Monday, August 15, 2016

Entrepreneurs Walk a Tightrope


Every single day as a small business owner I think about "what's next" for my business. How do I want my business to grow or change? Do I add services, extend current services, or add products?

I already know from experience it's more profitable to continue working with current and past clients, deepening those relationships and services, rather than working harder and spending more to recruit new clients. But, a part of me loves the relationship building and learning that comes with new clients. I try to work at both.

Being focused on today, yet planning for the future can be a challenge, but it's a requirement to thrive in business. I ran across this article on by William Vanderbloemen, and it speaks well to these challenges faced by entrepreneurs.

Stay true to your core business, keep a close eye on those financials, and don't let SOS lead you astray. We can do this. Let's keep our focus on getting across that tightrope to the other side.


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Your Company's Secret Asset

You can't run your company without your assets ~ operating capital, equipment, buildings or machinery. You can't run your company without customers either. Actually, you won't have a company without customers. Have you considered that your most important asset is your customer base?

When do you most need the customer's perspective? On the day they purchase? Prior to a purchase? After a purchase? While all three of these choices are important when gauging the customer experience,  thinking about the customer's perspective prior to a purchase is likely your best bet. 

How much time have you spent planning the customer experience? Creating a plan and making the 
customer experience a high priority can produce the ROI that meets your goals. Don't your customers deserve your annual planning time just as much as your mission statement does? We have to earn our customer's trust and business, so we'd better plan how to get it!

Customers are an asset.  Just as you have an inventory of your vehicles, equipment, machinery and financials you need an inventory of your customers and a plan for growing your business through customers. Growth through customers ~ your secret asset.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

What do you get when you survey turkeys?

Here's an excerpt from a recent conversation with a business owner (I'll call him Mark to protect the innocent) who expressed the need for a solution for a specific marketing challenge:

Me:      "You've probably used surveys before, right?"
Mark:   "Yeah. I'm not a big fan of surveys."
Me:      "Why not?"
Mark:  "People don't respond or they respond with dumb
Me:   "Did you ask dumb questions?"

Mark:  "Uh, maybe."
Treat a survey design like it's targeted to turkeys, and that survey will give you back some gobble, gobble.  Give the survey some R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and you will score way better results.

Whether you're surveying for customer feedback, market research, employee satisfaction, or community opinions these things matter: 

 the design format  *  the right questions  *  and the analysis

A survey I created last year for a client was aimed at improving the customer experience. My client and I carefully designed the survey, crafted great questions, and distributed the survey to a targeted audience. We received very helpful and specific responses which were analyzed and used toward customer experience enhancements at the business.  Happy client. Happy customers.

Oh, and don't forget the next big thing. Use the results to make a difference in your business. Treat that survey with some respect, and don't target turkeys unless you're looking for Thanksgiving dinner.  Sorry, I just couldn't resist!

Monday, March 14, 2016

You Can Create an Engaging Workplace

Psychologist Daniel Pink writes that people are driven by "autonomy, mastery, and purpose." 

One of the top factors affecting the workplace and certainly a concern among entrepreneurs is finding a way to engage and retain employees. Although everyone likes excellent pay and would not turn down a raise, it may be surprising to learn that people are also after a more entrepreneurial and meaningful experience on the job.

Having a mission driven purpose that is understood and adopted by employees is one of the ways companies are able to engage and retain workers. There's a story told about a group of reporters at NASA who saw a janitor coming their way with a broom. They stopped him and asked, "What's your job here?" The janitor replied, "My job is to help put a man on the moon." 

People like to know their opinion is valued, and they crave work that lets them leave a unique fingerprint on a finished product.(Josh Bersin, Bersin and Deloitte). 

Company leaders should share customer feedback, good and bad, in a way that helps employees understand there will be celebrations for successes and they have a stake in helping correct mistakes.

It's never too late for companies to adopt and implement strategies to develop a more engaging workplace. Your employees will thank you for it.

Monday, February 22, 2016

How Strong is Your Trademark Name?

I consider myself very lucky to get to collaborate and network with smart women business owners. We all help each other become sharper and able to solve problems for each other and our clients. One of my smart women friends is Angie Avard Turner, an attorney specializing in business law for creatives. Here's what she had to say recently on her blog. Enjoy and learn!

"Above All Else Be Distinct"

We see lots of information about branding and how to create a brand that sticks.  All of that information is vital when beginning a company.  Quite frankly, many times we go and create the products and the goodies before we've even given the first thought of "the brand."  A little backwards.  What is even more backwards is when we think through the brand and the products and goodies, but do not think through whether this name is already being used; whether there are other products that have similar names that customers might confuse with mine; or whether the name is distinctive.

Whether a name or mark is distinctive is one of the ultimate questions in trademark law.  Distinctive is an adjective that gets used relatively often in the English language, however in legal speak, there is a specific meaning. As you may already know, trademarks  are words, names, symbols and other items that distinguish and identify the sources of goods or services. Unfortunately, not all trademarks are created equal.  Whether a trademark is distinctive will affect whether it receives protection and to what degree.

In the realm of trademark law there is this phenom called the spectrum of distinctiveness.  The spectrum demonstrates the range of distinctiveness from least to greatest.  Obviously those marks that are the least distinctive will receive little to no protection, while those that are most distinctive will receive the most protection.  Trademarks are like SAT problems if you think figuring it out was "too easy," then you are probably missing something and most likely got it wrong.  There is an art to naming a business; it is not an exact science.  If it were, we would not have all the court proceeding and litigation that we do!
So the question is, look at your mark, your brand, where does your mark fit in the spectrum? Are you distinct?

Friday, February 5, 2016

10 Ways to Gain Trust

I don't know of any other single factor in life or business that is more important than trust. I recently had a conversation on this topic with my nephew. He is experiencing "feel good moments" due to interactions with people who trust him in business and personal transactions. He's young and is seeing the value.

Has the world changed to the point that trust is harder to find than ever?  I don't think so. I think it boils down to negative news from every direction. There are trustworthy people, and there are untrustworthy people. Always has been. Always will be.

All that really matters is this: In which category do you wish to be recognized and remembered?

Here are my tips, gained from years of experience, for gaining a reputation of trust:

  1. Listen carefully to what people have to say. 
  2. Never over- promise just to get the business.
  3. Think of the relationship before thinking of the business potential.
  4. Treat others as you would like to be treated.
  5. Find out how you can help others, then do as much as you can.
  6. Do what you say you will do. Every time.
  7. If you screw up, admit it and apologize. Make it up to the person whether you got the business or not.
  8. Always, always be thankful and show it.
  9. Be genuine. If you aren't, it will show.
  10. Be a positive spirit and influence. You never know when someone you encounter needs it and remembers it.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Don't get sideswiped! Create your "AHA! Vision"

I consider October through February the "season for strategic planning" for every organization. We can't help but think of the current year's successes, failures, challenges and opportunities taken or missed. At the same time we begin focusing our attention on the things we desire for the coming year and longer. If organization leaders don't do this, the teams lose opportunities for focus and creative thinking.

It can be mind-boggling! Do you feel slightly (or a lot) overwhelmed at the thought of creating a vision that will truly speak to your brand, your mission, your passion and purpose? Were you able to focus on those areas during 2015 or were you sideswiped from your intended path?

Let's start a revolution! Strategic planning should be more about the Aha! moments that lead to a lasting vision. It's exciting, not dull. It's liberating, not restricting. It's fresh and memorable.

I've facilitated many strategic planning sessions over the years, and here is the common denominator:

Over time the leadership team gets distracted, failing to keep a laser focus on the vision and mission, forgetting to tie every strategy and action back to that vision and mission.

I want to hang around longer, past the day or two of planning, so when you get muddled and sideswiped; when you see the trees instead of the forest; when that 30,000 foot view is cloudy I step back in as your coach to keep you focused. 

I've been where you are. I know the challenges, and it drives me crazy just as it does you, to miss those opportunities when they are right in front of me. You too, right?

So here we are in the season for creating the Aha! Vision. Jump on board, and let's take this journey together.  Call or email for a chat. Here are my open dates for the first part of 2016 + one in December:

Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Thursday, January 21, 2016
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Monday, February 1, 2016