might be right for you. “Is metal right for your house? Is architectural shingles right for your house?” Rather than just saying, “Hey, here’s what we do and here’s our phone number,” we try to be resources to people.
That type of content is what people really respond to, and I think it’s about how businesses will market themselves today. It’s about, “What’s your story?” How can you help your clients, and how can you listen and respond to them in ways that are compelling. If somebody happens to be on Twitter complaining about their flight, how can you surprise and delight them by not only hearing them, but responding to them and offering them some sort of help.
Dr. Lisa: For entrepreneurs, and of course you were mentioned in the article that Philip Conkling wrote about entrepreneurs in Maine Magazine, marketing sometimes gets put pretty far down the list. A constant refrain is, “We don’t have enough to market,” “We don’t have enough money to market.”
Dr. Lisa: In some cases that’s backward think—actually, probably in most cases that’s backward thinking. Because if you have a great product but nobody knows about it, nobody is going to buy it anyway. You really can’t afford not to market.
Shannon: It’s true. It really is true. We work with a lot of small businesses to start small, so that they can begin to see successes. In many cases for us, we try to be in it with our clients and recognize, “We’re going to help you get your strategy and your plan, and teach you how to do it yourself until you can afford to have assistance in that space.” We try to help them get started as much as they can. For many businesses, it is daunting for them to even consider investing in this space.
I can say one of my famous lines with our investors is, “If I could make it in Maine, I can make it anywhere,” because small businesses here really didn’t see a lot of value necessarily in that type of marketing. The economy was slow to recover and is still slow recovering here in Maine, and the average client for many years was paying us around $150 a month.
We’re bleeding for this money, like how hard we work, but we’re proud to do it and we’re proud each year that our average monthly spend goes up because we feel like we’ve earned it. We’ve earned it by proving that it can work with our clients, and we’ve been right out there with them willing to take the risks it takes to make the investments to help them grow.
Dr. Lisa: You were named one of Maine Biz Magazine’s “Women to Watch” in 2013, and obviously you’ve gotten some attention of late. I know that as an entrepreneur yourself, it hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows.
Shannon: So true. One of the co-founders of Twitter, Biz Stone has this fantastic line, a quote about how it takes … “There’s nothing like 10 years of hard work and sweat and tears to be called an overnight success.” I share that one with our clients a lot because … and our team, the dream team. Because we have really worked very hard, it’s been four years at this company, and many years building the research and the relationships before to get to where we are today. I think that’s what makes us stronger. Like many famous companies, we started in a garage. Until three years ago we were in my garage over my house, and there was really no space between my life and the business, and actually there really is very little now.
I think it’s made us strong, and it’s also really core to the values and one of the reasons I wanted to be back here in Maine, is people here understand that sort of fortitude and what it takes to get there. I’m deeply humbled for the attention that we’re getting now, and I’m excited that it’s helping my company and my clients move our mission forward. It is a very humbling experience, the Maine Biz piece. They knew things about me, I don’t know where they dug that stuff up, but I was very humbled by the experience.
Now our job is to increase our reach to help more businesses with some of the people paying attention to what we’re doing now. A lot of people talk to me about how can I do it like my Facebook profile for example is like a public figure, and there’s really no line between my business and my professional life and my personal life in many cases, but I feel like there is value in that, in that it’s very real all the time. I believe in what I’m doing very strongly and I believe that our team does too, and I’m grateful that I can have employment that allows me to feel so strongly about what we’re doing, that I don’t need that barrier between.
Of course it’s weird when I go to Hannaford, to the grocery store in my town, and people will recognize Rachel and not me, which is fabulous, because she has her own little Chicky Boo TV series online. She’ll get noticed by people and be like, “It’s the Chicky Boo. It’s the Chicky Boo.” The same thing happens with me sometimes. We’re both just like, “This is so cool to be in Maine,” and have that kind of community experience where people will say things to us. It’s fun.
Dr. Lisa: When you’re not online, how do you get offline? How do you unplug and what do you do?
Shannon: For me, I’m online most of the time. I may not respond to everything all of the time. The biggest thing I do to unplug is actually Rachel. I force myself when I’m not working, or when we have we set aside pockets of time where I’m very present with her. I’m so grateful that she came into my life, because it allows me and forces me to take the time to do that, to be present in the moment when I’m with her. Even if we’re semi-connected doing something, the focus is on her.
We like to be outside, we like to get involved, we like to do a lot of community things. She’s really the center of that experience, and also the place. Maine is a very … Maine brings me a sense of peace, but also a sense of place. It’s just beautiful to be here, even if you take a walk at lunch for 10 minutes, which I don’t do enough but I think about it.
Dr. Lisa: Shannon, how do people find out about Dream Local Digital?
Shannon: We are online at www.dreamlocal.com, or you can find us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Dreamlocal. From there, you can find all of our other contact information everywhere, or you can find me on Facebook under Shannon Kinney.
Dr. Lisa: We’ve been speaking with Shannon Kinney, who’s the founder and client success officer with Dream Local Digital who also is profiled by Philip Conkling in Maine Magazine.
Thank you so much for taking time out of your very busy schedule to come and talk to us about what it’s like to be an entrepreneur living in Maine.
Shannon: Thank you so much for having me.
Dr Lisa: You have been listening to the Dr. Lisa Radio Hour and Podcast, show number 108: “Economies of Scale.” Our guests have included Philip Conkling and Shannon Kinney.
For more information on our guests and extended interviews, visit doctorlisa.org. Also, read Philip Conkling’s article, which includes information about Shannon Kinney in Maine Magazine.
We also invite you to join us at a special event. Senator Angus King will speak about Maine and the global environment at the Physicians for Social Responsibility Maine chapter annual dinner on Tuesday, October 15th. The dinner is a unique opportunity to participate in an interactive discussion with Senator King and learn about PSR Maine’s three key issues: climate change, toxics and nuclear non-proliferation.
The dinner is being held on October 15th at the Italian Heritage Center in Portland. For more information, go to psrmaine.org or the PSR Maine Facebook page. Physicians For Social Responsibility Maine is an organization of doctors and other healthcare professionals who approach the major global threats to human survival for the medical public health perspective. They are concerned with the prevention of nuclear war, the prevention of global climate change and the prevention of exposure to toxic chemicals.
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This is Dr. Lisa Belisle. I hope that you have enjoyed our “Economies of Scale” show. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your day. May you have a bountiful life.
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