Small Business Advice

A New Attitude Beats a Positive Attitude

You’ve probably heard motivational speakers talk about the need to have a positive attitude.

With all due respect to Norman Vincent Peale, a positive attitude for independent business owners isn’t enough.

Today’s entrepreneurs need a New Attitude.

When business owners tell me they are dissatisfied with their business performance and they want more customer traffic and higher sales, I tell them this:

When you step into your business this morning, take a look around and realize that the business you occupy is entirely your own creation. Sure, maybe someone passed it down to you through the family, or you bought someone else’s business, or you’re running a franchise that has limits not of your own design, but the bottom line is:  The business that surrounds you is what you’ve built, with your money, hard work, and vision.

You, as the owner, are the only one capable of changing your business in any significant way, and it begins with singular NEW moments of vision. These moments will only happen if you are willing to question what you have in front of you, and come up with something better. Something totally NEW.

As the owner, you cannot focus on all the reasons you feel your business hasn’t succeeded. You must focus on what you can control. It might be absolutely true that your city isn’t as business friendly as somewhere else, or that your Mayor has never spent a dime in your business, or that your downtown doesn’t have the parking garage that you feel it should have.  But you must ignore these things!  You are going to focus on what you can do right now that will increase your business performance and you are going to quit focusing your energy on areas that are out of your control. Doing so is a waste of time, and when a business needs help, time is a critical commodity.

Let me take a step back for those of you reading this who don’t know me:  For the last 12 years, I’ve conducted a Destination Business BootCamp where business owners spend over two straight days with me, learning techniques to reinvent their businesses. And while the owners in that BootCamp class are as diverse a group as you’ll ever find sitting together for two days, there are two things these owners have in common:

#1: A willingness to learn, and

#2: A nagging dissatisfaction with their businesses.

And #2 is critical:  For owners to move forward, they must reach a point of discontent where they want change to happen now, not sometime in the future.

If you’re a business owner, developing a NEW attitude is easy. Just look at those concrete components of your business that make you unhappy. Your store interior.  Your front windows.  Your advertising. Your marketing message.  Your website.  Your energy-sucking, waiting-to-be-told-what-to-do employees (I’ve heard some owners have these). You name it.  Look at these tangible components and decide how you would like them to be.  See them NEW and don’t compromise with your NEW vision.  Be demanding!  Be unreasonable!  Be unrealistic!  See it in your mind like you want it to be, and don’t settle for what you have.

Notice that I said look at those concrete components that you want to change.  Don’t look at your sales growth and say, “I’m dissatisfied with my business sales and I want more revenue.” Wrong!  Sales are a function of the concrete components you’ve created that aren’t operating effectively, and a reflection of the strategy you’re using to draw customers to you.

When owners change their components and change their strategy, guess what happens? Owners start walking in their doors every morning with a positive attitude.

But seeing your business NEW is the first key and this demands you bring some creative thinking to the table, taking a step back, and not settling for the business that’s in front of you.

You brought this business into the world. If you’re unhappy with the results, reimagine it as the business you’ve always wanted.

This Independent Shoe and Boot Retailer Beats Zappos Every Day

Pick up any business book. Read any business article on innovation. Chances are you’ll find the name Zappos, the online shoe and apparel e-tailer, mentioned there.

For example, just this month, Donna Tam, a writer for CNET wrote the article: “Can e-tailer Zappos demolish the brick-and-mortar model?”

Sam Lewis, Associate Editor of Integrated Solutions for Retailers, wrote a similar article: “Can Zappos Bulldoze The Brick-And-Mortar Shopping Model?”

Ummm, Donna and Sam.

Here’s the answer to your question:

No.

Zappos is good. Really good. But let’s not get crazy.

Let me introduce you to an independent, brick-and-mortar, shoe and boot retailer that will never lose a customer to Zappos and gains quite a few from online shoe retailers every day.

Meet Kevin and Deb Durken, owners of The Boot Shack in St. Cloud, Minnesota.  The Boot Shack is a Destination Business. Kevin and Deb took what they were already doing well, attended our Destination BootCamp, applied what they learned, and now customers willingly fly to Minnesota from all over North America to buy footwear from “The Shack”.

Could these customers buy from brick-and-mortar retailers who are much closer?

Could they go online to e-tailers like Zappos and buy from them?

They could. But they don’t.

Up above is a photo of Kevin in the rarely seen position of him sitting in the store.

The photo below is a device that you might remember if you’re old enough. It’s called a Brannock Device. It’s what they use at The Boot Shack to measure a customer’s foot, to insure that the boots and shoes they sell to customers are the right size.

When I was a child, the Brannock Device was used in every shoe store in the country. My mother never purchased a pair of shoes for me from any store without the salesperson measuring my feet with the Brannock Device.

What makes Kevin and Deb’s business different from every other shoe and boot store, including Zappos?  It’s really simple:

The Boot Shack is the only store in the country that measures feet like they did in the old days, carrying Work and Western Boots in every size from 3-18 and widths 4A-4E.

Why is measuring a customer’s feet like they did in the old days so important?  Kevin said it best to me:

“People come in with stuff they’ve bought off the Internet, and what we see are unhappy customers after the purchase. Everybody thinks they have to get a deal, and then they call us, and they say, ‘I got a pair of boots and can you fit them? I’d like to come in and try on other sizes of this company.’”

Kevin reminded me about basic physiology when we were talking:

“Three things get longer as you get older. The feet, the nose and the ears. That happens with even our regular customers who come in. We’ll have people who have changed one full size in as little as 4 months.”

“On the Internet, it’s a small, medium and large world. But if you really want shoes and boots that fit, that don’t hurt your feet when you wear them, that fit correctly, you use the Brannock device because the arch is what you fit, and then, you fit the width…”

“Two-thirds of all people have narrow feet, and people are shocked by that. But as we tell people: If your toes were so important, why are those $400 orthotics that are prescribed by doctors designed to fit under the arch of the foot?”

“When you spend a day in The Shack, and you see some of these people come through here, and you hear about the tens of thousands of dollars they’ve spent with the medical profession, in the doctor’s office, in the chiropractor’s office, with surgeries, and you listen to all the pain and suffering people go through, and all the issues they have. Their hips wear out, and their knees wear out, and their ankles hurt.  That’s because the shoes they’re wearing don’t fit the arch properly and don’t fit the width properly.”

“Twenty or thirty years ago, you never heard these stories or saw these $400 orthotics that you do now, and now everybody’s got them because nobody wears anything that fits properly.  It’s like an epidemic that gets worse every year.”

“Our wonderful repair shop that we’ve done business with for years has said that the Internet is the best thing that’s ever happened to his business because people are in there constantly with crap they bought on the Internet that doesn’t fit and they’re in getting it altered or stretched.”

The Boot Shack is a one-of-a-kind shoe and boot Destination store.  When you go to The Shack, they’re going to measure your feet correctly, and then, they have a selection that allows them to fit your feet to shoes and boots that don’t pinch, rub, and hurt you when you walk.

Is there any question why people fly and drive from all over North America to buy from The Boot Shack, instead of buying from Zappos?

It’s pretty clear to me.

Oh, one last thing: In Donna Tam’s article, Zappos Lab Director Will Young wonders aloud, “How do we get people out of brick and mortar?”

I’m sorry to break it to you, Will, but you won’t get them out of this brick and mortar store.

The final 2013 Destination BootCamp is on October 1-3 and it’s for independent business owners who want to learn what Kevin and Deb are applying in their business. You can register at www.DestinationBootCamp.com.

 

 

Why Our Destination BootCamp Works

Here’s a letter from a business owner who attended our Destination Business BootCamp seven years ago. That owner was Dan Horwath of Up the Creek Antiques in Centralia, Washington.

Another business owner recently emailed Dan, asking if our BootCamp was really worth attending. When Dan replied to him, he copied us on his email. This is Dan’s letter in its entirety.

We love getting letters like this!

“I’m not good at a time line. Forgive me if I don’t have exact dates.  About 12 years or a little more ago, Jon came to Centralia and talked to local businesses about destination marketing. We attended that event reluctantly, thinking that it would be a waste of time. I have to say that Jon is an engaging speaker. He presented quite a different take on how we had approached our business and marketing.

After that session, Jon walked around the town visiting a few businesses and pointing out things that he thought would change things for the positive. He spent about 10 minutes in our antique store and during that time we took furious notes. Over the course of the next few weeks, we implemented most, if not all his recommendations: things like lighting, placement of product, ways to highlight… As a result, we saw an immediate increase in interest in our customer base. They stayed in the store longer, seemed to engage the sales staff more.

When several years later the City sponsored some businesses to his Boot Camp, we made sure we would take advantage of the opportunity. We were not disappointed. It was fairly intense. The focus is on becoming a destination, set yourself apart, not just an “also ran” in the local economy. The tools were definitely there, the inspiration and continuing help and support were/are also there.

As for results, we turned our antiques business into a contender on a national scale. The greater proportion of our sales are from out of state, with a significant amount from the East coast and Midwest. We are the Antique Destination that includes Oregon, Washington, and Idaho as well. We get visitors from all over the country, as well as sales. That’s an accomplishment that isn’t readily achieved by many antiques businesses. We would not have ever achieved that goal were it not for Jon. In fact, in the present economy, I’m sure we would have closed several years ago. We have remained open and viable, mostly through the level of our destination sales, rather than those in our local limited demographic.

In any of these ventures, you get out what you are willing to learn and put in. For us, we can recommend Jon’s Boot Camp without reservation. It made a world of difference in our approach and bottom line. Jon has offered advice and help over the years, just a phone call away.

If you attend, please give our regards to Jon and enjoy yourself.

If your ever in Centralia, please stop by and see firsthand what we have implemented as a result of attending: 209 N Tower Ave Centralia, Washington.  You may visit our web, which has incorporated many suggestions from Jon and has been a major success. www.upthecreekantiques.com. That site was developed in 1998 and still comes up on the first page, if not the first item of most searches.”

Regards,

Dan Horwath, Owner, Up the Creek Antiques

Pinterest: Changing How Customers Shop and How Small Businesses Compete for Customers

I conducted a webinar in Destination University (www.DestinationUniversity.com) last month on how to use Pinterest. I decided I better learn what Pinterest was after I was asked multiple times in January what I thought of it, and I had no clue. Back then, I was totally ignorant of Pinterest. Not anymore.

If you’re still not getting what Pinterest is, think of this: In front of me as I type this article on my office wall is a huge bulletin board, filled with magazine articles, photos, 3” x 5” cards with words on them, all pinned to that board. Pinterest is just like that bulletin board, except you are collecting images from the Internet, and grouping them into collections of your choosing. These collections are called “Boards” and when you decide you like a particular image, you “pin” it (again, just like a bulletin board).

If you haven’t played around with Pinterest, my advice is to try it tonight. Right now, you’ll need an invitation to join Pinterest to start dabbling around in it. If you’re in Facebook, just post that you’d like an invitation to Pinterest, and your friends will invite you. You can also sign in using Twitter.

Once you start trying Pinterest, you’ll probably be hooked. You’ll see why consumers are jumping on its bandwagon, and why a whopping 84% are female users. Here’s even more key information about it:

Pinterest is one of the fastest growing websites in history, and it is the fifth largest social network and the third most popular. It is also the 16th most visited website, ahead of big names like CNN and the Huffington Post. Started in 2009 by Ben Silvermann of Des Moines, Iowa, the earliest people to start using it were females from the Midwest. The explosion of popularity has happened recently: only tens of thousands knew what Pinterest was in 2011, but 4.9 million site visitors used it in November; 11.7 million in January, 2012; and 17.8 million in February, 2012. According to some analysts, it is the fastest independent website to reach 10 million visitors. Best of all, the average Pinterest user spends 98 minutes a month on the site, which is right behind Tumblr and Facebook’s usage numbers, with an average visit lasting 16 minutes.

Pinterest itself is not a large company. They are based in Palo Alto, California (where Facebook is located), with about 20 employees (they hired half their staff in the last 4 months). Obviously, the growth of their company is causing them to scramble, but like most Internet companies, they aren’t worried about generating a profit, given that they are funded by the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz (founded by Marc Andreessen, who co-created Netscape) and Jeremy Stoppelman, the CEO of Yelp. With the $37 million they raised last year and their estimated current valuation of $200 million, they aren’t going anywhere.

Why is this Pinterest phenomenon important to a small business like yours? Here are my big 6 reasons:

1. Pinterest is all about visuals and scanning the Internet for images that a person likes. Once they find a photo, a cartoon, or an image they like, they can “pin” it and it starts a process where other people who view the image, start spreading it. In the world of the Internet, this spreading is called viral marketing, just like a cold that self-replicates itself in multiple places. Since it’s really a form of online word-of-mouth marketing, it is less time-consuming than friending people on Facebook, tweeting on Twitter, and posting your thoughts on a blog. The ease at which someone can engage with Pinterest makes it a social network that is easy to like, with minimal time commitment involved. It also allows people to connect with others that they might not know as friends, but with whom they have similar interests and style preferences.

2. Large companies don’t know exactly what to do with Pinterest. There are no ads on Pinterest, either, so advertising agencies don’t know how to recommend their clients to use it. Consequently, this is a marketing tool that can have a huge competitive advantage for small businesses that get in and play around with this, while big companies stumble trying to figure it out.

3. Now that Facebook is going to a new timeline configuration (I am doing a webinar on this in Destination University in May also), and Facebook has created a new Pinterest app, there are over 870+ million people who will have access to Pinterest through this linking with Facebook.

4. Pinterest, according to National Public Radio, is one of the top five referrers of web traffic to retailers’ websites. Many of you are retailers, and all of you should have websites. Wouldn’t you like more people to come to your websites? Once there, they can learn about your company, call and find out about certain products, or if you have an e-commerce site, buy directly off of it. Put another way, Pinterest is a powerful mechanism to bring more faces to your business.

5. When you start posting product photos in Pinterest, you’ll notice that you can add a price to the product description, simply by typing the price, preceded by the dollar sign ($). I think (and others concur), that this pricing feature in Pinterest might eventually lead to Pinterest being its own e-commerce site, where people will be able to make purchases directly through Pinterest as an online “shopping cart”. If this happens, those of you who sell products will find this could be a huge boom to your business.

6. Every time an image is uploaded to Pinterest, it can lead directly back to your website. This is critically important because if you have an e-commerce site, or if you’d like to sell more online to people you’ve never met, this linking feature of Pinterest’s could yield huge online traffic referrals to your business.

Hopefully, these 6 reasons are enough to convince you to take this social network seriously.

If this post was interesting to you, think about becoming a member of our Destination University business network. For less than a buck a day, you can stay abreast of the newest, most impactful marketing tools, simply by watching the nearly 100 webinars that are in DU (and more are posted monthly). To learn more about joining Destination University, click here.

Poken makes USA debut at Summit Business Conference in Boulder, Colorado with retail technology & electronic networking tools

A future-is-now business card replacement and electronic shopping tool will debut at the Summit Business Conference October 18-19 in Boulder, Colorado.

Participants will wear Pokens, whimsical devices that use near field communication (NFC) to retrieve and store information from fellow attendees, and then, electronically network with their connections from their computers.

The conference, organized by The Schallert Group of Longmont, Colorado, brings eight headline speakers to a single stage, providing independent entrepreneurs and small businesses access to insights usually available only to Fortune 500 companies.

Rather than exchanging business cards, Summit attendees can collect contacts by holding the Pokens close, – a “high four” from the four-fingered hand of playful characters such as a kitten or panda.

The green glow signals that the connection has been made.

In a first-in-the-U.S. pilot, conference-goers can visit Boulder businesses equipped with Poken technology and will experience this two-way NFC exchange of information. For example, information and videos about fine wine for sale can be passed to customers, while the store receives information about the prospective purchaser.

“Boulder will be the first city in the country where Poken Sparks and Poken Tags are demonstrated,” says Jon Schallert, president of The Schallert Group and a speaker at the conference. “We’re going to put them in different retail stores and conduct a Downtown Boulder treasure hunt.”

Poken devices, created in Switzerland and just now coming to North America, are popular for social networking – a paperless way to collect more than phone numbers at parties – and are finding application in more fields.

This fall, Indiana State University became the first college to distribute Pokens to all incoming students, easing introductions and potentially boosting retention for the school.

Schallert, arranged to introduce Pokens at the Summit Business Conference after he discovered the technology in an in-flight magazine article.

The cutting-edge application fits the event’s aim to elevate small businesses, he says.

“Our conference is really a way that any size business can play on a level playing field with some big companies that would normally get this expert advice. There’s a synergy that comes from combining new technology and these top business experts together to teach independent entrepreneurs.”

In addition to Schallert, speakers are Michael Kerr, a humor expert; Debra Fine, a business networking expert; Terri Norvell, a leadership development expert; Andy Core, a wellness expert; Marti Barletta, author and worldwide expert on marketing to women; Henriette Klauser, an author and authority on writing productivity; and Shawne Duperon, an Emmy-winning TV producer and publicity strategist.

 

Mike Kerr is excited about going to work. How excited are you?

Mike Kerr is the opening keynote speaker at the Summit Business Conference.

Mike is going to teach all of us how we as leaders of our businesses and organizations can stamp out daily stress, boost the morale of our teams, infuse creativity into our lives, and create an inspiring business and work environment, one that’s loved by our employees and also our customers.

You can read more about Mike at www.MikeKerr.com but you can also see how excited Mike is to begin his Monday workday by clicking on the link below to watch the video on our Summit Business Conference blog.

Mike Kerr is excited to go to work?  Wouldn’t it be great to feel this way?

In Praise of Slackers

The last time I wrote in my blog, I wrote about complaining business owners who don’t make changes to improve their businesses.  If you don’t remember what I wrote, you can read it by clicking here.

Looking back, I was wrong about them.  I admit it!

I am now ready to embrace the complainers!  Here’s why:

My revelation on this point occurred when Alisa, our new Business Development Manager, left during the morning for a dentist appointment, but later returned a couple of hours later, resuming her regular duties.  Thinking about my own dentist appointments that are often filled with needles of Novocain shot into my gums, making it impossible for me to talk when I return to work, I couldn’t help but notice that she seemed quite functional.

So, I asked her: “How are your teeth?  Are you in pain?  Are you still OK to be at work?” But Alisa assured me she was totally fine.

She then said to me: “My dentist told me that if all his patients took care of their teeth like me, there’d be no need for her.  She’d be out of work.”  She explained that she took great care to clean and maintain her teeth after being told how important it was, and how her dentist appointments were non-eventful checkups absent of the pain I regularly came to associate with my visits.

We talked a little more and then, my light bulb moment occurred. It came to me in a flash that if everyone with teeth, brushed, flossed, and cared for them like Alisa, what a huge impact that would have on the dental industry! How would these dentist offices stay open, if all of their patients gave them nothing to do?

Let me use my dentist as an example.  I think my dentist’s office employs about 5-7 people, and I’d guess they are all pretty well paid professionals, all doing their work on people who don’t brush and floss as well as Alisa does. What if these people had no work?  For example, my dentist is a great dentist and a great guy, but I bet he doesn’t have any other marketable skills besides dentistry (maybe watch repair, with those tools he’s accumulated and his steady hand). But the rest of his staff? Not so talented.  I foresee “Will clean teeth for food” handwritten signs by the interstate.

Now, take this idea a step further. Multiply the impact if every dentist office in the country closed because everyone took care of their teeth like they should. Think of the massive unemployment problems that would result.  I bet most of these dental workers would be out on the streets, forced to selling their stash of free toothbrushes and mini toothpaste tubes. And think about that loss of revenue that previously circulated in our economy from people paying for dentures, implants, cleanings, oral surgery, x-rays…all of it gone!  What an economic downturn our country would experience, if everyone cared for their teeth like Alisa!

And that’s when it dawned on me that I’ve been looking at this the wrong way.  All those business owners who don’t attend my workshops, who don’t make their businesses unique and distinctive…these are people I should be thanking!  The owners who complain all the time and do little to help themselves while remaining stagnant, I should hug!  These owners are the ones who are maintaining the below-average business standards that allow the rest of my clients to stand out.  These owners are the people who set the low bar! These are the entrepreneurs who make it possible for any other company to look so good, by them being so bad at what they do.  These are the people whose poor service gets anchored in the minds of customers, so when my clients’ employees go just a little above and beyond the call of duty, their efforts seem Herculean.

I am the first one to admit when I am wrong, and I was wrong about the slackers.  It was wrong for me to have berated them.  The slackers, malcontents, and complaining business owners have done nothing wrong.  Granted, they haven’t done anything particularly right either, but they don’t deserve to be flogged into changing.

I’ve changed my mind!  Immobile owners like these should be praised. They should be encouraged to “Do nothing, move nowhere, change not!” Their businesses are perfect, in their most imperfect states, and the rest of the proactive business world needs them to maintain their business inertia.

So to all owners out there who are constantly working to improve yourself and your business position, do this: The next time you see one your business peers who fits this slacker/complainer description, don’t avoid them. Don’t look away. And certainly don’t berate them with those positive suggestions of change you typically heap on them. Next time, give them a hearty pat on the back and a cheery “Carry on!”

Their mediocre business is crucial to your creation of the Destination Business of your dreams. Without them, your challenges would be much more difficult.

Handling Your Great, Good, and Bad Ideas: A 3-Step Process, Final Step #3

For the last couple of days, I’ve been taking you through the 3-step process of handling your overload of ideas.

Here is the third and final key in this process, and you must remember this most important point:  24 hours is never enough time for a creative thinker like you, with too many ideas.

 

As an owner, you already feel like you work all the time. You don’t, but if you did, it wouldn’t make things much better.  Here’s why:  As you get past the 8 hour mark, up into the 10, then the 12, and finally to the 16-hour mark of working, your productivity drops off, and you start being not so nice.  People respond less well to someone with blood shot eyes who is screaming with too much caffeine in them.  Working too much will also cause your family, your dog, and those who were helping you to quit responding.  And let’s not forget those employees.  They’ll still show up for that paycheck, but have you ever seen unresponsive and uncommitted?  You will.

Think back a few days on my earlier blog post and remember how some of you had another person helping you, making it not just you, but you and someone else?  When you work all the time that person will leave, call you names, and you will be stuck with only you.  Just you and your caffeine, wide awake and alone.  And your situation will not be improved.  It will be just you, and you will still have too many ideas.

So here’s my advice.  In your big pile of ideas that you’ve sifted through, look for ideas that will IMPACT SALES IN A HUGE WAY!

 

This is the key to handling too many ideas!

Sure, this seems logical, but there is power in putting this into practice.

You must learn to identify those great ideas that you can put into place, with your limited amount of time and sanity, which will significantly change your business for the better by increasing sales the most.

These ideas have to be the BIG ones.  They will be the ones that change how you do business.  They are ones that could reinvent your business into a different revenue-generating entity that spins off much more cash and pulls in many more customers.

You must use your good judgment, and look at the remaining ideas, and say: “If I put this into practice, how much will it move our overall sales number?”  And if your answer is “A little” or “Not much”, put those ideas off to the side.

Let’s practice one idea together.  You pick up an idea from your pile.  It says “Hold another Open House”.  Will this really impact your sales and possibly reinvent your business?  You say No?  Yes, you are right.  This is not that BIG idea.

The best ideas will often create a disproportionately large increase in customers or immediate large sales for your business, or move your business forward with such momentum that the new sales might begin resembling an entirely new branch of your company.

Once you find these ideas, you must focus your limited energy, resources, spouse or partner, employees, and remaining team that doesn’t hate you, on these tasks, every day.  In your day-to-day operations of your business, you must find time to implement incremental steps in these move-the-needle, BIG ideas.

Here’s another hint:  You will find that ideas of this magnitude aren’t the ones that most of your peers at the tradeshows you’ve been attending have been repeating.  If your peers really do have BIG ideas like these, they are quietly keeping them to themselves.  I have found that the really BIG ideas won’t be found in your industry, but in an adjacent industry or a totally different industry and you will be able to apply the concept to your industry, where it will be brand new.

I have found this is one of the primary reasons that our Destination BootCamp works so well.  It’s not just me teaching you, but it’s also what happens when you take smart, dissimilar, dissatisfied business owners, all motivated to change their businesses, and the process that happens when they come together for three days of strategic over-thinking.  They exchange ideas under the 14-step framework of becoming a Destination Business and they begin to hear ideas that they’ve never heard before. And then it clicks.  Light bulb!  And as Einstein said, that’s a Eureka moment in the world of adult learning.  Yea!

Summing up and moving on:  There is only one you, and yes, you are like a snowflake, unique and one-of-a-kind, as your parents said.  Unfortunately, your ideas and mode of operation have become stale and like everyone else in your industry.  Then, there are too few hours in a day, and you have too many ideas.  Working on too many ideas for too many hours and your business begins lacking the focus it needs.

The alternative to doing what you’ve always done is to find BIG ideas that will move your sales needle in a big way.  Break down the BIG idea into smaller steps and plan the steps out month-by-month, week-by-week, on a calendar.  Finally, work the plan with you, your partner, and your employees, and delegate to those who can help.  Oh, yeah, and find mentors that have done this before.

Doing it alone feels right, but it’s not. It feels right to plow forward, work longer, and make it on your own.  This is your inner entrepreneur on a misguided quest to right your course.  Instead, you must step back and rethink your business strategy.

If you have more comments or questions, post them on this blog.  Or, make your way to our Destination BootCamp next month on June 21-23, 2011 (www.DestinationBootCamp.com) and watch the Eureka moments find you.

Don’t Be a Shoveler

At our Destination Business BootCamp, one of my favorite chapters to teach is how entrepreneurs and owners must attain a balance as the leader of the business to maximize the potential of their business.  Without a doubt, it’s the chapter where the owners in attendance do less talking and contributing than any point of the BootCamp, and I know why.  During this chapter, I hammer home the point that owners must quit operating as Mom and Pop business proprietors and instead, must start running their businesses like a CEO would run their company.

What that means for most owners is that they must start passing off some of the simple, day-to-day tasks that often dominate their working hours, so they can start thinking about more strategic and substantial ways to grow their company.

This chapter is especially sobering because I think we all see ourselves in the worst-practices examples in time management that I show.  You’ll notice that I say “we” because I can be as guilty anyone else in using my time unwisely.

One of the examples I reference during this chapter is the Steven Covey – Franklin Time Management system.  It’s a fantastic workshop that will help any time-scattered owner, and one immediately learns that there are only 4 types of activities that one engages in.  You are either being:

  • Reactive to outside stimulus and taking action when you must respond to an issue you didn’t create.
  • Proactive in handling your most important priorities of your company.
  • Adding and contributing value to your company by the nature of the tasks you choose to do, or
  • Contributing marginal value to your company by the tasks you do.

Then, I take examples of a typical business owner’s day to show one of each of these 4 activities.

When I come to the Reactive/Marginal-Value Tasks, the example I use is showing an owner who comes into his or her business, after it’s been snowing all night.  The sidewalks are covered with snow.  The owner grabs the shovel, heads outside, and starts clearing the snow off the sidewalk. Again, they are reacting to the snowfall on the sidewalk, so this is a Reactive task, but they, as the owner of the company, do the shoveling, rather than delegating this task to someone else.  This gives it Marginal value.  Marginal, reactive activities are the worst time wasters for business owners, and in this example, shoveling provides n value to the overall strengthening of their company.

Now, jump forward with me when I’m speaking on the phone to an owner who just attended the BootCamp.  She mentions that she found this time management exercise extremely beneficial and enlightening.  She starts recalling examples that I used during this chapter and mentions that this was a huge Eureka moment for her at the BootCamp.

“I’ve concluded,” she told me over the phone, “that being a CEO is hard.”

I agreed.  Thinking like a CEO is much harder than just engaging in every single task that pops up in one’s business, I told her.

She went on to say:

“It’s easier to be the shoveler.  I like shoveling.  I like doing something and seeing an immediate result, like the snow going away.  I like think-less jobs.  It’s hard to be the CEO of your company.  Being a CEO is NOT a think-less job.”

I like shoveling and doing think-less jobs!  No one had ever put it that way. But she was right.  Being a CEO is not easy.  It involves planning for the growth of your business.  This involves thinking and being creative, probably two of the most difficult aspects of running a business.  Being a CEO means you have to decide what must happen now, and what steps must happen next.  Strategic thinking about how you’re going to make your business a Destination is definitely an activity where thinking’s required.

But shoveling?  That’s relatively easy, isn’t it?  And when you are done, you can look at your completed work and say, “I did a fine job of shoveling.”  We all get an immediate reward as we check another item off our list.  No wonder so many of us engage in these reactive, marginal  value tasks.

So the next time you are sitting down, evaluating what needs to be accomplished in your day, think of this owner, who admits that she prefers shoveling to thinking about how to grow her business.  Are you the same way?  Are the tasks on your list tasks that you should be handling?  Or, are the tasks you’ve put on your list more of the “think-less” kind?

Focus on tasks that you absolutely MUST handle since no one else can!  Growing your business takes being a CEO, regardless of the size of your business.

Want to learn more about proactively becoming a Destination business.  Think about attending our next Destination BootCamp on March 15-17.  Click here to learn more.

Free Webinar, February 2 and $200 Early-Bird BootCamp Registration Discount

Announcement #1:  No-Cost Webinar, Wednesday, February 2

Once a year I do a free webinar to help businesses and that time is next week.  Join me next Wednesday, February 2 for a no-cost one hour webinar.  I will be conducting this webinar online at two separate times during the day, so more business owners have a chance to attend.

Webinar Title: “Jumpstart 2011:  12 New Ideas and Powerful Tools to Grow Sales and Eliminate Headaches in Your Independent Business.”

If you attend, here’s what you’ll learn:

  • Four (4) key questions you must ask about your business if you want to have any chance on improving your business above your previous year’s sales.  As the economy comes back, we think sales should inevitably get better, but wouldn’t you like your business to accelerate more quickly than the mass of post-recessionary businesses?
  • One (1) key change you must make as an owner if you want to build your business into something that has value that you might actually be able to sell one day.
  • Four (4) key technology tools (3 are free), that you must be using in 2011 to stay ahead of your competition and to simplify the running of your business.
  • The simplest promotion that you can run during low traffic time periods that costs you nearly nothing, gives up minimal profit margin, but your customers will love it and think they are getting a ton!
  • One (1) new behavior that you can immediately implement in any size community that will give you better ideas and help you come up with better decisions than you could ever do on your own.
  • One (1) New Media marketing tool that can instantly raise your business website’s search engine rankings, and help you land free publicity at the same time, that most of your competitors never will have used.

Finally, I will cover all the new highlights that I’ve added to our 2011 Destination BootCamps, only held here in Colorado three times a year.  Yes, there will be a short promotion message at the end of this webinar, but that’s the price you pay if you want all this other great information for free.

Add all these points up, and you get twelve tools, tactics, and tips that you’ll leave with after this webinar.  It will take me no more than an hour to cover all this, and if I get done early, I’ll take your questions that you can submit during the webinar.

Again, that’s next week, Wednesday, February 2, and the two times you can watch are  6:00 a.m. and at 12:00 p.m. (noon) Mountain Time.  Let me say this again!  These times are in our Time Zone!  Every year, we have a couple of people who log-in an hour or two late, and call us and ask if we’ll do the webinar again, just because they didn’t read the times correctly.

If you want to learn what I’ll be teaching on February 2, you must attend one of these webinars.  These webinars will NOT be archived for later viewing.

 

Announcement #2:  $200 Early-Bird Registration Discount

For the first time ever, we are offering an Early-Bird registration discount to our March 15-17 Destination BootCamp, which is only held in Longmont, Colorado.  Register by February 14 for our March BootCamp and receive a $200 discount off your registration cost.

This is a one-time offer, only for our March 15-17 BootCamp class, and this early registration $200 off bonus is not applicable to our June or September classes.  Those always fill up early.  Our March BootCamp is traditionally our smallest class, and this is a way to reward you as one of my blog readers, especially if you have ever thought about attending our BootCamp.

You can only get this $200 off, discounted registration form by clicking here to download it.  This form disappears after the February 14, the early registration deadline.

This offer is also only applicable to single, full-priced BootCamp registrations, and the $200 discount cannot be applied with any other discount, nor can it be applied to Community Reinvention Program registrations.  If you have already registered for the March 15-17 BootCamp, we will be crediting your account with this $200 Early-Bird bonus.

If you have friends or business associates who might benefit from the webinar or our $200 off, Early-Bird Registration offer, please forward them this blog address.

Thanks!

Jon Schallert

2011 Reality Check: How Really Different Is Your Business?

I recently had a great discussion with a business owner who had built, from the ground up, a very profitable retail store.  This business is loved by its customers.  Most of the customers in the community support it.  This owner has even studied like stores around the country to look for best-practices, and when he’s compared similar size businesses to his, he is achieving the same or better sales results than they are.

This owner should be happy with his success, shouldn’t he?  Unfortunately, this owner isn’t.  He wants more sales.  He wants to see the store’s growth accelerate more quickly.  He needs it to grow fast to achieve the financial goals he’s laid out for himself and his family.

That’s a tough one, isn’t it?  This business is operationally sound, functional and profitable, but it’s not meeting the expectations and demands of its founder.

In this case, it’s no consolation to hear other business owners in your field tell you that: “This is just how it is,” or “I think you’re doing pretty well.”  Changes have to be made to this business.

Here are a few questions this owner needs to ask himself before embarking on a series of tactical steps to pull in more customers.  If you are an owner of a business, you can ask yourself these questions, too:

Could your business be uprooted and transplanted into another marketplace, and do as well as it is now?  Would your business thrive and grow because of the new demographics?  Or, would it deteriorate and decline in sales?

Put another way:  How dependent is your business on its current location for its sales?

If your answer is that your business is VERY dependent on its location, you have a problem.

For example, some businesses cannot be moved without sales being impacted.  Some businesses are tied to their specific location, and moving them even 10 or 20 feet one way can cause consumers to stop frequenting that business.  (If you don’t believe me, you’ve never relocated retail stores for a living).  Businesses like these are solely location-dependent, and take the most work to reinvent into Destinations.  Put more bluntly, these businesses are parasitic and feed off their marketplace’s traffic and if you move them, they are going to be hurt.  Some even die.

These words always get shopping center developers stirred up.  When I say things like “Location doesn’t matter anymore”, I usually don’t get invited back to speak (example: International Council of Shopping Center convention, early 2000; lots of leasing agents feeling a little threatened when I said that comment).

Let me just say that location-dependent stores are fine IF the marketplace never declines, or IF new competitors never come in, or IF the underlying costs of that location never increase.  That’s a lot of IF’s.  But the truth is that marketplaces do decline, and competitors do come in, and other business owners that are less creative start copying what creative owners do, and then, some manufacturers start selling the same product to your competitors and tell you:  “Hey, it’s not in your marketplace.”  Yes, all of this stuff happens.

Unfortunately with this owner, when I evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of his business, and compared the business with other like businesses, this business was near identical to most of them, with no inherent core strengths that made it one-of-a-kind.

Here’s the reason I tell you this story:  The process of creating a destination is really an alternative marketing strategy that positions your business differently from every other business in your field, from every other business that sells the same product, and offers similar services, to what you do.

Unless you as an owner, step outside the “traditional” business model you have created, your business will never be a true Consumer Destination.  Now, you’ll get a lot of flack for deviating from the traditional way businesses like yours are traditionally operated, which is often proclaimed as the “Only Way to Do It” by some trade groups that you might belong to.

But the test of a Destination Business is if a consumer will illogically go out of their way to come to your business, past your competitors, and willingly spend more time seeking you out, versus purchasing from or choosing your competition.  If your uniqueness is not compelling enough, and your points of differentiation are not strong enough, consumers buy elsewhere.  This means your business never maximizes its sales and profit potential in your immediate marketplace, nor will it maximize the greater potential sales and profits from the distant marketplaces it could tap into.  And that applies in this recovering economy, and the prosperous ones we can expect in the future.

It all comes down to one challenge:  What makes your business different from everybody else?  If you have trouble answering this question, this is your logical starting point for 2011.  It’s not an easy starting point, but without addressing this question, every step you take trying to turn your business into a preferred Consumer Destination will fall short.

The Growing Menace of Being Average

There is nothing more damaging to a business, or to a business district, than being average.  In fact, if I am a business owner, I would rather have a customer tell me that my business is horrible in every aspect, rather than a customer telling me: “Your business is average”.  Give me horrible over average.  At least, I know where I stand with customers if they hate what I deliver.

Here’s something else about a horrible business: fellow business owners can see horrible a mile away.  Consumers do too.  Consumers can spot a horrible business from half way down the block.  Or, they can drive by, just look at the front window of a store and they can sense horrible.  “Yuck,” their brain says.  “I’m not going in there.”  And they don’t.

People look at awful and say: “That’s flat-out awful!”  Sure, they talk about it, but it’s dismissed.  It’s an outcast, a pariah.  People avoid it naturally.  It’s like that creepy guy sitting on the downtown bench that smells like spoiled milk.  You cross the street rather than walking by.

And here’s what’s unfair:  horrible businesses scream for attention, and get it.  Once I consulted in a city (in a state I won’t name), that had a great downtown except for a tacky X-rated book and movie store.  Guess where that store is today?  I couldn’t tell you, but I know it’s gone.  In another city, one absentee landlord owned a building that was a supreme blemish to an otherwise developing downtown.  A couple of years later, that building was torn down, and it’s now a park.  (Again, I don’t know the details, just the result).  In a city last month, I was taken to an awful looking costume shop and asked what to do with such an eyesore.  Why is it that the worst looking, worst run businesses get all the attention?  Because people see horrible businesses, and jump into action to correct them.

But an average business is another matter.  No one jumps, no one acts, and no one focuses on the average.  Worse, owners of average businesses think they are operating their businesses adequately, when they’re not.

Here’s how I think of it, and this comes from my early years of teaching high school.  An average business is like that runny nose kid who’d come to my class everyday, coughing and wiping his nose on his sleeve.  The parent wanted the kid in class, thinking the kid wasn’t really sick.  Even though the kid was technically in class, he was not healthy, not alert, and not learning; just there.  Essentially, I was trying to teach a human Petri dish whose only daily success was spreading germs throughout my classroom.

An average business is like that kid.  Present, eyes-open, but still sick.  Thinking it’s doing fine, when it’s really stagnant and infecting those around it.

Relate this to your town or city.  Can you think of an owner of an average business in your community?  Sure, you can.  He’s a nice person.  He comes to Chamber meetings, and volunteers at the school.  But be honest now:  Do you tell your out-of-town guests that they absolutely must visit his business before they fly back home, and if they don’t they’ll forever miss out on a one-of-a-kind experience?  Gotcha pegged, don’t I?

As owners, we have developed the ability to identify an average business better than customers.  Most customers can’t see average from the street.  Instead, they walk into average businesses and walk back out, impressionless.  No memories.  No moments of surprise.  Baskin Robbins with only vanilla.

Face facts.  If you have a neighbor who has an average looking business, it reflects on your marketplace, it hurts your business, and it hurts other businesses around you.  And just like that kid’s viruses, average businesses multiply.  Everyone looks at the horrible business and wants to avoid it.  But we tolerate average businesses and think they are fine.

Here’s what’s worse:  comparisons lead to the spread of average.  One business owner compares his business to the average business next door, and starts to feel satisfied with what he’s created.  Since businesses have a tendency to rise to the lowest level of competency, average multiplies and no one notices.  Soon, it’s epidemic.  Everyone opens up the doors to their businesses every morning, thinking they’re fine, until an entire business district or an entire city is permeated with underachieving, unimpressive, forgettable businesses not living up to their potential.

I know this is a harsh criticism of being average.  You might be shocked because for years, in school, we were told that a letter grade of a “C” was acceptable.  We were told that a C was OK.  A grade of C meant that you weren’t the smartest, but hey, you weren’t failing repeatedly like Joey, the only seventh grader who could drive to school.

Here’s my point:  in the world of creating a Destination Business that consumers want to seek out, “C’s” don’t count! Worse: today’s economy spits out average businesses every day.

Here’s my suggestion:  Resolve as a business owner to go and look at what you’ve created.  Deep down, you know where average resides in your business.  It’s in your windows. It’s that new person you hired and didn’t train.  It’s in your marketing materials that you designed yourself, and in your 10-year old website that was never updated.  It’s that list of major to-do’s you wrote but never make time to tackle.  It’s you and how you lead your team.  I could go on, but they now tack on big fines for hitting helmet-to-helmet.

Remember this:  In the big picture of creating a successful business that generates higher sales, real profits, and might actually be worth selling someday, average is not enough if you want to become a Destination.  If these sound like your goals, a passing grade won’t be enough.