Owning a business is one of the most challenging things we’ll ever do in our lives. It’s not easy, as the explosive failure rates constantly confirm the dangers of being an entrepreneur. Millions of dollars lost everyday, relationships torn apart and dreams destroyed on a daily basis. Scary, huh? If that’s the case, then why do entrepreneurs dive into business ownership at record speed?
Why? You know why.
Freedom, baby! Freedom! Ah, yes. There is nothing in the world that can compare with calling the shots and controlling your own destiny. No risk, no reward.
But here’s a question: Even when our businesses are a success, do we really have freedom? I ask that because in the midst of a successful entrepreneurial career, I realized that, for the most part, I didn’t have freedom — I had a job. (A great one at that, but still a job). If I wasn’t there working, the business wouldn’t have survived, never mind prospered. My business therefore owned me. We are supposed to own the business, remember?
We all have different goals, and not everyone wants to be the next Google (I’d like to meet that person). Not everybody wants a billion dollar business (I’d like to meet that person too). But no matter how many entrepreneurs I meet, they all agree that “more time” is the indisputable goal right next to the goal of getting that fire engine-red Ferrari.
So that takes us to: Work “ON” your business, not “IN” it. Regardless of whether you want to conquer the world, build a business that can run with you or without you. Your business will grow. You will have freedom. You will have a true business.
And, hey, you just might get that fire engine-red Ferrari, too.
Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.
I can do it faster, better, and cheaper than any of your other vendors! I’m available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 366 days a year! You won’t find ANYBODY in town with better customer service. I’m selling this to you BELOW my cost. I don’t have to check with the warehouse — I can deliver it TOMORROW. I can get you the mortgage approved WEEKS before the close date.
Wow. If I wasn’t a seasoned entrepreneur, all those promises would sound like awesome deal-closers. However, experience proves that they are all deal-killers. Why? Because if you have to over-promise to get the client, then there’s probably somebody out there better equipped to handle their business. You know the saying: “If it sounds too good to be true …”
Try not to offer the sky. I know you need the business. But over-promising leads to a no-win situation: If you look desperate, well … you know how that works out. If you do get the business, it’s only a matter of time before you disappoint. Don’t dole out promises you can’t keep. In fact, here’s a crazy idea: Try the opposite. Deliver unexpected acts of customer service and you will be rewarded with the mother of all wishes: loyalty.
That takes us to: Under-promise and over-deliver. Make sure this mantra is part of your business practice. We’re expected to do what we say. We are not expected to go above and beyond. So, each and every time you do, you add a raving fan to your business. And the goal is to have a business that is full of raving fans and not just clients or customers, right?
Under promise; over deliver.
Sometimes you come across an article that you could not agree with more, this is an example of one of them.
Need advice? Experts, including myself, will be glad to share it. Unfortunately, experts can give very bad advice. As an expert, I need to walk a fine line here, since this article itself is an expert opinion. But hear me out.
The main problem with experts today is that everyone seems to be one.
Don’t get me wrong. We need experts. The next time my dishwasher breaks, I want an expert to fix it. And sure, if my business needs help with marketing, I want a marketing expert to help me. But you need to separate the good from the bad by watching for the following five warning signs.
1. Hasn’t been there, hasn’t done that
You want a coach or expert who has actually done what you are doing. While a coach may have training in your field, nothing can top hands-on experience. Look for a coach that has direct experience in what you need advice about.
2. Big words, little action
It is easy for an expert to gain credibility by writing. Many experts quickly dominate the blogosphere with sage advice. But the reality is that words mean nothing if you can’t execute. Look for coaches who both write about what they do and do what they write about.
3. Advice, but no specific experience
Ever ask an expert what they think about your product or service and they then tell you why it is a horrible or great idea? I don’t care if you have 100 years of consulting experience. If the expert is not the end consumer of the product or service, his advice is wrong.
The consumer knows what she wants. Listen to her.
Tip: If you want to quickly qualify an expert, ask them what they think about your offering. If they offer advice, without qualifying (or disqualifying) themselves based on their consumer experience, they’re likely giving you bad advice.
4. No coach of their own
If a coach doesn’t have his own coach, red flags should fly! It could indicate that the coach you’re hiring doesn’t believe in being coached. Or, that the coach feels she has nothing left to learn.
5. Nothing to learn from you
An expert doesn’t know all things. Being an expert means having superior knowledge and hands-on experience in one category. To apply this knowledge on your behalf, the expert must learn about your business. If they aren’t thirsty to know more about your industry or if they don’t ask for your direction, you may be getting a one-size-fits-all solution. At the end of the day, that’s not a real solution.
When you need an expert in a certain field, be discerning. You want someone who knows what they’re talking about, does what they talk about, is constantly learning and doesn’t try to solve all problems with one easy-fix solution. That expert will give you some great advice.
Author – Mike Michalowicz
A recent article I wrote for In and Out Magazine.
Here’s a Before Internet (BI) scenario: A consumer has a problem with a business. Consumer informs owner. Owner rectifies problem or does not. Consumer decides to forgive and forget, or decides not to patronize the business ever again. It’s simple. Here’s an After Internet (AI) scenario: A consumer has a problem with a business. Consumer jumps on the keyboard and slams the establishment through blogs, forums, social networks, and consumer rating sites. There’s no face-to-face constructive criticism given to the owner/manager, no opportunity to immediately address the customer’s complaints and possibly send the customer home feeling validated and satisfied. Condemnation over the internet leads to repercussions that will exist for an infinite amount of time. This is not so simple.
You show me a business that doesn’t screw-up now and then, and I will show you a unicorn. Stuff happens. Be realistic. I spent two decades owning a small business that was built on customer service. Anytime a customer shared a problem or bad experience with me, I felt like he had given me a gift; I had the chance to rectify the problem and improve my operation. Other, unsatisfied customers chose to leave and never return. No gift.
They keyboard can be mightier than the sword. It can be viewed as the modern-day, school-yard bully. At least on the playground you know who the bully is. The internet fosters an environment that allows for anonymity and no accountability. Recently, it was my turn to choose a restaurant to dine in with friends. I was bombarded with comments from my pals: “reviews weren’t the greatest”, “service was slow”, “Joan, from Utah, said she would never eat there again.” My replies were: “Food is subjective to individual taste”, “Maybe the customer was in a super rush”, “Joan could be a competitor, ex-employee, or an ex-spouse.” We ate there, and the result was I picked another winner. My entire party had a great time. We would gladly return and recommend the restaurant to friends. Lesson learned: Take reviews with a grain of salt. Of course, I understand that there is truth and consensus on blogs, forums, and consumer rating sites. I take issue with the disgruntled customer who would rather try to destroy someone’s business than allow them an opportunity to address complaints in person or at least directly. This is what makes us humans and separates us from keyboard tyrants. I guess it’s okay if and only if that person admits that they have never made a mistake. I have seen a lot but I’ve yet to see a unicorn living in a glass house.
So be thoughtful when a business or an individual makes a mistake. Maybe you can implement a 24 hour cool down period before you pull out your keyboard and go for the kill.
Larry Vivola is a business coach. He works with entrepreneurs to help improve their business results. He can be contacted at Larry@InLineBusinessAdvisors.com
I’m expanding my business through a national affiliate program, and
I’m looking for five entrepreneurs across the country that might be interested
in launching their very own small business coaching firm.
I’m blessed to work with the smartest, most-hard working entrepreneurs on the planet. Their successes have inspired me to share my coaching/business philosophies with others. The ultimate goal is to help as many small businesses as possible.
So, if you know someone that might make a great business coach, please
forward them my information. Thanks in advance. I look forward
to returning the favor.
10 Things You Need to Know About Being an Entrepreneur
Contributed by Anne McAuley of McAuley Freelance Writing
Employees are taking it on the chin lately. They are subjected to longer hours, more responsibilities, less security―and all for reduced compensation. It’s a sad sign of the times. Employers are struggling as well. They must function with less revenue, increased expenses and more demanding consumers than ever before. What gives? Usually, it’s the employee. A common answer to an employer’s financial woes is to cut employee-related expenses in an effort to prop up the bottom line. This weak solution is like putting a Band-Aid on a wound that requires stitches. In the long run, you will be left with an ugly scar.
The most successful companies in the world treat employees better than customers. This may seem to contradict the old adage that the customer is the most important element of any business. Wrong, employees are. Often times, people don’t quit jobs, they quit managers. So, why not demonstrate as much respect for employees as customers? Take employees to lunch or for coffee. Entice the staff with incentives. Cash is not always king; It’s proven that appreciation, spontaneous time off, recognition and genuine care are often better motivators than money. Happy employees make happy customers.
HP founder David Packard once said, “Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.” Everyone in the company has a critical role in marketing. Disgruntled employees release tension by complaining about their employers to anyone who will listen. Each employee needs to buyin to its company’s goal and mission. Passionate employees naturally promulgate a business’s vision. Treat employees poorly, and the risk of extinguishing their desire to go above and beyond is rife.
When I first moved to Anthem, I needed new tires for my car. I went to Discount Tire and experienced terrible service from a miserable employee. I swore I would never spend my money there again. Four years later, I met Ben, another employee of Discount Tire at a barbecue. I shared my horror story with him. He appeared genuinely shocked. He apologized on behalf of the company and went on to tell me how he is treated like one of the family at Discount Tire. He was emphatic that the company values its customers and employees. Ben volunteered this information; he had nothing to gain by spending 30 minutes praising his employer. This is an example of employee marketing at its best. I’ve been loyal customer of Discount Tire ever since I spoke with Ben at that barbecue.
Trust employees; They internalize practical knowledge by performing the day-to-day operations. Sam Walton is credited for jumping on his trucks and picking the brains of his drivers. He understood that his employees acquired the knowledge needed to improve business. His actions demonstrated a trust and regard for employee input. Truly caring for and treating employees with respect, regardless of their position on the corporate ladder, is an integral part of a smart business plan. Employees understand that times are tough, but implementing positive energy and working together will help a company persevere and knockout the competition.
Keep Your Crew Happy
• Work From Home Days Employees can skip the commute hassle and work in the comfort of their own home.
• Family Days Employees get bitter when they have to use a vacation day to stay with a sick child.
• Exercise Programs Arrange for a group session twice per week. You’ll get the group discount and they’ll
lose the stress and gain energy.
• Pizza Fridays Provide your group with lunch once a week. Whether its a catered affair from Our Kitchen to
Yours or a couple large pizzas, free lunch is always welcome. Or, make it a bagel breakfast to start the day right.
• Share Your Discounts Buying in bulk typically allows a business to get good prices on computers and
• Discounts on What You Do: Give them a discount on your company’s goods services.
• Fun and Games A dart board or a putting green in the office can help balance the stressful moments.
• Free Seminars Professionals will often speak for free (to promote themselves) on topics such as investment
planning or ways to relieve stress.
• Socialize: Holiday parties, family picnics, movie night. These are all ways to promote company unity.
I want to share this great article by Harvey Mackay. I look forward to his weekly article in the newspaper.
As many college graduates are scrambling to find jobs, one of the most important things for graduates to understand is that you’re in school all your life. In fact, your real education is just beginning.
I’d like to pass on a few lessons, which weren’t necessarily covered in school. If you’ve been out of school for a few years—or a lot of years—this advice is still for you; consider it a refresher course.
Develop relationships and keep networking. If I had to name the single characteristic shared by all the truly successful people I’ve met over a lifetime, I’d say it is the ability to create and nurture a network of contacts. Start strengthening your relationships now, so they’ll be in place when you really need them later. In the classroom it was mostly about your individual performance. Success in real life will require relationships. Who you know determines how effectively you can apply what you know. So stay in touch.
Find advisors and mentors. Advisors will not be assigned to you, as in school. You should actively seek your own mentors. And remember, mentors change over a lifetime. Start connecting with people you respect who can help you get a leg up in each aspect of your life, personal and professional. Make it as easy and convenient as possible for them to talk with you, and always look for ways to contribute to their success, too.
Build your reputation. Nothing is more important than a good reputation in building a successful career or business. If you don’t have a positive reputation, it will be difficult to be successful. All it takes is one foolish act to destroy a reputation.
Set goals. Ask any winner what their keys to success are, and you will hear four consistent messages: vision, determination, persistence and setting goals. If you don’t set goals to determine where you’re going, how will you know when you get there? Goals give you more than a reason to get up in the morning; they are an incentive to keep you going all day. Most important, goals need to be measurable, identifiable, attainable, specific and in writing.
Get along with people. Ask recruiters from various companies to name the number one skill necessary for new hires, and many of them will say it’s the ability to get along with people. Co-workers share office space, facilities, break rooms, refrigerators and coffee pots. They arrive together, take breaks together, eat lunch together and meet to solve problems together. All this closeness and familiarity can wear thin at times. Everyone shares responsibility for making the company work, run smoothly and stay profitable
Be happy. We are all responsible for our own happiness. Don’t waste time and energy being unhappy. When people aren’t happy doing what they do, they don’t do it as well. Life will always be filled with challenges and opportunities. Both are best faced with a positive attitude.
Smile. A smile should be standard equipment for all people. I learned years ago that one of the most powerful things you can do to have influence over others is to smile at them. Everything seems much easier with a smile.
Sense of humor. I’m a firm believer in using humor—not necessarily jokes. A good sense of humor helps to overlook the unbecoming, understand the unconventional, tolerate the unpleasant, overcome the unexpected and outlast the unbearable. There are plenty of times to be serious, but I believe that keeping things light and comfortable encourages better teamwork.
Be yourself. We all have areas that need a little work, but accepting who we are and making the most of our good points will take us much farther than trying to be someone we aren’t. Be content with your abilities and comfortable enough in your own skin to trust your gut.
Volunteer. It might be hard to do a lot of volunteer work at first, but people who help other people on a regular basis have a healthier outlook on life. They are more inclined to be go-getters and consistently report being happier. Volunteering is good for everyone.
You may know from interactions with me
that I am a big fan of setting and beating
I can’t believe it, but 2011 is almost gone.
Wow, only two months left to 2012.
So let me ask you…
How many of your business goals have
you accomplished so far this year?
How many more will you accomplish in
the next two months?
I want to see you FINISH STRONG!!
I just watched this video and thought you might enjoy it too.
I have no affiliation with this company.
I just wanted to share it because it got me pumped!
Congratulations Harkins, our home town family owned theater, with 30 theaters, 427 screens and about 2,500 employees, Harkins is the largest privately owned theater in the United States.
Dan Harkins tributes his companies success to passion and never being satisfied. Dan made a great comment when he spoke recently at the Economic Club of Phoenix kick off event.
“When you get complacent, that’s when you start going out of business.” Said Dan
When I was asked to teach a copywriting class for a special program at The Ohio State University, I discovered that teaching writing is far more difficult than the writing itself. Many of the things I did naturally from experience or instinct were a complete mystery to my students.
So, in order to make the copywriting process a logical and painless operation, I devised a simple method for writing ad copy for novice writers. I called it POWER Copywriting, an acronym for the five steps in the copywriting process: Prepare, Organize, Write, Edit, and Review.
This represents years of copywriting experience boiled down to the basics. I won’t promise that this will help you create a masterpiece of copywriting brilliance. But it can help guide you toward better and more effective sales writing.
Step 1: PREPARE
Good ad copy begins with good information. And the best way to gather the information you need is with a thorough Q&A. Here are some basic questions that will help you prepare for just about any ad writing project.
Don’t try to wordsmith at this point. Just collect as much information as you can. Feel free to add additional information as needed.
Description. Briefly, what is the product or service you are selling?
Purpose. What does this product or service do for the customer? How does it work?
Price. What is the suggested cost? What are you asking for it?
Features. What are the most important facts and specifications about this product or service?
Benefits. What do the features mean for the customer? What problems are solved? What needs are filled? Of all the benefits, which is the most important?
Competition. From the customer’s point of view, why is this product or service better than what the competition is offering?
Your Business. Do you have a special history, unique owner, awards?
Guarantee. How strongly do you believe in the product or service? How will you back up your belief? 30 days free trial? Money back guarantee?
Prospect. Who do you visualize as the ideal buyer? Male or female? Income? Job title? Interests? Concerns? Fears?
Objections. Why would someone NOT want this product?
Testimonials & Endorsements. Letters from happy users? Media coverage? Celebrity endorsements?
Objective. What do you want prospects to do when they see this ad? Ask for more information? Buy immediately? Come to your website? Request a demo?
Offer. What is the deal you are offering to prospects? Lower price for a limited time? Free information? Gift with an immediate order?
Deadline. When does the offer expire?
Required Copy Points. What information or legal copy must be included?
Taboos. What can never be said or promised?
Method of Payment. Credit card? PayPal? Installment Billing?
Method of Ordering. How should a buyer place an order? Phone? Email? Web form?
Step 2: ORGANIZE
After you’ve answered these questions, organize your information. This is simply a matter of writing the essential points concisely. These are still just notes for reference, but your copy is now starting to take shape.
Don’t take shortcuts. The best selling ideas come from this research and note-taking. I’ve found that writing and rewriting notes is a great way to focus the mind and shape ideas.
Here are the essential items you will need to write your copy:
You’ll notice that this list doesn’t include everything from the first step. Some of the information you collected in Step 1 is for background only. The items in Step 2 are those most likely to be used directly in your copy.
Step 3: WRITE
Now that you’ve collected and organized your information, it’s time to start writing your copy.
* 7 Simple Headlines that Work
Direct — A direct headline comes right out and states your main idea. (“7 step online business plan generates cash instantly”)
News — People are interested by news. Words such as “new,” “introducing,” “announcing,” “now,” and “at last” indicate something newsworthy. (“Now program your VCR by simply speaking to the revolutionary VCR Voice Programmer”)
How-To — This headline promises a solution to a problem or information of interest. (“How to stop smoking in 30 days”)
Question — When related to a benefit or the reader’s concerns, the question headline is a powerful attention grabber. (“How do I know which mutual fund is right for me?”)
Command — A command can kick your headline into high gear and start selling immediately. (“Call today and reserve your Star Trek collectible”)
Information — People make buying decisions with the information you provide. By educating people, you gain their attention and trust. (“Two things you won’t get on your average tread mill”)
Testimonial — Nothing is more convincing than a customer endorsement. (“This diet program worked for me. It can work for you, too!”)
Expand on each subhead. List features. Explain each benefit. It may seem that this is the hardest part since the body copy will probably require the most number of words. However, body copy is relatively easy to write once you have your headlines and subheads.
Most good copywriters spend from 50 percent to 80 percent of their time on headlines. If your reader takes the time to read body copy, they’re already interested in what you’re selling. All you need to do is provide clear details and support your headlines and subheads. No need to get fancy.
Step 4: EDIT
For some, editing is the hardest part of copywriting. But it’s essential to get the clean, crisp results you’re looking for. You must be ruthless. Don’t fall in love with your own writing. Every word must add to the message. If anything is unclear or wordy, cut it out. Long copy is fine. Just make sure that every word is pulling its own weight.
As you review your work, ask yourself a few questions:
Step 5: REVIEW
Put your copy aside for a few days and read it later when you’re fresh. Try these techniques to review your ad.
Use the “5 Second Test.” Show the ad to a few objective people. If they don’t understand it at a glance — in about 5 seconds — it isn’t going to work. Don’t play with body copy. Revise the big things. Make your headline more clear and direct. Clarify your offer. Give direct ordering instructions.
List all the negatives. What’s wrong with the headline? The call to action? The tone? Be brutal and honest. Don’t get attached to particular pet words or phrases. This isn’t art, after all. It’s business. So if something needs to be changed, change it.
Consider one other way to write the ad. Even if you have a successful formula, there are always other approaches that will work. If you keep an open mind, you just might find a better way. Or you may discover improvements you can incorporate.
Try the “Stop or Go Test.” You should generally speak in the second person, using words such as “you” and “your.” And you should avoid speaking about yourself too much, with words such as “I,” “we,” and “our.” So, with a green pen, circle all words referring to your reader. Then, with a red pen, circle all words referring to you. If you see a lot of green, your copy is a go. If you see a lot of red, stop and edit.
Source: Dean Rieck on Copywriting & Direct Marketing
In 2010, Sean Bandawat acquired Jacob Bromwell, a specialty housewares company that’s been in existence since 1819. Here, he shares his operational plan, focusing on his strategy to turn the company into a profitable business.
By Darren Dahl | Jul 27, 2011
The operating plan is the section of your business plan where you dig into more of the nuts and bolts of your business, areas like: production/manufacturing, inventory, and distribution. In other words, this is the time where you put aside the conceptual aspects of your business to get your hands dirty in terms of writing out the specific of how you’re going to make your product, store it, and then ship it out to your customers.
The topic you cover in your operational plan will vary based on the kind of business you run. For instance, if you are starting a retail business, you will want to think about things like inventory and distribution while a software company may be more focused on securing office space and computer equipment. Again, the point is that you need to think about the kinds of details you’ll be facing from the day you open the doors of your business.
Take it from Bandawat, who, as an undergraduate business student at the University of Southern California, crafted a business plan that involved turning around the operations of Jacob Bromwell, a specialty housewares company that has been continuously manufacturing authentic campfire, kitchen, and fireplace products for families since 1819. Bandawat, who comes from a family of successful entrepreneurs, teamed up with his longtime friend, Eric Stanton, to tap money from friends and family to buy Jacob Brownwell. But before they closed the deal in May 2010—just after Bandawat graduated—they wrote a business plan that won top undergraduate honors from the USC Marshall School of Business.
The challenge for Bandawat and Stanton was that they wanted to continue to leverage the “Made in America” nature of their new company’s products, which range from campfire popcorn poppers to chestnut roasters. That meant that, in crafting their operational plan, they needed to come up with specific strategies and actions they planned to take. “Taking over a business with 192 years of history presented very different challenges than creating a business from scratch,” says Bandawat. “So we relied on our advisory team to come up with a direction to take the company in.”
The key decision Bandawat and Stanton made in changing the operations of their business was to close the factory the company had been using in Michigan City,Indiana, and move the specialized equipment to a contract manufacturing facility inGlendale, California.
Bandawat and Stanton agreed to share their operational business plan with us as an example of how you, too, can come up with one for your business. You’ll see how they focused on concepts like operational efficiency, who their suppliers are, and how they planned to sell to new customers. “The key is to put something down and then start executing on it,” says Stanton. “And you’ll need to keep changing and updating it as you go and learn. You won’t know everything from the start.”
For those of you who are working in a customer service industry, the quality of that customer service itself is the most important aspect of the job. People respond positively to good customer service. IF you are a business owner then you know how the saying goes, it’s easier to keep a customer, as it is to get a new customer. In order to keep your customers and build up some form of clientele that feels loyal to your company. Therefore you must put in the time and effort to keep your customers and your level of customer service up to where it should be.
In most areas of customer service there will be some time on the phone. If your job requires you to place and receive phone calls, you must ensure that you are always polite and customers. This is a great time to strengthen the relationship between the owner and the customer. Customer’s respond better to a business owner who is approachable and interested in their lives then someone who seems bothered and rushed. However, there are those that can become annoyed when the customer service representative becomes too personal. For those people who are in the customer service area, they should attempt to find a happy medium between being too friendly and not friendly at all.
At times in the customer service industry you will come into contact with less than satisfied customers. These people may become angry and they may yell. Sometimes it is hard to contain yourself and you might want to argue back. However, when you are working as a customer service representative then you must be able to control yourself. You should never interrupt an irate customer. If they are getting angry with you then you should just let them vent. Let them have their say and once they are done you can begin explaining what you can do to help solve the problem. The key to customer service is to always be obliging and polite.
-About the author-
James Hunt has spent 15 years as a professional writer and researcher covering stories that cover a whole spectrum of interest. Read more at www.customer-service-central.info