NFIB Tennessee Member Profile: Satellites Unlimited, Inc.

Date: September 30, 2015

Charles Stubblefield of Nashville, Tennessee, tells us how he started Satellites Unlimited, Inc. in the early ‘80s. The 25-year NFIB veteran has one piece of advice for small business owners: Study your craft.

How did you decide to start your business?

In the early ‘80s, I came up through the evolution of the industry. My girlfriend’s brother-in-law had started a little business, so I started helping him. This was back in the infancy of the satellite business—the “wild, wild west” days—when great, big solid fiberglass dishes were around, a lot of them 12 or 13 feet. One thing led to another, and I started Satellites Unlimited in May of 1983. We’ve been a retailer for DISH Network for 30-plus years.

What do you enjoy most about running your own business?

Well, you get to make your own schedule and have a better support staff around you, but getting to that point is the trick. It takes many years. I think Darwin had it right in his comment about it not being the strongest or the smartest who survive, but those who are the most willing to change. That’s part of being an entrepreneur by definition. Sweat equity and perseverance will push you through.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome as a small business owner?

“P and P”: People with their personalities. Right now, you’ve got the millennials coming through the ranks and bringing their own perspectives.  Industries always change, and new technologies, like streaming, are going against the grain of the traditional stuff. It is what it is, but I’ve never shied away from change.

It’s always a challenge, too, to get good folks and to be able to retain them, especially when you’re competing with people around you. Things like benefits for small businesses, health insurance and paid maternity leave, we’re just not in the ballpark to compete against.

Why is Tennessee a good place to run a small business?

Tennessee is more supportive than a lot of states. We’ve got a balanced budget and a rainy day fund, as long as it doesn’t rain too long. By and large, as long as you pay your taxes and try to do the next right thing, you’re pretty much left alone.

What value do you derive from your membership with NFIB?

The folks at NFIB are what I call our lobbyists on the hill. They’re out there lobbying for us and directing traffic, and that’s pretty comforting. I’ve been a member for 25, 26 years. If there’s an issue within my industry, I’ll call the state director to see what he knows or who he knows. There’s always somebody I can call.

What advice would you give to other small business owners?

Study your craft. Study your industry. My adage is “read at least one hour a week from a different publication within your industry.” If you do that, you’ll set yourself apart from probably 90 percent of the people out there.

Related Content: Small Business News | Tennessee

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