Woman in Business Interview with Lorna M. Hartman Owner of LetterCraft

Tell us about your business.
LetterCraft’s primary services are prepress (desktop publishing/page layout), copywriting, and editing for corporate clients. I also do some work for nonprofit clients.

Please tell us what being a business owner means to you and why you became an entrepreneur in the first place?
In a word, income. I’m highly productive and fast at what I do, and as a business owner, I find that being more productive is worth more money than being less productive. This wasn’t necessarily the case in the corporate world when I graduated and started working.

What or who has been your greatest influence in business and why?
Probably Stephen Covey’s book “First Things First” and the many women who came before me in starting their own businesses or succeeding in the corporate world. Covey taught me to always work to my own deepest values and to live up to my promises to myself; and my many female predecessors in business taught me to be persistent.

What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?
My greatest professional accomplishment is what I’m doing right now. I’m back in school to fulfill a long-cherished dream of getting a degree in software development. Right now I’m working on an associate’s degree, learning many programming languages, and we’ll see if this leads to a full bachelor’s in computer science. Going to school while doing business and raising children (my boys are 5 and 2) is as much of a challenge as you’re imagining it would be! My husband is a great support. It took some time and moxie for me to get up the courage to sign school loan papers in this economy, basically gambling that I’d be able to get a job and pay off the loans later down the line. But I love my classes and feel at home in my subject area. It’s also a very strong skillset to add to LetterCraft’s current services. It may enable me to hire others down the line, as well as opening up the possibility of my getting a job somewhere else after graduation. (I like options. It’s another reason I originally went into business for myself.)

What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our readers?
Someone once told me that when women undervalue our services, we hurt our whole industry by bringing down prices and causing clients to undervalue the work of everyone in the field. This had a big impact on me. I was even able to mentor my father into updated pricing — he does much the same work I do, but for different industries. This advice has been applicable to other situations as well. It’s a bedrock truth of human nature that in business, others value you according to how much you value yourself.

What has been the most effective marketing initiatives or programs you have used to promote your business?
My most effective promotion tool has been word of mouth. You do a good job for a mid-sized to large company in one field, and they’re more likely to recommend you to their colleagues at another company in the same field. I’ve tried Google Ads, some text ads in trade magazines, going to local business networking functions — the type of marketing small businesses can afford. These methods haven’t been all that effective for me. Word of mouth has been my best tool by far, and I have no problem asking a happy client if I can drop their name to other companies. They’re happy to lend their name to good service, and that’s really key to business success.

I capitalize on that by keeping in touch with past and current clients. I send creative holidays gifts — one year I sent M&Ms with the company name printed on them, a huge hit with the client and surprisingly inexpensive — and once a year or so I send out to each contact a bunch of pre-printed Post-It pads with my company name and information.
I also maintain a company website — imagine how that’s going to get redone when I finish my software development classes! — and run a webinar program called Skillbuilders, under the auspices of WECAI, to provide business education in quick 30-minute bites that people can go back to their desk and use immediately. I started a business blog, but haven’t had time to contribute to it regularly. Must get on that!

What one thing have you learned as a small business owner that has served you well over the years?
I’ve learned that my career is my own little red wagon to pull and I’ve got to plan it, nurture it, and help it grow over time. It’s essential to put all the elements in place to support a growing career, so that as it does grow, I can move forward smoothly and be ready for each phase and each unexpected challenge that comes my way. Elements such as mentors (ideally, of both sexes), healthy personal relationships and outside activities, regular study of my field so I can see the trends and not just the “hot new thing,” and so on.

Are there any resources or tools you’d like to share with other small business owners that have helped you run your business?
Brenner Books. This company does nationwide research on pricing in the creative fields — art, desktop publishing, printing, copywriting, and more — and makes it available in books focused on different geographic areas of the country. This research is worth its weight in gold. New research comes out every couple of years.
Dictionary.com. Just a basic site that helps me double-check doubtful spellings, markings, and even pronunciation.
Dimdim.com. I have a personal account and Skillbuilders has its own account. A free, no-download, cool way to keep in touch with family and easily have sudden business meetings with busy people.

Gist Github. Here I can upload one or several related computer programs I’ve written. I can make my programs public so others can look at them and branch off their own changes and additions to my program, or I can keep them private and just email a link to one person to eyeball it for me. I can make changes directly to my programs within Github and still have the original version. Extremely useful.

W3Schools.com. Tutorials on all sorts of computer languages from W3C (World Wide Web Consortium), the accepted ruling body of web standards (such as HTML).

HyperSnap. An inexpensive little program that lets me take screenshots of anything I see on my computer. Snap the whole screen, specify a smaller rectangle of your screen, or create a custom shape and snap that. Several file formats available, such as JPG. You know those pop-up information boxes that you have no way to print? You know when you try Print Screen and it doesn’t work? HyperSnap. So useful.

What do you do for fun/relaxation?
I love adventure gaming. See my old blog, http://thestuffreview.blogspot.com , and read the list of reviews and games. (This is an old blog I’ve almost abandoned by now, but it has some great info so I don’t close it out.) I also enjoy running and exercising and watching TV (remember K-Ville, Bionic Woman, Moonlight?).

I also enjoy jogging, I read voraciously, create original mouthwatering baked desserts, and make jewelry for fun. Insane bucket list item: Run the Badwater Ultramarathon.

What is Number One Business Goal you plan to accomplish over the next year?
My top business goal over the next year is to graduate with my associate’s degree in software development. A close second is to master Ruby on Rails. I’m taking Ruby classes, and that’s a great interest of mine because Ruby is so efficient. It does so many things with fewer lines of code. Clean, elegant, streamlined code. It is also a challenging language to learn, even before Rails.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Researchers and world leaders are beginning to recognize that lifting up women lifts whole economies. Lifting up girls and women is the single greatest predictor of a country’s economic and political progress (“The Women’s Crusade,” Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn). Number-crunchers and policymakers alike are seeing that a rising tide of women lifts all boats. So I try to tell people to support women in some small way in their lives. Whether it’s a donating to Kiva or Pathfinder International, going on a short-term service trip overseas, or writing letters to senators or world leaders, your efforts will pay off for everyone — men and women alike. I’d like to see everyone’s lives improve.
In addition to your website, how else can our readers connect with you online?
Email link in the business blog I’m writing once in a while — it gets forwarded, so there’s no delay: http://letstalkbusiness.wordpress.com
Email link in my blog about sexual violence (information, help, facts, more): http://fortherecord.wordpress.com
LinkedIn: Lorna Hartman. You can find me as a group member in WECAI there also.
Facebook: Skillbuilders Series. I administer that page, so you can email me there. You do have to log into Facebook first. Sorry about that.
Business website: www.mcfarlandmedia.com or www.lettercraft.org (same site)