Interview with "The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur" Mike Michalowicz

By Linsey Knerl on 24 November 2009 (Updated 26 April 2010) 0 comments

You don’t have to read Mike Michalowicz’s (Mi-Cal-O-Witz) entire Wikipedia page to get the notion that this guy knows what it means to “start something from nothing.” Michalowicz’s tale of bootstrapping a business and turning it into quite a success story is what qualifies him to host the business reality show “Bailout!” and has made him an engaging and relatable guest on CNBC’s The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, ABC News, Fox News and other television programs. We get inside the business mind of the Toilet Paper Entrepreneur to find out how you can actually have an advantage in this tough economy.

How does a small business owner know that they've "made it?" Is there a magic yardstick for performance where you can let up a bit? Or is it important to stay just as driven throughout the life cycle of a new business?

I think entrepreneurs need to be careful about defining a one time goal and measuring success by that. The problem is if they don't achieve it, they will inherently define everything up to that point as a failure. Instead I think we all should have a major "dream scenario" that we are targeting, but move toward it in small measurable steps. Every time we surpass a step, we should celebrate and then determine the next big step we can take toward our "dream scenario." This type of strategy allows entrepreneurs to periodically adjust their approach to success and not get bogged down in the one definition they may have of achievement.

No matter what -- and I know this from years and years of being an entrepreneur -- no matter how far you get, you will always want to go further. So, celebrate every success no matter how small or how big, because there will never be a finishing point.

Your small business message really helps to put those professionals with fewer resources on the same level (if not an advantage) as those with many resources. How do you explain this phenomenon/fact?

It is the great paradox of entrepreneurship. All the things we were "taught" about what determines success is, in fact, the opposite. I discovered that it DOES NOT take money to make money. In fact, it is the lack of money that forces innovation and out-of-the-box thinking. And when you are a startup entrepreneur with no money, you starting finding new, unexpected ways to get things done. Ironically, if you had a fat wallet, you would be blinded to the innovations you could bring about.

Can you tell us a little about how you use charge cards or credit in your business?

Charge cards are the core to any business, and mine is no different. The Amex card is particularly important for what I call "rapid transaction cash management." Basically I receive frequent orders for products and services, but won't receive the actual payment for a few days. So once I secure an order, I use the good ol' Amex card to purchase the raw materials. I consider Amex the "bank in my pocket"... it is always there, 24x7, and ready to make a business loan any time and every time.

The start up of my business required some traditional outlays, such as buying office supplies and such. But Amex really was critical when it came to publishing my book, The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur. Instead of going the traditional publishing route, I decided to start my own publishing company - talk about a nerve racking decision! Starting a publisher required, among other things, a big purchase order to the book printer. A quick call to the Amex 1-800 number and the book printer got right to work. Fast forward one year later, and my book is in the hands of more entrepreneurs then I even knew existed. It has been a wonderful success, and it truly all got started with an Amex card and the 800 number on the back.

What AMEX cards do you and your business utilize the most? What benefits or perks are your favorites?

Hands down, there are two Amex cards that I love! First the Plum Card is a MUST for my "rapid transaction cash management," since I get money back when I pay off the statement within a week or so... I LOVE THAT. But there is another Amex card that has to be in my pocket, and it is the Platinum card. I travel a lot, sometimes more than I like, and nothing is better than having the Platinum card. It gets me into all the reserved clubs at the airport (think quiet, free internet, free food and drink, and privacy), and it has a concierge service that can pull some serious ropes!

Do you have any last words of wisdom for AMEX small business users?

I am a HUGE advocate for women entrepreneurs and am always looking to speak to women entrepreneur groups, partner with the groups and do collaborative projects. It is my emphatic belief that the next generation of entrepreneurs, is in fact NOT the next generation. The next generation of entrepreneurs is the female entrepreneurs, particularly women who are in their 30's, 40's and 50's. Watch out world! They are taking over! (And that is a good thing.)

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