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Entrepreneur Q&A with Margaret Eckert of Eurofoods Regulatory Advisors

In working with various entrepreneurs I’ve seen and experienced a wealth of valuable perspectives from some truly unique individuals. I want to showcase those perspectives and experiences on a variety of topics in this Q&A. Here is my interview with Margaret Eckert of Eurofoods Regulatory Advisors. It’s my hope that other entrepreneurs will find insight and a shared experience.

Q: What should my readers know about you?
A: I am Margaret Eckert, President of Eurofoods Regulatory Advisors, LLC. I am a consultant, assisting foreign food and beverage manufacturers and exporters comply with US and Canadian labeling and other regulations. I also assist US companies since the requirements are the same for all manufacturers.  This type of work is not just a job for me, it is a passion.

Q: Tell me how you started your business.
A: I worked for a German governmental agency in their North American office for 33 years as Director of Trade Relations. I started the regulatory division in our company early on because I saw a need for the small and middle-sized companies we represented. Many had language barriers and were intimidated by the regulations they needed to fulfill in order to export their products to the US and Canada. Over the years, I became known in the German food and beverage circles for the work that I was doing. When the way we were funded (a levy paid by the German farmers for every pig, cow, etc) was declared unconstitutional by the German Supreme Court as a result of a court challenge, the organization closed on December 31, 2009. At that time, German manufacturers and their importers started calling me, encouraging me to do what I had been doing previously, but now as a consultant on my own. After much thought and worry, I decided to give it a try.

Q: What do you do when you aren’t working?
A: I like to spend time with my family. In the summer, I love to work in my garden, go bike riding with my son, and swimming in the Community Pool we belong to. I try to stay connected with friends and family on Facebook! I also teach German to Kindergarten-age children on Friday afternoons in the German-American School here on Long Island.
I am an avid Nascar Fan. The weekend races provide some much-needed down time. I love to read, but do not have as much time and energy as I would like since I read all day long on my job trying to keep up with new laws and requirements.

Q: What’s the best business advice anyone has ever given you?
A: Believe in yourself and that you are good at what you do. I have never been good at “self promotion” and it is still difficult to follow that advice at times.

Q: What do you love about what you do?
A: I love helping small and middle-sized companies maneuver the many regulations. There is no greater satisfaction for me than when I see them starting to understand what they need to do.

Q: If you were an ingredient found in the kitchen, what would you be and why?
A: Eggs — the binder between the manufacturer, importer / distributor and the regulations that must be met. I bring it all together in an easy-to-understand format — Just like eggs bind all ingredients in a recipe.

Q: What’s been the key to your success thus far?
A: Word-of-mouth advertising. Someone being happy with the work that I do, and then mentioning or referring me to someone else. I always thank a company when payment is received with the hope that if they ever have regulatory questions in the future, that they will think of me.

Q: What do you do to expose yourself to new ideas and new thinking on a regular basis?
A: The networking breakfasts, attending Trade Shows and seminars / webinars, speaking with clients as well as companies who do not need my help, reading Email newsletters from the various government agencies that I deal with as well as from Associations that I belong to.

Q: What lessons have you learned in your work life that you apply in the rest of your world?
A: Be true to yourself and if you are honest with people and do your best, even if it does not always result in payment, it will come back to you in many, sometimes unexpected ways.

Q: Tell me a story about your work that has either made you extremely proud or disappointed.
A: A company, who had worked with me in my old company, contacted me about a problem with a shipment he had encountered. There had been a series of mistakes and deadlines missed, which meant that the shipment was about to be destroyed by the responsible federal government agency. It was a large order and the importer and manufacturer would have had a huge financial loss. I intervened, especially since I was known by the agency for years of working with them on projects for the German government. After a few hours of email exchanges with them, I was able to not only prevent the destruction, but obtained a legal release of the products. Were they ever happy!! The importer still mentions it, almost a year later, when someone says the word “detention”.

Q: Are there any words of wisdom you would pass along to a struggling entrepreneur?
A: You never stop learning. I think I have learned more from the mistakes that I have made than from my successes. I never forget what I have done wrong and try never to repeat it. It keeps me grounded and humble. I also admit my mistakes. Being an entrepreneur keeps you on your toes.

Q: Is there anything that I haven’t asked you that you’d like to tell me?
A: In my own mind, I don’t believe that I have achieved success yet. I am not where I want to be — financially or from a business perspective. I know these things take time and my company is still very young. Patience is probably the hardest thing to learn…

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