Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

I am across this article which proves a great point. By using “because“, you drastically boost your odds of getting what you want. You can bother people all you want with your best words; but to really influence people, they want the real reasons why you want what you want. Unfortunately, they will see right through you if you’re lying. So why does the word “because” work.

Here are some business examples to get you on the right path:

  • “I want to meet with you because I feel I can boost your sales.”
  • “I want to interview you because I admire your passion for your business.”
  • “I want to negotiate the price further because my business’s sales have hit a quarterly slump.”
  • “I want you to finish the work by tomorrow because I’ll need to pitch it to the Boss.”

Here are some dating examples to get what you want:

  • “I want to date you because I feel we have a lot of things in common.”
  • “I want you to pay for dinner because I have no money.”
  • “I want you to drive because I can’t afford gas.”

Target your words for the results that you want. Clear communication requires clarity within yourself before you can be clear with anyone else. Remember to use the word “because” next time you really want something.

Business Plan Components

Posted by admin under Business Plan

Whether you’re just starting out and want to monitor the health of your business, creating a business plan is your first step on the path to success. Once you determine a business plan is a necessary tool for your company, you may wonder, “Where do I start?” The structure and content of a business plan is to provide an understanding of how the parts of the plan fit together. Business planning is about results. You need to make the contents of your plan match your purpose. Don’t accept a standard outline just because it’s there.

A startup plan includes a description of your business, marketing, finances, and management. The following factors are discussed in detail that contribute to most business success and should guide your planning process:

  • Summary – The executive summary is the most important section of your business plan. It provides a concise overview of the entire plan along with a history of your company. This section tells your reader where your company is and where you want to take it.
  • Statement – The mission statement briefly explains the thrust of your business. It should be as direct and focused as possible, and it should leave the reader with a clear picture of what your business is all about.
  • Company Description – Inform the reader of the basic details of your business, such as ownership, products or services, and legal status.
  • Market Analysis – The market analysis section should illustrate your knowledge about the particular industry your business is in. It should also present general highlights and conclusions of any marketing research data you have collected; however, the specific details of your marketing research studies should be moved to the appendix section of your business plan.
  • Competition – It is better to know what you’re up against than to be surprised when you sales suddenly disappear to an unexpected competitor. A knowledgeable investor needs to know that you have fully examined the realities of your business.
  • Organization – a company’s organization and management style act as powerful invisible forces shaping both the daily working atmosphere and the future of the company.

In this competitive and constantly changing business environment, you have to know how to run a business, as well as knowing what business you’re really running. Too many people think strategic planning is something meant only for big businesses, but it is equally applicable to small businesses. Strategic planning is matching the strengths of your business to available opportunities. To do this effectively, you need to collect, screen, and analyze information about the business environment. You also need to have a clear understanding of your business – its strengths and weaknesses – and develop a clear mission, goals, and objectives. Acquiring this understanding often involves more work than expected.

Now that you have a mini understanding why you need a business plan, start gathering the information you need to create one, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get everything down on paper. Click here for research sources.

Sources:

  1. The Successful Business Plan: Secrets & Strategies by Rhonda Abrams
  2. Entrepreneur.com

For years I have wondered what makes someone cool. Then, in the most recent issue of Utah Valley Business Q I figured it out. When you read the article on the top 10 coolest people in Utah you will notice that one very notable cool person is on the cover, and he has a beard.

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I was intrigued, and starting flipping through the pages to find out if this was maybe a pattern of coolness. And it is. Four out of eight of the coolest people in the Business Q article have beards. Then I realized that there are more cool people that I know that have beards as well. Greg Warnock is a member of our board, and definitely cool. Michael Sikorsky is absolutely cool, and he has a beard as well. So I did what any rational person would do that wanted to be cool as well. I grew a beard.

BusinessQ_ScottAbbott

What do you think? Does the beard do it for me, or should I lose it and against the odds try to be cool without it? If you are wondering if you should grow a beard to help you attain coolness I compiled some information on beards that may help you in your decision.

The study of beards is called pogonology. Men grow a beard for many reasons. They do it out of Religion or culture, or to change their personal style and appearance, change the shape of their face and jaw line, let it grow out of laziness or in some cases to “hide” something. Additionally some men look better with beards, not all beards are unkempt, and some do fit actually certain facial types, in the end it all comes down to subjectivity – who you are dealing with and if you are forced to shave or not due to the job you have. So being part of a man’s appearance, beards can lead people in a certain context to make judgments in one way or the other, positive or negative.

A study from the University of Texas Austin found that men with facial hair were perceived as more aggressive, less appeasing, less attractive, older, and lower on social maturity than clean shaven faces (UTexas.edu). A study on men with facial hair found that 63 percent of them believe it makes them more manly and attractive, whereas 92 percent of women said they preferred a clean-shaven man (Suite101.com).

Billy Mays was a famous pitch man on television, enthusiastically selling a variety of products. Through his work on television and personal appearances, Billy Mays became a celebrity. Just as famous as Billy himself was, so was his dark full beard. Billy demonstrated to the world that a full-bearded man could appear in advertising and achieve great success.

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My view is that while beards can definitely bump up the coolness factor, there also can be an itchy factor. I would love to have a study done on what percent of men don’t grow beards because it just is too itchy.

Ten percent of workers feel that their productivity suffers during rainy and cold conditions. Also, employee absenteeism is higher on rainy days with twenty-one percent of workers admitting to calling out sick to avoid facing the elements. Ultimately, it depends on every business. For example, when there is a snow storm a landscaping business can’t complete their jobs, whereas ski resorts are flooded with business.

In the painting industry we see an interesting trend. When the sun shines, people go outside and see what the winter, spring, and fall have done to their home and make a phone call to find out what it will cost to repair. It’s difficult to do an exterior paint job when the temperature is below 40°F. Most customers recognize that cold, wet weather means painting will have to be put off. If we were to compare the number of calls we receive during a sunny week vs. a rainy one Five Star Painting’s phone rings twice as much when the sun is out. Also, interestingly enough, our phone always rings the most on Monday.

Years ago I used to be involved with a winter festival in Winnipeg, Manitoba called Festival du Voyageur. This festival was insane enough to run in the height of winter and provided heated tents with entertainment, ice sculptures, and dog-sled racing. All in all it’s a great time, but I can assure you that this outdoor festival would in some years experience -50°C (-58°F) weather. I acquired some research and did a plot chart of the average temperature to the festival attendance. The correlation was staggering, yet expected. The colder the weather the less tickets sales we would have.

How does bad weather affect your business? A few disadvantages of running a business when the weather is bad can be overwhelming traffic, delayed shipments, tardy employees, and the list can go on. Most businesses have to take risks and try to force through it. Surprisingly, 75% of restaurants report a sales drop of at least 10% due to undesirable changes in the weather. BlueskyLocal.com mentions that if you are in the restaurant industry, this may not surprise you too much since many accept it as a way of doing business. Simply stated, if weather is bad certain businesses suffer. Click here to read my blog post on fishing. It would make sense to avoid direct mail in December to market painting a home and try to do it in the spring as the days get longer, and the sun starts to come out.

When running a business, how can you take advantage when the sun is out? Usually in the springtime, people are more willing to do spring cleaning, clean out everything, and organize. AnnArbor.com states that a Farmer’s Market in Kerrytown, MI decided to take advantage of the sunny skies and warmer temps, and ended up having great success. The mood was festive around the market, shoppers were enjoying the weather and the vendors were happily selling their wares. Many merchants, who said sales were up, credited the boost to the good weather.

Even the best weather professionals get it wrong, so how can an entrepreneur get it right? Before you start marketing take a look into what your environment experiences historically during the months you are going to be marketing, and go with the highest probability plays. You won’t always get it right, but sometimes the stars align and your marketing program will hit the week of sunshine you are looking for.

Perception is Reality

Posted by admin under Branding

Matrix is one of my favorite movies. I watched it for the first time in New York while on business with my father. The movie completely blew me away, not only due to the visual effects, but the story line.

This idea that people can break through reality through a paradigm shift from dependence to independence introduces the first three habits of Stephen R. Covey’s, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. This shift is based on the character ethic of human beings. We can think of it as the base structure of a building, it has to be strong to be able to withstand the weight of the building, and the author labeled this shift as private victory since the shift is done between you and yourself.

The next three habits shift us to total interdependent. They are based on personality ethic management or what we call modern management. This provides us with the tools needed for managing our lives in a social environment, and the author labeled them as public victory since it involves others.

The seventh habit is introduced to contain all the other six habits in an upward spiral motion to guarantee their effectiveness and stability. It gives a balanced renewal of the four basic dimensions of life (physical, spiritual, mental, emotional).

Now that I have successfully blogged about one of my favorite movies and books I will touch on a few ideas on Perception vs. Reality.

I have learned over and over again that perception is reality. No matter what you may think your brand means, and what your brand does, whatever your customer perceives is reality to them. This is an interesting concept in franchising and a big message on why branding is so critical.

I have been going to Subway for some time, and for the most part have found that Subway has done a great job of creating a consistent brand through each of their stores and food quality. Have you ever been to a subway where for whatever reason the restaurant was a mess, or the bread was stale, or perhaps the people working behind the counter were disheveled? This has happened to me once, and it has always stuck out in my mind as strange, because Subway has done an excellent job of creating brand consistency.

When does our perception begin on a new brand? For a lot of small business it is the sign and building that we see when we drive by. Companies are just like people, we all give a first impression and begin creating the reality that your customers perceive. This is one of the main reasons I got into the painting industry and began franchising. That first impression is often communicated by colors and the quality of the environment that people are operating in. The art of persuasion and influence is a tricky area for entrepreneurs, but it’s not as mysterious as you think.

The overall appearance of your workplace has a huge impact on how your customers and even your current employees perceive your business. Color plays a large psychological factor in how your customers identify your business and respond to your products. Most customers aren’t willing to accept a product if it doesn’t come in their preferred or perceived color combination. That in itself explains how significant colors can be. For example, most popular chain restaurants use the colors red and orange. These colors have been determined to stimulate appetite and encourage diners to eat more quickly. Just what a restaurant wants in a customer!

If you are considering changing colors and would like a quick guide on how to impact the perception of your customers before they even walk in the door I have prepared a short chart below for quick reference.

Red Excitement, danger, power intensity, love, passion. Red is a very noticeable color and is known to stimulate heartbeat and respiration.
Blue Cool, trust, reliability, peace. Blue is the most popular color. It causes peaceful and tranquil feelings.
Green Nature, wealth, growth, abundance. Green is a calming and refreshing color, and darker green is associated with wealth and money.
Yellow Warmth, happiness, sunshine. An optimistic color that enhances concentration and speeds metabolism. Be careful not to overuse yellow as it can be overpowering.
Purple Royal, dignity, spirituality. Also associated with luxury and sophistication.
White Pure, clean, virginal, innocence. Also a neutral color.
Black Authority, power, death, villainous.

I have been coaching soccer now for about five years. I started with our oldest boy and have continued on with the program in the spring and fall. I would have to say that I look forward to soccer more than the boys do. There is something about bringing together a team and working towards a goal. Seeing progress at practice and on the field is very rewarding. Regardless of the players, a good team will out play and win a poor team with a few superstars.

What does soccer have to do with running a painting company?

  1. Practice. Just today I spent a few hours with one of our newest franchisees as we went through the business, preparing forecasts, and committing to certain tactics that are proven to work in the field. This is an exercise every business owner should engage in regularly. It is the art of visualizing a business on a spreadsheet that gives you the foundation to go out and execute. To keep your COGS (cost of goods sold) in line. To ask for the close and keep your close ratio to projections.
  2. Teams win. In the service industry you need your team to work like a well oiled machine. Our sales center offers the backstop support for our strikers. They are confident that if they are working hard at trying to put the ball in the net. Understanding that their back is covered to make sure every call that comes in is serviced, and sent back to them to score. In today’s environment, your team is everyone on the field with you, and off the field cheering for you. Involving your significant-other or advisors in your success and failures gives you perspective and encouragement to get out there and make it happen.
  3. Don’t run around like a chicken with your head cut off. In the service industry this is especially relevant. You can waste valuable energy trying to run that ball up and down the field when the pass would have gotten it there twice as fast. In business, you need to be able to delegate, pass the buck, and involve others in your success.

One of the most rewarding parts of business is in the perfect execution of a sale from the moment the opportunity presents itself, all the way through production and payment. It takes practice working like a team and efficient use of your resources to pull it off.

What’s Wrong With Hard?

Posted by admin under Business

I love this expression. I heard it at a conference I attended with our franchisees by our keynote speaker. The speaker participates regularly in triathlons, marathons, iron man style races. I have to say that I admire anyone that can put their body through that kind of rigorous, disciplined exercise regularly once, and then keep doing it after that.

My uncle competes in these kinds of races, he was actually invited to Switzerland after finishing in the top of his class on a transrockies race. Five days of mountain biking solid. Once and a while I go for a run with him or ride through the back woods in Canada and I’m once again reminded that age has little to do with how fit your are.

In business, success comes at a price. It takes HARD work, determination, focus, and a little bit of luck. My experience has been that luck follows those who exhibit the other characteristics.

So to answer the question, what’s wrong with hard? Nothing, if it was easy it wouldn’t be any fun.

Passion or Projections?

Posted by admin under Projections

I don’t know where I heard this from, but ever since it has stuck. In fact just the other day I was in a conference call with a very wealthy angel investor and a business associate seeking to raise capital for his business. I had assisted in putting the projections together and he had the passion for the business. Guess how long it took before we got past the projections that took hours of time to create and on to the passion for the business? I think I counted 20 seconds.

It’s all about the people. People invest in people. So when you are building out that novel of a business plan that is complete with executive summary, balance sheets, cash flow statements, SWOT analysis, and on and on. Just know that the single most important piece of the puzzle is you. You are the one that is going to execute with your team on the vision that you articulate to your investors.

I had a very unique experience years ago working on one of the first deals of my young business career. A few of the most respected and wealthiest business people in Canada had decided to make a big bet (for me at the time, but not so big for them) on a business concept I was involved in. Sometime after that first round of financing I was visiting with one of these business people regarding their investment, and subsequent interest in a second round of investment. At this time, I labored with him and his team in updating the business plan and making sure everything was in order. Once completed, I brought this extensive plan to him full of pretty charts, nice pictures, and of course a five year forecast of the billions of dollars we were going to make together. He held the book in his hand, hefting it slightly and looked at me asking if the business plan was complete with no errors. I said that it was, and asked him if he had found any errors. He indicated that he didn’t know, because he had never read it. I was puzzled. This man had invested almost $1,000,000 into our business. Surely he had read the business plan prior to his investment. The answer was no. He made his investment purely on the people, not the plan.

In my opinion, passion is far more important than your projections. When you are pitching a deal you have to feel it, believe in it, dream about it, love it and live for it. Your passion will project to your audience and that will be more impressive than any numbers you put up on a powerpoint.

So the obvious question to ask after reading this post is, why bother with the projections? That would be the obvious thing to do given the projections take months (hopefully you take that kind of time) of research, study and careful thought. Projections and a business plan are the rite of passage, your ticket to play, unless of course you are talking to some friends, family or fools. A sophisticated investor wants to know that you put the time in and not flying by the seat of your pants. So for all of you who would be pitch men out there, my recommendation is to take the time to do the due diligence and let it fuel your passion.

Look Ma, No Hands

Posted by admin under Business, Franchise

As a kid, have you ever watched Yogi Bear or maybe even seen it on YouTube? How many times have you watched Yogi Bear running away from Mr. Ranger Sir on his bike with his picnic basket, and that huge grin on his face. At that moment Yogi Bear is the happiest bear on earth. He has outsmarted the local authorities and is off with the goodies, then the tree branch comes into view. I think if we could talk to Yogi Bear and warn him of the impending danger, none of us would. Why? Because we want Yogi Bear to get close lined and return the basket to the rightful owner.

What does this have to do with business or franchising? Too much.

Business can be difficult, but sometimes, every so often it can be easy. Just ask America from 2005-2007. Everyone seemed to be making loads of money without much effort, and then we got close lined. My experience has been that when the going gets easy, it’s time to get tough. Keep your eye on the horizon for those tree branches and work harder towards creating the kind of business that you can be proud of.

I doubt this is good advice for all of you, but for some of you it certainly is.

When is the best time to look for money to grow your business? It is likely when you don’t need it. Why? Because that is when you are in the best position to use the money for what the venture capitalist/bank/Uncle intended it for. Growth. Sales. Profit.

I am sure there are some banks and VC’s out there who would be willing to provide capital for a turnaround, or an idea you just came up with but they are few and far between, and it will cost you a lot more.

So why would you take money when you don’t need it from a VC? The value should be well beyond the capital invested. If you are bringing in money and are in it just for the money, than you are off base and should rethink your approach.

A good VC acts as a mentor, business coach, sounding board, network resource, and helps you keep your focus. We brought a venture capitalist early on in our company, not because we needed the money, but because we wanted the accountability. I won’t lie to you, having the money definitely helped. Our franchise sales nearly tripled just after the injection of capital. We put that money to work quickly and it allowed us to strengthen our management team, and offer more to our franchisees while we were still a young company.

In my humble opinion, if you are just starting a business the first place to look to fund operations are friends, family, and fools. Please make sure that one of those fools is yourself. I have heard that Visa/Master Card finance the majority of start-ups and I don’t doubt it.After an idea begins to take shape, and you have your first customer you really have a few options to raising money but the one I recommend is organic growth.The way you put money into your bank account is from your customers writing a check not an investor. The more checks that get written from customers the more likely VC’s and Angels will be interested your business. If your business is one that could grow a lot faster and if it had marketing and sales behind it, than I would definitely advise you to start looking at an equity investment as an option to accelerate growth. Most of my experience with VC’s and Angels come from this category.

This being said, I recognize that there are some great business that start with a wicked idea, pitch investors, fund research, develop a product and then take it to market. There is no question that this is a path taken, but usually less traveled.

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