Archive for the ‘Entrepreneur’ Category

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.

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

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!

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”.

One of the life bloods of franchising is lead flow. Not much different than another of our franchisees business, or any sales and marketing company; you need to be bringing in new blood all the time. At Five Star we are constantly measuring lead flow, sales cycles, velocity, close ratios, and other various metrics to make sure we are on track. Recently, in a sales meeting we discussed two things that we could do to increase our franchise sales.

1) Volume. This can mean so many things, but it can start at the very beginning of the sales cycle – impressions, or in the middle – leads, or in the end – contracts signed. The reality is that you need to be constantly reviewing ways to increase the volume of people looking at your concept, so, that they can express interest and enter into the journey of learning if your franchise concept if the right fit for them. Here are a few ideas on ways you could amp up the volume:

a. Cast a wider net. For example, if you are advertising for the word painting franchise, why not consider something like home based business, or service industry franchises in your online advertising. Some people know what they want, and others have an idea.
b. Use different channels. Online advertising is a fantastic tool that can be approached through SEO, Pay-Per-Click, affiliates, directories, and on and on. However, what about trying something different like Career Builder, or Monster.com? Business brokers is a channel that many franchisors use to get in front of candidates, and many of them use these techniques themselves. Why not try your hand at marketing to the right candidates directly?
c. PR. Public Relations is a tricky tool that few are able to wield effectively. I have approached this different ways for different concepts. The key is that if you aren’t using PR in your marketing mix you should think about doing it now. Have no money to hire and expert you say? Well then pick up the phone and pitch your cool concept yourself until someone gives you the time of day. You need some independently written articles by a quality publication saying your cool instead of that testimonial from your grandma.
d. Social Media – yes, believe it or not I have had people contact me through my blog, Facebook page, and twitter account to request information about one of our brands. So how do you find the time? Well its 12am right now, so, now you know.

2) Efficiency. Getting more eyeballs on your web page is your first mission. Your second mission is to get them to click that submit button. Marketing is scientific, so, please, don’t make this about guy checks. Yes, you can start there, but measure, tweak, measure, tweak, measure, tweak until finally you can tell me you are at 25% conversion rates. 5 years ago I would have told you it wasn’t possible, but, today our team has moved the virtual mountains and now enjoy the results. This is something you can never stop thinking about. Here is a quick example of what we have done over the years.
Go to www.fivestarpaintingfranchise.net this site is our old franchise site. We have tweaked this site dozens of times, and it runs at about a 10% conversion rate. If you go to www.5starfranchising.com you will find very cool information and well-designed research site. This site is below 1%. Now if you go to www.fivestarpaintingfranchise.com you will see our main franchise site for Five Star Painting. I have many times shared these sites with people and have asked the question of which one they prefer, and which one they though would do best. Please remember, that the goal of your franchise site is to generate enough interest to get someone to click the submit button and begin the dialogue.

Of course there is more to franchise lead generation than this. So, with that being said: what do you do that works?

Sometimes the best way to learn something is to either do it wrong yourself or learn from someone else’s mistakes. I have had the pleasure of doing both. If you are thinking of franchising your business you have probably read, or been told about the pot at the end of the rainbow. Well like anything in life, if it is worth having, it’s going to be a lot of work. Here are three tips to avoid some disasters and maybe help you catch the leprechaun:

1) Mess of pottage. Why trade your franchisor birthright for a few dollars? In franchising, someone looking to buy your franchise will pay you a handsome franchise fee, some concepts as high as $50,000 at signing. The franchise fee is there to do a few things, like get skin in the game, cover the costs of attracting top talent to your franchise system, pay the tuition for all of you’ve learned, fund development of systems, etc. The challenge with such large franchise fees is that it’s often more money than you will get in royalties for a few years. Because of this, franchisors are more excited about closing that big deal than all the hard work to earn the royalties that come from years of business building; they trade their birthright to a share in a successful business for a short term boost to the bottom line. Some franchisors take all this money, go on a nice vacation, buy a new car, and don’t follow through with support. Not only is this not ethical, in my opinion, but it is extremely short sighted. Don’t fall into that trap, stay the course, support your franchisees, and make sure each and every golden goose is well fed and cared for.

2) Dictatorship. So, you’ve convinced a few people to buy your concept and on top of all that you have your 90 page franchise agreement signed, that some high priced lawyers put together for you. All the bases are covered- and the sweet talk stops, honeymoon is over and it’s down to business. Yikes. Nobody like being told what to do; if someone was smart enough to buy your franchise, they are probably smart enough to learn from your team, as well as your fellow franchisees. People like to be influenced, led, and shown your vision. Help them buy into not just your business model but, you and your team by demonstrating why your next big idea is one that they should adopt. I recently read a book called The Science of Influence; definitely one worth reviewing for those of you looking to see who prefer to use the carrot over the stick.

3) Partnership. I have often heard that a partnership is a sinking ship. In saying this, I will say that I have been fortunate to have some amazing partners, and that I have experienced the dark side of partnerships as well. When you consider growing your business, it is critical you get your business structure right, and if you have partners, roles and responsibilities are going to be critical to your success. Whether you form a partnership or not, there needs to be one President, CEO, Chief Pooh-Bah, or whatever title you make up. Every company needs a leader, so don’t make the mistake of approaching your business like a marriage, unless, you are into divorce.

There are plenty more things you could do to mess things up, but, I believe, if you watch for these land mines you are well on your way. Feel free to share your views on ones I missed.

Utah 100

Posted by admin under Business, Entrepreneur, Franchise

Utah 100 PictureThis year, Chad Jones and I had the opportunity to attend the Utah 100 awards ceremony at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City. The room was packed. There were probably around 500 people there. 130 of the companies were there that were winners of some kind, including Five Star Painting. The Utah 100 honors the 100 fastest growing companies in all of Utah. At the ceremony, we learned we placed 33rd among the top 100 fastest growing businesses. We could not be more pleased and proud.  We have won some awards in the past but have never before placed in the Utah 100. There are many great companies who placed this year and we are so excited to be numbered among them.

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Entrepreneurship = Freedom

Posted by admin under Freedom

Entrepreneurship can be a ball and chain, it never leaves you no matter where you go, but it can also give you a lot of freedom. Now with smart phones being as advanced as they are you can get into your network and access all your files right from the dock of your summer home on the lake. When I was visiting with a fellow entrepreneur about this we laughed about how connected we are with our businesses and actually kind of like it.

Passion for your business comes out in everything you do, you live your brand, it is part of you and your DNA and it makes life more enjoyable. Years ago when I worked in a more “corporate” environment, weekends were looked forward to, now I often look forward to the weekdays. Strange I know, I think I may be sick but for now I love it.

So why are people so interested in entrepreneurship? It is not only the freedom, but it is also acknowledged as the key driving force for the incredible growth of capitalism. As risk increases so does reward. You make your future, you make your schedule, you create the opportunities, and you feel fulfilled. That is the foundation to entrepreneurship.

What makes you tick? Is there something that you find yourself dreaming about while at the office? Whatever your dreams are, pursue it, life is too short and you will always wonder what would have happened if you did.

Click here for more information on entrepreneurship.

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