5 Steps to Growing Your Business After the Death of a Partner

(Image: Nabrit.com)

Paula Penn-Nabrit is the owner of PN&A Inc. in Columbus, Ohio. Her company provides management consulting services and soft skillstraining to managers and employees. In the following interview, Penn-Nabrit shares how she rebounded and maintained her business after the death of her husband and business partner, and she offers five tips to help other entrepreneurs:

Your tagline reads “PN&A Inc. is in the business of helping organizations move from the actuality of today to the potentiality of tomorrow.” What kind of business activities does this entail for the home-based business that you and your husband built?

PN&A Inc.’s work toggles between demographic research, statistical analysis, and organizational training and development. We track stuff and look for emerging trends in education, employment, immigration, etc. We explore how those trends might affect organizations internally and externally.

The “actuality” of any given day is quantitative, which can be reassuring but it is also somewhat static, and that can create a false sense of security—the kiss of death in any entrepreneurial engagement. By contrast, the “potentiality” of tomorrow cannot be quantified—it is dynamic. This may not be reassuring, but it is exciting.

I did not expect my husband, Charles Madison Nabrit, to die at age 60, but working within the parameters of a strategic plan, two of our sons were already well established and able to maintain and grow the business.

C. Madison’s death quantified his theories about flexibility, endurance, and the dangers of  complacency. That’s why PN&A Inc. was able to celebrate 28 years of continuous operation while painfully navigating the challenge of his absence.

How has that changed since his death?

I’ve spent a good deal of time re-thinking and innovating the ways in which C. Madison and I worked to transmit information to our community. In 2011 we incorporated Telos Training Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, to facilitate further exchange in our community. We transferred ownership of the books I’d written to Telos Training Inc. to help fund programming.

Under that innovative application of better solutions to meet new or anticipated requirements, Telos Training Inc. launched The Charles Madison Nabrit Memorial Garden; a 3,750 square-foot, self-sustaining green space of organic food production in the midst of an urban food desert. At our weekly Farmer’s Market and Bake Sale we provide affordable access to an array of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers—all for $1.00 a pound. We’ve hosted classes on canning, pickling, and preserving, expanding on the idea that growing your own food is like printing your own money—and preserving that food is a savings plan. The garden sits in the midst of a fallow field behind the Church of Christ of the Apostolic Faith, a more than 100-year-old congregation where our sons are fifth-generation members. All the construction was done by C. Madison’s sons and nephews.

How long have you been using social media to market your business and how do you use it? Speak about overcoming obstacles in learning how social media function in your life, examining new revenue streams and opportunity to build on your love for lifelong learning.

I’m a novice  with social media…but a good listener. It’s been an excellent way to cement my commitment to lifelong learning. I’ve recently begun a foray into LinkedIn as a social media avenue to increase PN&A Inc.’s visibility.

I think that Twitter is an element of social media that I can use interchangeably for both PN&A Inc. and Telos Training Inc. I am using both Facebook and Twitter along with guest blog posts by friends and associates to raise awareness of the garden and to drive publicity for our upcoming events.

In the face of so much change in the short time since your husband’s death, what five things would you recommend to business owners?

As a recent widow and a business owner of more than 28 years, here are five things I suggest entrepreneurs consider:

  • Do not become discouraged or frustrated when it seems nobody “gets” what you’re trying to do. The business is your idea, your dream, your passion. Work hard to listen and process constructive feedback, but remember that if everybody can see it, it isn’t a vision.
  • No matter what is going on, good, bad or indifferent, be prepared for it to change—dramatically. Part of what makes capitalism so exciting is that it’s dynamic and cyclical—markets go up and then they “correct.”
  • A strategic plan should encompass 10 years to account for and accommodate all the interim changes that occur on the path.
  • Remain steadfast despite the challenges. Most entrepreneurial concerns will not grow up to become multibillion- dollar, multinational businesses. There, I said it. Most entrepreneurs work more, not less than they did when they worked for someone else; most will become neither rich nor famous. But, if it’s for you, if it matches your spirit, there is really nothing like the independence and responsibility of making your own way in the world.
  • Maintain a distinct identity separate from the business. Work is what I do—it is not who I am. There are many people who know me fairly well but have no idea what PN&A Inc. is or does. Business ventures are begun every day. Most fail but even the ones that succeed and thrive are limited in their capacity to provide life’s truest essentials. Sadly, CMadison was gravely ill the last year of his life. PN&A Inc. didn’t sustain, comfort, or care for him. We did, his sons and I.
  • Patricia Patton crafts culturally relevant messages for startups marketing to the mature market. She hosts edu-treats for older entrepreneurs and can be found at BoomerWizdom, a blog focusing on health, technology, and travel. Her recent e-book, SisterSpeak, an introduction to Black Boomer Bloggers, can be found on Amazon. Follow her on Twitter @BoomerWiz.