Posted on Leave a comment

A New Way to Do Business: Thrive, Don’t just Survive

A new way to do business to thrive not survive

Coronavirus and the resulting restrictions have devastated and frightened the American people, businessmen, and entrepreneurs. Small businesses are going bankrupt and closing their doors forever. Larger businesses aren’t faring very well, either. Only a few mega-businesses have gained market share and profitability, including Wal-Mart and Amazon. However, this flies in the face of what we’ve been told about smaller businesses, and it means that every business has to adapt to a new, different model of accomplishing its core tasks. In short, we need to find a new way to do business.

Small Businesses and Entrepreneur Advantages

In a healthy economy, small businesses and entrepreneurs are supposed to have the advantage of being able to quickly adapt to market changes. They can pivot to offer new products and create new strategies because they aren’t tied down by bureaucracy and traditions. The ability to change on the fly has been touted by experts as the reason why small businesses survive and disrupt large businesses. It has also been emulated by larger businesses to stay competitive. Unfortunately, the ability to change seems to have been unable to help small businesses survive COVID-19.

Disadvantages of Small Business

In an unhealthy economy, which the U.S. is experiencing due to coronavirus and the exacerbating political policies put in place over sound medical advice, small businesses don’t have the capital to sustain themselves or their employees. Brick and mortar stores rely on foot traffic and in person sales to boost their bottom line. When those things fail, what can a small business do to survive, especially one that was already hanging by a thread. It’s clear that many retailers don’t have the answer as well-known brands declare bankruptcy.

A New Way to Do Business

Small businesses need to change the way they do business. This will require an adjustment time, a change in mentality, and a whole lot of effort and learning. In order for small businesses to survive the next few months to year, they need to embrace the power of the Internet, figure out how to deliver the personalized service and convey that it gets delivered, and partner with other businesses to create synergy. Fans who love a small business need to help by getting the word out, leaving reviews, and making purchases when possible.

Power of the Internet

Some small businesses don’t have a website or have one they don’t use. Don’t let this be you. Weebly (if you’re not worried about international pageviews) and WordPress are easy to use and can get you started without too much trouble, even if you’re Internet inept. Your website can host a blog and be monetized with ads to provide additional revenue. Depending on the package you get, you may be able to sell digitized products as well as your regular stock on hand. If you’re not great at writing, hire someone to provide you with regular blog posts. Make sure you find someone who is willing to work with you, knows search engine optimization techniques, and can help you with keyword decisions.

Power of Video

You may also want to look into starting YouTube channel to promote your products with video and provide engaging content. (This can be monetized more fully later.) This can be especially useful for businesses that have moving, visual components. If you need more personal interaction, you might consider Zoom. Karaoke bars, for example, could host a sing off. Magicians, like Paul Draper, can offer their shows online. Musicians can do the same. Video offers a personal connection that photos can’t convey.

Power of Service

You need to meet your customers where they are. Some will be at your Facebook page. Others will be on your website. Some will want to pick up their items. Some will prefer delivery. Your business needs to provide these services without hesitation and with joy. Being able to process credit cards is something that you already do. Get a Paypal account or other electronic way to take payments as well. Provide your customers with better service than ever if you want to retain them.

Power of Connection

The Internet provides one form of connection, your business needs to make sure it provides another. As people have to stay inside and are less likely to go out, when your business has to remain closed even when people are out, you still need to provide that personal connection. An email list is good, but it’s not enough. You need to connect with each one of your customers and find out how things are going for them. If you’ve built this connection in real life, it should be a small matter to take it to the Internet. If you haven’t, you’ll need to work hard at finding an approach that delivers your personality and positivity.

Power of Partnerships

Every small business around you is in the same boat. If you can team up with one or more business to provide each other with services and to refer your customers to, you’ll be ahead of the curve. When people work together, their returns become greater than what they would have gotten on their own. Rather than looking at each other as competition for limited funds, start seeing how you can come together to synergize. Create something greater than the sum of its part, and you will be more successful.

It’s about Thriving not Surviving

As a small business if you’re thinking about surviving, you’re in trouble. The stress of surviving will cause you to make poor choices. Instead, you need to think boldly and figure out how you’re going to thrive in the new paradigm. You didn’t get into your business to survive, you got into it to be successful. In order to do that you need to be able to make clear-headed choices that take into account the information on hand. Then you need to apply your abilities to pivoting into new and better modes of doing business. At some point, you may find the old model isn’t even worth keeping. If you’d like a consultation for your business and how to move it forward, contact us.

Posted on Leave a comment

The Moral Dilemma of Employees at Non-Essential Businesses

Old people are more valuable than politicians

There are some people who are still going to work because they are essential. Doctors, nurses, fire fighters, police officers, grocery store workers, postal workers, the people who keep the Internet running are a few of those people. We salute them for being on the frontlines. Everyone of them deserves a pay raise for being at risk of catching coronavirus. Here’s hoping they have adequate medical coverage. By staying at home and not going any place you don’t have to go, you’re honoring the sacrifice and the risk these workers are taking to keep your community functioning and in touch with the rest of the world.

Continue reading The Moral Dilemma of Employees at Non-Essential Businesses
Posted on Leave a comment

The Journey to Better Marketing: Networking Goals

Meet people, build relationships

When you decide to start networking, the first thing you need to do is to make a networking plan with goals. The first goal should be centered on how many events you plan on attending in a month; a minimum should be two, but more is definitely acceptable.

Continue reading The Journey to Better Marketing: Networking Goals
Posted on Leave a comment

9 Episodes in: Laugh Riot at “Instant Hotel,” Managing Expectations, and Alaskan Bald Eagles

bald eagle

I don’t want to give anything away, which means I probably will, but episodes eight and nine of “Instant Hotel’s” Season 1 are seriously hilarious. You might have to watch from episode six to get a feel for the characters and allow the comedy to build, but I haven’t laughed that hard in a couple of months. (That’s your spoiler alert.)

Managing expectations in any endeavor is so important to customer and experience satisfaction. There are few companies that get it right. Disney, somehow, is able to deliver on sky-high expectations. Marvel movies have also done it consistently. DC movies weren’t able to satisfy expectations until movie goers started expecting bad movies and got decent ones. Otherwise, even in customer-oriented businesses, it’s a crap shoot. Under promise and over deliver should be your mantra, the problem is that people expect you to over deliver. If you just meet expectations, it isn’t good enough.

You need to be able to talk up your product, service or experience enough that people are interested in it and willing to take a chance on it, but not so much that people expect gold plated toilet seats and unicorns. It’s a fine line that requires honesty without bragging and still needs to feel positive.

(Seemingly unrelated detour, but stick with me. I’m not promising it will make sense, but it will be interesting.) It’s hard to see bald eagles at rest in the wild unless you know what you’re looking for. Part of the reason for this is because people expect it to be easy to spot a white head against a dark background. So, instead of looking for the heads, they look for the other parts of the eagle that blend into the background trying to see the full form of the bird.

When I moved to Alaska and went on my first camping trip on the Kenai during salmon season, the more experienced guy on the trip pointed at a tree and said, “Look at all those bald eagles.”

I looked at the evergreen tree and didn’t see a single eagle. I thought he was playing a joke on the cheechako (me). “Where?”

“In that tree.” He pointed to the same tree. “Do you see them?”

“No.” I shook my head.

My newbie friend leaned over and whispered, “Look for the golf balls.”

It was like a veil had been lifted. My jaw dropped. I uttered an exclamation of awe as the tree lit up with what looked like hundreds of bald eagles. From that moment on, I knew how to spot bald eagles in trees and could see them easily.

So, a couple years later when my mom came up to Juneau, I knew she would want to see bald eagles, and that seeing them could be problematic. There are a lot of bald eagles in Juneau, but they are less visible when the salmon aren’t running. There was one place where it was easy to find bald eagles, so I told my mom I was taking her to see a lot of them. However, the place where they hung out wasn’t going to be very majestic. It would stink if the wind was blowing inland, but there would be eagles there.

Properly prepared, we went to the city dump, and there were so many eagles. I was even able to tell my mom about the golf ball trick pointing to a nearby tree.

Mom had a great time looking at the eagles and laughing about how they weren’t so majestic when they were eating garbage. Had I told her we were going to a nutrient-enriched environment that acts as a sanctuary for the eagles when food is scarcer, her reaction to the dump may have been a but different. She would have been at least disappointed, even if she had fun.

When the “Instant Hotel” guests are overly critical at their hotel stays, they set themselves up for a downfall. If they have such high standards and can point out all the flaws of an instant hotel, their hotel must be immaculate and so much better. Don’t talk up your property or degrade others even if it really does deliver on what you think.’

Managing expectations is a key to success. It’s about being honest with yourself, your guests and your customers. When you can provide a little extra, you should, but don’t set the extra up as an expectation.

If you’d like to read more about Alaska, get the coloring book “There Are No Penguins in Alaska.”

Posted on Leave a comment

With Creativity, Go Big or Be S.M.A.R.T.?

Big ideas are what people are told businesses want and the world needs. Humanity needs ideas that will solve problems that threaten the planet’s habitability and human beings with extinction. Businesses need solutions that will generate billions of dollars of profit. Big ideas are what propel people to fame and fortune, and they allow us to live up to our full potential.

When you hear sayings like:

  • Go big or go home.
  • Shoot for the moon! If you fail, you’ll at least wind up among the stars (Les Brown or Norman Vincent Peale).
  • Big, hairy, audacious goals (James Collins and Jerry Porras).

You get inspired. Elon Musk’s SpaceX isn’t exciting because it’s successful; it’s exciting because it’s doing something that’s never been done before. Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Disneyland were exciting because they had never been done before. There’s something intrinsically motivation about doing the something that people say can’t be done.

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible” – Walt Disney.

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’” – Audrey Hepburn.

But oftentimes, the person with the big idea is shutdown by management, circumstances and other people. Even if the idea is sound, people are afraid to implement it. The would much rather rely on what has already been produced. No one wants to be the first through the door because that’s when things get bloody. The status quo is easy. Maintaining the current situation doesn’t threaten anyone. New ideas do, even when people understand that new ideas are necessary for the survival of the business or the species.

For people who are looking at trying to maintain the status quo while moving forward, S.M.A.R.T. goals are the answer. The anacronym stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

Ugh. If you know they’re attainable and realistic, there’s no challenge in these types of goals, even if you think you’re stretching yourself a little bit. People weren’t meant to be just stretch a little. But S.M.A.R.T. goals are a lot less risky than the “impossible” dream. Businesses jump all over these types of goals. A new flavor of chip? A new edition of a phone? A car model based on a successful car from last year? These are all S.M.A.R.T. goals that are profitable and easy to green light. They won’t get you to the next level, but they will most likely keep the profits rolling in.

The truth is it’s a little of both. Set the big goals, go after the grand ideas, and use the S.M.A.R.T. goals to get you there. If you know where you want to go, you can get there, step by step. Cutting the big goal into smaller pieces will help get you there without getting overwhelmed.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”