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Monday, May 4, 2015

How to Get Your Marketing “In-Shape”



Did you see that bright fiery ball in the sky?  Yep, it’s good to have our old friend, the sun, back.

It’s also that time of year for us to finally get in shape.  Sure we made that New Year’s Resolution, but you know how that goes.
And getting in shape usually consists of us getting mad and taking action.  No real plan, just action!  
  • You get a gym membership
  • You buy a NutriBullet and wipe out the produce section at Publix
  • You exercise, watch what you eat, and take care of business.  Then you lose the weight.  You are proud.  You have  knocked out 10 lbs. in 10 weeks.


And then it happens.  You get a little too confident!  You take a few days off from the gym, eat some food you shouldn’t eat, and in a two week period you are back up 7-8 lbs.

You become convinced that this fitness thing just doesn’t work for you.  Maybe it’s genetics.  Maybe it’s your metabolism.  Maybe it’s the government!

The same thing happens in our marketing efforts when sales go down.  You get mad and you take action.  No real plan, just action!  
  • You join a networking group
  • You buy ad space and pay-per-clicks
  • You beat down doors, make phone calls, and take care of business.  Then you increase revenue.  You are proud. You have increased sales 10% in 10 weeks.

And you get a little too confident!  You take a little time off from networking events, quit buying ads, forget to follow up with old clients and in a two week period you are sitting there with no clients.

You become convinced that this marketing thing just doesn’t work for you.  Maybe it’s the competition.  Maybe it’s your customers.  Maybe it’s the government!

The truth is we need to market our business consistently and not just when we get out of “shape.”
  1. We have to decide how much we want to increase revenue, i.e. $20,000 in new sales this year.
  2. We have to decide which marketing channels will reach our target market, i.e. trade shows, print ads, specific social  media platforms, prospecting, etc.
  3. We have to schedule the marketing efforts to our calendar of choice; Outlook, Google Calendar, your phone, or    even your old school Day-Timer to schedule marketing activities.
  4. We have to actually do the marketing and selling!
  5. We have to track our sales to see where the sales are coming from, figure out which is getting the best response, rinse and repeat.
While this is not a guarantee for us to reach our sales goal, it makes it more likely to achieve than just getting mad and getting busy.

May Seminars




QuickBooks Introduction for Small Businesses workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 9-12 p.m. Friday, May 8, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. $45, payable at the workshop.

Starting a Small Business workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 4-6 p.m. Tuesday, May 12, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. Free.

Lunch-n-Learn: Financial Advice for Entrepreneurs workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 11a.m.-1 p.m. Wednesday, May 13, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. $15, a box lunch will be provided.


Social Media Digital Marketing Course workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 9-4 p.m. Friday, May 15, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. $99, payable at the workshop

Monday, March 30, 2015

4 Business Tips from THE WALKING DEAD



*Disclaimer
There are no real spoilers here.  If you are catching up on Walking Dead through Netflix, you can still read the article.  Or at least pretend to read it and tell me how great it was later.  
Also, I do not endorse zombie hunting, snacking on people, or openly carrying a crossbow.

 In case you have a life, The Walking Dead (TWD) is a TV show about a group of people that live through a zombie apocalypse and must now endure other survivors along the way. 
And now that Season 5 is officially over, we will have to wait until next year to find out more about the “Wolves” and tide ourselves over with the spinoff, Fear the Walking Dead.  Or heaven forbid, we could read a book, pay attention to our family, or even do community service.
Even though watching The Walking Dead has in no way improved my life, I have discovered some entrepreneurial nuggets along the way.

     1.       Be willing to change and adapt
TWD - Rick and his group are constantly on the move looking for new places to stay and new ways to defend themselves.  If they decided to stay on Hershel’s farm, because “that’s the way we‘ve always done it”, the show would have ended in Season 2.
Business – Businesses can’t get stuck in “the way we’ve always done it” mentality.  Customer demands, competition, technology, and the workforce are always evolving and we need to be ready to do the same.

     2.       Always check out the competition
TWD - The Prison Survivors, Woodbury Survivors, Terminus Survivors, Hospital Survivors, and the Alexandria Survivors all provided stiff competition to the regular survivors on The Walking Dead.  While it wasn't always necessary to eliminate the other survivors, Rick and his crew always had to deal with them.
Business - It may not be a necessity to eliminate your competition, however, you must know what sets you apart from them.  If you don’t know the difference between you and your competition, you your customers won’t either. 

     3.       Make sure you have plenty of resources, before making a move
TWD - Ammo, gas, and food are necessary resources in a post-apocalyptic world. 
Business - Cash, people, and time are necessary resources in an entrepreneurial world.  Make sure you have access to each before you open a new location, buy that new piece of equipment, and/or offer that new product or service.

     4.       Surround yourself with the best people
TWD - If it weren’t for Daryl, Michonne, and Carol the survivors may not be around any longer.  And maybe Glenn.  But not Eugene.  Eugene is worthless.
Business - The key to delegating and outsourcing is to work with good people.  Businesses need to interview and get good referrals and when hiring employees, independent contractors, and professional advisors.  The survivors even knew what three questions to ask in an interview.  If you just wing it you could end up with a bunch of Eugenes.


Discussion questions:

  1. Who is your favorite Walking Dead character?
  2. Why?
  3. What is a good business tip you have used?

Monday, March 23, 2015

April Seminars



Starting a Small Business workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 4-6 p.m. Tuesday, April 14, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. Free.



Where's the Money; Women-Owned Small Business Contracting Workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 10:30 - 12:00 p.m., Tuesday, April 27, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. Free


Financing the SBA Way workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 1:30 -  2:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 27, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. Free



Lunch-n-Learn: Best Legal Advice for Your Small Business workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 11a.m.-1 p.m. Wednesday, April 29, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. $15, a box lunch will be provided

Monday, March 2, 2015

5 Snow Days vs 5 Years in Business




During the third week of February, we were snowed in for most of the week with three little ones. There were highs, lows, and other than checking a few emails, little work done.

Those 5 days reminded me of what it looks like for the first 5 years for many entrepreneurs starting out. 

Check out this comparison:


 5 Days at Home                                                    5 Years in Business
Day 1 – Sledding, hot cocoa, and snowmen
Year 1 – Freedom, excitement, and learning on the fly

Day 2 – Sledding with the neighbors, some hot cocoa, and snow angels

Year 2 – Hire employees, less excitement, and more learning on the fly

Day 3 – Tired of sledding, runny noses, and no hot cocoa

Year 3 – Fire employees, no excitement, and doing everything on the fly

Day 4 – Too cold to go out, lots of whining, and lots of Netflix

Year 4 – Too tired to sell, lots of whining, and lots of Netflix

Day 5 – Are you freaking kidding me…

Year 5 – Are you freaking kidding me…



In fact, the SBA estimates that 50% of businesses fail in the first 5 years.  Of course, if you are an optimist, that means that 50% of businesses succeed in the first 5 years!  Let’s look at the reasons and what to do about them.

  1. Lack of Experience – You are going to be naturally stronger in some areas of your business than others, however, don’t take the weak areas for granted.  Take the time to read books, take classes for running a business, and keep up with trends in your industry.
  2. Lack of Delegation –If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.  If you want to own your business longer than a year, learn to delegate and deal with imperfection.
  3. Lack of Capital (money) – Cash is still king, so before you make a purchase/expansion review your capital needs first.  Fill out a cash flow (not P/L statement) and identify shortfalls.
  4. Lack of Planning – No, you don’t need a 50 page business plan.  You do need goals and a plan to reach those goals.  Decide where you want to be this time next year and create a game plan.
  5. Lack of Marketing – Create a marketing calendar and stick to it! You should be marketing on a regular basis, even when you are busy.

     And if you ever get snowed in make sure to have plenty of groceries, a sled, and Netflix handy.

(A one minute recap of our week at home)



March Seminars




Starting a Small Business workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 4-6 p.m. Tuesday, March 10, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. Free.

Lunch-n-Learn: Best Mobile Apps for Your Small Business workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 11:30-1 p.m. Wednesday, March 11, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. $15, a box lunch will be provided.

Financing with Pathway Lending and Mid-Area Cumberland Development Corporation workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 3:00-  4:30 p.m.,Wednesday, March 24, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. Free


Lunch-n-Learn: How to Publish a Book workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 11:30-1 p.m. Wednesday, March 25, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. $15, a box lunch will be provided

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

TSBDC at Vol State - Lunch-n-Learn Series

Register for any of these Lunch-n-Learns by clicking the title of the workshop
(And yes, a lunch is included)
Wednesday, March 11, 2015 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM
Location: Volunteer State Community College, Building 300
Speaker: Jim Butera - ITS Techs
Fee: $15, payable at the workshop

Wednesday, March 25, 2015 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM
Location: Volunteer State Community College, Building 300
Speaker: Mike Towle - Win-Win Words
Fee: $15, payable at the workshop

Wednesday, April 29, 2015 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM
Location: Volunteer State Community College, Building 300
George Phillips - Bone McAllester Norton
Fee: $15 , payable at the workshop

Wednesday, May 13, 2015 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM
Location: Volunteer State Community College, Building 300
Paul Winkler - Paul Winkler, Inc.
Fee: $15, payable at the workshop

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Generation Gaps in Your Business

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 Recently, I had three different people come to see me about starting a new business (shocker, I know.)
  1. The first one, an older gentleman, wanted to meet weekly, work on the business plan in person, and wanted to make very good money.
  2. The next one, a woman that was my age, wanted to meet once or twice for some direction, worked on the business plan independently, and was primarily focused working from home so she could spend more time with her family.
  3.  The last one, a young whippersnapper fresh out of college, simply wanted to email me, collaborated with friends online to create a strategy (he refused to use the words business plan), and wanted to make a difference in this world.

   All three would-be-entrepreneurs had the same goal, but went about it for different reasons and with different methods.

Let’s consider the different generations each of them represent.

Characteristics

Baby Boomer (born 1946-1964)

Gen X (born 1965-1980)

Millennials (born 1981-2000)

Structure
They like a lot of structure and specifics

May be more entrepreneurial and less interested in structure

They are participative

Meetings
Are more apt to appreciate meetings and like to communicate face-to-face

Want immediate communication and fewer meetings

Want to communicate through technology, i.e email and social media

Rewards
They want to know they are valued and needed

Freedom and time off may be their best reward

Their reward is meaningful work and whenever they choose it

Motivation
They are motivated by money and titles and less interested in feedback

Want to do things their way and may not be worried about the rules

They are motivated by working with sharp and creative people
Work/Home Balance
Tend to be more focused on work, than family

Want a more balanced work and family life

Want a more balanced work and family life


There are exceptions to every rule of course, however, these characteristics tend to hold true in most situations. 

So take these characteristics into consideration when you are:
  • Training and rewarding employees
  • Negotiating with vendors
  • Communicating with customers


To work well with others, we need to understand generational differences and learn how to use them effectively in dealing with each person.

Monday, January 26, 2015

February Seminars




Starting a Small Business workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 4-6 p.m. Tuesday, February 10, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. Free.

Social Media Intro for Entrepreneurs and Marketing Professionals workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 2-4 p.m. Thursday, February 19, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. Free.


Personal Selling for Entrepreneurs workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 3-4:30 p.m. Wednesday, February 25, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. Free

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Accomplishing the Best of Intentions in 3 Easy Steps

THE SUMMER OF GEORGE

The other day the kids were at the in-laws and Sarah was having a rare girl’s night out.  I had the house to myself!  I had a list of things (honey-do list) that I was going to get accomplished.  But first, I wanted to get a “guy’s” movie on Netflix.  You know something with a lot of car chases and shoot outs.  Fast forward to a few hours later; Sarah arrives home and I have only unloaded the dishwasher and just started Skyfall.  “What have you been up to?” Sarah asks.  I wasn't really sure.  It appears that I had been scanning Netflix, watching movie trailers, and staring into space. 

This sort of thing happens to folks every New Year.  We always start out with the best intentions, such as deciding to get back in shape, read that book that has been collecting dust, and really get organized.  Then the best intentions go awry.

This reminds me of the Seinfeld episode, “The Summer of George”.  George Costanza gets an unexpected three months’ severance package.  He plans on taking his new found cash and living it up for the summer by reading books, exercising, and enjoying life.  Instead he buys a recliner with a cooler in it, and he never gets out of his pajamas all summer.  His best of intentions were gone in an instant. 

This is a particularly big problem with entrepreneurs.
You plan on hiring a general manager, but you never really get around to writing the job                     description and posting it online.
You want to get the website updated, but you can’t decide on the web designer and content.
You are going to make 10 sales/follow up/referral calls per week, but you spend hours on                    Facebook/LinkedIn/Instagram instead.

So now is the time to create the game plan, while your energy is high and your intentions are clear, by following these three easy steps.
  1. Identify two or three truly worthy goals.
  2. Avoid things that waste your time and set deadlines.
  3. Track your progress by keeping score in your business.


And if you need any help, be sure to contact the TSBDC to get your best of intentions off the ground and running for 2015!  Oh, and don’t buy a recliner with a cooler in it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

January Seminars


Starting a Small Business workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small www.tsbdc.org. Free.
Business Development Center, 4-6 p.m. Tuesday, January 13, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online.

Understanding the Affordable Health Care Act for your Business workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 3-4 p.m. Wednesday, January 14, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. Free.

Is Franchise Ownership a Viable Career Option? workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 3-5 p.m. Wednesday, January 21, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. Free.


How to Write a Business Plan workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 9-12 p.m. Wednesday, January 28, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. $30, payable at the workshop

Monday, December 8, 2014

Starting A Business Is A Lot Like A Toddler Opening Gifts

Just what I always wanted and I will hug her and pet her and squeeze her...

You can imagine the excitement and chaos at my house on Christmas morning.  Three little ones all excited to see a sinful amount of presents under a well-lit Christmas tree.  They scramble about looking for the shiny boxes that have their name on them.  We make them take turns, so they can at least have an opportunity to appreciate what they are opening. 

Also, I have noticed, the younger the child, the more appreciative of the gift they have opened.  As they get older, they are more excited to open the next present.  And the next.  And the next.  When all said and done, everyone is content and ready to move on to the next event of the day.
This reminds me quite a bit of entrepreneurs, as they start their new business.  

For example:
·         The Toddler - The excitement of seeing the tree
·         The Entrepreneur - The idea of the business

·         The Toddler - Santa came! – The funding came through!
·         The Entrepreneur - Opening the gift and it’s just what I wanted! – We have customers!

·         The Toddler - Oh, I have to assemble the tricycle?
·         The Entrepreneur - Marketing and selling?

·         The Toddler - Well, let me play with the box a little more
·         The Entrepreneur - Well, we can update our site and Tweet more

·         The Toddler - Eating cookies, watching A Christmas Story, and taking a nap
·         The Entrepreneur - Busy running the business, shuffling papers, and making one more post to Facebook

·         The Toddler - Let’s go to Granny’s to open presents
·         The Entrepreneur - Maybe there will be more customers at the new location!

·         The Toddler - The toy ends up at the bottom of the toy chest and broken into pieces –
·         The Entrepreneur - Well this isn’t working, let’s move on to the next thing.

So what can we do as entrepreneurs?  I would suggest treating gifts like a 2 year old, instead of the 6 year old, i.e., focus more on one task at a time, get it working, and appreciate the process.


Social Media Digital Marketing Course


Friday, December 12, 2014 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Location: Volunteer State Community College, Building 300
Fee: $99

Monday, December 1, 2014

TSBDC at Vol State - QuickBooks and Social Media Training





Friday, December 05, 2014 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Location: Volunteer State Community College, Building 300
Fee: $45

Friday, December 12, 2014 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Location: Volunteer State Community College, Building 300

Monday, November 17, 2014

December Seminars

A little help please
QuickBooks Introduction for Small Businesses workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 9-12 p.m. Friday, December 5, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. $45, payable at the workshop.

Starting a Small Business workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 4-6 p.m. Tuesday, December 9, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. Free.



Social Media Digital Marketing Course workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 9-4 p.m. Friday, December 12, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. $99, payable at the workshop

Monday, November 3, 2014

Let It Go, Let It Go, NO, SERIOUSLY - Let It Go!




It was November 27, 2013 and my life would be forever changed. No this was not a job promotion, spiritual awakening, or the birth of one of my 19 kids. It was the date that Disney released Frozen upon the world! What’s Frozen you say? Oh that’s right, I don’t have to explain it, because even if you live in Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland (yes, that’s a place) you know what I am referring to.

My wife took the girls to see it twice in the theater and they were hooked. Since then we’ve had a release party for the Frozen DVD, purchased Frozen dolls, the Frozen castle, Frozen costumes, Frozen stuffed animals, Frozen music downloads that are still played in the van, had a Frozen birthday party, been to Frozen on Ice, etc.

As they say in Frozen, it may be time to “Let It Go” and move on to the next Disney princess.  Or action figure.  Or anything else.

As for entrepreneurs, there are also some things they need to consider “Letting Go.”

Many times entrepreneurs get caught into the sunk cost fallacyIn economics, a sunk cost is any past cost that has already been paid and cannot be recovered.  This will make you hang on to something longer than you should, because you have already invested time, money, or effort into something.


For example, I had a client that was spending hundreds of dollars each month on Yellow Page ads.  They had been doing it so long, they were hesitant to quit that marketing effort, because of the thousands of dollars already invested.  Once we were able to transition them to more of an online presence, they saved money on advertising and their revenue jumped over 20%!

Other examples of sunk costs you may be hanging on to:
·   That sales person that has been with you since you started the business, but they don’t really sell anymore.  In fact, you’re not sure what they do.
·   That networking group that you have been going to for the last five years, but hasn’t brought you business in the last 3 years.
·    That CRM software you have paid big money for, but never really used. 
·    That bank you have always used, but that hasn’t really been open to giving you a line of credit.
·    That customer that has been steady, but has also been a pain in the neck.

Oh, and if you refuse to "Let It Go", the TV show Once Upon a Time is using Frozen for their theme this year.   Oh the joy!