Lisa Canning: Crafting Success at the Intersection of Creativity and Business

Within the fast-paced sphere of business, where profit margins, strategy, and competition rule the day, there is a special place where creativity and artistry come together. Here is the field where exceptional people who are motivated by innovation and a steadfast desire to advance leave their lasting imprint.

Lisa Canning, the CEO and Founder of Sales Maven LLC, exemplifies this by seamlessly merging her love for the arts, entrepreneurship, creativity, and innovation for over 30 years.

Lisa’s entrepreneurial journey is nothing short of inspiring. She embarked on this path from her Northwestern University dorm room, launching her first business at the tender age of 17. With each endeavor, she weaves her passion for the arts and her flair for business, leaving an indelible mark.

Lisa firmly believes that reaching the elusive 1 to 5-million-dollar milestone is no easy feat without a supportive and agile team. Most small businesses grapple with a lack of essential resources or efficient processes to facilitate growth. Her vision is clear: to empower companies with the ability to gain traction swiftly, underpinned by dedicated teams. These teams, although outsourced, are tailored to seamlessly integrate with each company’s culture, providing precisely what is needed to foster predictable growth.

For Lisa, there’s no greater satisfaction for a founder than knowing you’re in control of your dreams and on the path to success. With Sales Maven LLC, she not only brings her expertise to the forefront but also empowers other businesses to stride confidently toward their dreams.

Lisa Canning, an entrepreneur and artist, continues to shine at the intersection of creativity and commerce. Through her ventures, she lights the way for others, ensuring that more entrepreneurs can navigate the intricate path to success with clarity and confidence.

Below are the highlights of the interview:

Clarinet Shop Paves the Way for Sales Maven’s Success

Sales Maven, founded by Lisa, is more than just a business – it’s a culmination of her passion and expertise. With over 40 years of experience as a professional clarinetist, Lisa has ventured into assisting individuals in the music industry to transform their concepts into flourishing ventures. But it doesn’t stop there.

Sales Maven specializes in offering sales and marketing consulting services tailored to small businesses in the United States, particularly those with fewer than 20 employees. These businesses often have established niches but require an efficient, cost-effective sales and marketing strategy. Sales Maven bridges the gap by blending people, processes, and sales and marketing activities to deliver consistent revenue within 6–12 months, all while keeping costs low. This approach empowers business owners to scale, exit, or simply enjoy more peaceful nights.

The company’s services are a fusion of digital marketing and traditional sales support. From SEO and video production to webinars, content strategy, email marketing, cold list building, sales support (both inside and outside), script writing, video messaging, and comprehensive management services, Sales Maven boasts a team of over 100 experts ready to propel small businesses to new heights. Lisa’s journey from her roots in the music industry to her venture in Sales Maven is a testament to her passion for turning ideas into thriving enterprises.

From Clarinetist to Business Maven

Lisa’s path to entrepreneurship was unconventional yet incredibly rewarding. Initially groomed to be a professional clarinetist with dreams of performing as a soloist with orchestras, she realized that her true passion lay in helping others rather than being in the spotlight. This realization set her on a unique journey.

At just 17 years old and studying at Northwestern University, Lisa launched her first business from her dorm room. She quickly recognized that the skills she honed as a musician provided a strong foundation for her entrepreneurial endeavors. As she reflects, “What I discovered early on was that it takes an incredible amount of tenacity, perseverance, willingness to fall down seven times and stand back up eight, organizational skills, and the ability to assess risk to play the clarinet well or grow a business.”

While the pressure and demands of performing as a musician may not be directly analogous to the challenges of running a business, Lisa learned valuable lessons that transcended both worlds. Her experience taught her to accomplish more in less time, emphasizing the importance of effective communication, organized action, and achieving results efficiently. This background in “real-time” performance instilled in her a deep understanding of delivering excellence under pressure.

Lisa credits her musical journey with instilling discipline, problem-solving skills, and a unique communication style that has translated seamlessly into her role as a business leader. Her transition from clarinetist to business maven is a testament to the incredible synergy between the two seemingly different worlds.

Commitment to Fostering a Supportive Work Environment

Lisa understands the importance of creating a workplace where her staff feels welcomed, supported, and motivated to exceed customer expectations in any situation. Her focus is on continuous improvement, both in terms of her organization’s skills and her team’s abilities, all geared towards delivering increased value to their customers.

Central to Lisa’s approach is the cultivation of an open and communicative virtual work environment. She strikes a balance between providing structure and offering ample opportunities for creativity and innovation. According to Lisa, this environment allows her team to freely share new ideas and feel empowered to advance. 

Lisa firmly believes that when employees recognize that their well-being is a top priority, it radiates through their interactions with customers. This dedication to a supportive workplace not only benefits her team but also resonates with clients, ultimately leading to a more positive and successful customer experience.

Balancing Two Ventures During a Pandemic

Running an established company alongside a startup is no easy feat. Sales Maven, after establishing a broad range of services with a relatively small clientele, found itself at a crucial juncture as it aimed to transition to a larger customer base. This strategic move was in the works just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which prompted Sales Maven to undergo a rebranding in 2020.

Sales Maven’s focus has always been on clients with revenue ranging from 0 to $500,000. However, many of these clients, primarily young businesses, faced constraints in achieving their goals. Consequently, when contracts expired, Sales Maven chose not to renew them and didn’t actively seek out new clients. As Lisa explains, “At the time, we had no idea that COVID-19 was just around the corner.”

When the pandemic hit the United States, it had a significant impact on both of Lisa’s businesses. She had developed Sales Maven to cater to companies similar to her clarinet shop—those with over 1 million dollars in revenue and fewer than 20 employees, operating in the U.S., and specializing in one or more niches—all in need of a cost-effective growth strategy. Lisa emphasizes, “While the music industry saw a 50–75% decline in business, the SEO strategy that we had implemented for Lisa’s Clarinet Shop, coupled with the marketing and sales support from Sales Maven, allowed us to finish 2020 with only a 10% decline in business. The synergy between both companies truly helped us weather a challenging period.”

A Force for Affordable Sales and Marketing Success

Lisa takes immense pride in her Sales Maven team. From her co-founder, Sana Umer, to the Chief Operating Officer, Heather McNeice, the team’s mission was clear: hire the best and brightest digital marketers from around the world. These professionals bring a fresh perspective, agility, and affordability to the marketplace, enabling more companies to afford robust sales and marketing engines that significantly boost their bottom lines. The team is characterized by its curiosity, initiative, strong work ethic, and consistent display of leadership skills. Lisa proudly exclaims, “I am so proud of them. We truly have an exceptional team committed to our clients’ success. Building such a team has always been a significant challenge in the music industry. While we have now achieved it at the clarinet shop, it was much easier to nurture with Sales Maven.”

Lisa further emphasizes the importance of building this culture with a globally diverse workforce, many of whom are mothers. Their team comprises both men and women working from various corners of the world, including Kenya, Pakistan, India, Belize, Honduras, Venezuela, Nigeria, and the USA. The collective strength of this global team is a testament to the inclusive and successful culture Lisa has fostered.

Balancing Passion and Personal Life

When Lisa reflects on her work-life balance, she candidly states, “I love the work I do.” While this is undeniably rewarding, it can also be challenging because when your work doesn’t feel like “work,” it’s easy to dedicate all your time to it. Lisa recognizes the importance of seeking more balance in her life to gain a fresh perspective.

In her pursuit of balance, Lisa begins most mornings with a refreshing swim in the pool. Additionally, she takes daily walks with her loyal companion, Fiona, her beloved dog. Whenever she has the opportunity, Lisa enjoys preparing meals for her family, a fulfilling and creative endeavor. She also regularly takes on the role of mentor, guiding and supporting 1-2 individuals. She acknowledges that her husband plays a vital role in maintaining this balance, describing him as a supportive and capable cook who appreciates and encourages her daily.

Lisa’s life is a harmonious blend of her passion for her work and her dedication to maintaining a fulfilling personal life.

Realizing Potential and Purpose Through Creativity

Lisa’s mission is crystal clear: she is dedicated to helping companies unlock their untapped potential and fulfill their ultimate purpose through the power of creativity. Her objective is straightforward, as she expresses, “Our goals are to see how many companies we can help achieve their goals.” She finds immense satisfaction in aiding businesses that excel in delivering products or services but require expertise in sales and marketing to reach their desired results.

For Lisa, it’s essential for each of us to utilize our unique talents and gifts to their fullest potential. When individuals collaborate with others who share this commitment, their combined impact is magnified. Lisa firmly believes that by harnessing synergies, along with effective strategy and execution, momentum is generated, ultimately leading to success.

Lisa’s work is a testament to her passion for helping companies thrive and fulfill their missions through creativity and strategic collaboration.