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Fall Kickoff with Publishing Entrepreneur Randi Brill

This year's CWIP Kickoff featured a dynamic and inspiring speaker: Randi Brill. The story of Randi's career and smashing success made her the ideal speaker for the CWIP Kickoff: she is the perfect example of a person who has successfully “changed to stay current.” In fact, despite all Randi has achieved since she started her first company in 1982, she assured us, “I'm just warming up.”

Randi Brill and Jen Hull

When Randi was 14, a family friend asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. She responded, “I'm going to be in charge of something.” Her prediction came true. Randi is the founder of three distinct companies: Quarasan, the educational publishing company she founded from her basement 30 years ago; CheckProz, a company designed to protect content accuracy; and Teacher Peach, an education store. As she explained at the beginning of her speech, Randi is at the same time her own boss, an entrepreneur, a part of a large organization, and an independent freelancer.

   

While there has been an unprecedented change in the publishing industry since she started her first company, Randi believes that not everything has changed. She shared her list of principles that she believes are true and will remain true, change and progress notwithstanding.

  • “Wear the right shoes.” In order to succeed in business, it is necessary to understand the client or consumer's needs by placing yourself in their shoes. Randi reminded the audience that succeeding in business is never “about you,” but it is always about the people whose needs you are able to meet. Keeping this focus, Randi believes, is the path to success.
  • Not embracing “the new reality” is a mistake. Technological advances are here to stay.
  • Use time wisely. This is an oldie but a goody.
  • Experiment! Randi started two of her companies in order to experiment and figure out what the next step should be for her brand.
  • A leader has to move people forward. You may move them in the wrong direction, but you will recover. It's important to just keep moving forward.
  • You need a clear goal for your business, and you need to keep that goal in mind. Don't be distracted from the big-picture goal by the stress of day-to-day business operations.
  • Be willing to mess up.

Randi elaborated on this last point by sharing some of the mistakes she has made over the last thirty years, as well the lessons she learned from those mistakes. For example, she did what she was hired to do, even when it went against her better judgment, and she waited too long to walk away from these projects. She trusted the wrong people, so she decided to follow the advice of Ronald Reagan: “Trust but verify.” Randi reminded the audience that your mistakes often teach you more than your successes, if you are willing to learn from them.

   

“On a good day,” says Randi, “anyone can run a business.” She encouraged Kickoff attendees to prepare for the less good days by considering these two questions: Are you clear on your tomorrow? Does it align with your bigger goals?

Randi thinks the year ahead will continue to present many challenges for all of us, and that the best way to get through it will be to think of 2012–2013 as “the year of the duck”: calm on the surface while paddling hard underneath. Randi reminded the audience that while growth is always possible, it may not always linear, or sequential, or easy, or adequate. There are many ways a business can grow, and the trick is to keep working until you find the right path to take. “You'd better love it!” she reminded the audience.

   

One of the products sold by Teacher Peach is a black pen-style eraser with the word “Revise” printed on the side. Every Kickoff attendee received one of these erasers at the end of Randi's presentation. “If you don't wear this eraser out,” Randi stated, “then you aren't revising enough.” Whether in business or in writing, revising is always necessary and often difficult, but ultimately rewarding.

CWIP thanks Randi Brill for the inspiring speech and the tangible reminder!

Kate Mosesso is a practicing attorney by day and a freelance writer and editor by night. She holds a B.A. in English and a J.D., both from the University of Notre Dame. Kate lives in Lincoln Park and is an active member of CWIP. She can be reached at  kmosesso@alumni.nd.edu.

Dorothy Ryan is a graphic designer and owner of Studio D Consulting & Creative, and a former president of CWIP. She can be reached at dorothyryan@insidestudiod.com.

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