Archive for the ‘Members Article’ Category

Is your Mindset holding you back?

Monday, August 14th, 2017

by Mark Johnson, Success 4 Business Mentor

It is their fault!

Does This Sound Like You? Everyone but you are to blame for the fact that you don’t have the money; the business, the perfect career, and that red Porsche 911—you know, the one that turns everyone’s head. Leaving you asking, “How did they buy that?”.   Why do they get the big house?  How come they have all the money? Why do they own the company, I am smarter. Is this your mindset?

Do you blame your parents, the people you grew up with? Is it that school you went to or didn’t go to? Do you blame the fact that you weren’t born lucky, your parents never had the money. I know, you never studied Business, that is why your business sucks. Or maybe it is he/she won’t let me do it. The excuses go on and on.

I’m certain there are goals you have not reached in life.  Because of the excuses, you have been feeding yourself time and time again. You give yourself millions of reasons of why it can’t happen to you, but have you given yourself ONE reason why it can happen to you? And if you have, how much energy and thought did you give it, if any?

Do you want to know a secret? it is not them, it is YOU, your thinking, your mindset.

Your Mindset Sucks!

Does this sound like the conversations you have with friends and co-workers?  You wait eagerly for the person talking so you can tell your story about how badMindset is polluted by other people it is for you. Waiting to tell your “best seller” my life sucks more than yours, the tale of poor me. Go to most lunchrooms, coffee shops, parties, maybe even family gatherings and this is the type of story you hear. Everyone telling their shitty story of their life.

Conversations like this pollute our mind and create our mindset.  Have you ever been in a good mood until you talk to that co-worker or family member?  After you feel like the life has been sucked out of you, your day just got worse, but it was only a phone conversation. This is mindset pollution.  Letting the outer world influence how you think, respond, and feel, corrodes your mind.

Bad News

The news you watch and read impact your mindset.It is just not what people say to you it is the images you see have an even greater impact on your mindset.  The news you watch on TV is a constant stream of violence, death, destruction, and catastrophe. If you feed on this every day it is like feeding poison to your plants, they will die slowly.  If your mindset is constantly being poisoned by negative images, stories, and media you end up being negative.

Can you change this?  Is there a way to change years of bad programming?  Read on.

Good news

People ask me, ‘Mark, how do I re-program my mind?’  Why?  Did somebody like, ninjutsu your brain and hypnotize you into thinking something horrible? Did someone insert virus code into your hard drive? Well maybe.

Why do you need to reprogram anything? Are you happy or unhappy with the way things are in your life?  Would you like something more? Something better? That new red Porsche 911?

Most people don’t need to re-program their mind – they just need to program it for the first time. It’s like there was never actually any programming that happened anywhere. There were all these habits and circumstances that have formed these automatic thoughts and behaviors that come up automatically and they happen. It’s not like someone said, I want you to think this. I want you to think that. No one ever sat you down and talked you into it. (Maybe it happened on occasion, but for most of the time you were not talked into doing something.)

Your brain loves to be efficient. It doesn’t like to have to do a lot of thinking. The mind likes to say, “What do we already know? What experiences do I have? How can we apply it to this situation?”

If you had fears in the past and a similar situation happens your mind says remember that time and says, “Hey, run away again.  If you had challenges in the past, your mind wants to protect yourself, and it just says, “Warning! Warning! protect you right now – we’re worried about this.”

Often those are not helpful thoughts. They’re automatic but they aren’t actually helpful. It’s just your mind saying ‘this is the easiest, safest, or quickest route we know.

Thinking Into Results

Yes, there is good news! You get to make choices that will improve your mindset.

Maybe you can remove some of the negativity? Negative people in your life? Here is some sage advice I was given many years ago “Don’t visit as often and don’t stay as long.” It works.

We can give positive thinking, positive ideas, positive approaches more importance in our life.  Focus on them daily, and now the mind says that’s easy. That feels better and begins to automatically think about positive things.

So for me personally, I’ve done this so much in my life that I automatically think about the best possible outcomes in almost everything I do. So I know it can and will work for other people.

Your choice, choose to live with more in everything you do or stay the same. Your choice.

Cloud Computing – Is it for You?

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015
You’ve probably heard a lot about Cloud Computing lately. Most have a general understanding of the concept, but might not exactly be sure of what to expect or what is involved. Cloud computing can make your small business more efficient, and cut costs, but before you make the decision to jump onto the Cloud bandwagon, make sure that you know the facts:
PROS:
1. Better Disaster Recovery: Moving your business data to the cloud can make disaster recovery easier and less expensive. You can even configure automatic backups in case of emergency.
2. Save Money: Most cloud computing is very cost effective (some even free)for even the smallest of businesses and putting your money back in your pocket instead of spending it on costly programs and services is always a good thing.
3. Flexible Sharing Capabilities: All of your documents can be shared and managed from multiple locations, allowing collaboration with employees and colleagues, in real time, with ease and from anywhere an internet access.
4. High Cloud Security: Cloud service companies proclaim to have the highest secure security for your information – after all, they their business depends on it. For sensitive data, there are effective passwords, and encryptions.
CONS:
1. Internet Dependability: Business runs smoothly in the cloud, as long as your Internet connection is consistent. If you lose connectivity, or experience an outage whatsoever, you’re out of luck until that Internet connection returns.
2. Ongoing Costs:While cloud computing is relatively inexpensive to start with, an in-house solution may cost less in the long run, depending on your needs. With cloud subscriptions, you will typically pay a monthly fee to maintain not only your server, but also all your data. Monthly fees for several cloud services can nickle and dime a company, so be careful.
3. Security: What are you putting in the cloud and can you trust your cloud hosting company? Depending on the data, not every business should be on the cloud. Highly sensitive data, or companies that must meet strict compliance regulations may not want to risk the cloud to keep it safe.
4. Low Bandwidth Issues: Low bandwidth can lead to frustration, poor quality performance and downtime. If you are transferring large files and requiring them in a hurry, you might want to think twice.
Essentially, the cloud is here to stay, and is getting stronger than ever. The question is, how are you going to use it?

The Event is Over.. Now What?

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

With Small Business Week, the S4B Expo and other conferences behind us for another year, there are probably a few business cards stacked on your desk, pleading for attention – and you don’t have a clue what to do with them. If you’re like most, you push them to the other side of your work area (again), or stuff them into your desk drawer, and promise yourself that you’ll get back to them – later.

Days & weeks go by, and you continue to feel the nagging tug of your conscience as it keeps reminding you to “Get on it!” Eventually, you wake up in a cold sweat from a dream that they’ve found you under a 2-tonne heap of vibrantly colored business cards – death from procrastination.

Ok.. maybe it hasn’t gotten to that point yet, but what ARE you doing with all of those cards and connections that you’ve acquired lately?

Follow up is one of the biggest keys to success after attending conferences or networking events. All those leads you’ve collected have absolutely no value if they just sit on your desk and aren’t utilized.

So dig out those cards, and let’s “get on it”. Here is an after Event to-do list to keep you motivated:

1. Send them a quick email, or pick up the phone
Comment that you enjoyed meeting them, and try to include something from your conversation, such as “It was great to meet you at the (event) last week! Once again, congratulations on your new company – it sounds like it’s really going to do well.” or make it personal “It was nice to meet you at the (event) last week! I heard that your daughter’s team did really well at playoffs yesterday!”

It doesn’t have to be a novel, or even very formal – just take that step to move forward and create that first point of contact.

If you’d like to schedule a meeting at the same time, you can also add, “We started to discuss ____________, and I’d love to talk about that a little bit more. What does your schedule look next Tuesday for a quick coffee or lunch?”

If you get a meeting, the first one should be about developing rapport with your new contact – not forcing your agenda on them. Let them show interest in what your business does, and it will lead to a healthier business conversation and longer relationship in the end.

It also helps to write a note on the back of the card either as soon as you get it, or the next day so you remember who they were and what it was that you spoke about.

Once you make that contact, you already have an advantage – the majority of people will never follow up.

If you don’t get a meeting – remember that no doesn’t always mean “no”. Sometimes, it just means “we’re not ready to discuss this just yet”. Don’t write them off – remember to make sure you keep in touch and keep the lines of communication open.

It can take multiple touch points to get a meeting, so be persistent (without being annoying) and it will pay off in the long-run.

2. Connect with them on LinkedIn and Twitter
LinkedIn is a perfect platform for storing all of your connections in one place. You just never know when you need to connect with someone – but when you do, it will be easier to reach out with someone that is already on your contact list, and someone that is trusted.

Twitter is more of a personal connection – business is usually secondary. It’s all about getting people to like you. When they like you, they trust you – and will think of you and your business when they or someone they know needs your services.

Try to engage by tweeting and commenting when you hear about important events happening with people. Add value by posting informative content and reach out – again and again. Another thing to remember is to seek out opportunities in which you can help someone out when they need it. By reaching out and helping people with their own requirements before yours, you will have a much better success rate.

3. Create a followup file reminder
If you would like to continue to build on the relationship after your initial follow-up conversation / meeting, create a file or calendar reminder to re-connect. Include what topics you spoke about and when you should contact them again.

4. Six Degrees of Separation
Six degrees of separation is the theory that connections you would never dream of, are six or fewer connections away (by the chain of introduction), from any other person in the world.

The names on those business cards have a network of hundreds if not thousands. Using the power of connection has the ability to open many doors for you and your business. When you’re talking to someone, it’s important to remember that you’re actually speaking to their total contact list – so plan what you say accordingly with well rehearsed and thought out elevator pitches, and conversation starters.

10 Employee Retention Strategies that Work!

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

Great employees are hard to come by – Period. So when you are finally blessed with “keepers”, you need to be pro-active and do everything you can in order to ensure that they are happy, involved and inspired in your business.

According to a 2008 Yukon Bureau of Statistics Business Survey, “workplaces that demonstrate the value they place in their employees and that put into place policies and practices that reflect effective retention practices will benefit, in turn, from worker commitment and productivity.”

Many employers opt for wage increases to keep employees on while others prefer investing in some sort of benefits package. Although these strategies work for some, they can be costly for a lot of small businesses. Thankfully they’re not the only options to consider. In fact, the Labour Market Framework report states that “creative strategies that go beyond pay and benefits can be employed to attract and retain employees” just as effectively as the costly raises and benefits.

Consider these strategies in your employment retention plan:

  1. FIND WAYS TO INCREASE FLEXIBILITY 
    Can you accommodate non-work responsibilities, non-traditional offices and desires of your employees? In fact, flexibility was an important factor in 87% of nonprofessional employees looking for a new job according to a study by the New York-based Families and Work Institute. Overly rigid work rules can drive good workers away.
  2. OFFER EMPLOYEES AN OPPORTUNITY TO GREATER PAY, RECOGNITION AND RESPONSIBILITY.
    Not everyone can rise to, or is CEO material, but every employee can build on their skills for the good of the company. Find ways to recognize those skills and challenge them to grow their skills them even further. That makes for not only a better employee, but one who feels invested and successful.
  3. PROVIDE SMALL PERKS.
    Free pizza on Fridays, movie tickets and a gym membership may seem insignificant to you, but if help your employees with what they deem important, they’ll appreciate it and may be more likely to be in for the long run. You could also think of these when they have reached an important milestone, or have worked diligently to meet a difficult deadline to show how much you value them.
  4. USE CONTESTS AND INCENTIVES TO REWARD INCREASED MOTIVATION. 
    Used purposefully, these events can keep employees focussed and excited about getting up in the morning.
  5. CONDUCT ‘STAY’ INTERVIEWS.
    While you may perform exit interviews to learn why employees leave, consider asking valuable employees why they stay. Ask specifics such as: What made you want to work here? What makes you stay? Is there anything that would make you leave? And what are your make or break issues? Then use that information to strengthen your relationships.
  6. PROMOTE FROM WITHIN THE COMPANY WHENEVER POSSIBLE.
    When you can show employees a clear path of advancement for their future, they are more focussed and dedicated.
  7. FOSTER EMPLOYEE SKILL DEVELOPMENT
    This could include training to learn new skills or workshops to further your employee’s education and knowledge base.
  8. CREATE OPEN COMMUNICATION.
    Holding regular meetings and letting employees offer ideas and ask questions strengthens the company. By being open and encouraging employees to speak openly and frankly with their managers without fear of consequence, they become inspired and proactive to build a better business to work in.9) Share the wealth!
    Employees love to feel that they are an active part of the bigger picture – especially when they directly benefit! By sharing the rewards of your company’s success, employees are motivated to do better for that company’s bottom line. There are several alternatives: profit sharing, equity, or clearly defined milestone-driven bonuses. Making employees feel like an owner versus just another number is what drives people to go the extra mile.
  9. SHARE THE WEALTH!
    Employees love to feel that they are an active part of the bigger picture – especially when they directly benefit! By sharing the rewards of your company’s success, employees are motivated to do better for that company’s bottom line. There are several alternatives: profit sharing, equity, or clearly defined milestone-driven bonuses. Making employees feel like an owner versus just another number is what drives people to go the extra mile.
  10. and finally… VALIDATE YOUR EMPLOYEES!
    Show that you appreciate their input by asking for their ideas for improvement and be sure to implement as many of their suggestions as possible. When employees are actively engaged, and treated as a vital component of your business success, they will put in the extra effort and make the very best contribution possible for them. It’s human nature to give your best when you feel respected, validated, worthy for your contributi

How to Network Like a PRO

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

Small business success relies on networking, building relationships and maximum commitment. As an entrepreneur, networking is key to your business development and if done properly, networking will deliver more return on investment than any other tool in your business.

Successful networking can help you to raise your profile, establish partnerships, meet new clients and mentors, increase your knowledge, tap into new ideas, find investment opportunities, and source new suppliers.

Popular networking opportunities include expos and trade shows, conferences, seminars,business clubs/organizations and social gatherings. Given sufficient time and energy, your networks could become one of your business’ most valuable assets.

Before you dive in to any networking situation however, make sure you are prepared:

1. BRING BUSINESS CARDS.
This is one of the most important reminders in networking – To both collect, and give out your cards – if you don’t have any, you look unprofessional, and become forgettable. Once people have this small advertising nugget, they will take it back and refer to it going forward. Be sure it looks professional, as nothing will bury you quicker than having a business card that looks like your little brother did it.

2. BE PREPARED AND HAVE A WINGMAN.
Regardless of the purpose, know what kind of event you’re going to and how to dress. Is it a conference? Is it a black-tie affair or is it a business networking event? This will not only determine how you dress but to some extent, how you act. It’s also a good idea to know who will be there and to have a ‘wingman’ available to help make conversations easier and to be able to draw people to you and into your own discussion. As long as you remember that you are there to meet others and not be tied to your wingman, this can be very beneficial.

3. HAVE YOUR ELEVATOR SPEECH READY.
Be ready to clearly and concisely describe what you do if someone asks, in one or two sentences. This is NOT a sales pitch. Your goal is to start making connections and relationships. If you have the right ‘elevator speech’, it should automatically entice people to ask more about what you do. Sales may or may not happen – but only after a rapport and a relationship is formed.

4. HAVE A SOLID, FIRM HANDSHAKE.handshake
Believe it or not, many people will judge you on the sole quality of your handshake. Too firm, and you crush the hand of another and intimidate them.
Sweaty palms, or shaking hands like a dead fish signifies nervousness and weakness. Maintain eye contact while shaking hands. Nothing will communicate self confidence, sincerity, and camaraderie more than this one gesture.

5. BE YOURSELF, SMILE AND DON’T BE SHY.
It doesn’t help to know that first impressions are everything, and that people will form an opinion within the first 7 seconds of meeting you. However, with that being said, don’t be afraid to be yourself – within limits. Put your best foot forward, but know that it’s ok to show a bit of your goofier side and your sense of humour. It sets you apart from everyone else in the crowd who might be acting overly professional. And smile! It not only relaxes and relieves your stress, it does the same for everyone else you meet.

6. ASK QUESTIONS, AND LISTEN.
Don’t wait around for someone to approach you. To get the conversation started, simply walk up to a person or a group, and say, “Mind if I join you” or “What brings you here?” Look people in the eye, (you should know what their eye color is) repeat their name, really listen to what they have to say, and offer topics that are easy to discuss. Most people ask, but are scanning the room for their next contact. Don’t be that person.

7. DON’T HIJACK THE CONVERSATION.
Some people who are nervous about or dislike networking overcompensate by trying to take over the discussion. Remember: The most successful networkers are good at making other people feel special. Be a conversationalist, not a talker. Once you’re conversing, be intuitive and know when the conversation is over. Move on at that time.

8. GIVE OF YOURSELF AND BE HELPFUL.
Every relationship has two sides, and one of the keys to networking is helping others. Look for ways to help people you meet – and mean it. You not only gain people’s trust by going above and beyond, but people remember that. Good things always come back to you.

9. FOLLOW UP.
It’s often said that networking is where the conversation begins, not ends. If you’ve had a great conversation, ask for the best way to stay in touch. Some people like email or phone; others prefer social networks like LinkedIn. Get in touch within 48 hours of the event to show you’re interested and available, and reference something you discussed, so your contact remembers you. Always walk away with a card at th every least and write something pertinent to the conversation on the back as a reminder.

10. HAVE FUN!
People can sense when you are nervous, and when you don’t want to be there. Relax, be yourself and have fun – but no too much fun 😉

 

Create Your Market Dominating Position – John M.

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

Create Your Market Dominating Position, by JOHN MACKENZIE

Most small businesses are established in response to a perceived market demand for a product or service.

What happens when that demand slows or stops? What happens when your competitor comes up with a “new and improved” version of your product?  How do you keep your offering fresh while growing and maintaining your client base?

The answer: innovate your business and offer extraordinary value by creating a “market dominating position”.

A “market dominating position” is any customer perceived value-added benefit, or a combination of benefits, that differentiates you from your competitors and does so in a strong enough manner that it makes your business the logical choice in the minds of your prospects and customers.

Every choice made when buying a product or a service represents a point of differentiation between one company and their competitors. Why did Dominos become a billion dollar behemoth in an overcrowded market in just a few years? They offered the exact same pizza as all of their competitors! They created a market dominating position, which was fast hot pizza, targeted specifically for hungry college kids.

What, if anything, makes your business different from your competitors as perceived by your targeted prospects and customers? For the vast majority of businesses that answer is price.

Nike offers a wide range of shoe, apparel and equipment products, all of which are currently best sellers globally yet Target sells an excellent imitation for around $40. Nike outsells them by more than 10 to 1. Starbucks typical clients spend between $3.50 and $4.50 on every visit. That’s around 2 to 3 times higher than some of their competition. Obviously low price isn’t the driving force here. These top selling companies have staked out a specific and targeted market dominating position.

Nike’s position revolves around being the best athlete, being hip and in style. Starbucks creates the perception that their products are the secret to a better lifestyle.

The key is to create added value in everything you do. Prospects and customers don’t buy based on price, they buy based on the value they receive for the price they pay. Creating added value is a strategy that can take the form of a product or service that’s added to your original offering for free or as part of a discounted package

Everyone can add value to their business. The key to adding value is determining what your customers and target market perceive as valuable. Understand their needs, wants, troubles and inconveniences. Revisit the value you offer. , or your customers will be drawn to your competitor who consistently innovate their business so they offer exceptional value that you don’t. Adding value will also add to your profits. This works for product and service-based businesses. If you’re service-based like hairstyling, try treating your customers by offering them a latte while they wait, or complimentary shampoo samples or a free conditioning treatment with every sixth visit. If you sell a product, consider offering convenience services like free shipping or delivery and set up to make the customer’s experience a seamless one.

Here is a 5 Step Differentiation Process.

Step #1… Determine your strategic position in the market

What specific niche market or segment of the marketplace should your business focus on? Determining this involves combining the skills your business has with the unmet needs of your targeted prospects and then designing your product or service to fulfill those needs.

Step #2… Determine your primary market dominating position

This is the most dominating advantage that separates you from your competitors. Domino’s claimed it could deliver its pizza in 30 minutes or less, or they would give it to you for FREE! This was the primary advantage that met the needs of their newly defined market position – hungry college kids that wanted food fast.

Step #3… Determine your supporting business model

How will you specifically deliver what your strategic position and primary market dominating position promises? What changes, if any do you need to consider making to your business to ensure you deliver consistently on your position and your promise? Domino’s built low cost, plain vanilla stores strategically located near college campuses and hired additional delivery staff and drivers on a stand-by basis.

Step #4… Determine your secondary market dominating position

What additional competitive advantages does your business offer that your customers will perceive as being different from your competition? Domino’s secondary benefits might include special pricing (10% Off on Tuesdays), assorted sizes, a much broader selection of toppings or additional menu items.

Step #5… Create your market dominating position statement or elevator pitch

This is a statement you create by combining steps 1 – 4. This helps you to state unequivocally what differentiates you from your competitors to your target market

An expanded version of this might say: “Domino’s provides busy customers with fresh hot pizza and other food items within 30 minutes or less. Our assorted pizza offerings combined with our value pricing makes Domino’s affordable to everyone”.

 

Don’t just survive, thrive. What makes you different?

 

John is a featured S4B Mentor and Speaker – Contact 403-348-0102 if interested in booking John

Thriving In A Recession – April R.

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

Thriving in a Recession, by APRIL REEVES

In The Beginning

Recessions have a deep personal meaning to me. I’ve thrived during two nasty ones: 1980 and 2008, and want to share how that was possible, so that you may use some of these ideas to thrive as well.

In 1980, I was still freelancing for the big Ad Agencies in Vancouver. I was paying my ‘dues’ and learning everything I could. When the recession hit, I lost it all. However, I did know one truth: every Agency had a list of small accounts they were not that interested in. So I told my Dad I was going to start an office in downtown Vancouver, of which he replied, “It’s not something I would consider, but what’s the worst that will happen? Will you die?”

Of course I wouldn’t die, but the meaning behind the statement was that recessions can either bring out the very best in you, or the opposite. We all have a choice.

I rented a penthouse suite on Pender Street. Rent was suddenly cheap. I hired 2 employees. We never looked back: I went after every little account and got enough to thrive on. I chose to take on those clients that may not pay 10 million a year, but still afforded me a nice life and one other thing far more important (to me). The chance to prove this little Agency could turn small businesses on the ‘edge of existence’ into competitive models.

Adapt And Change

First thing we did (note: the team played a huge part in this) is to look at each client to see if they could adopt this same concept: go after the clients of businesses that closed shop. They’re not necessarily small businesses: big companies can fall too. They make a louder noise when they go but their customers are just as valuable. They’re also slow to change while small business can adapt quickly. Remember this.

Can you find and go after companies that may not be serviced properly? What can you add?

We took a look at the inside of their companies. One particular client was a moving company (movers thrive in slow economies) called MOVEX. They started the company because they had a truck and no job. Perfect excuse. I asked them to wear dark blue t-shirts with the logo; uniforms and hard-working men don’t mix, but some level of cohesive professionalism does.

Dissecting other business models is a great way to research your own potential.

Positioning

We then repositioned Movex from residential to corporate movers. Their strength was in moving libraries, so many businesses used Movex for this reason. Their trucks were traveling billboards, so the name and phone number were visible within miles. Two years later, they bought land on Franklin St. in Vancouver and had a fleet of moving vans. All this in two years, from one truck and a bottle of whiskey. They’re still around (movex.ca).

How do you want your market to perceive your brand? Better yet, “who are you”? What part do you play in the wants (not necessarily needs) of your customer? These ‘easy’ questions are very difficult, and my suggestion is to find help answering this. This aspect of marketing is crucial at any time, but must be reconsidered during slow economies.

Changing And Adding

I often check out past clients to see how they progressed. Movex now has an auction and disposal service for unwanted furniture and equipment. They have specialty storage containers, as opposed to throwing a bunch of cardboard boxes at clients to fill. They pride themselves on adaptability and ingenuity. They know their strengths and capitalize on them.

Can you add additional services that create value? Is there a hole in the marketplace you can fill? What is your strength? Are your customers asking for additional services?

Ask them. Write it down. Sometimes research is very simple. Following it through is worthwhile.

Another client of mine was Hall Printing in Trail BC. Dave and Gail Chartres went from renting the basement of an old downtown building to buying their own on the main street in 11 months. They took their print products and branded them. One was an inexpensive black and white stationery package called “The Zebra Package” which became their bread and butter. We developed a strong radio and print campaign about these and took Hall Printing to the top.

Is there a way for you to brand products within your brand (sub-branding and brand extensions)? Will it add value?

We Live In The Age of Shattering Mega Corporations

Pay attention to trends: they will save you money and time. Currently, as of February 2015, an underground swell of resistance against mega corporations is on the upswing (especially in food). Consumers are looking to smaller local businesses where they vote with their wallets. Distrust is rampant. Good.

Recessions are game changers. I’ve come to know over the years, that most businesses don’t listen to the current market or understand their customers and therefore fail. During a recession, this statistic amplifies.

Are you servicing your client according to their wants (not yours)? Find out why it is that customers pass up big box stores, and fill in the gap. Emphasize the value your business gives. Make small businesses the first choice for customers.

Get ‘involved’ with small business groups; don’t just show up. Work with those that align with your views. Many people complain that small business groups are inconsistent and scattered. Believe me, many large corporations are the same. People are people, but you will do yourself a favor by being part of a bigger picture than becoming the lone wolf. Especially in recessions.

How Well Do You Know Your Customer?

While each business must have a good handle on the individuality (psychographic) of their customer, there are general similarities. First, realize that during a recession, people are reconsidering their purchasing power and what they can leave behind. Does your product/service fall into the categories of luxury? Do you have the population to support luxury services/products?

Your customer is looking for people/companies that share their values and what they stand for. Can you make their life easier? They’re not always looking for cheaper. .

Watch what your competition is doing; are they pulling back, serving customers less? This is an opportunity. For every stride your competitor takes backward, push forward. Show your customer the recession has no effect on you. People love to support strong ethical companies. Be one.

A consumer may have taken risks during boom times, and turn conservative through the bust. Know thy consumer! Many will stay loyal because they want to. They patronize what they trust. Don’t miss the opportunity to solidify customer relationships while others are cutting theirs.

Be warned about consumers in a recession: they’ll become immune to false claims and remember poor service even more so. Treat them poorly once and they’re gone.

Hold The Line

Recessions are the worst time to cut all budgets: look at which expenditures add the least value. Marketing and advertising is the time to increase your share of this budget. When everyone else pulls back, burst forward. This is what sophisticated marketers do. There are many ways to capitalize on less expensive social media, but if you are not savvy with that, either find someone that is or learn it. Revisit all your marketing materials and ask if they still serve your message. Don’t leave innovation behind.

This is also the time many companies shut branches down. Big mistake: you’re now making it harder for customers to buy from you. Can you add virtual outlets? Become more accessible and let everyone know.

Get familiar with taking and reading statistics, especially your own.

A Short Thought On Employees

Most business owners have no idea who’s working for them. You’d be surprised. There’s talent out there, waiting to make its mark on your time. Use your staff; ask them questions you may not think they can answer. Front line employees know exactly who your customer is, but you need to support them, listen and be there for them to get your investment back.

One of the most foolish oversights in need of a major overhaul is wages. After owning seven offices, and two food stores, I can tell you that higher wages are always a better return on investment. A living wage employee is far more likely to go the extra mile, and they’re likely to have a hidden career you don’t know about. I’ve proven it over and over again. You can hire 3 for $10/hour, or one great person for $18. I paid living wages, gave them ownership in their positions and was able to walk away and teach college for a year while they made money. If you can’t do that in your business, ask yourself why.

Creative Marketing/Advertising

While social media, when done correctly, can be a powerful tool, so can conventional methods such as print. Bag stuffers; small sheets dropped into every customer bag can boast of new products, services, give discounts on the next shop, and emphasize value. They are cheap and people see them.

Radio and newsprint work for some businesses in recessions, but this is where you need a skilled person to help. Don’t let the radio and print reps write your copy and produce your ads. They’ll just blend with the rest. A skilled professional will be able to help you pick times for your radio ads, and page locations for print. It’s a science, and it works: I’ve seen and heard campaigns that killed business.

In most recessions, radio and print is the first to be pulled from budgets, meaning there are fewer commercials on the air and in papers, and you can bargain for better pricing.

If you are skilled in online media, ramp it up. Otherwise, pay an expert with a track record of success. If you have to cut radio and print from your budget, get web savvy and move the leftover ad budget to powerful online campaigns.

Move Forward With Confidence

This is the time for you to become tactical. You have to matter to your customers and remain competitive.

No business should adopt the slogan “business as usual” in any boom or bust. Trends change, people change, the planet is changing. You must listen and change with it. The basic drivers behind purchasing are value and quality, and these are amplified in down times. Don’t forget this in the good times. You may not have the chance to get it back.

Recessions get me all giddy and crazy with inspiration. They’re one huge opportunity for greatness. Money is only a means. It’s the creative process of business people that turn economies around.

 

April is a featured S4B Mentor and Speaker – Contact 403-348-0102 if interested in booking April

 

The Trauma of Transition – Danielle K.

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

The Trauma of Transition by DANIELLE KLOOSTER

You likely know the pain associated with having to fix the roof before you sell your home. Or worse, maybe you didn’t fix it, and now the potential buyers have noticed the water marks on the ceiling. Your heart sinks, knowing that if they will even make an offer, it’s probably going to be low.

The same principle holds if you are facing the prospect of transitioning out of your small/medium business – something 41% of businesses in Canada are potentially facing in the next five years, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). You no doubt meant to get organized, do some planning on paper, develop the needed systems and business infrastructure… but you were busy working in and building your business.

Whether you are preparing your business for succession or sale, or considering seeking finance or investment for new growth, it’s not too late to get organized. And you definitely want to make the investment in doing that, because it can significantly improve your valuation (like renovating before a home sale increases your equity) and because you’ve worked too hard to be disappointed at the end of it all. The CFIB reports that most business owners who sell regret their decision, in part because of poor planning/preparation.

Here’s a short list of things you as a business owner should have before exiting:

A Business Plan:You’d think this would be something done at the onset of a business venture, but you’d be surprised (or maybe not) at the number of businesses in operation today that have never taken this critical step. My rough guess, from my time visiting businesses as a Business Retention and Expansion Officer, is that as many as 6 or 7 out of 10 SMEs have never created a business plan. So why bother doing one after the horse is out of the barn? Well, there’s the old saying: fail to plan; plan to fail. If you need to attract investors or get financing, you need a business plan. If you want to set your business up for success long after you are spending your days fishing in Florida, you need a business plan. In short, if you have a business, you need a business plan.

A Talent Strategy: Particularly in Alberta, where the chronic labour shortage in critical industries is described as the number one obstacle to business growth and sustainability, this often overlooked component of building a successful business is imperative. Implementing a solid strategy for recruitment and retention and talent development can establish you as an employer of choice, a competitive advantage you need in this “skills bull market”.

A Communications Strategy:Everyone knows that communication is the most important factor in any kind of relationship. Everyone knows it, but few understand that communication, internal or external, is so much more than dissemination of information. Investing in a communications audit and strategy will do more to reveal the challenges and opportunities in your business than possibly anything else. Working in an atmosphere with good communications processes is like opening a window in a stuffy room; suddenly everything feels clear and everyone breathes more easily.

An Integrated Financial Strategy:“Integrated” is the operative word here. Many businesses focus solely on their numbers and ignore all of the other points mentioned in this post, to their detriment. Want to improve your bottom line? Develop a comprehensive plan with a strong focus on your people and your communications. Strategy alignment of every facet of your business to your corporate vision, linking strategy to execution, can exponentially improve your financial outcomes.

Sound overwhelming? It needn’t be. I’m part of a highly skilled team with access to tools and resources to do all this heavy lifting for you. Avoid the trauma of transition and invest in setting for business up for long term growth and success. And then enjoy your time fishing.

 

Danielle is a featured S4B  Speaker – Contact 403-348-0102 if interested in booking Danielle