Top Turks is a monthly feature on E2M. It features the movers and shakers in the fields of entrepreneurship, digital marketing, social media, and technology, offering insights into how business leaders think, work and have fun.

Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends LLC, Anita Campbell also manages a number of other related online communities, newsletters and publications. Through these, she successfully provides credible content to over 6,000,000 small business owners and entrepreneurs annually.

Her interest has always centered on entrepreneurship, even though she’s a lawyer by education. She is also a business speaker, a writer and an analyst.

Before joining the world of entrepreneurship, she was a senior executive with Bell & Howell Company, including serving as CEO of a technology subsidiary of Bell & Howell. Further, she has been noted or her opinion quoted in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and innumerable other media. She has also served on the advisory boards and panels of several well-known organizations.

Her website smallbiztrends.com won the Forbes ’Best of the Web’ distinction for small business blogs in 2005 and 2008. The site also has been written about in the Wall Street Journal (2007), on MSNBC’s ‘Your Business’ show as Website of the Week, and was a CODIE 2007 Finalist.

We got in touch with Anita to know more about her.

1. What do you do within half-an-hour of waking up?

Go for a bicycle ride. After coffee and doing a quick email check, that is. I have to force myself to exercise, but a 5-mile bicycle ride is a terrific way to get the brain synapses firing on all cylinders.

2. How much time do you devote to work daily?

These days I work about eight to ten hours a day. That’s much less than I used to work. I often worked twelve hours a day in the early years, and every weekend. But again, I like to work, so it didn’t feel like work. I enjoyed it.

3. What is your daily work routine like?

When I’m in the office, mostly I spend the day at my computers. I have two running at all times, along with my Surface tablet. Sometimes I have an extra monitor running, too.

A picture of Anita's desk
A picture of Anita’s desk

I have Skype open because that’s how our team communicates. I’ve got a headset that I wear half the time for Skype calls (and often my hair is sticking up because I just pulled my headset off!!!). Or we text via Skype. I have a couple of phones nearby, also my Windows phone that I use for mobile calls and texts, and my Samsung phone that I mainly use for Androids apps.

I’m pretty much heads down once I get to my desk. I get into a state of flow and often don’t look up until it’s lunch time or the end of the day. Some people say they get distracted working from a home office, but I’ve never had that problem.

4. How many times in a day do you check your email?

I am in and out of email all day long – about one to two dozen times a day if I’m in the office. Less if I’m traveling. But it’s much less than I used to do.

As a virtual organization where everyone works remotely, we used to run our entire business out of our inboxes when we were smaller.

However, soon it caught up to us. As you grow, a business needs processes and central systems that the right people can access, and see and interact with information. You need reports and analytics in order to see progress and make decisions. You need automation to keep labor costs down and streamline production. Having everything buried in individual team member inboxes being handled onesy-twosy just doesn’t cut it. You cannot scale up a business that’s being run out of email inboxes. After a while things start falling through the cracks and pretty soon your company can’t get out of its own way.

5. How much time in a day do you dedicate to researching or reading/watching industry-related news?

At least an hour a day. But I spend more time talking with companies or trying out their products (mainly cloud software products – I love ones that have free trials), or reading press announcements from them.

6. What has been your biggest professional achievement so far?

Building a company and employing people is my biggest professional achievement. Those who work in large organizations may not realize the extent of what’s involved with building a company. Everyone knows that when you start a business, you have no people and no product. But what they may not appreciate is that you literally have NOTHING on day one.  You don’t have a single process or system until you, as the owner, create it.

Every little thing, from setting up a way to get phone calls and the greeting and answering the company phone to storing documents and setting up company email, every single thing has to be created from scratch.  Most of those things are small. It’s just that you have a mountain of small things to do. It’s hard and it takes energy, and you have to love creating order out of utter chaos. Those who don’t will give up too soon.

7. What has been your biggest failure so far?

Our biggest failure is the same as our biggest strength:  we’re bootstrapped. In other words, we have never had outside money. But there are two sides to that coin.

On the one hand, I’m beholden to nobody, have 100% ownership and don’t owe a dime. On the other hand, our company grew very very slowly, especially in the first ten years. It’s a tradeoff, and if I had to do it all over again, I’d probably take out a loan, say in year five, to jumpstart growth.  Looking back, we missed market opportunities by not having the money to invest to go after them.

8. What is your biggest dream?

Our biggest dream here is to get to $10 million in annual revenue.  At least that’s our dream for now. I’m goal driven. And once we achieve a goal, I set new ones.

9. How do you unwind?

I love to garden and read. Spending time with family is also a good way to unwind.

10. How do you spend your weekends?

My weekends are spent on household projects. I love to organize things like drawers, closets and the garage. I like interior design projects or small art projects. And, of course, I love to garden and read. I read several novels a week.

11. What mindset do you think is required to become a successful entrepreneur or a company?

The mindset you need as a successful entrepreneur is mainly one of optimism. There are so many obstacles and things that can go wrong that if you can’t see the glass half-full, you’ll talk yourself into failing. Watch that self talk! Make sure it’s positive.

12. If given a chance, what is that one thing you’d like to change in your life (personally or professionally)?

The one thing I would change is to have traveled more internationally in my younger years. I traveled a lot domestically on business, but nothing takes the place of meeting people from different cultures. So exciting!

Please tell us a few things about you that not many people know:

  • Your phone brand – I use a Windows phone, but also keep my Samsung Galaxy for a few Android apps.
  • Your computer brand – I use Windows computers and enjoy the major brands. I currently have a Dell, an HP and an Acer. I enjoy a good powerful All-in-one (to avoid cords and a tower as I don’t like to look at clutter in my workspace – it clutters my mind). I always trick computers out with a lot of RAM and processor speed because time is money. And I use a Surface tablet.
  • Your favorite app – My Kindle app on my Surface tablet for reading. Other than that, I really don’t care much for mobile apps. I just use them for business or household purposes, and only when there’s no other choice.  Such as the Uber app or the United Airlines app when I travel.
  • Your preferred dress code at work – Jeans or shorts, and a T shirt. I live in Florida now, so it’s always warm
  • Your waking time – 6 am
  • Your bed time – Around 10 pm or 11 pm
  • Your favorite pastime – Reading
  • Your favorite blog/newspaper/news channel – I check the Drudge Report to stay on top of news in general. My favorite TV news channel is Fox Business. I like to catch the market news and get a mix of other news in it.
  • Your inspiration – My inspiration is nature.
  • Your health mantra – I try to focus my mind. I’ve done some meditation, which has helped in the past. And finding a bit of exercise I enjoy enough to make myself do it, such as biking.

If reaching the pinnacle of success is about doing great things with passion and persistence, then Anita Campbell surely seems to have got it right through her dedication and perseverance.

Big success stories are made of several small glories put together, and smallbiztrends.com is a shining example of this.

We hope you enjoyed reading this month’s edition and will come back to Top Turks for more.