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Starting Your Own Tech Business: A Conversation with Eric Butow about Founding Butow Communications Group

In this series, InformIT sits down with authors who have founded or co-founded their own companies to discuss the challenges and triumphs of creating a technology-centered business. Today, Eric Butow, the owner of Butow Communications Group, discusses his work, his inspiration, and the lessons he's learned while owning his own business.
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InformIT: What's the name of your business, and what do you do?

Eric Butow: The name of my business is Butow Communications Group, and we provide online marketing analysis and improvement services for businesses of all sizes.

InformIT: Why did you decide to start your own business?

Eric Butow: I'm a fourth generation business owner in my family, so it's no surprise that I got tired of working for someone else and decided to work for myself.

InformIT: How long have you owned your own business?

Eric Butow: 19 years. My company was founded on July 25, 1994.

InformIT: What makes your business different from other companies?

Eric Butow: We not only analyze a company's marketing but also provide a comprehensive plan for improving the company's return on investment.

InformIT: What are the best things about working for yourself? And the worst?

Eric Butow: The best things about working for myself are the flexibility and the ability to work from my home office. The worst thing is frustration from not being able to get everything done as fast as I want.

InformIT: What advice would you have for someone who wants to create their own business?

Eric Butow: Two things: Don't underestimate the amount of time it will take you to work on the business, and do a lot of homework first to see if the business is even worth investing your time and money into.

InformIT: How has your industry changed since you started?

Eric Butow: Customers no longer require a "brochure" website on a computer. Now customers require websites for a variety of platforms (computer, tablet, smartphone), social media outreach (including e-mail newsletters, social networking websites, and blogs), and meaningful analysis to ensure that online marketing is bringing business to the company.

InformIT: Where do you look for inspiration?

Eric Butow: Everywhere. I'm always interested in how people creatively solve problems so I can get my creative juices flowing.

InformIT: What has been the greatest challenge you've faced in owning your own business?

Eric Butow: Trying to run a business while being unhealthy. I have several serious conditions that are difficult to resolve and so I have to listen to my body and rest when I need to, which takes time away from working on the business.

InformIT: What has been your greatest accomplishment since starting your own business?

Eric Butow: Writing books, which has given me business opportunities I wouldn't have had otherwise.

InformIT: What are your favorite applications or web products?

Eric Butow: My standard favorites are Adobe products -- those found in the Creative Cloud and in the Technical Communication Suite.

InformIT: What technology trend in the last five years has taken you by surprise?

Eric Butow: The speed of the miniaturization of technology has surprised me. For example, I have a 1TB backup drive that's slightly larger than a pack of playing cards. That wasn't available even a few years ago.

InformIT: What do you think is the most exciting thing happening in tech right now?

Eric Butow: What continues to excite me is the use of computers to communicate with other people. The difference now is that you can communicate on a computer wherever you are, such as sending messages between smartphones.

InformIT: Where do you see technology going in the next ten or fifteen years?

Eric Butow: Further segmentation of the industry is a given. That is, instead of having a one size fits all computer for all your tasks, you'll use different computers for different tasks. For example, I use my iPad to check social networking websites while I use my desktop computer for website design and graphics work.

InformIT: Can you describe a typical work day at your business?

Eric Butow: I live with my mother currently because of my health issues, and that means I also help her with her infant and toddler daycare business in the afternoons from about 12 noon to 5 p.m. Before I help with the kids, I check my e-mail and text messages, respond to messages as necessary, and make any phone calls. While I'm taking care of the kids, I'll check for messages from time to time on my iPhone (and when I'm out of the kids' reach so they won't grab it). After the kids go home, I check for any other messages and do some work before dinner. I usually take a nap after dinner and then I work for a few hours at night and into the wee morning hours when I'm not interrupted. I then take another nap, wake up sometime in the morning depending on how much sleep my body needs, and then start all over again. On weekends when the kids are at home, I do chores and get more work done during the daytime hours.

InformIT: Did your business help you write the book, or did the book help you start your business?

Eric Butow: The business helped me write books, because by the time I started writing I already had a few years of business under my belt and I knew how to handle big jobs.

InformIT: What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?

Eric Butow: Focus on the business now and do your homework. Your good health won't last as long as you think so make the most use out of your time.

InformIT: Thank you so much for sharing so much about your business, Eric. I'm sure that readers will appreciate your candid and appropriate advice, as well as gaining an insight into how your business works.

If you are interested in reading more from Eric, you should check out My Samsung Galaxy Tab 2, 2nd Edition and Blogging to Drive Business: Create and Maintain Valuable Customer Connections, 2nd Edition.

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