A former business attorney turned entrepreneur, Deborah Sweeney purchased MyCorporation out of Intuit in 2009 and has been successfully running the business ever since from its headquarters in Calabasas, California.
Deborah is currently the CEO of MyCorporation.com. MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best.
StarCentral Magazine recently sat down with Deborah to find out more about his journey to entrepreneurship and here’s what went down.
Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your business?
I grew up in Southern California and attended the University of California, Irvine for my undergraduate degree and Pepperdine University where I received an MBA and my Juris Doctor degrees. I am an attorney by trade and worked at several Los Angeles-based law firms before moving on to manage the MyCorporation division at Intuit as their GM in 2004. The country was suffering from a serious financial crisis in 2008 and Intuit was divesting small businesses with my division, MyCorporation, affected in the process.
During the economic slowdown, I began discussing with my husband the possibility of buying out MyCorporation from Intuit. We met with our bankers, I proposed the idea semi-informally to my boss, and I put together a presentation on how MyCorporation could thrive outside of Intuit. I met formally with Intuit leadership afterward where I made my offer to purchase the business out if they were interested in selling or divesting to me. Six months later, the leadership came to me to suggest that I present the options for divestiture — close the division, sell to another company, or sell to me. While I knew it was important to be as objective as possible, I knew that I wanted to buy this business more than anything else. I believed in MyCorporation, the customers, and employees and wanted nothing more than to receive the opportunity to grow and manage this private entity. About a month after I presented the leadership with more documentation on how I could make all of this happen in 2009, I received the greatest phone call of my life. Intuit offered to sell MyCorporation to me and make me the sole owner. I enthusiastically accepted the offer, and we were off to the races!
Can you describe your journey to success? When did you start? Did you ever imagine you would become this successful?
Transitioning from the corporate world to entrepreneurship was tough at first. Even though I had bought a business that was already established, I still needed to rebrand the business to better define who we were again. I needed to learn how to balance patience with ownership, knowing that not everything could get done right in that exact second. And even though I was an entrepreneur in the same industry where I spun my business out of Intuit (helping business owners incorporate or form LLCs), I had a limited knowledge of entrepreneurship since I had not done anything like it before. However, what I find has helped to make us successful is how we embrace what makes us unique. I embraced my unconventional educational background — especially the legal aspect — and it has served to be a valuable asset in business.
What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your business?
We place our customers first and focus on maintaining an ongoing relationship with them. When entrepreneurs form a corporation or LLC with us, they often ask us to do their annual filings, store their paperwork, and remind them when tax documents are due. We also work to identify partnerships with like-minded businesses. When we hear customers talk about needs that they have that we do not specialize in, but know a great business that does, we identify the business and work to establish a mutually beneficial partnership together that works for each company and its customers.
What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?
A combination of content, email, search, and word of mouth marketing has really helped us to grow and thrive over the years.
How did your brand stand out from the rest of the other brands out there that is similar to your niche?
We pride ourselves on our personalized customer service. We encourage our customers to give us their feedback, and we really listen to what they have to say in order to improve their overall experience.
What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?
As our business continues to grow, both in sales and in employees hired, our challenge has been to grow the business without significantly growing our expenses too. I pay close attention to ROI with each of our expenditures so that revenue increases without a commensurate increase in expenses.
What money mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from (or something you’d do differently)?
Early on in my business career, I spent an astronomical amount of money to build our brand without focusing on ROI. I realized a few years in that some of our marketing expenditures were ROI negative. We were focused on growth, but I wasn’t paying attention to ROI and on a significant amount of our marketing, we were actually losing money. Maybe we were expanding our brand awareness, but we’re not sure how much that impacted us! The experience taught me to pay attention to the ROI of my business. Know where you are spending your hard earned marketing dollars and how that investment is paying off.
If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?
I would tell myself to take your time when making big decisions. It’s easy to act quickly, but it’s much better to pause and take the time to think things through.
Do you have any favorite business-related or personal development related books that you can recommend to other entrepreneurs?
I am a big fan of the book Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne. The theme of the book is that it’s all about thinking differently and not following the crowd, which is admittedly something that happens more often than one realizes in business. It inspires you to think for yourself and create an opening that others do not see. In doing so, you can create your own space rather than follow the space of others and march to the beat of your own drum!
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
“Lead from within, not from out front.” This piece of advice emphasizes the importance of how to control a business without being controlling. If you try to run everything yourself, you’ll eventually crash and burn. It’s important to empower and trust your team to keep the business humming without you micromanaging.
What advice would you give to a newbie entrepreneur setting up their first business?
Due to the nature of the work I do, I would advise that they get all of their legal ducks in a row first! Incorporate or form an LLC to legitimize your company, register your trademark, draft a business plan, get your business licenses, file for an EIN and DBA, and stay on top of your annual maintenance.