Refresh for Spring Success

With spring officially arriving even if we did have a snow storm where I live this week, I thought we’d talk about some ways that you can bring new life to your business.

1-add a new product or service. I get emails from companies on a regular basis announcing new collections they’re offering, new partnerships they’re doing or seasonal offerings they’ve got. There’s something exciting for both the customers and the company when a new product is added, whether it’s planned to be a permanent edition or just a seasonal or short term opportunity.

2-refresh your marketing. Maybe marketing isn’t something you’ve been consistent with for your business, or you’re just not happy with the marketing you’re doing. Spring is a great time to redesign your newsletter email, recommit to marketing consistently, create and implement a new strategy for marketing on social media, do more local marketing (yes, even if you’re just an only business), or make some updates to your website.

3-clean up. If you’ve got a physical location that customers come to, or a location where you spend a lot of time working or store products, spring is a great time to do a deep cleaning of your location, move things around, throw things out and put a fresh coat of paint on the place.  Customers will appreciate the space being neat and clean, and so will you!

4-education. Spring is also a great time to learn a new skill or get some education, both for you as the business owner as well as your employees. Whether you’re interested in expanding your services and need some education to do that, or you want to give your employees some opportunities to be more proficient or work in other areas that they currently don’t, sometimes some education can be just the thing to get you refreshed, renewed and bring new life to the business.

So what will you do to put some spring in your business?


A St. Patrick’s Day Legacy

Today is St. Patrick’s Day! I’m excited as always, it’s one of my favorite holidays each year. Over the last day or so I’ve been checking out some Irish companies and looking at products made in Ireland and was struck by the care, consideration and effort that’s put into each product. No, no company is perfect, but when you think about truly Irish products and companies many of them have stood the test of time and consistently offer fantastic products. I’m not one to spend tons of money on things like jewelry or clothing, but I’m willing to spend those extra dollars to get such a quality product and support the families who are behind them.

No, this post isn’t really about running a business or offering a quality product, it’s about the quality and character of the people behind them. As parents and those in charge of the next generation we have a choice in what we want to teach the next generation, and hopefully what they’ll learn from us. Do we want to teach them to value the world, put their best foot forward, take pride in their work, leave a legacy that can be appreciated for a long time, and make a positive impact on the world? I know that’s what I want to teach the next generation and encourage them to value life and their talents.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with buying a sweater or piece of jewelry from your local big box store, I’ve got some of them that I absolutely enjoy very much and were on low clearance prices even (prices that couldn’t get me anywhere near something from Ireland). So there’s nothing wrong with finding shortcuts and doing a quick job of something (as long as it gets the job done), but there’s value to be found in being a person who does more than just meets the status quo.

No one else can be who you are, no one else can be who your kids are or will grow up to be, no one else can be the neighborhood kids or who they will grow up to be, each and every one of us are unique and have the ability to bring something awesome to the table. In the case of the many families in Ireland who craft gorgeous products those families are teaching their next generations about leaving a legacy, honoring your heritage and sharing who they are with the world. What are you teaching your kids?

Building a 4 Leaf Clover Business

With St. Patrick’s Day this weekend I thought today we’d talk about 4 aspects of business success in honor of the 4 leaf clover. We’ll first take a look at the 3 things that appear on all clovers (in all businesses) and then we’ll look at one that only appears on the 4 leaf clovers:

However you want to look at what you offer, without someone to buy what you offer, there’s really no point to being in business. It’s essential that you take care of all your people if you want to stay in business, let alone become one of the few beloved companies who lasts the tests of time.

Every business needs at least one product or service that has value, addresses a need or solves a problem for people. Once you’ve got the concept for your product(s) and/or service(s) you have to decide what type of quality you will provide, and whether to differentiate yourself by price, or serve only a specific location or try and reach the masses among other things.

Once you’ve got a product and/or service you’ve got to tell people about it! There are tons of ways that you can market your business and what you’re offering from social media to blogs to newsletters to TV ads to radio ads to joint ventures to affilates. Marketing today has evolved from just product/service awareness to creating experiences, educating potential customers, and interacting with them in real time all in addition to product/service/brand awareness.

As I said, most businesses do their best to attend to the first 3, like any clover, but some business go the extra mile and give the extra effort to do things on purpose and with purpose. I had a business owner ask me recently if they really needed to have a purpose/vision/mission because they were “just selling a shirt.” Yes, you can differentiate on the exact product you sell, price and marketing you do and the people that fit your niche, but if you really want a tribe, if you want people to come back again and again and have a passionate investment in your business you need to have and follow a purpose/mission/vision.

So what about you? Are you just working to sell a product or service, or are you working to create an experience for your customers, one that they want to invest in, be part of and share with others?

Weathering the Storm of Success

Just a few days ago the Northeast experienced a snowstorm like I haven’t seen in some time. We had more snow than I’ve seen (and shoveled) in quite a few years (we had about 2.5 feet), and as beautiful as it was it made for some big issues. Yes, I grew up with some bigger storms and I know that some people deal with way more snow than what I did on Wednesday and Thursday morning on a regular basis, but whether you’re used to lots of snow or not, when mother nature takes control things in our human world often go wrong. So today based on some of the issues that I saw, I thought I’d share a few lessons that business owners could learn from for the next time they’re faced with a crisis or the unknown.

First, weather is tricky because even with all the technology we’ve got the end result is still really a guess. Add to that the variable of humans and their interpretations, and you’ve got some serious questions and unknowns. It’s frequently said that the weather industry is the one that you can make mistakes in and not lose your job over it. While it’s probably not OK for you to be frequently wrong and give your customers a less-than-perfect product or advice that’s not helpful or accurate, there has to be some margin of error considered and understood. The weather people have good enough technology that they can tell us when something is likely on the way, but they can’t totally provide how much or what everyone is going to get or exactly how a storm will play out.

How does this apply for other businesses and industries? It starts with something as simple as being honest with your customers and letting them know that you’ll always have them and their needs and their best interests at the forefront of what you do, and always strive to bring them the best experience and products/services possible.  But also that you’re not perfect and sometimes things are outside of your control, and when those things happen you’ll be up front with them and let them know what’s going on, and do your very best to rectify the issue as soon as possible. Which brings us to the second point.

The second thing to consider is with regards to communication. Sometimes I feel that things are very well communicated, and other times I wonder what people were thinking! The issue that business owners really need to consider is the fact that there are so many free resources (and other resources) they could tap into to provide the very necessary information to the general public and the specific people who need those updates, yet they weren’t being used. There were lots of electric road signs on the highways that could have shared updated information about the roads ahead yet all they did was warn of winter weather and to drive safe. There are free social media accounts, emails/newsletters, blogs and websites that could have been used to post updates about power failures, garbage/recycle pickup, blocked roads, detours and openings/closings, providing information in a timely manner and all in one place, but they weren’t. These updates don’t take a long time to do, and don’t have to be extremely detailed, but they can be invaluable to people.

For businesses, yes, you should post that you’re open or closed or if there are weather related issues, and you should be in communication with your team so that they know what’s going on. You should also communicate with your team when it comes to serious weather about the policies that you’ve got for whether you’re open or not and if there are people who are specifically willing to work in serious weather if need be. Weather challenges also provide a reason to have an online presence and to sell something online if possible. With countless people stuck inside instead of out doing their usual activities, they’ve got time to read emails, peruse websites or apps and shop.

While I don’t think you need to be perfect or communicate every little detail about your businesses (although sometimes that can be fun!), especially when things are challenging or dangerous for people it’s important to be on top of your communication and not only give specific instructions regarding what to do now and during the danger/challenge/storm, but also be in communication about what comes next. What have you learned for your business from weather challenges?

Write for Success

The first Thursday in March is World Book Day, so today I thought we’d talk about books and the lessons we as business owners can learn from books, and the people behind them. Let’s take a look at 3 March-born book guys and what they can teach us.

Dr. Seuss, born Theodor Geisel, wrote over 60 children’s books, and was also a political cartoonist, poet and artist. Many of his books seem strange and have made-up words and beings. Part of their appeal is the wild and crazy creativity that he showcases. Many of his stories are more than just funny words and creatures though, they tell an important story, or share an important concept with people, one of the most well-known being How the Grinch Stole Christmas. What’s the lesson for business owners? Sometimes the creative and the crazy just works. I don’t know any other authors whose works are as creative and they’ve had as much success and have become as much of a household name for several generations as Dr. Seuss’ books.

L. Ron Hubbard was the founder of the Church of Scientology, but was first known as a science fiction and fantasy writer. Using his writing background and doctrines he developed, he wrote the texts that are the “Bible” of the Church of Scientology. Whether you agree with the church/doctrines or not, I think there are two things we can learn from L Ron Hubbard. First, writing is an excellent launching point. Writing books is one way that many successful business owners, leaders and authority figures have gotten their start. Second, some things just sell, and one of those things is religion. Religious texts are some of the most recognizable literary materials in the world, bought in many forms and formats by people, and are really tied hand-in-hand with the success or notoriety of many religions.

Finally we’re looking at Randolph Caldecott who was an illustrator, but is best known for being the namesake of the Caldecott Medal, an honor given every year to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children. Caldecott was successful as an illustrator, his illustrations/books were well known in his time (pre-1900). Some 40 years after Caldecott died the award and medal were created and named in his honor. One of the things we can learn from Caldecott as business owners is that sometimes you can be exceptionally successful if you do what you’re good at. Caldecott may have thought about writing books, after all lots of people are successful writing books, but pursued his gift for illustration and as a result not only had an excellent career, but has a prestigious medal named after him that continues to recognize and honor him over 100 years after his death. Writers are great and very important, but without illustrators children’s books would lose the majority of their appeal for children.

What have you learned from authors and illustrators that you’ve applied to your business?

Time for Transition?

This week I’ve been seeing some limos on the roads and talked with a friend who was looking into limos for her daughter’s prom and it got me thinking about the taxi/limo/Uber/Lyft etc. debate. I do support public transportaion, I think it’s great if we can travel in a way that looks out for the world that we all share. I do personally own a car and like driving. I have taken people to the airport or train station, but really appreciate when they find a ride back from there. I definitly think there are some benefits to having someone else do the driving, especially when you’re not familiar with the area. We’ve talked about the people side of this topic, let’s talk about the business side. Do all of these vehicle businesses provide a service? Yes. Historically is this a financially successful industry? Yes. Has there been competition ever since the wheel was developed and people started giving/getting rides to/from each other? Yes. OK, so we’ve established that this is not only a business category, but really an industry that has been around for quite some time.

Let’s talk about the debate. Yes, I can see the frustration from the side of the taxi/limo businesses because now the competition has greatly increased and they’ve lost a good portion of the control over the employees and the services that are provided. However, and here’s the reason that I don’t really side with the taxi/limo businesses in this discussion, there really hasn’t been anything different done in the industry. The premise is still exactly the same: people are contacting car/van drivers for rides to and from places. The two things that have really changed is that people can now order a ride through an app on their phone and there are a lot more drivers available.

If we look at it from an overall business perspective I would say that the industry as a whole is better off financially and there are more people than ever requesting rides. What the taxi/limo businesses really have to be mad about is the fact that they refused to advance like the world was asking them to and needed them to, and now they’re trying to catch up. I don’t know if they ever will but it’s a good warning to the rest of the industries (and businesses) that haven’t caught up with the advances of technology or the networking that’s available or the way people want more freedom and flexibility in their lives. If you’ve been avoiding some changes or next steps in your business, I encourage you to review those changes or steps over the last few days of this month and be ready to start March strong.

Presidential Leadership

In thinking about President’s Day on Monday here in the US, I got to thinking about what it takes to be a great president, and if we business owners can learn anything from them. But then I turned the question around and asked myself what advice the presidents would give us as leaders.

“Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for ’tis better to be alone than in bad company.” George Washington

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” John Quincy Adams

“Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in.” Andrew Jackson

“We must dare to be great; and we must realize that greatness is the fruit of toil and sacrifice and high courage.” Teddy Roosevelt

“Don’t write so that you can be understood, write so that you can’t be misunderstood.” William Taft

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb … Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” Calvin Coolidge

Franklin D. Roosevelt “…knew what people wanted from the highest office in the land: action, words and optimism.”

Truman’s motto was “A leader needed a true heart, a strong mind, and a great deal of courage.”

“If you live long enough, you’ll make mistakes. But if you learn from them, you’ll be a better person. It’s how you handle adversity, not how it affects you. The main thing is never quit, never quit, never quit.” Bill Clinton

All presidents left a legacy of one kind or another. All presidents had successes and failures. All presidents had good days and bad days. All presidents left office after they were done and continued on with their lives. The choice we all have is to do the best we can with what we’re given for as long as we’re there, and when life hands us a new direction to then do the best we can on that path. What are you learning from your business and being a leader right now?

Watch Your Words

On Sunday many in the US watched the biggest football game of the year, one that decided who was the ultimate winner in this season, and today the winter sporting event that the whole world participates in begins in PyeongChang. Both of these events are big opportunities for brands and for sales, approximately a quarter of people who watch the game watch for the commercials, and you can’t miss the advertising everywhere else from both the teams and the brands regarding the game. But in response to an article I read recently I wanted to talk about something I don’t talk about a lot, and something that many people don’t want to think about: the legal side of things.

You may or may not know that there are rules in place as far as what brands who aren’t official sponsors can and can’t say about these events, based on the official rules or trademarks that the organizations have on names and graphics. Average people can say whatever they want, but anytime a business starts talking about something related to the event they have to be very careful with what they say (you’ll notice that I didn’t include the specific names of the 2 events in question in the beginning of this post). While the official committees don’t hunt down every single offender, the consequences of using their names and graphics certainly are enough to make you think twice before you do any types of event promotions or talk about them.

I can understand the position of the sponsors who don’t want others getting the publicity they’re paying for, for free. I can also understand the events/organizations not wanting what they’ve worked really hard to create, and spent a lot of money on, being taken advantage of. But I also understand how frustrating it is for businesses who can’t afford sponsorship or don’t get approved for sponsorship, or may not even be aware that they’re not allowed to say/do certain things (it would certainly make things a whole lot easier for everyone if you could just come out and say stuff).

So what’s the lesson here? First, if you hear big companies not calling things by their given name, there’s probably a good reason for it. Second, you wouldn’t like it if someone stole your best material or tried to steal your thunder without first getting your approval to use or reference it. Third, if you’re going to restrict what others can say or do, make sure you give them a list of do’s and don’t’s and you can even be helpful and let them know say or do instead of what the general public can do/say. Fourth, maybe this is the reminder you need to take a look at the legal side of your business and make sure everything is protected the way it should be. Finally, after you’ve taken a moment to complain about it, embrace the opportunity to get creative in your promotions and communications regarding the fun competition happening in PyeongChang.

How will you creatively celebrate all things winter sports in your business?

Doing Discounts Right

Last week I talked about the topic of discounts, about how we approach it as business owners and reasons for and against offering them. One of the places you frequently think about discounts is the grocery store. Grocery stores are well known for putting out circulars each week letting people know what items are going to be on sale and also what new items they may be carrying now. They’re not only an educational tool, they’re also a great marketing tool. Stores gain and lose customers based on many factors including overall prices, types items for sale, quality of products and physical proximity to someone’s location. The ads are a great way of letting people know many of those factors and even just reminding them that they exist.

However, if you’ve ever “shopped the circular” before you know that it’s not guaranteed that the products in the circular will be available when you get to the store, or that the specific store will have that product at all (even if they’re supposed to). Most people will say that of the circular items they were interested in buying, at least a handful weren’t available (out of stock or not available period) and another few didn’t look as promising in the store as they did in the circular. From the business side of things this is understandable because most sales/discounts are limited in stock. You’ve got x number in stock and that’s what’s available and all you’re going to offer, and when they sell out you’re done with that item/discount. However, this can be very frustrating for customers, even if it’s understandable from a practical and business perspective.

This past week however I had the exact opposite experience. A store was having a big 30 year anniversary sale, and when I pulled into the parking lot it looked like the week of Thanksgiving (I parked further that day then I did for Thanksgiving time shopping in 2017). So imagine my surprise when they had all the items I wanted from not only the special anniversary sale, but also the rest of the circular! And even though it was the evening and late in the circular week, they were more fully stocked than I sometimes see them, and everything was fresh. It’s a great opportunity for businesses who want to do discounts or do them to learn from.

The first lesson is that a happy customer is a good customer. Good customers buy more, buy multiple times and refer you to others. Second, fresh food is always good food. It’s not easy to have the quantities necessary for large sales, but if you can impress someone with the freshness of an item during a sale there’s a good chance they’ll buy that item again when it’s not on sale. Third, stock your products wisely. A physical store has limitations that an online store doesn’t, so there has to be a balance kept between variety of products and amount of stock. Finding that balance and keeping it keeps your customers happy and coming back.  Finally, sales and discounts can be a great way to bring in new customers, but if they don’t have a good experience with you (the products you say are on sale aren’t available etc.), they won’t shop with you in the future.

What lessons have you learned lately from your shopping experiences that could apply to your business?

Secrets to Success: Write It Down

For the next few weeks I thought we’d take a look at some not-so-secret secrets to success. These may not be secrets that no one knows about, but not everyone uses them or uses them well. They’re also known for sometimes getting out of hand or being less-than-useful, but that has more to do with the individual than the tool/technique. For the right person a “secret” could be the key to success they’ve been missing. Today we’re starting off with writing stuff down and using lists.

I wanted to start with this secret because of how busy we are and how many responsibilities we all have and how much we’re all trying to keep straight. Want to know the number one reason why I write just about everything down? So I don’t have to remember it! Writing things down allows me and my brain to keep thinking, keep creating and keep going, rather than continually trying to keep track of everything in my head. Lists are great because they remind you of what you have to do, things you are thinking about trying, people you have to contact, and great ideas you have. You also have the pleasure of crossing things off your list or deleting them from your list and seeing how much you’ve accomplished.

Writing things down can also help you with goal setting, delegation, and accountability. When you’ve got the to-do list posted where others can see, you’re more likely to accomplish your responsibilities, and it’s also impossible for others to say they didn’t know their responsibilities or what else had to be taken care of.  However, if you really enjoy having your excuses for why things aren’t done, you probably don’t want to apply this success secret to your life and work.

I prefer paper when it comes to writing stuff down and keeping lists, but I’ve also been known to use some virtual ones when the need arises. Many people use virtual lists to keep track of grocery needs and other things that need to be purchased, and things that multiple people are involved in because they can be easily shared and accessed on the go. My preference is to use paper when I’m sitting at my desk or working because I think through things better than using a computer document or app, and I also get the satisfaction of scribbling it out when I’m done. For family and work purposes white boards are also great tools if you prefer leaving a physical message or reminder over a digital one.

What are your favorite tools for keeping track of what’s going on in your life? Do you prefer paper or technology?