24 September 2015

Thomas MacEntee Interview on Genealogy as a Business: Part III

At BIFHSGO Conference 2015 I found myself talking to people who were interested in genealogy as a business. That prompted me to sit down with Chicago-based Rockstar genealogist Thomas MacEntee for an interview on his experience in the business of genealogy.

Thomas, a speaker and author, came to a genealogy career from an information technology background and is very active on the web with sites including High Definition GenealogyHack Genealogy and Geneabloggers.

The first two parts of the transcripts were posted here and here. In this final part we start by asking Who else in the Genealogy business, or in the larger business world do you most admire, and what attributes do you appreciate the most in your genealogy business friends?

TM: One is Lisa Louise Cooke. I like the way she runs her business. I like the layout of her web properties. I like what she offers. There's almost never a hard sell. What we're finding now is that people want to relate to a business on a personal level. They don't want the corporate feel. Lisa does much of what I do - we give away stuff for free. People at the start said you're crazy. Why aren't you charging for this. But we call them lead magnets. They actually bring people who say, oh! that's what Lisa's about. I'm going to look at her other stuff. I'm going to buy her Evernote video - subscribe to her premium podcast. That's what it's all about and why I admire her.  Dick Eastman has been in the space for coming up to 20 years now. His idea was having a premium newsletter. I have an e-newsletter but it's not paid for. I look to him and that's why I started developing my email list for coupons and contests and things like that.

JDR: We're always told we learn more from our mistakes. What mistakes did you make that you would council people against? 

TM: I think in the beginning I started to toot my own horn too much in terms of press releases, especially when I had new lectures. I think it's more important to build ... I have what I call a tribe, a loyal group of followers. Let them go out and cheerlead and evangelize for you. It's different than you being out with a bullhorn and tooting your own horn. Also genealogists are smart people. You really can't do much of this "fake it till you make it" stuff. You've got to prove you can walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Also you've got to go slow. It's just like genealogy; there's no easy button in genealogy and there's no easy button in running a business.

JDR: Do you have any final advice for those embarking on a genealogy business.

TM: There are a lot of free resources out there for starting a business and a lot of that will translate to a genealogy business. Make a list of what you like to do and avoid the things you don't enjoy. For speaking engagements you have to start out at a low price level, even free. My first year was free. I spent $5,000 on travel speaking around the US just to make a name for myself. That was an investment so set some money aside. Also find somebody in the genealogy business to mentor you. Join the ProGen group. To sell something I have - a GenBiz Solutions site. Those are guides on how to run a genealogy business and they're often discounted so look for them. You've got to be happy. |If you're not happy as a business owner -- people notice unhappy business owners, I notice them at genealogy shows and ask myself why they're killing themselves doing it.

I like to thank Thomas for taking the time to site down for the interview. 


Janice Nickerson said...

Thanks for doing this, John and Thomas. The interview series was really interesting!

Jana Iverson Last said...

Wonderful interview!

I want to let you know that your Thomas MacEntee interview series blog posts are listed in today's Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2015/09/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-september_25.html

Have a great weekend!