Carol Farabee, the CEO and founder of Farabee Publishing of Chandler, Arizona, talks with Trillions about writing, publishing, and her new role as part of the National Small Business Association (NSBA) Leadership Council, a group that lobbies government on behalf of small business.
An interview with Carol Farabee
For much of her company’s work, Carol Farabee, the CEO and founder of Farabee Publishing of Chandler, Arizona, focuses on helping prospective authors find a way to create that book they have always wanted to write – and get it published. Her company works with authors to help them find the story they want to tell, plan how to write that story (even on a chapter-by-chapter basis), build a disciplined plan to bring it from idea to finished product and find an author’s unique voice in telling that story.
Carol comes from a background in corporate and university life and from that background has taken on other roles to advocate for the cause of small business everywhere. This includes her roles as an elected member of the Nonprofit Leadership Council for Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits; CEO and founder of the nonprofit Young Writers Foundation; an ambassador for the Chandler, Arizona, Chamber of Commerce; and a member of the Chief Learning Officer (CLO) Business Intelligence Board.
In May, Carol was named to the National Small Business Association (NSBA) Leadership Council. The NSBA is the nation’s oldest small-business advocacy organization and operates on a non-partisan basis for the various causes most important to small businesses nationwide. At a time when on a federal level the role of the NSBA appears to be in the process of being cut back, and in a nation very much needing the entrepreneurial spark that small business provides, its Leadership Council is a group the country needs now more than ever.
Trillions spoke with Carol at her offices in Chandler, Arizona, on June 14, 2017.
Trillions: Tell us a little about Farabee Publishing and what your company does.
Carol Farabee: Farabee Publishing started a couple of years ago. I’ve been writing since 1990. I’ve written about 24 books myself. I’ve only published three. I’m one of those who like to write, but I don’t write with any thought of ever publishing them. It’s just that joy of writing.
I went to a weekend seminar about publishing. I thought, “Well, I’ll find a publisher to publish my book.” I enjoyed the weekend, and … I thought, “I can do this. I’m a teacher, and I’ve been teaching at the university … for years, and I can do this.” I know a lot of people that I can actually help write their book. They need that writing coach. It just started from there.
I just started talking to people and networking all over the place. The next thing I knew I’ve got people that really want to write but they don’t know where to start.
So, my specialty grew out of not just editing and formatting books. I do that too, but [I help with the case that] you’ve got a story but you don’t know where to start. I sit down with people, we brainstorm, they go through my step process. [I ask …] “Where do you want to start?” They don’t know. We work through it, and, basically, I outline chapters, I [help] design how much [they’re] going to put in each chapter and what needs to go in each chapter, and they go and they write. Then we come back and we talk about it, and we go to the next step. I’ve got one author [who I] worked with for a whole year.
My specialty is to walk through and help them write.
I’m sure having a coach helps them not only improve the quality of their work but also provides focus and provides some discipline too. [It’s] one of the things that makes the big difference. The first step in writing is to actually write, rather than to talk about it.
One of the things I have to say is that everybody says they can’t write. My thought is “Of course you can.” You send email, you’ll be in a conversation and you’re telling a story, you’re writing. That’s exactly what writing is.
So, it’s working with them, designing chapters so they know exactly what they want to put in it. So, they get that structure. It keeps them disciplined, but also it takes a lot of patience on my part. Because it’s working with them, sending things back to them to say “[These are] not your words.” And they say, “Someone else said it” and they liked it better. And I say, “No. Your voice.”
What I’m trying to do is change the rhetoric. There are a lot of authors out there that everyone likes, but they’re writing like they did from 40 years ago. We need authors that I want to hear verbally, so that when the person picks up the book and they start reading it, they feel that there’s a person talking to them. We’re not looking at, well, I teach university scholarly writing and that’s not prose. Where’s the passion? When they’re writing, I want the passion. I want the reader to cry. I want the reader to laugh. I want the reader to feel emotions as they’re going through a person’s life, and they’re getting on the right path, or they’re showing you or talking about joy.
Trillions: Hopefully the next thing we’re talking about is also something I think you’d feel good about. Which is your new role, where you were recently named, as your press release talked about, to the National Small Business Association Leadership Council. Before we get into some of the issues in that, could you tell us about the council, what it is and how you got involved in it?
Carol Farabee: I’ve been working with entrepreneurs and small businesses over the last year or so. Then I received this email out of the blue, asking me if I would like to apply to be on the Leadership Council. For that I said, “Well, sure.” [Laughs] I never thought – because I’m just “me.” I don’t have 10, 20 or 30 years working [like that]; I sourced out everything. So then, in about a month and a week later, I get this invitation back saying ... I’m going to be interviewed.
I’ve only been 15 minutes in when not only do they want me to apply to the council; they also want me on the technology council and the international business council.
I later found out that it was by invitation only. You can’t just volunteer to be a part of it. I think that, through my years in corporate America, in the university, working with small business, there [were] all these things I was involved in, they thought I’d bring a lot to the table.
My kids were laughing. “Mom, do they realize you’re the one that asks that question nobody else will ask?” And I said, “Well, they’re going to find out.”
So yeah, I’m real excited to be a part of it.
What the NSBA does is they lobby for small business. They have health care; they’ve been looking into that. They lobby on what small business, what would be best for them. Also the technology part. Human resources. There’s a couple more that we’re going to be talking about next week.
I had mixed feelings about [what] we think we can do and what we can’t do. We do have a voice and can lobby and can make a difference. But there’s so much … legislators … congressmen buy and sell and trade votes. It is not a secret they do it. So, you wonder how powerful [you are] at that level.
I’m looking forward to talking to a lot of business owners here in Arizona. And I’ve gone to the Chamber of Commerce in different cities. I’ve gone to the cities, themselves, about their economic development, talking to them about it. We all come to the same conclusion. That the NSBA says, for a small business, you can have 500 employees and you’re considered a small business.
My thing is to break that up and say mine would be considered a micro-business. And then 10 to 49 would be considered a small business. And then after that would be medium, then large and then maybe your corporation, in order to give preference to each of these small business areas. Because the little guys are being suffocated.
So that’s my vote – that we stop the declining and start helping the start-ups. They need to get where they need to go.
Trillions: You were saying something about where they needed to go?
Carol Farabee: Well, for instance, the start-ups, the big banks. They’re not going to loan them any money. And then people are coming up with all these different investors, all these different areas, you can go online for funding and all these things.
I talked to a lady that was with an organization that helped entrepreneurs … from all over the United States. She’s in Orlando. She said, and I knew [it] previous[ly] because I already checked into it, that the community banks are the ones that are willing to help you. So, again, we knew the issues there, to help the start-ups.
This country was based on the small companies, the small businesses. A lot of those small businesses that are huge today, I think they’ve lost the basic idea that they were small at one time.
Trillions: They certainly operate differently. In my experience, I’ve seen companies that are small, and then there is a shift at some point where they forget that they’re operating very differently. It’s like [what you said], related to bank loans, that the old thing is true that when you can get the best loans is when you need them the least. The challenge is, in the beginning, when you really do need some help – in most cases I know very few people who say “Well, I’ve got $2 million. I can do that.” It’s generally a small business – they’re operating on a shoestring and they go forward.
Carol Farabee: It’s actually why the whole idea of the micro-loan industry, especially outside of North America and in the emerging countries, is so big. And what people don’t realize is that some of these things, like the [Grameen Bank] that was developed in Bangladesh was actually what we would consider a case of usury. [Some of these] were charging 70% payback [interest] on their loans. Some were lower but not a lot lower. The reason they were charging so much is the risks were so high for the lender. At the same time, it enabled things to happen. What happened is [they enabled] a lot of small businesses to be created, often women-owned businesses, in these emerging countries that just would never have happened. That 70% was on that first, very small amount of money. After that, it turned into more normal business. [So there are other business models to consider.]
But the community banks, which is what you grew up with, what I grew up with. For me in Illinois, where they knew you, with the family – when they gave you a lollipop, they knew the one you liked when you were a kid – that isn’t true anymore. It’s only true with a handful of banks [now].
I always consider it [funny] when I read the history of places like the Bank of America, which came to the United States as the Bank of Italy and was renamed [later] in order to sound better [for Americans] and has become a bank with many hundreds of billions of dollars behind it. It changed from the little bank that helped to rebuild after the [San Francisco earthquake of 1906], which took place over a hundred years ago. They helped the small business owners get back on their feet, and they did that with absolutely no clue of whether or not they would be able to … pay back their loans.
Trillions: When you talk about the various things the [Leadership Council intends to address], you mentioned in your press release [announcing your appointment to the board] issues of regulatory restraint, tax reform, health care costs and even how the Affordable Care Act affects all businesses. What do you see as the things in small business that affect people the most, the things that they seem to be most concerned about, as well as perhaps the things where they feel they aren’t being heard?
Carol Farabee: Health care. Yeah, definitely. I talked to … several dozen health care people; one of them sells business insurance and another one sells health care solutions. [That last one] tried her best, [for a business that has only three people], and the lowest she could get was $3,500 a month to be covered. They can pay taxes, they can figure out taxes. They can pay a certain amount every month, they can get another job. But with health care, that is the thing that is hurting the most. They’re paying thousands a month for it; they even [have] a high co-pay. And then of course you’ve got a lot of programs, that work with people, they’ve got the gyms, they’ve got the trainers. They’re working on health, they’re working on nutrition areas. So, what we’re doing because we don’t have that great health care is they’re working fine to keep people healthy. But at the same time, what do you do with the person who has that heart attack?
And I tell you what – it’s a Catch-22. We work hard to get to a place where we have money coming in, and the health care, we have to pay a lot for it. But if we do nothing, and we’re on welfare, we get health care for free. That means heart transplants, livers – that means everything. People see that. So, it’s more than just I can’t afford the health care; it’s how everyone else that’s not working as hard as I am gets better care than I do.
Trillions: You can see that on both sides. You see that people legitimately can’t work for whatever reason and need help. And the people that are working also need help. How do you do that? It’s a challenge, [especially] given the nature of the economy and the nature of the values that the country espouses.
We can’t afford it, either, from a balance sheet standpoint, whether or not you argue that health care is too expensive in actual numbers, regardless of what the insurance policies are.
One thing I did want to ask you about. You know, the White House … has recommended cuts in a number of areas. The [National] Small Business [Association] has been historically quite helpful in guiding small businesses and providing accesses to certain things in the federal contract area, as a client base that this publication, Trillions, serves. It even sets up earmarks … for small businesses … and, in particular, certain types of businesses, such as a veteran-owned business or a woman-owned business or something like that.
As part of the [proposed] cuts this year, and I’m curious about your opinion there, there are three specific things that [the White House is] recommending cutting out. This is a long way from done, but one of them is [the area of] Technical Assistance Grants … [A second] they plan to get rid of is the Economic Development Administration, and [a third] thing which a lot of the people [reading this] will know is the Minority Business Development Agency, the MBDA, which supports minority-owned businesses and diversity [in small business] across the United States. I’m not sure [these have] come up in the conversation [about the Leadership Council, but] I’m wondering if those are things you have an opinion on or if the group is intending to look at those.
Carol Farabee: I believe that if [the government decides] not to do this, if you look at each state – if you look at each state, [for example], for the technology council, each state … has a technology council.… All of them have an Economic Development Administration. We’ve got all kinds of minority business associations. There’s a Southwest Business Advocacy here. So, if they [drop this] at the federal level, it doesn’t mean that it’s not going to happen. It means it may not happen at that level. But … for small business in every state, we’re going to take back technology, we’re going to take back economic development, we’re going to take back minority [business concerns]. We’re not going to stop those things from happening. In fact, that’s probably going to cause more associations to be developed. We’re going to have more businesses created to support those areas. Every state has already in place those things without going to the federal level. And they’re going to say, “Good. Now we can regulate our own stuff and have more things happen, without the politics of Capitol Hill involved.”
Trillions: I’m trying to say this the most positive way I can: The government needs to [spend less time] on the various things it’s worrying about these days and hopefully move on to some of the more significant issues. Like those we’ve talked about, like health care on a national level and health care within the various states.
One advantage you have within individual states, especially the smaller population states, is that it is actually easier to engage government on a small level.… I’m sure Arizona is somewhat like that. Even though [the] Phoenix metropolitan area is a big area, overall the state is not that big [in population], so working things through the governor with council probably [can work] very well.
Have there been any first meetings since you joined this group?
Carol Farabee: I have talked to several of [the members], kind of an off-the-cuff type of thing. But … in July … I’m actually going to be in committee meetings. But right now, Monday the 19th [of June] I’ll be talking with them.
When I first go into a new area, [like] a new board, I don’t say anything. I’m quiet, because I’m listening. You … listen, and you get the tone and understanding of everybody in the room, before you want to say something. So, I think Monday and Tuesday of next week, [the 19th and 20th of June], it [could] be very interesting. There are 258 members of the Leadership Council, and I think it’s going to be engaging and important. Because as I was looking through, there are different businesses represented. You’ve got that full gamut of leadership and mentoring coming from all of them, not just one or two. And every different area of business has their different structure of what they think is important. So, I think it’s going to be very interesting.