Small Business Advice

Everyone Wants You to Grow, but Who Really Wants You to Thrive?

Thrive not Survive

To all independent business owners!

Here’s something to think about:

I once received a call from the sales vice-president of a well-known national franchise who wanted me to speak at their annual convention.  He’d heard about me from one of his independent franchisees, and he knew that I helped businesses grow their sales, customer traffic, and profits as a Destination Business.

We seemed to be the perfect fit, but then he said:

“One thing: I can’t have you mention anything about that Destination-stuff you speak on. These are franchisees. They have set territories.  You can’t say anything about becoming a Destination Business because I don’t need a bunch of franchisees leaving that convention, all half-cocked, thinking they can pull customers from anywhere they want.”

And with that, I politely declined speaking for them, and referred him to another speaker.

Now don’t get me wrong. I understand his concern.  I know how franchised businesses work.  A well-known franchise (like a McDonald’s), wants their locations to deliver brand-uniformity: The same image, the same products, the same promise.

Consistency, not differences.

But here’s the thing: Consumers don’t always want the same.  Most of the time, they actually want uniqueness. They want one-of-a-kind.  They like individuality.  And they especially love Shop-Local, independent businesses run by local owners.

Who knew Mom and Pop were gonna be so Hot?

But the good news is: The principles of being a unique Destination can be merged with franchise systems. But you need a franchise management team that’s willing to grow and learn, like the Real Deals on Home Décor franchise. When I met with the Real Deals on Home Décor executive team, they hired me to help their franchisees grow their businesses.  Period!  No conditions. No limitations.  They wanted me to teach their franchisees and their management team all about my Destination strategy and they wanted me to give their independent owners all the tools they needed to bring in more customers and sales! We took the Real Deals franchise model and incorporated the most powerful parts of my 14-step Destination process and blended them together.  Then, they had me teach the strategy to their independent owners.

Real Deals on Home Décor wanted their franchise network of independent business owners to thrive, not just survive.

Now think about your company’s manufacturers who supply your business with products.  I learned there’s a difference in manufacturers when I spoke at the American Lighting Association.  No sooner had I left the stage when I was approached by the management team from Kichler Lighting, one of the largest lighting manufacturers in North America.  They liked what they’d heard and within 2 weeks, they had me design an entire 12-month training plan for their lighting showroom customers that included workshops, 1-on-1 consulting, and monthly Destination webinars, all designed to drive more customer traffic into their businesses.

Kichler Lighting created a program that took the strengths of their product lines and mixed it with the Destination Business process to help their retail store owners grow. Not just plod forward.

They wanted them to thrive.

Why do I tell you these stories?  Because I want you look closely at the companies, resources, and programs that are integral to your business, and then, decide if your company is receiving what you deserve.  Are the people who manage these entities just helping you maintain your business, or are they giving you all the tools to accelerate your business to its greatest potential?

Some of you know that James Cash Penney, the founder of the JC Penney chain, was a fellow Longmont, Colorado entrepreneur. His first business was located just 2 doors down from our location at 321 Main Street in downtown Longmont just 119 years ago.  I’m going to end this blog post with a quote from my former neighbor:

“Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.”

It’s time for you to insist that those forces start working towards your company’s maximum growth.

Destination BootCamp update:

I wanted to update you on our remaining 2016 Destination BootCamps:

  1. We have three (3) remaining Destination BootCamps in 2016 that have space in them. Their dates are:
    1. June 7-9
    2. July 26-28
    3. September 13-15

The October 25-27 class is full and can take no more participants.

Here are three workshops in my schedule that are open to the public:

Thursday, May 19: 8:00 to 9:30 a.m. at Hutchinson Community College, 1300 N. Plum, Justice Theater in the Shears Technology Building in Hutchinson, Kansas, Increasing Sales & Profits as a Destination Business. To register, call 620-665-8468 or email dukartd@hutchcc.edu.

Tuesday, May 24: 9:00 to 10:15 a.m. in Milwaukee Wisconsin at the National Main Street Conference, Room 102C in the Wisconsin Center.  The 7 Steps to a Memorable Main Street: Capturing Today’s Customers as a Destination Downtown. Join me for my 1 and only session, and then, stick around and let’s talk about your Destination Downtown challenge.

Tuesday and Wednesday, June 14-15, Austin, Texas at the Real Places 2016 Conference, sponsored by the Texas Historical Commission. Go to RealPlaces.us for more information.

Thanks, Everyone!  Let me hear of your successes by emailing me at Info@JonSchallert.com

Jon

The Dangers of Using 5-Legged Cow Marketing

Prairie Dog TownWhile you’re contemplating the title of this post, let me tell you a quick story.

When I was 22 years old, I drove from Colorado to Connecticut to start my first job following college. If you’ve ever drove east out of Colorado, you know that most people end up taking Interstate 70, which stretches for over 400 miles across Kansas.

For those of you who’ve driven this highway, no sooner are you over the Kansas border motoring east when you start seeing signs like the one above proclaiming that if you stop in Prairie Dog Town in Oakley, Kansas, that you’ll get to see a Russian Wild Boar, an 8,000 pound prairie dog, and a live 5-legged cow.

For a 22 year old like myself, starting his first career job and feeling very free and adventurous, the first time I saw this sign, I knew I had to stop. I mean seriously: Who doesn’t want to see an 8,000 prairie dog and a cow walking around with 5 legs?

Once you cross the border at Kanorado, Kansas (yes, that’s its name, and think about how few cities really have names that tell you their exact location), it’s about 75 miles to Oakley. And just to make sure you don’t forget that there’s an 8,000 pound burrowing rodent waiting for you, the owner of Prairie Dog Town placed hand-made-looking signs all along the interstate.

Now, some of you who are Kansas experts know that the Prairie Dog Town attraction is now closed, but let me clarify that their business closure happened fairly recently. For decades, this interstate highway tourist attraction remained open, so much so that any time I drove through Kansas, in my 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and nearly all through my 50’s, this place remained open, beckoning me with their signs to stop.

But let’s get back to when I was 22, and first decided to stop and see Prairie Dog Town. If my memory is right, it cost me $15 to get in. There were several rooms filled with stuffed animals (stuffed by taxidermists, not cuddly teddy bear stuffed animals), and many cages with animals stuffed in them. I remember one glass cage filled with rattlesnakes, and I do remember asking to see the Russian Wild Boar, which looked more like a small pig that had very little wildness about him.

Honestly, the cages didn’t interest me. I wanted to see the massive rodent and the 5-legged cow. I can share this with you now that the attraction is closed: The 8,000 pound prairie dog was actually a concrete statue. I remember protesting to the owner of the business that I had expected a massive live prairie dog, but he just kind of laughed me off as a City Boy that didn’t understand animals and pointed out that he never had said it was alive.

Which brings me now to the LIVE 5-legged cow: There were several cows out in the nearly-all-dirt pasture, but none that had 5 legs. It was easy to look at their legs from afar and see that every cow I spotted only had 4 legs on the ground. When I again protested that his signs had misled me, he took me out to a cow in the far pasture. We approached it together, and he told me that this was his live, 5-legged cow. Well, it really didn’t have 5 legs touching the ground, but it did have 4 on the ground and one long appendage hanging off its shoulder. Genetically, yes it was a leg that was horribly deformed that had sprung from this cow, but without his pointing it out, I would have assumed it was just some elongated shoulder growth, City Boy I was.

I left Prairie Dog Town a little disillusioned, feeling cheated out of $15, but moderately pleased that I had at least seen an animal oddity that I’d never seen before.

So here’s my question to all of you: In the 35+ years following my visit to Prairie Dog Town, do you think I ever stopped again to see how these animals?

Nope. Definitely not! I never stopped at that place again, even though I drove past it scores of times over the decades. One time, being conned and misled by this attraction, had caused me to decide that I’d never stop again.

My lesson to all of you is probably obvious, but I must say it: With today’s customer, you can ALWAYS get them to come in once. That’s not the problem. Getting a consumer to come into your business ONCE is NEVER a problem! It’s actually quite easy to run a nifty ad, place a creative Facebook ad or post, or use any of the myriad of social media tools that are available to your business today and it is EASY to get the consumer to come to your business. One-time!

But if you ever convince a consumer to come in your doors and you’ve conned them, or deceived them, don’t expect them back. It will be a one-time victory, but the negative ramifications of your one-time success will be devastating to your business, especially in this world of viral social media.

The sad truth is that there are business owners every day relying on 5-Legged Cow Marketing to lure consumers in for a one-time hit.

Don’t be one of them!

That’s all for this week, everyone! Have a great weekend!

Jon

It’s a New Year: Stop to Change Direction

Stop to change direction

It’s New Year’s Day, 2015, and you might be wondering why I’m blogging today.

Well, I know a lot of you are home, with family, maybe relaxing for the first day in a long time. You’re probably checking your emails because you might have been up dancing a little too late, or you did a bit too much celebrating.

Whatever the reason, I have a thought for you.

I can think of no other single event that will be more important to your business this year than setting a large goal, a lofty Resolution, for you to achieve in 2015.

The reason this is so important is when you set a huge goal, it makes you stretch and step outside your comfort zones.  A goal like this will help prod you to achieve something you never thought possible.   When we set a goal like this, it will pester us in the morning, jump-start us from the moment we get out of bed, and when we go to sleep, it will recirculate in our dreams

Jim Collins called them Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals, but I think of them more as goals that when I focus on them, I say to myself: “Can I really do this?”

Setting a goal like this at the beginning of the year gives all of us a starting point, from Day 1, to make the most of this new year.

But here’s the thing:  In order to create a goal like this, you’ll have to make time to pull yourself away from your day-to-day operations. You will have to carve out some time from your normal routine to think, plan, and dream.

I know most of you have been going full-speed over the holidays.  You must put on the brakes now. It’s the time to schedule some down time, and the creative time you need. You must give yourself permission to slow down and be introspective, to think about all that is possible for you, and this is especially important right now if you want to take your business to some higher goal, or in an entirely new direction.

I love the quote by Erich Fromm: “You have to stop in order to change direction.”

Today is that day. This is your time, the time of the year to stop, if you want to be somewhere else this time, next year.

That’s all I got! Happy January 1.

Now stop and make this your happiest New Year ever.

Jon

When Buying Local Doesn’t Feel Local

I understand why I should shop local, and I do. I’ve always thought locally-owned businesses add the flair, the uniqueness, the character, and the differences that make a community shine. Without them, one city is pretty much like all the rest.

I also understand the economics and the importance of spending local dollars in local businesses, and the value of those dollars recirculating, rather than spending my money in a superstore where most of my dollars end up in Bentonville.

I get all that.

And remember, I’m also the guy who consults with independently-owned businesses, teaches them how to beat larger competitors by becoming Destinations, and even has a webinar called: “How to Get Locals to Spend More Money Locally.” If there ever was a guy invested in shopping local, it’s me.

But I’ve got a problem: What’s a person to do when there are locally-owned businesses that don’t feel local at all, and national chains that do?

Let me explain.

I buy most of my groceries at Safeway, a national grocer. I’ve always gone to Safeway, even as a child: My first memories of shopping were at the Safeway in Littleton, Colorado in the Woodlawn Shopping Center. Every time my brother and I went with our Mom to shop at Safeway, it was an event. The lady in the bakery always gave us a free cookie. We got to hang on the cart as we were wheeled around. There was a mechanical horse that we got to ride while Mom was checking out, if we’d been good.

Fast forward 50 years, and today, when I walk into my Longmont Safeway, I know most everyone by name. And best of all, they know me. Now, I’m not going to embarrass them by using their real first names (so I’ve changed them), but Bill in the produce section rides his bike to work each morning and we often complain about customers who think they can tell good corn-on-the-cob by tearing it open. His assistant, Roger, shares with me the best craft breweries he’s hit over the weekends. Sam in the deli knows that when I ask for a quarter pound, he better not hit 1/3 of a pound and he knows I’m always going to ask him to slice it fresh.

When I’m done shopping, I know all the cashiers: Miguel has a couple of kids and last year had his home burn down, and everyone in the store took up a collection for him. Jenny loves George Strait and spoils her grandkids. Roberta’s from Kansas, works at the local school as a second job, and always works holidays to get time and a half. Margaret is always there early in the mornings, always cheerful, and totally ignores the sign that says: “15 item limit” when I’m in line.

OK, so compare this to the locally-owned supermarket that came to Longmont last year, directly across the street:

I know who the owners are (they live in Boulder, 15 miles away), but I’ve never seen them in the store. In fact, all of their company’s marketing materials, including their e-newsletter, are for their Boulder store, not the Longmont store. I could care less about the Boulder store. If they’d like me to bond to this store, start with locally-focused marketing materials.

Next, their employees: I’m sure they’re nice enough, but honestly, I can’t tell. Most of the time, they’re talking to each other. Literally, I can walk by, or stand behind them trying to get to groceries, and they are oblivious to my presence. Sometimes, they look right at me, but do not speak. Weirdest thing.  When I walk into the produce department, you have to interrupt them if you want any response, otherwise, they’re hell-bent on pyramiding the apples.

Next, the deli: There’s never the same person in the deli, and I don’t trust their recommendations.  The last time I asked which roast beef was best, they sold me a brand that had the texture of a Croc’s sandal.  Right next door is their meat department which makes great chicken sausages.  But this weekend, I needed a bunch for the football tailgate party, and they were out of every flavor but one.

Finally, the cashiers. I hate to say they’re lifeless and emotionless, and I understand that cashiering is not a glamor job, but honestly, they seem the most excited when I say I don’t want a paper bag.

OK, so earlier I asked for your advice on what to do:  Shop with a chain that feels local? Or, should I spend money in a locally-owned business that makes me feel like I’m shopping Walmart?

Here’s what I do:

I support the independent businesses that value my business, where they know my name and appreciate my dollars. I support businesses that go out of their way for me when I have a special request, and in turn, I go out of my way to spend with them. Bottom line: If a business delivers the products and services I need and I have a relationship with the business, its owners, and its employees, I spend money there.

Since I’m also a shop-local kind of guy, I avoid national chains and superstores whenever possible, unless somehow, they’re able to transform themselves from big and impersonal, into local and familiar (which I have to admit, doesn’t happen very often).

Which brings me to Safeway and the locally-owned store across the street. I’ll shop both, but I’m going to tolerate the locally-owned one that doesn’t feel local, and I’m going to keep spending the majority of my grocery dollars at my local Safeway. That’s because Bill, Roger, Sam, Miguel, Jennie, Roberta, and Margaret do a good job, plus they are my neighbors, and they make me feel like their neighbor, too.

PS:  I’m sure this locally-owned store doesn’t know this, but on top of having employees who are responsive to customers, there are 13 additional marketing techniques that any business can leverage to show its customers that it’s a locally-owned business and that it values local customers.  Would you like to know what they are?  Read on!

Still Time to Save $200

Our final Destination BootCamp of 2014 occurs on October 7-9, only held in Longmont, Colorado.

(And yes, during Day 2, around 11:00 a.m., you will learn the 13 different shop-local marketing techniques that most businesses don’t even think about using).

You will also learn during my 2½ day class the entire 14-step process to make your business a Destination that I’ve developed after 27 years of interviews with thousands of successful business owners. I’ve taken the lessons from North America’s most brilliant independent business owners, and distilled it into a proven system that allows you to attract more customers from a greater distance, keep more local customers buying with you, while attracting the media for free publicity (which means your marketing costs can decrease).

Not only will my Destination BootCamp help you increase your customer traffic and sales, if you register for our October 7-9 Destination BootCamp, you can take $200 off your tuition cost by using the Promotion Code “Escape” when you register (sorry, this does NOT apply to Community Reinvention Program groups from the same city).

Need more convincing? Just click over to our DestinationBootCamp.com Testimonial section where we have the words of actual owners who have been through the same class.

Successful Independent Business Magazine

Wrapping up:  I’ve always wanted to create a publication that would help independent entrepreneurs and show them how to make their businesses more profitable, while bringing more customers in their doors.

I am pleased to announce that our new magazine, Successful Independent Business, will be available soon. Here’s the inaugural edition.

Successful Independent Business Cover Issue 1

Successful Independent Business is designed to tell the success stories of owners just like you, located in large cities and small towns, achieving spectacular success by following the Destination process that I teach.

If you’d like to receive Successful Independent Business, you can read it online or have it mailed to your business. You just have to tell us how you’d like to receive it by going to this link (click here), and signing up for it.

OK, that’s it for this week!  Thanks for tolerating my rambling and I hope to see you in Longmont next month at our Destination BootCamp!

Jon Schallert

The Only Comparison You Should be Making

One of the mistakes I see entrepreneurs making is to compare their business to other ones in their marketplace and in their industry.  Though this is logical and natural for us to compare our business with other businesses, I’ve found there are few positive outcomes from doing this.

Let’s say you compare your business to one that isn’t as successful as yours. It’s easy to look at that business and judge it and feel superior to it. This happens a lot in close knit marketplaces where business owners are frequently talking and networking together.  But the downside of comparing yourself to an inferior business is that it gives you a false sense of security, a false sense of importance and worse, a false sense of accomplishment. That false sense of superiority over another business leads to satisfaction.  Once you’re satisfied, it’s hard to make changes to improve, to move forward, and to stay ahead of your competition.  Shoot, you’re ahead of the person next door to you! Isn’t that good enough?

What about comparing your business to another business that is clearly superior to yours?  You’d think this would lead to growth and business improvement, wouldn’t you?  I do think it’s good to have mentors and to study business models that you can learn from, but many owners spend so much time focusing their attention on other superior businesses that they neglect the time to find their own uniqueness and to develop their own superior qualities.

The businesses I talk about in my Destination workshops and my Destination BootCamp are put there to give you examples of success.  You should never try to mold and conform your business into the successful pattern that someone else has created.

Over time, it’s destructive to continually be comparing your business to one that somehow has achieved more than yours.   Comparisons neglect to take into account how the superior business rose to its current status.  For example, I always get a kick out of watching Donald Trump when he starts pontificating on success.  Just once, I want someone to ask him, “Do you think you’d be as successful today if your father hadn’t been a successful real estate developer in New York, built a fortune worth $400 million and passed along a lot of that to you when he died?”

So quit comparing!  Your goal is to create your own one-of-a-kind success, created at your own pace, with your own rules.

The only comparisons you should be making are to your own past achievements, and then, aligning them with your own future goals, all the while, remembering that your success will be dependent on a host of factors, not the least of which is your ability to make your business new, using new techniques and reinventing your business on a regular basis.

This next quote is from an unknown business leader, and though it’s a little extreme, it does make sense:

“If we’re doing anything this year the way it was done last year, we’re obsolete.”

That’s the only comparison you should be making!

_________________________________________________________________________

NATIONAL MAIN STREETS CONFERENCE:

I am speaking at the National Main Streets Conference in Detroit next week, and I’ll be presenting only one presentation at one time:

My presentation will be:  “Once Optional, Now Required:  The New Rules of Business Success”, on Monday, May 19 from 9:00 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. in the Ambassador Salon II room. I suggest you get there early, as I don’t  know how many seats are available.

Hope to see you there!

 

The True Foundation of Your Business

It’s so easy to get busy running your business that you forget that every customer who enters your doors has a need, and they are hoping your business will fulfill it.

Here’s a true story that a retailer in New England told me. This retailer owned a quaint floral and gift store in a busy, historic downtown. It was a store with attractively-themed merchandise filling each of its small rooms, and one could easily shop each of the rooms, as they were connected in a large loop.  Throughout the day, business workers hustled by during lunch hour, students walked by after school, and nurses and doctors from the nearby hospital walked in during their breaks.

It was during one of these busy days that the owner greeted a female shopper walking into her store. She related to me how this female shopper slowly moved through each of the smaller rooms, spending time in each one. After several minutes in the store, the owner walked over to see if there was anything she could help the customer find. The customer thanked her, said she was just looking, and that she loved her store. The owner thanked her, and left her alone. The owner remembered the customer moving slowly from room to room, like she was inspecting each piece of merchandise, eventually making her way through all the rooms, taking the full-circle route through the store without buying anything, and saying goodbye before walking out the door.

The owner then told me how the next day, this same female entered the store shortly after lunch and moved slowly through each room, carefully looking at all the products, walking the entire loop and again not purchasing anything.  It happened again, the following day, and again, the next day. This female would appear like clockwork, and take the route through the store, each day as intently looking at the merchandise as the previous days.

By the end of the week, the owner was convinced that this shopper was being sent by a competitor to snoop through her store.  She waited patiently to see if she would appear again, and decided that on this day, she would confront her about her strange behavior.

Sure enough, just after lunch, the woman entered the store again.  But this time, the owner stopped her and said, “May I ask you a question? Every day this week, you’ve come in and spent time looking at all the merchandise in every room, and you seem to really like my store, but you never purchase anything. Is there something in particular you are looking for, or something that I could help you find?”

The woman stopped and said, “Oh, I do love your store. I love what you do with flowers and all the plants and products you have are so unusual. I love how your store looks, and I love how it smells, and the music you have playing is so soothing.  But no, there really isn’t anything specific I’m looking to buy.” She paused, as if knowing that her answer wasn’t enough to explain her behavior, and then said to the owner, “You see, I’m an out-patient at the hospital around the corner, and I’m undergoing cancer treatments right now. They’re going to continue for a number of weeks more. In between the treatments, I like getting out of the hospital for a break, and your store helps me forget my troubles. I can just walk inside your doors, and I’m somewhere else.”

I don’t think I’ve ever heard a business receive a higher compliment!  For this customer, the store was an oasis from the problems and pains she was experiencing.

I think owners work so hard focusing on their product selection, their services, and their day-to-day operations that they forget that emotion is the foundation of every business, and if it’s lacking, you’re giving up the prime advantage every independent business has over all of its competitors.

The emotion of your business is where it all begins. It’s the first thing a customer feels coming in your doors.  It’s the final piece a customer feels when they leave. And its memory is what they’ll remember long after they forget everything else.

Until next week,

Jon Schallert

It’s Time to Act Impulsively in Your Business

In the early 1900’s, there was a noted Harvard psychologist named Dr. William Moulton Marston.  You probably haven’t heard of him, and if not for my brain’s ability to capture the obscure, you probably never would. All his psychology writings are out of print.

Dr. Marston is generally known for two important creations. His first invention was the lie detector, which he created after he noticed that there was a correlation between people lying and the physiological changes that occurred in their bodies, including the elevation of their blood pressure.

Secondly, Dr. Marston was also the creator of the Wonder Woman comic strip. Yes, you heard that right. The same person who received a Ph.D. in Psychology from Harvard, the inventor of the lie detector, is also the same guy who envisioned Wonder Woman wearing tights, indestructible bracelets, and her magic lasso which could tie criminals up, make them obedient, and unable to lie.

Old Doc Marston’s brain worked in mysterious ways, didn’t it?

But forget Wonder Woman for a second (if you can), and think about Dr. Marston, the psychologist.  In his studies, he talked about the importance of listening and acting on our minds’ impulses, and how there is a scientific justification for taking rapid action.

The next quote is a long one, but if I shortened it, you’d never get the full gist of it, and you’re likely to never come in contact with the CBS radio interview I found from the 1940’s where he spoke these words:

“For years, as a psychologist, I’ve sought in the careers of great and of everyday people, the inner springs that make for successful living. There are two which seem to me of prime importance. The first is hard work, governed by cool, logical thoughtfulness. The other is sudden, warm impulsive action…”

“Most of us actually stifle enough good impulses during the course of the day to change the current of our lives. These are inner flashes of impulse that light up the mind for an instant. Then, contented in their afterglow, we tend to lapse back into routine, feeling vaguely that sometime we might do something about it or that at least our intentions were good. And in this we win against the inner self. For impulses set up the lines of communication between the unconscious mind and daily action…”

“The person who follows his impulses is not necessarily flighty. The timid soul, however, is fearful, lest impulse lead him into all manner of mistakes. But mistakes are inevitable. We’re bound to make them no matter which course we take. Some of the worst mistakes in history have followed consciously reasoned decisions…”

“The mistakes of inaction flanked by heavy reasoning are likely to be worse than the mistakes of a genuine impulse.  For one thing, they make our inertia worse day by day. We all know people who go through agonies of indecision before taking any important step. There are always arguments for and against, and the more we think about them, the more they seem to offset each other, until we wind up in the state of paralysis…”

“Impulsive action, which originates in a swift subconscious appraisal of the situation, might have saved all worry. And when a painfully thought-out decision proves wrong, how often we remember an original hunch that would have been right. The way to get things done is to bring mind and muscle and voice into play at the very second a good impulse starts within us.”

“The life stories of successful people are full of episodes that have marked turning points in their careers.  True impulses are intelligent.  They reveal the basic interests of the subconscious mind.”

So what does Wonder Woman, a lie detector, and William Moulton Marston have to do with your business?  I’m glad you asked:

As of this blog post, we are nearly one-third of the way into 2014, and my question to you is: Are you achieving what you want in your business this year?

We’re 17 weeks into 2014, if you are NOT achieving the revenue you want or the revenue you need from your business, what is your plan?  Did you have a plan when you started the year?  If not, do you have a plan now?  What is your next step? What actions are you going to take to set the course of your business upward?

And please, don’t tell me that you’re going to keep doing what you’ve been doing.

I believe that most entrepreneurs and business owners know in their gut if their businesses are in trouble or if their businesses are going to be fine.

As you’ve heard before, hoping your business will improve is not a strategy.

We’re at Day 113 in 2014, and whether you get help from me by utilizing my Destination Business strategy, or you decide to reach out to someone else, take action.

Until next week,

Jon Schallert

PS:  Every year, we get business owners who come to our Destination BootCamp, who say to me at the end of the workshop:  “I don’t know why I waited so long to attend this.”  My response:  “I’m glad you took action to attend it now.”

The Power of Mom and Pop Businesses

The other day, a friend asked me: “Don’t you worry about the future of Mom and Pop businesses?’

My answer was: “Nope, not at all. The future’s bright for small businesses.”

Group Chaos

 

Here’s how I know this to be true:

3 times a year, I get to witness something amazing that confirms to me that Mom and Pop businesses can overcome any challenge that’s put in their way.

Let me share with you what I get to see:

Most of you know that I conduct a workshop in Colorado called our Destination BootCamp, where for 2½ days, I teach owners and community leaders how to make their businesses and communities irresistible to consumers.

At each BootCamp, owners of retail stores, restaurants, service businesses, professional practices, and even online businesses attend. To paraphrase Forrest Gump’s life’s like a box of chocolates quote, with every BootCamp, “We never know what we’re gonna get”.

Unlike typical association conferences where everyone is from the same industry, our BootCamp mixes business owners from different industries and different parts of the world and puts them together in one room for 2½ days. Most aren’t competition to each other and most have never met before. It surprises me, but I’ve also learned that even business owners from the same city or town who attend together often don’t know each other very well. But it makes sense: Who has time for friendship when you have your business to run?

But here’s what happens when you put this diverse group together and show them new ways to grow their businesses, everyone (regardless of their type of business, their sales volume, the physical locations, or the number of businesses they own), starts percolating together.

Goshen County Wyoming Group

It’s not enough to say that there’s an energy that spreads between the participants or a synergy that occurs when you mix these owners together. It’s more than that. When one entrepreneur meets another one, and they start discussing their challenges, I’ve found there is a natural inclination for owners to reach out when someone needs it.

“You’re an owner, just like me. You have a problem?”

“Here’s an idea that’ll help.”

Sometimes I just stand at the front of the room watching as one owner voices a concern she’s having, while another owner chimes in on how he overcame that same problem in a different industry. I watch as owners grow in confidence as they realize that regardless of their business-type or business sales volume, they have information that can help someone else in that room. And in just a matter of hours, I can watch owners who previously didn’t know each other start freely sharing their expertise with the person sitting next to them.

There are moments during every BootCamp where I just stop teaching and as I look out over the room, and I’m amazed at how such different businesses come together, learn together, and honestly share their success stories and business setbacks with each other.

Here’s one of the best stories from our March BootCamp: On the last day of class, Sarah, a retailer from Kansas who owns two retail stores, told me that she had met with Christi, a retailer from Texas who owns a chain of women’s clothing stores, and they had sat up talking until 11:30 at night, as they shared ideas, buying tips, and product sources with each other.

Forney Texas Group

Here’s my challenge for you if you’re a business owner or an entrepreneur reading this blog:  Starting today, look around and be aware of that owner down the street who might need some help or advice, who probably doesn’t know how to ask for it.  Be aware that one single suggestion from you to a fellow business owner might be the breakthrough that an owner is looking for.  From this day forward, instead of just saying hello and walking by a fellow business owner, take some time to engage. To share. To show you’re around, if help’s needed. And when you’re in need of assistance and you’re at wits end, the law of reciprocity will work for you, too, bringing help back your way.

The future of Mom and Pop businesses is extremely bright, especially when independent business owners take time to lend each other a hand, an ear to listen, and have each other’s backs.

Until next week,

Jon

27 Pieces of Advice to Make You Better

GottaLoveSalmonThe other day, I was reading a short article entitled “Eight Steps to a More Satisfying Life”. In it, I learned why some people are more happy than others, why some people are naturally miserable, and how the body and the mind work together to create our own individual happiness.

One of the contributing writers was University of California psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky  who explained the eight keys to a more satisfied life:

  1. Count your blessings and keep a gratitude journal
  2. Practice both random and systematic acts of kindness
  3. Savor life’s joys
  4. Thank a mentor
  5. Learn to forgive
  6. Invest time and energy in family
  7. Take care of your body with plenty of sleep, exercise, stretching, smiling, and laughing
  8. Develop strategies to cope with stress and hardships

So while I was pondering how I was going to carve out more time in my day for #6 “Invest time in family” and #7 “Take care of body”, I came across another article:  “Healthy Diet Helps Mood”, where an author talked about the importance of eating the right foods in order to be happier.  He recommended:

  1. Eating salmon because fatty, cold-water fish contain omega-3 fatty acids which keep cell membranes pliable.  I also learned that if I don’t have a salmon handy, I can also eat tuna, anchovies, sardines, walnuts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, or green leafy vegetables.
  2. Every morning I should eat some oatmeal, soy milk, and two scrambled eggs, which gives me tryptophan.  This is an amino acid that helps in creating serotonin, the brain’s feel-good hormone. Check!  I’m all about feeling good.
  3. In order to fight any chance of depression, I should eat spinach, which contains B vitamin folate, but I can also get the same effect with peas, navy beans, orange juice, wheat germ, and avocados (like in guacamole, with margaritas, though the latter was not on his list).
  4. Every day, I am supposed to take a Vitamin D supplement, which helps with seasonal affective disorder, which I don’t think I have, but it sounds scary and I don’t want it.
  5. I learned it’s important to always stabilize my blood sugar, so I should eat broccoli and blueberries, and eat them in combination with proteins in fish, chicken or turkey.
  6. Finally, it was suggested that I eat quinoa, a whole grain that is also a good source of B vitamins. (Pronounced: Keen-wa. Say it right, or they laugh at you, I’ve learned).

Now my list had 8 to-do’s from the top list, and 6 to-eats from the bottom list, but I also have a really smart biochemist friend, and I had asked him what supplements he takes every day.  Here’s what he consumes:

  1. Mega doses of Omega 3 fish oil
  2. A high-dose, complex multi-vitamin
  3. A calcium complex supplement
  4. A CoQ10 pill for cellular energy
  5. An 81 milligram enteric-coated aspirin
  6. Cruciferous vegetables for cellular detoxification (broccoli, better steamed than raw) cauliflower, cabbage, or if I don’t like those vegetables, take broccoli powder or a sulphurophane supplement, helpful for reducing the risks of cancer and detoxification at the cellular level
  7. Fresh berries for antioxidants and to fight carcinogens
  8. Lots of fish and nuts, for my brain, heart, and prostate
  9. Plus, control my level of unrefined carbs, and always balancing them at the same time with fat and protein, like eating bread with olive oil or peanut butter.

Right then, I started feeling a little overwhelmed.  If you are keeping track, I am now up to 23 suggestions on how to improve my life.

If you’ve ever gone through a self-improvement reading experience like this, maybe you found yourself getting a little stressed wondering how you were going to get all of these things done, (especially finding that sulphurophane supplement).

Tell me again where I’m going to find that time for savoring life’s joys? (#3 from List 1)

Here’s my point today: If you ask for advice in this world, you will find it, in books, articles, websites, from friends.  And now from me.

Here are my 4 key pieces of advice concerning the 23 pieces of advice from above:

#1: Create routines and systems to repeat tasks that are most important.  Be disciplined in following them.  Every meal, brush and floss.  Every morning, pop the pills. Every night, exercise.  Whatever you want to accomplish, create structure and eliminate chaos on those goals that can be systematized.

#2:  It’s all about prioritizing.  What tasks really need to be done that will really impact your world significantly for the better?  If you’re using my list of 23, focus on the ones that will help the most and eliminate the extraneous.

#3:  Then, you have this little thing called your business demanding your attention, so this piece of advice applies to your business: Focus your effort on the big priorities that will move your business forward in dramatic fashion.  I know some of you have heard me say this before, but face it: You will never have enough time to do everything that pops into your head and your current business to-do list won’t be accomplished by next Christmas. If you need increased sales and customer traffic, you must learn to identify those tools that will move the needle into double digit increases, and put on the back burner the less impactful steps that won’t cause your business to skyrocket.

#4:  Finally, my last piece of advice: Go easy on yourself. At the end of today, cut yourself some slack.  I’m told Rome wasn’t built in a day.

But starting tomorrow, go make friends with some cruciferous vegetables and a salmon.

Jon Schallert

Congratulations to our March 2014 Destination BootCamp Graduates

Congratulations to our March 2014 Destination BootCamp Graduates, shown here.  This class of 22 was comprised of an incredibly diverse group of over-achieving business owners, with two larger Community Reinvention Program groups from Goshen County and Torrington, Wyoming and Forney, Texas (and two BootCamp Graduates back for another class).

March 2014 BootCamp Class

If you’d like to be part of our next BootCamp in May, or if you’d like to learn how your community can participate in our 6-month Community Reinvention Program, feel free to call me, email me, or click here for more information.

Winter Weather Marketing Tactics Designed to Lure Customers In

ItsColdOutThere

Some of your businesses have been taking a beating with this awful weather and when bad weather hits, it can cripple sales.

While winter is usually a slower time for consumer spending, January weather flowed right through February, and as I write this, it’s snowing heavily outside this March.  Can this Spring’s outlook be that much better?

Some of you asked that I write about how to overcome a loss of business due to bad weather in this week’s blog.

I will in a second. But let’s first talk about the realities of bad weather:

Bad weather will impact sales immediately, but there can be a corresponding increase in sales when the weather gets better, IF the product is still useable during that later date.  For example, you are a garden center and you have a massive selection of vegetable seeds. Bad weather hits for 2 weeks and delays planting for everyone. But then the weather clears and the customers pour in, intent on still doing their planting.

But this corresponding bump in sales doesn’t always happen. Here’s what happened in Colorado last year: You are a tire retailer and you stock snow tires. In Colorado last year, November, 2012 through February, 2013 were some of the lowest snow months in the state’s history. Do people rush in and buy snow tires in March? Nope. Spring is right around the corner with warmer weather. So many consumers in Colorado last winter didn’t purchase snow tires at all. Those sales were just lost.

We do know that when bad weather hits, the consumer has to decide just how important it is to go outside: Is the need for the product greater than the discomfort and risk of going outside?

Here some examples of products for which I’d risk going outside in a blizzard: Water, propane, firewood, toilet paper, a key ingredient for a recipe that I absolutely have to make, and alcohol.

The bad news for many of you is that you don’t sell any of these product necessities which can be crucial to a person’s survival. (You have also now learned my core priorities).

So how do you lure customers into your business, if you’re not willing to change your product focus to carrying water, propane, firewood, toilet paper, or alcohol?

You must go back to the three core drivers of a consumer’s emotional spending habits. If you’re going to be successful with a weather-abused consumer, you must play off these three core needs:

  1. You must create emotion inside your business! If you’re stuck inside a house for days or weeks on end because of bad weather, people start going a little crazy. The common term for this is cabin fever. So what can you offer a consumer who’s experiencing this malady?  Entertainment! Excitement! Outside fun and stimulation!  You must focus on event-oriented activities in your business that bring people together to have fun, like classes, parties, celebrations, and new product unveilings that are just too exciting to miss.
  2. You must alleviate boredom! Can your business become the oasis of stimulation that makes them say: “Let’s strap on the snowshoes, Honey, and head out to this store!”
  3. You must create urgency! Whatever offer you present to your targeted group of consumers, you must create limited windows of opportunity for them to take advantage of your offer.  Words like “One-time only”, “Get in here today” and “Only available between 2:00 and 6:00 today” will let them know if they miss this limited time offer, they will regret it.

Finally, when bad weather hits (especially if you’re a retail store), your first inclination is to use discount marketing to bribe the customer through your doors.

Let me caution you on a few huge discounting mistakes during bad weather:

  • Avoid giving a discount on a core product line that the consumer will buy later when the weather is better.
  • Avoid giving percentages off.  Consumers prefer getting actual dollar amounts on their discounts.  Remember: Dollars off create more spending than percentage discounts!
  • If you’re going to discount, tie the discount to another purchase. “When you buy 3 pairs of socks, you get a $10 discount on 2 packs of underwear.”
  • Avoid discounting products that are “demand products” that the consumer absolutely must have. Bad weather is probably only a temporarily delay to the consumer’s purchase.
  • Avoid discounting products that do not have a large enough profit margin to make you money.
  • Do discount products that have a limited window of use. For example, you’re a grocery store and you know those perishable food products are not going to last. Mark them down and try to recoup some of your investment. Or you have purchased seasonal items that you don’t want to carry over to the next year. Mark them down and move them out.

This cold weather will not be here forever, but until it’s gone, start implementing some of these ideas in your cold weather marketing. Let me know which prove successful to you, or if you have other ideas, send them my way at Info@JonSchallert.com.

Thanks for reading this week, and stay warm out there!

Jon

Something to Smile About: There’s Retail Opportunity Here

Several years back, I did the keynote speech for an economic development conference on my Destination Business principles.

When I was done, the next presenter got up and it was obvious he wanted to show that he was a well-traveled expert.  To illustrate this, he began by flashing up on the screen photographs he’d taken of small businesses that he found particularly amusing.

Most of the photographs were similar to what I have posted on this page, a small business that combined two or more products or services under one roof that you’d never expect to be together.  Now, to be fair, he didn’t flash the photo I have here of the quilt shop/liquor store, but he did show similar examples of unexpected combinations of products in the same business.

With each photo, the audience laughed, as he poked fun at the businesses being shown on the screen.

And all I could do was sit there thinking: “This guy’s totally missed the point!”

I’ve spoken in hundreds of cities and small towns, and I’ve never been to, nor seen the quilt shop/liquor store shown here. Someone sent me this picture.  And just to be clear, I’m not making fun of this business.  Actually, there’s brilliance in this business.

You see, in the world of retail development, this quilt shop/liquor store is called a “multi-focus business”, meaning that it has two or more unique business models operating under one roof.

So when I find a business like this that has an unusual combination of products in it, I know it’s often because it takes multiple product lines (often diverse ones), combined together, to generate enough revenue for a business in a small town to actually make money.  I also know that smart business owners try to meet the needs of local customers, while also trying to grow their revenue, while identifying consumer demand, hopefully discovering and capitalizing on unsatisfied niche categories to produce a greater return-on-investment.  (Basically, I’ve just described the fundamental rules of the most successful businesses.)

Plus, most independently-owned businesses in a smaller marketplace can’t operate like a retail store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.  They don’t have millionaire customers walking in everyday and they aren’t located in a retail district that pulls customers from around the world.

Finally, when I talk to community leaders who complain that recruiting retail businesses is difficult, I point out that a multi-focused business is the first thing to look for.  This is because it’s always easier to grow an existing retailer in a community who’s already there, who already understands the marketplace and who’s already committed to the area.  Yet you’d be surprised how many retail development professionals look first to import a new business or poach one from a nearby community.

Personally, when I see multi-focused business, I start thinking: “How can we maximize this business into a stronger Destination, or even two separate Destinations?”

So remember: If you’re ever at an economic development conference and someone gets up and starts showing photos like this one, it’s OK to chuckle.

Just realize that inside that business, a creative, risk-taking entrepreneur came up with something that no one has ever seen.

And that looks like untapped opportunity to me.

The #1 Problem with Small Businesses

My Mom used to tell me to not take on too many responsibilities: “Don’t bite off more than you can chew,” she used to say.

If you’re an independent business owner, this advice doesn’t apply to you.

On top of having created your business, you are now responsible for overseeing all the operations of it, envisioning its future, aligning your team with your vision, and making the major decisions that impact its well-being.

You are more likely to bite off more than you can chew, and then, chew it.

JonSchallertBlogSo imagine my surprise when years ago I sent out a survey to hundreds of chambers of commerce and downtown organizations with a single question:

“What is the number one problem with your city’s small businesses?”

When the answers came rolling in, I didn’t have to tabulate the responses. From across the country, one word was universally repeated: Apathy.  Overwhelmingly, I was told business owners in their cities and towns were apathetic to improving their businesses, and this included not wanting to update the look of their businesses, improve their product lines, step up their customer service, and a variety of other complaints, all grounded in the basic belief that owners didn’t care enough to improve their business operations.

I’ve always disagreed with that survey.  Here’s why:

First, I think it’s easy to look at a business from the outside-in and make incorrect judgments about it, especially if you’ve never been self-employed.

Second, I believe business owners generally function in a perpetual state of being overwhelmed, juggling too many tasks in too little time, all the while running their businesses. I think the outside world forgets that independent business owners have other things to do besides running their businesses, like being a caring parent, spouse, partner, volunteer, and community leader, while still sleeping enough, exercising, eating right, and maybe, sitting down and taking time to think.

Third, today’s business owners are engaged in a daily learning curve of monumental proportions. Number one, they are responsible for staying abreast of the changes in their industry. But on top of that, they have other issues to think about, like analyzing, judging, and committing to which new technology tools would be most advantageous to their business. For example, should they use Woobox, Gro Social, North Social, or Social Campaigns to get more Likes on their Facebook page? Most business owners would answer that they don’t know.

What owners do know is they ARE passionate about their business, and the majority recognize they AREN’T experts in a host of categories including financial analysis, store design, social media, marketing, advertising, and publicity, just to name a few.

Owners will also be the first to tell you what changes they know they should be making in their businesses, but they’ve delayed implementing, not because they don’t care, but in that big priority list that is ever present in their minds daily, they don’t have the knowledge, outside resources, finances, time, or sanity to tackle that challenge right now.

The truth is that I have rarely met an entrepreneur who doesn’t care.  I’ve met apathetic employees, landlords, citizens, shopping center developers, students, Colorado pot smokers and cats.  But not apathetic business owners.

So for those who look from the outside-in, you should understand when you meet owners like these who are battling to make their businesses better, that look on their faces is NOT the look of an owner who doesn’t care; it’s the look of being overwhelmed when you are the person who is expected to have all the answers, but you’ve really not had time to even consider the question.

Oh, here’s one other word of advice: If you want to help, please do not walk into their businesses and utter a cliché like “Work smarter, not harder” or “Work on your business, not in it.”  They’ve know that. They’ve heard it before. And they’ve thought that every night before going to bed and first thing every morning walking in their doors.

If you really want to help them, give them resources and assistance that make their lives easier.  Help them by providing solutions that will help their businesses leap forward.

And I guarantee they will reward your community with a business that everyone will be love.