By Lynne Strang, Late Blooming Entrepreneurs
While a number of factors can determine a company’s success, two that matter most are connections and insight. Recognizing their importance, one entrepreneur has brought them together to form a consulting practice that serves the auto finance industry.
“My company is based upon relationships,” said Marguerite Watanabe, who founded her Atlanta-based company, Connections Insights, when she was 45.
“When you’re over 40, you get to start making choices. It’s a right and a responsibility. Start defining where you want to go.” — Marguerite Watanabe, Connections Insights
For Watanabe, a business dependent upon relationships means much more than making new contacts and staying in touch with old ones. It means understanding the needs of her clients, keeping them informed and helping them form partnerships with one another to achieve mutual or complimentary goals.
“My business thrives and survives on those relationships,” she said.
Prior to starting Connections Insights in 2006, Watanabe worked in the auto finance industry for such companies as Equifax and Nissan Motor Acceptance Corporation, among others. Her 20-plus years in the industry enabled her to form the types of relationships she has today.
“There’s no way I could have launched the kind of business I have now at age 25 because I hadn’t been in the business world long enough,” she said.
At the beginning, Watanabe stayed flexible to accommodate changes and additions. Based upon the type of work her clients were requesting, she altered her business structure and decided to go out on her own, rather than working with a partner as she planned to do originally. She also faced an extensive list of administrative tasks that ranged from buying insurance to pricing her services.
During her company’s four years of operation, Watanabe has had about 30 clients. In addition to her extensive connections, a respect for confidentiality and an ability to fulfill an unmet need are behind her success as a consultant, she said.
“The key question is what I can provide my clients that they can’t get otherwise, whether it’s a third-party perspective, resources or access to people,” she said.
“Doing your homework is important,” she added. “I spend a lot of time reading industry news. By offering information that others don’t have, I’m able to establish trust and credibility.”
Aspiring entrepreneurs, said Watanabe, need to ask if they’re ready to sell themselves. Given the various legal questions that will come up, they also need a good lawyer with whom they feel comfortable, she said.
“When you’re over 40, you get to start making choices. It’s a right and a responsibility,” she said. “Start defining where you want to go.”
And don’t forget to connect, of course.