Interviewee Name: Paulette Ensign
Company Name: TipsBooklets.com
Avil Beckford: Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Paulette Ensign: Fourteen years ago I got smart and made a cross-country move from Northeast America where I had lived all my life to sunny San Diego and I did it without missing a beat in my business because of the flexibility of Tips Booklet, which is what my business is all about. My cat and I got on a plane and I have never looked back. People have asked me why I moved to San Diego, and it’s simple, it doesn’t snow here (she laughs). I live a mile from the Pacific Ocean and I refer to that beach as my office annex. It’s one of the most beautiful experiences plus it does really allow me the kind of life that I want. I think it is important for anyone listening to or reading about our interview, to understand that’s what I promote. I promote people creating the life they want by taking their knowledge and putting it into information products and getting their message out worldwide and making good money from it.
Avil Beckford: What’s a typical day like for you?
Paulette Ensign: There is nothing typical about how my life is. The beauty of all of this is that there is no typical day. I am definitely someone who disciplines myself so I aim to be at my desk at 9:00 am each morning. However, if it happens that it’s quarter after, 9:30 or 10:00 am, or I need to do something in the morning, I also know that because my life being what it is I can do that.
Frequently my day includes checking emails, talking with people, sometimes doing a teleclass, responding to questions that people have or being able to go for a walk or buy my groceries on a Wednesday afternoon just because I can. I end the day somewhere in the 5:30, 6:30 range and then enjoy my evening either alone or socially with other people. In the course of the day I am interacting with people as well as doing a lot of quiet in-office stuff by myself.
I don’t know about you, but I find that if I’m sitting for too long, it goes all the way up to my brain, which then allows me to have an experience of stopping and being stale, so it’s necessary to keep in motion so that the ideas keep coming so I can serve people as well as I’m capable.
Avil Beckford: How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?
Paulette Ensign: Sometimes it’s an external motivation. Keeping my financial commitments really motivate me. Paying my bills motivates me and always has, but on the creative side, when I find that I’m getting stale, I do one of several things. I do something in the immediate moment like taking a break and going out, or taking an hour at the beach, or going for a walk, allow me to look at the situation through completely different filters. If I have found that I’m really at a stalemate, that my creativity has come to a grinding halt, the thing that I have consistently noticed over the years, no matter what career I have been in – this is my third career so far – is that I get ideas from other industries, other professions, other fields. For instance, if I’m reading a magazine such as Fast Company or Inc., I will notice a concept that seem to me that I can do something with it, like opening up a new market for my business or creating a new product, or coming at things from a different perspective, so I get motivation from other industries.
I’m also good at observing, identifying, tweaking and turning things a half turn, so I can be in a conversation with a colleague or friend or family, and hear a germ, a seed of an idea and pick it up and run with it. So those ranges of possibilities contribute to keeping me motivated. I don’t know that necessarily anybody is motivated 100 percent of the time. I’m a former musician and I remember knowing, being told and experiencing that the rests of silence in music are equally important as the sound. This bears itself out in business as well, taking those breaks are crucial and equally as important to moving forward.
Avil Beckford: If you had to start over from scratch, knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?
Paulette Ensign: I would ask more people more questions, and that means that I would ask friends and colleagues how to do things. I would ask my clients more consistently about what matters to them, what’s important to them and in general I would ask more questions. I tend to be a more independent driven person by nature, and it has taken me a while to realize the real importance of, and the value of getting input from others. It doesn’t mean that I have to take their advice all the time, as much as to have it as raw material to ponder, to process, and then take what really works from that and apply it.
Avil Beckford: What’s the most important business or other discovery you’ve made in the past year?
Paulette Ensign: It’s something that many people will think is an amazing grasp of the obvious and it follows on what I was just saying, that interacting with other people makes traveling the bricks of life a whole lot easier and more interesting. So if I find that I’m in my office too long, by myself without interacting, it’s not fun, it’s not interesting, it’s not creative so I think the most important thing is to have interaction with other people and it doesn’t need to be that they are in my own business, because as I mentioned, lots of great ideas come when I’m connecting with folks who are in other parts of life and may not even be in business at all. This is probably the biggest discovery I’ve made in this past year, and 2011 will be 20 years since I have been in the booklet business, so I want to impress on our readers and listeners that there is always more to learn.
Avil Beckford: What’s one of the biggest advances in your industry over the past five years?
Paulette Ensign: Knowing that my business is about tips booklets, and it has been the whole time about tips booklets. In the past five years one of the ways that I have broadened my business, has been to add on, and not substitute, another service that is a collaborative format of a tips booklet. And isn’t that interesting that I was talking just a few moments ago about the importance of interacting with other people, that this particular service that we are now doing called Collection of Experts has really been a big boon to a lot of people because there are some folks who don’t have the time or inclination to write their own booklet, and by grouping 14 people together and having fewer words for each person to come up with, and to have an immediate marketing team of 13 colleagues is what ends up happening in a collection of experts.
We’re accomplishing so many good things, with so little time and money involved and within the past five years we are finding that this offer is a boon to everybody and it has expanded the reach that each of the participants has. It has expanded their bottom line and it has been a fabulous way of connecting people to each other, and to folks who want what these people in the booklets have. That paired with the obvious expansion of the reach online has really opened up the world in a way that we haven’t experienced prior to the past handful of years. It is just hard to imagine that the thing that I get the biggest kick out of now is that with all of the focus online, one of the best ways to distinguish ourselves these days is to have printed booklets because there are fewer people doing direct mail and print. So I don’t want to get off track on your question, but it’s fun to see how old becomes new again.
Avil Beckford: What are the three threats to your business, your success, and how are you handling them?
Paulette Ensign: One of the biggest threats to my business is the solitude. If I stay by myself for too long, it just shuts things down and it spirals downwards. A couple of things that I have mentioned on how I handle that is to make formal contact with other people, whether it means getting together for lunch, or creating a Mastermind Group, or having other ways to connect with other people. The Collection of Experts also connects well with people
Another one of the threats to my business is the notion that people make assumptions about what they believe is possible. I have heard others say that there is so much ignorance to stamp out that it will take many lifetimes to do so. When I have people coming to me from a traditional publishing background with that set of beliefs about selling booklets one at a time only to the end user is both an opportunity and a threat and a challenge all wrapped up in one because it takes a lot to make sure folks understand and are willing and able to move forward in the direction of selling large quantities of copies to single buyers for instance.
The third threat is the issue of how much is given away for free. People will say to me, “With all of the free information that’s available online, is there till any merit to creating a tips booklet to sell?” Very soon I am going to present a teleclass about “10 Ways it Makes Total Sense to Give Away Your Booklet to Increase Your Bottom Line,” so I’m leaning into what people are perceiving to be a challenge and turning that around and showing what a great opportunity it is because of the notion of using booklets as a promotional tool really counteracts the concern that a lot of people have expressed to me about all the information being available for free. First of all it’s not so and there is always ways to do that.
I’d like to add another threat because we always like to give more than we promise. I think one of the biggest threats is that attitude that some folks have about what is not possible. When someone comes to me and say, “I can’t do this, I can’t do that,” I go, “Yeah you’re right, because the point of view you have is going to stop you in your tracks.” I like to focus on the positives so whenever I see something that looks like a threat, like people are talking about the economy, that’s an opportunity rather than something that’s going to be a barrier. That’s how I come to my business and that’s how I teach people as well.
Avil Beckford: What’s unique about the service that you provide?
Paulette Ensign: Talking to people about doing a publication that’s 3500 words instead of a book that can often be 35,000 words allows someone to be a published author, with much less time, money and effort to go into creating a product that they can sell and use as a marketing tool. If the requirement to have a book is paramount in your profession then at least that is something they have before the book is written. It may be that they write a series of booklets that they then combine in to a book.
I cannot begin to tell you how many people say, “This is so doable, and it’s approachable and there is no barrier to entry on it.” It is something that can be done very quickly, and can be done in a way that represents the person’s expertise and allows lots of good things to happen in their business. The issue about the size of the publication, of it being small, delivering very large returns on the investment of time and dollars, is the biggest unique element are about that.
Avil Beckford: What do you observe most people in your field doing badly that you think you do well?
Paulette Ensign: I think that the biggest thing – and rather than think about what someone is doing badly – I prefer to refrain your question into a more positive thing and that is that there are some folks who haven’t traveled the same journey, the same bricks that I have, and have a different perspective, where I am more inclined to encourage people to take what they’ve got and do it as best they can, in whatever timeframe they can. I see other folks have opinions and judgements that I do not think serve their clients very well. So it’s their personality, approach to doing business, I am not going to beat somebody up. I am going to say, “Let get this done” and if you are dabbling around and feeling badly about not having gotten something done yet, well I encourage you to get rid of that point of view and let’s see what we can do to move forward. So where there are other folks who see it with a different personality than mine, and certainly mine is a let’s-get-it-done strong point of view, I’m also not interested in making people feel badly for what they haven’t gotten done. That’s probably the biggest distinction.
Avil Beckford: Describe a major business or other challenge you had and how you resolved it. What kind of lessons did you learn in the process?
Paulette Ensign: One of the biggest challenges that I have ever had was very early on, and it was, I didn’t know the questions to ask. We have talked about what I would do differently when we started off. It would have been so much easier, and still is now, to ask people questions rather than think that I can figure it out all on my own. There are lots of people who have done bits and pieces of what I have done, it doesn’t mean that they have to travel the same path that I am on, however, when I bump into some kind of a challenge, somebody else has inevitably been there before me.
For instance, there were times when I have not known about the range of printing that can get done, or what the different components are about it, but now I know that I have my printer, graphic designer who know this stuff so I don’t need to know it myself. I just need to know where to get the answers from people who can speak in a language that I understand. That’s probably the biggest challenge that I’ve had all along at any different point along the way and I continue to remind myself to just keep asking questions.
Paulette Ensign: The lessons I have learned is to take a breath sometimes. I tend to move very quickly. Even though I have been living in San Diego for 14 years, I have not become a laid back California chick; I’m still a former New Yorker. And I will probably be for most of the rest of my life. However, what I have seen that has worked very well is that there are times when it is important to just get it done as well as I can and then make course corrections later. Then there are other times when it makes much more sense to take a breath, wait over night, wait a day-or-two, look at the same situation again, and then I can see more about it. Know when to hold them and when to fold them, as that song and situation goes. Knowing when it’s important to take action, which is my natural inclination, and good is better than not done at all, and when to hold off for just a little bit so that I can gather a little more information to move forward.
One of the things I see frequently with many people who come to me about booklets, is that a lot of them are not as action-oriented as I am. They are more information gatherers, and it hasn’t been unusual for me to have someone come back and say, “You know Paulette, 10 years ago I bought your information about how to promote my business with booklets and I’m finally getting around to writing a booklet now.” And I think to myself that I have to honour what their timeframe was and that whatever kept them from doing it may have also kept them from experiencing some great bonuses as a result of having gotten it done. So the timing factor is one of the biggest lessons that I have learned.
Avil Beckford: Tell me about your big break and who gave you.
Paulette Ensign: It was early in the 1990s and the economy was different than it was before then, and my sales cycle had gotten longer and longer, and I really needed to shake it up a bit, and that’s how I ended up doing the booklet. In the very first year of doing Tips Booklets, I was marketing them by sending single copies to magazines as a way to promote the booklet and the business, and I would send a copy of the booklet to the magazine editor and ask them to excerpt from the booklet into their publication provided they would put full contact information so their readers could get a single copy. During that time, it was a definite way of coming out of a desert that I was in.
There was a 16-page business newsletter that I sent the booklet to, and that publication did not even excerpt from it, they just described the booklet in nine lines of copy, and I ended up selling 5,000 copies one at a time as a result of that mention. It catapulted my business in new directions. Somebody bought a single copy and liked it so well that they decided to use it as that year’s holiday greeting and send it out to their entire prospect and client list. They wanted to have their logo and contact information printed on the cover of the booklet, and wanted to know what it would cost. It was a very different approach from one I had had up until that moment. However, it became a very typical approach after that because what they were doing in that moment was they were paying to market me to 5,000 places that I would never have gotten to before because they wanted me to keep my contact information in the booklet, and add theirs.
Once I saw that happen I questioned how I could duplicate it, and it became a springboard for going into a direction that has become a mainstay of what I teach people about how to sell their booklets and other information products in very large quantities to companies and associations, to use their booklets as a promotional tool, rather than selling one copy of the booklet directly to the end user. I have never looked back and it has been an outstanding way to help people to get their message out there and increase their bottom line.
Avil Beckford: Describe one of your biggest failures. What lessons did you learn, and how did it contribute to a greater success?
Paulette Ensign: I do not use the word failure very often because it’s kind of like when people say to me, “Don’t you think you wasted all that time in that marriage you were in that you ultimately were no longer in.” My belief and it’s consistently what I’ve said to you already, is that every experience has been a lesson as part and parcel of it. So the issue about what lessons have I learned is really what my focal point is because each element, each part of the journey, has had its own challenges and rewards and lessons in it.
One of the funnier things that happened, and included in this is what the costs of the journey has been, at a very basic level. When I was selling single copies of my booklets, I was getting three and five dollar cheques in the mail, and what I did not know, that I learned very fast was that I was being charged for every deposit. When that first bank statement came at the end of that month and I saw a bank fee that was well into $200, I said, “There must be some mistake,” and in fact what the mistake was, was my lack of awareness of what the terms were with the particular arrangement I had with that bank at that moment.
I learned that lesson very fast because it was an expensive one, and made some adjustments in what my banking was about and moved forward really fast and easily. Things like that, not only literally did I learn that lesson but also was a bigger learning about the notion of paying attention to what the dollars and cents were all about, paying attention to what was coming in and what was going out, and that each of them is equally as important because if I was only bringing in a lot of money and wasn’t paying attention to what my expenses were, as simplistic as that sounds, I can’t tell you how many people I have run into who are oblivious to all of that. I think that particular lesson was a big one that was pervasive in all of my life from that point forward.
Avil Beckford: What has been your biggest disappointment in your life – and what are you doing to prevent its reoccurrence?
Paulette Ensign: I am an idea person and I’m grateful for the continuing ideas. There might be times when something looks like it’s going to be a win and a big success in a new product, in a new direction that I’m going, and it falls flat on its face. What I have heard and lived and believe in completely is to fail often and fail early. And again fail is not a word I use often. However in this particular context, I think that it bears itself out that to continue to let the creativity live and breathe is going to bring back certain levels of success and forward motion and other times it’s going to be hitting a brick wall. As far as what I’m going to do to prevent it re-occurrence, probably nothing because I do believe that as long as I’m above ground, if I don’t fuel and fan that fire of creative ideas I’ll miss the good ones. There will be some that won’t go any place and I’ll miss the good ones and I’m not willing to do that.
Avil Beckford: What’s one of the toughest decisions you’ve had to make and how did it impact your life?
Paulette Ensign: I think the decision about making the cross country move probably ranks way up there as far as a big decision, and it is something that came from pain like so many things in life. I was feeling like it was time for me to leave the East Coast and I wasn’t quite sure what that was going to look like because I have always lived on the East Coast. I had been hoping that by traveling around doing speaking engagements that I have done for quite a few years now that some place would jump out at me with my name on it, and in fact it hadn’t. At one point I finally decided that it was time to do this and what was that going to look like. I thought to myself, “Alright, since I can have whatever I want, what would that look like?” and I thought, “Beach, warmth and an enlightened community.”
I couldn’t think of any place that was really jumping out at me on the East Coast that sounded like that and I wanted to stay in the United States, and I wasn’t crazy about some of the other parts of California. I was coming to a conference the year when all of this was coming to a head, and I’d been to San Diego before, however never with the filters of living here. I tagged a trip on to the beginning of that trip to the conference, and I came here in the first weekend of March, on Friday, and on Sunday I walked on the beach, and June 29th that year I moved.
People kept saying to me that that was such a big risk, and you know aren’t you apprehensive about what you’ve done, and my steady answer to that has been, “If it turns out that it doesn’t turn out well, I can always move someplace else.” I think that is also representative of so much else in my life, that’s the only thing that I can speak to, is that with the decisions that I’ve made, some of them have turned out great, some of them have turned out better than I could have imagined and some of them have turned out not so great. There is always a new wave coming in and it doesn’t matter how much I’ve messed up the last one. That’s the perspective that I like to share with people and that I view in my life as well.
Avil Beckford: What are three events that helped to shape your life?
Paulette Ensign: I mentioned that this is my third career so far. The first one, and in general, these three careers, and certainly lots of other things too, each one has shaped my life in certain ways. My first career was I taught stringed instruments: viola, cello and base, in public elementary schools. As my only credentialed background, I have two degrees in music education, and I was a violinist from the age of eight until 38. I taught stringed instruments for quite a long time and I loved it. I loved the kids and I loved the teaching of something brand new. It was the adults that I had a challenge with. After quite a bit of time I decided to leave that and became a professional organizer and consultant going into people’s homes and businesses helping them organize their paper, time and space.
I was very fortunate to be in that industry very early on where I could contribute a lot of time and talent to the development of that industry. My organizing business started a couple of years before the National Association of Professional Organizers was founded.
I am not one of the founders, though I came in very early and was the founding president of the New York Chapter and that was a wonderful experience. In 1991, as I mentioned, when the economy was all different, than it had been, someone had shown me a copy of another tips booklet and I thought I could do one on organizing your business and life, and that opened up a journey that I could never in a million years have mapped out. It has been incredible and it has been worldwide. I’ve had the good fortune to be able to speak in person in countries other than the United States. I have been to Europe several times to speak there, and I do teleclasses all around the world, and have made lots of other connections with people worldwide.
Each one of these three careers has been opportunities, learning, connections with people and experiences. Each and every one of them has shaped my life.
Avil Beckford: What’s an accomplishment that you are proudest of?
Paulette Ensign: I enjoy starting things, and I know that some other folks prefer to maintain things that someone else has started, but I enjoy starting things. I’m a natural trailblazer and it’s not without its challenges because there are more situations than not where starting things require a lot of educating people. For instance, when I was teaching stringed instruments I did it differently. I did it my own way. Not only did I do group lessons and small ensembles of orchestras, I also brought in a full classroom experience, a general experience of teaching an entire third grade by class how to play the violin.
When I was a professional organizer it was very early in that whole industry and people would think labour organizing or ultimately they would think only closet organizing, neither of which was the case. And then with booklets, people kept thinking about using other words, which I don’t want to reinforce at the moment because they are not the word booklet. There are other kinds of publications, and again it’s a question of educating.
I think that the accomplishment that I’m proudest of is that I have taken the three extra brain cells that I have been blessed with and put them to good use teaching other people how to take what they have and make the most of it. Whether I was teaching children how to play an instrument, or whether I was teaching people how to organize their life so it would work better for them, or now teaching people how to take their knowledge and put it into products that can spread the word and make money for them, in each of these ways, I feel very good about influencing people’s live so it makes better experiences for them.
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