Tom Harding, founder and CEO of Infinity Direct, a full service direct marketing agency in Plymouth, Minn., spoke to the Introduction to Business class at Globe University-Minneapolis about the importance of entrepreneurship.
The business students are creating mock companies as their final project. The class was formed into three teams, each led by a “CEO.” The students’ final grade depends on how well their business plan is developed and presented.
The plans include elements such as a business description, vision, definition of their market, marketing and sales plan, and of course a financial plan–all of which require students to apply what they’ve learned in class to this simulated real-world project.
To supplement students’ education, Tom shared his perspective on the importance of other business practices, such as excellent customer service.
Infinity Direct’s philosophy is “Outthink, not outspend” and they have 7 Outthink Strategies that Tom shared with the class:
1. Start with the end in mind
2. If you have a large database of customers – use it! If you don’t, build one – fast!
3. Develop a comprehensive plan with measurable markers built in
4. Stay flexible – just because you start with one idea, doesn’t mean you end with it. Always keep refining!
5. Coordinate your offline and online customer experiences
6. Teach customers at each stage of the buying process
7. Make strategic use of outside resources
Tom Harding was frustrated with his inability to service his clients in a traditional corporate structure. He wanted to build his own company where clients’ needs were truly first and foremost.
Like most entrepreneurs, he rolled up his sleeves and got to work to make it happen. That meant taking a hands-on approach to every aspect of every project. It also meant doing 3 a.m. press checks, running packages to the airport to catch the last overnight flight out, and testing 50 color drawdowns to perfectly match a desired color for a client project.
While Infinity Direct has grown in the number of employees and amount of billings, that same entrepreneurial dedication to customer service and attention to detail is as strong as ever; Tom still sees to that and he passed this onto the students!
Tom said, “If you have a happy customer they are going to spread the word, which is the best marketing of all.”Jesse Peterson, a student studying Information Technology, was inspired by Tom’s infectious courage.
Jesse said he was most impacted by Tom’s advice, “You need to have the courage and the confidence to succeed in the world of business because if you don’t have the courage and confidence to attempt your business idea right now then somebody else will. Not every business will be successful but you have to try; if you don’t try then you will never know and someday you will regret it. Without failures there can be no successes.”
This CEO came to teach and spread courage. After Tom’s visit, each of the students was more equipped to become a CEO for their own business.