Stay a Step Ahead of Your Industry

If that means changing direction or adding a service, do it--and watch your company grow like Fabi Preslar's.

By: Chia-Li Chien | Published 07/11/2010


Even if you didn't experience it, you probably heard all about the textile boom and bust in the 1990s. Many textile manufacturers closed, and many workers were laid off. Textile companies that continue to operate today have changed the direction of their products or services to stay in business.

As entrepreneurs, we need to possess the ability to see what's going on in our industry and have the flexibility to develop, implement and adopt a strategy quickly.

Fabi Preslar grew up on a working family farm in Pelion, S.C. At age 15, while driving to Columbia, S.C., with her family, she saw a billboard
that inspired her to use her creative thinking to communicate. She signed up for commercial design school during high school, put herself through college by working three jobs, and later started her own business.

Preslar has run SPARK Publications for more than 12 years. Months before the economic downturn in late 2008, Preslar realized from her traditional graphic design business that the page counts of magazines had been decreasing over time. She decided to make a change to her business by focusing on her core competencies. She transformed the company into a graphic design firm that specializes in publication and promotional design and production for magazines, self-published books, annual reports, special publications, promotional multi-page brochures and sales kits.

In 2009, her business enjoyed 19 percent growth in gross revenue--due to her anticipating the change.

How did Preslar transform her company in such a short time during a down economy?

* Repositioned her branding toward her core competency. Preslar changed her company name from Spark Enterprises to Spark Publications to match her core competency.

* Became visible through public speaking, winning business awards, serving on a nonprofit board and networking. Here is a list of her business awards:

o 2010 Top Three finalist, Woman Business Owner of the Year, NAWBO--Charlotte
o 2010 Enterprising Women Magazine honoree
o 2009 Stevie Award winner, Best Business Turnaround
o 2009 Stevie Award finalist, Best Entrepreneur
o 2009 Richard H. Hagemeyer Educational Advancement Award
o 2009 Life Well Lived Award, Women's Living Well Series
o 2009 Link Leading Lady, WLNK-FM 107.9
o 2009 Women Extraordinaire Award, Business Leader magazine
o 2009 Movers and Shakers Award, Business Leader magazine
o 2009 50 Most Influential Women, Mecklenburg Times
o 2009 Top 24 Entrepreneurs in Charlotte, Business Leader magazine
o 2009 Top 100 NC Small Businesses (#79), Business Leader magazine
o 2009 Top Three finalist, Woman Business Owner of the Year, NAWBO--Charlotte

* Built referral strategic alliances (See previous article, "Are You Leveraging Pull Marketing Yet?"). Alliances include web technology producers, writers/editors, photographers, illustrators and printing firms.

What can you do to anticipate changes in your industry?

* Watch the buying patterns of your customers or clients. Regularly monitor your sales numbers and pay attention to your deliverables.

* Listen to your customers or clients. Your clients are telling you the solutions. Pay attention to what they're saying.

* Identify common industry problems and find a profitable solution. You know your industry better than anyone. Technology advancement should help you, not kill you. Get familiar with new technologies and identify those you can leverage to align with your core competency.

Doing nothing is not an option. Don't get left behind; start to anticipate the change now.


Chia-Li Chien, CFP®, CRPC, PMP; helps women entrepreneurs to convert their business into meaningful personal wealth.  She is the author of Show Me The Money and columnist for & Fox Business online.   She is available for consulting, speaking engagements and workshops.  She can be reached at or


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