Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Have you ever heard the phrase “It’s the little things that count?” I have found this not only to be true in life but also in business.

Recently I had four people try to name all 50 states in 6 minutes. The thing I noticed is that people forgot about the smaller states (Delaware, Rhode Island, Vermont, etc) I found this ironic because a lot of these were the first states that were organized and the first ones we learn about in school (the 13 colonies) And yet, these smaller ones are the ones that slip out the mind the most. Often times when people are starting a franchise, they have the big stuff in mind, but they forget about the little things that are important and effective too.

When starting a franchise, often times the little, important details are forgotten. Things like “Who am I going to hire for this position? When will I officially be open? How many years can I see myself doing this?”

Remember that the little things are just as important as the big things in franchises.

 

Lead generation isn’t a new way of getting new customers and business. However, in today’s technology-driven world, it now has  new advances. Yes, you could spend hours setting up a business display hoping that customers will come to you and complete a form. You could also spend thousands of dollars at a trade show. Or you can have leads generated and sent to your business using the wide variety of internet technology that is available.

When starting your own business, one of the most important revenue bringing items are leads, leads and more leads!  But those leads don’t just come out of thin air, they come from people looking at your website, Googling your business, PPC ads and so on. Think about walking into your office on an early Monday morning. The weekend is over, you’re tired from not being able to sleep in and just have a case of those Monday blues. You turn on your computer, check your email and then BAM! You find 15 hot, new leads in your inbox! Suddenly your Monday just got a whole lot better!

I bet you’re thinking “How does this lead generation thing work?” There are companies that are committed to providing qualified leads to your business. They can work with you personally to develop a business website, and create a partnership with other websites that can promote and advertise your service. These companies can also do other services such as:

  • Search Engine Optimization- Designed  to drive traffic to your website and ultimately increase the leads you receive.
  • Local Business Listing- Shares your business on local maps and Google places. Some companies provide a complete setup and maintenance of your Google Places listing.
  • Pay Per Click (PPC)- With PPC, your local business will show up as a sponsored search result in major search engines online.

If you are noticing your business calendar is a little empty, lead generation is a powerful way to grow your business quickly, increase your ROI and ultimately get you more customers.

Remember in school how you could have big plans for the weekend but then the teacher gives you a paper to write that is due on Monday? I am sure at some point in time most of us have been tempted to skip a homework assignment to go out and do something that was genuinely more exciting than sitting around doing repetitive reading and writing.

Opening a new franchise business can be compared to that teacher and the class can be compared to regular, 9-5 job.  During normal working hours, you can study page after page for advice and tips on what to do, but once “class” is over, that is where your homework begins. The difference is that now, blowing off your homework could potentially cost you money, not just grades.

When opening a franchise business, it’s important to do your homework so you know what exactly you are getting into and how to solve problems that may come up.  Do the research! Decisions that are made when you first start out can affect the long-term results of your business. According to entrepreneur.com, some decisions to consider include:

Know Your Franchisor- Study them. Learn their background, ask what their five and 10 year plans are and find out if their short, and long term goals agree with yours.

Financing- Understand your financial commitments. Ask yourself questions like: “How long can I stay in debt? What are my expectations for Return On Investment? What sales tactics can I use to reach these expectations?”

Location and Lease Negotiation- Do your homework. Have a professional look at your lease.  Look at the demographics for successful locations in the brand and try to duplicate that in your own search.

Don’t overburden yourself by doing too much homework for your franchise business at once.  Remember, your teacher didn’t give you all the tests, midterms and finals in the same day! Spread it out and take time to learn the material.

I have spent many days on various lakes and rivers enjoying what nature has to offer. In doing so, I’ve discovered a great parallel between fishing and painting that will relate to almost any business.

 

Every business has its season, and consumer demand for various products will rise and fall like the tide of the ocean. There will be moments when the phone starts ringing and when it stops. In those moments, we try to find meaning or more importantly, leading indicators of that activity in order to better demand plan. I have found that most business people, when confronted with a decline in demand during a “low season,” will try to even out that decrease in revenue by spending money on marketing. While logical and probably convenient for the business owner to try and even out cash flow, it doesn’t necessarily work for the consumer.

 

Take for example the various bug hatches that occur every spring and throughout the summer. Fish are a species of opportunity, and when the mayfly hatch is on and there is an abundance of that insect available, the focus in on, almost programmatically to the mayfly. During this time period when the Brown Trout would normally eat a moth for example, it is so focused on eating as many mayflies as possible that the trout tends to ignore other options. Upon catching his first trout, the scientific angler who understands this rule will often gently pump the trout’s stomach in an effort to find out what the fish has been consuming that day and try and match his flies accordingly.

 

Now let’s talk painting. When was the last time you thought about painting your house? Have you noticed that most home improvements tend to happen around spring, as you emerge from your winter’s slumber? Or perhaps you are anxious about making sure that any bare wood or flaking paint be removed and reapplied before winter arrives in the fall? If you are like most people, you will begin your quest for the perfect painter via the Internet, or maybe a direct mail piece floats down the river with an eye-catching promo boasting, “Paint now and pay later with your tax return,” and you bite. Response rates to direct marketing or interactive marketing increase substantially during these seasons.

 

Now imagine you are getting ready for Thanksgiving or Christmas, for example. If that same direct mail piece came your way during these periods, how would you respond? Just like the Brown Trout who is programmed to go after the mayfly, so are we as consumers programmed in a way to respond to marketing signals at various times of the year in different ways. This is, in my opinion, the power of franchising. The scientific business that gathers data to determine what to do and when and how is the one that will catch the most fish.

 

Do you remember the first time you took a 10-meter dive? I still catch myself reliving that moment. My stomach bunched in knots, and I felt all shades of fear while doubt whirled around my head. Taking the plunge for the first time can be petrifying. But there are those who dive from great heights with ease, turning it into an art. Both my mind and my muscles confirmed that my first dive was far from perfect.

 

You don’t have to be a novice diver to empathize with the sensations “AHHHHHHHHH!” and “WHAT WAS I THINKING?” Life alone offers enough opportunities to take the figurative dive, especially when you open your first business. Just like with diving, there are techniques first time businessowners can keep in mind to get their business off on the right foot, despite the accompanying sensations of an emotional free-fall. 1. Ready. Are you ready? The best way to answer this question is to interview fellow business owners who survived the plunge and study how they did it. You need to wrap your mind around the paradigm shift of working for the man to becoming the man. Are you ready for people to depend on you for a paycheck? Are you ready for long hours and sleepless nights? Owning your own business holds great potential for fulfillment and financial success. However, business ownership will also be one of the most difficult things you will ever accomplish– are you ready for it?

2. Set. The next step is to ensure your business structure is sound and plan how you’ll launch it. When you’re diving, you must choose your landing: a belly flop, a pencil dive, a swan dive, or flailing around and hoping you won’t break something. This is comparable to structuring your business because it determines how you “land” once you’re serving customers. People often turn to franchising because they are investing in a business whose structure has been tested and proven successful. And there are a multitude of industries and sectors to choose from, so they can still own a business they are passionate about. Also, buying a franchise resembles hiring a personal trainer coach you on diving like a pro before your feet ever leave the rock.

3. Go. Once your feet are over nothing but air, remember there is no going back. From this point on, you need to be wholly devoted to landing your figurative dive. Have you ever seen a diver float back to solid ground after falling 5 of the 10-meters? Launching your business is no different.

As someone who’s been starting and growing businesses for the past 20 years, I can say it is the most difficult and most satisfying thing I’ve done (that includes my 10-meter dive!). If you would like to discuss starting your own business, feel free to contact me at @DScottAbbott or sabbott@fivestarfranchising.com.

 

It’s an exciting moment when you’re ready to enterprise your way into the business world. People often look into business ownership to increase their financial security and to be their own boss. With these motivators, why would anybody choose to buy a franchise rather than start a business from scratch? Purchasing a franchise means paying someone $30,000 and royalty fees– money which could go into your pocket.

People choose to franchise for many reasons. First and foremost, starting a business from scratch is risky and there are statistics to back this up. In the Emyth: Revisited, Michael Gerber states that 80% of start up businesses fail within the first five years. That’s 29% higher than the number of Americans who get divorced. However, when you buy a franchise, that risk of failure drops to 20 percent.

There are many factors that contribute to this latter statistic. I’m only going to discuss four:

  • We’re on the same team. At first blush, royalty fees seem like a one-way street where the franchisor makes their profit off your hard work. It’s important to understand that royalties increase as your sales increase. So, yes, the franchisor does profit in the long run from you buying a franchise. However, his success is contingent upon your success, making him personally invested in giving you the support to help you succeed.
  • Technology. The majority of small businesses can’t afford the tech support they need to help their business grow and compete with big businesses. In my business experience, we’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars developing cutting edge software to run our company. Not only did this cost a lot of money, but it also shifted our focus and resources on tinkering and outsourcing in order to get the software right. Start-up businesses can’t afford to divert their attention from the sales and customer service that will keep their business running.
  • Network. While it’s true that anyone can expand their network to learn from other industry professionals (especially with access to Google+, Twitter, and Facebook), being part of a franchise network includes you in a community of other franchisees whose mistakes and successes you can learn from.
  • Branding. When you buy a franchise, you receive a piece of a very large pie. For instance, this year, Coca-Cola is estimated to be worth $68 billion. McDonald’s is estimated at $32 billion. Check out this article, “2012 Best Retail Brands” to see the value of the world’s top brands. Brand power is made by a symbiotic relationship between franchisor and franchisee as they work together to build that brand and increase the size of their pie.

Having turned a start-up business into a franchise, I have watched our franchisees avoid many of the hurdles my partners and I have had to overcome simply because they are part of an established system.

Scott Abbott
CEO, Five Star Franchising
www.fivestarfranchising.com

Who has watched the movie (or will at least admit to watching it) Megamind? You know that part where the bad guy asks Megamind what the difference is between a villain and a super villain? His response is my favorite part of that movie, and probably among my top 5 parts of any movie watched ever – PRESENTATION!

So I went to Subway today at the local gas station on the corner by our offices. This gas station was packed, subway was packed, the convenience store was packed. By all accounts, I would have to say it was among the busiest gas stations I have been at for a while. I noticed as I was ordering my lunch that the store manager, and what looked like another manager, were carefully washing the windows with a squeegee. They painstakingly removed every dust particle or stain from both sides. The job was done immaculately and as Megamind would say, their presentation made this gas station a super station.

This exact same gas station, just a few months ago was dead. Nobody. Crickets. That’s right, this station had the exact same location, but under different management had an arby’s, as well as convenience store, and gas pumps. Everything was always filthy, the outside, the inside, the shelves were not stocked properly, the restaurant was a mess, and the gas pumps rarely had fuel in them. Yes, the gas pumps at the gas station didn’t work because there was rarely gas. Now, this process took a few years to deteriorate to the point that new management bought the station from old management and turned it around in a matter of weeks.

They say in Real estate that location, location, location is what matters, and is the most important decision you can make. I say, ya, pretty important, but that doesn’t mean you can forget the lesson Megamind teaches us. You need PRESENTATION!

I have five kids. That should say it all for this blog post shouldn’t it. Every single one of my kids went through a phase of asking me why to just about everything in life. Some people may find that annoying, but I always enjoyed giving as intelligent a response as possible, only to hear why? again. Eventually I would give in and simply respond with – why not?

Its the cop out answer isn’t it, but one thing I have learned is that people can get stuck in asking the why questions for so long that there is no decisive action, and they are left in inaction, forever analyzing but never progressing. I was never too fond of those philosophical course I had to take at college, I have always been interested in action.

A number of years ago we had a board meeting to discuss methods of expanding our franchise concept, and we discussed many of the traditional as well as nontraditional channels we could use to get in front of the kinds of candidates we seek to award franchises to. We had the good fortune of a board that was stacked with intelligent and very experienced and successful entrepreneurs. During this discussion one of these respected board members, in response to asking if we should risk a lot of money on a unproven advertising channel, asked – Why Not? – we are all a bunch of entrepreneurs, what are we afraid of? I loved that response, and as well as the challenge that it presented.

Sometimes you have to do things you don’t know will work, you have to venture out into the unknown because if you don’t then you will never know what you could have had if you hadn’t simply asked the question -Why not? that’s what entrepreneurs do.

Just do it!

If you’ve been in business very long at all (meaning you’ve had an empire as big as a lemonade stand
on the corner when you were six) you’ve probably heard the phrase “The devil is in the details.” It’s
a silly mantra that we spout whenever something wrong comes up. You might refer to it as Murphy’s
law, meaning that the worst possible thing that can go wrong inevitably will. Whatever way you look
at it, you have heard the phrase that the tiniest things are going to trip you up. So what can you do
about it?

When the devil in the details rears it’s ugly head, it is never when you would like it to. It never happens
during the planning phase of a new project, product launch, or marketing effort. It will always appear
when all appearances suggest that there is no possible way to fix it. This is where you discover the
differences in the hobbyists and the businesspeople.

Last minute disasters are inevitable. They will come up, and you will have to deal with them. The best
thing you can do is prepare yourself as much as possible, get your resources ready, and most of all, take
the advice of Douglas Adams in his classic book “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” and “Don’t
panic!”.

Having the confidence to face the unforeseen details of a project without losing your head will make
you stand head and shoulders above your competition. If you want to survive, you must stay in control
of your own thoughts, feelings, and emotional states. Here’s a little secret you can use too: Have an
emergency kit handy for when things are at their worst. Fill it with something that makes you laugh (a
favorite comedian, comic book, or picture), something that makes you feel good (a pair of clean socks,
a fresh shirt, or some other comfort item), and a list of people you call when you need a pick me up.
Keep your kit at your desk, ready for you when you need it.

You won’t be sorry.

The best marketers will tell you that money comes most easily to those who understand the wants,
wishes, and needs of your customer. If you are selling watches to active adult men, it doesn’t make
sense to give them ribbon bands with ponies and unicorns on them, right?

The funny thing is, many companies have begun making their product offering so generic, they really
aren’t targeting anyone at all. They offer the plainest, most generic items available, usually with black
or grey color schemes, and expect them to move like hotcakes on the market.

The less specific a marketer or business owner targets, the more likely it is that nobody will be
interested in buying the product. It is vital to understand that you are not creating your widgets or
service to be thrown into a magic pit from which money comes out. These products are going to
people who purchase them to solve a problem or improve their lives in some way.

In Og Mandino’s classic treatise on salesmanship “The Greatest Salesman in the World”, the first scroll
suggests that a salesman walk among his customers for thirty days and repeat to himself the words “I
love you” to everyone he passes. Try doing this for a single day, and see if you feel any different about
your own product. Would you sell it to someone you love? Would someone who loves you sell it to
you?

The phrase “It is not personal, it is business” is an outdated concept. All business must be personal if
a lasting relationship with a customer can be built. They must know you, like you, and trust you if you
intend to do business with them. So ask yourself, Where’s the love?

Offering a top quality service or product is a key aspect of business. Conrad Kolba offers some great
thoughts on quality in his blog. Click here to read his artticle “On Quality”.

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