Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Did You Hear What She Said?!

 So as I have mentioned before, we have three little ones at home.  Ava is 5, Lilly is 2, and Lane is 1.  The two girls are very close, play well together, but have two totally different personalities.  Ava is our drama queen and Lilly is the comedian. 
   Just the other day, I asked Ava to stay in her seat while we ate dinner.  “Uhhhh, I ammm!” says Ava, while she is standing next to the chair.  She then rolls her eyes (yes, already) and mumbles something about being bossy and then takes her seat.  Lilly then proceeds to hop up and trot over to her little brother’s high chair for some entertainment.  I ask Lilly to sit in her seat.  “I am daddy.” says Lilly, grinning from ear-to-ear.  She then immediately heads back to her chair, plops down, and says, “see daddy, I in my chair.”  We were unhappy with Ava.  We had to hide our laughter with Lilly.  And I’m sure they will both be scarred.

  They did the same exact thing, however, they communicated it differently.  

 Communication breaks down like this:



55% is body language.
38% is tone of voice.
7% is spoken word.  Only 7% is the actual words.

  Here are three simple tips for you regarding communication in your small business: 
1.  When networking, make eye contact and do not look around the room when the other person is speaking.  And put your phone down, when you are having a conversation with someone.  Even though you may be listening, you seem disinterested. 
2.  Smile when you interact with a customer.  Okay, not every single second.  You don’t come off like Buddy the Elf.  But you get the point.  You can also do this, while you are on the phone.  It works.
3.  Be nice.  Sincerely nice, not weirdo, fake nice.  You can tell an employee “Please follow up with the customer after you repair their roof.  Thank you very much.” and still sound like a jerk.  Just because you covered your bases with “please” and “thank you” doesn’t make you a good communicator.  It’s all about how you say it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

April Seminars

Starting a Small Business workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 4-6 p.m. Tuesday, April 15, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in the Betty Gibson Hall, Gibson Conf Room 104. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. Free.

Best Hiring and Managing Practices for Small Businesses workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 2-4 p.m. Thursday, April  16, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in the Betty Gibson Hall, Gibson Conf Room 104. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. Free.

5 Steps to Marketing Success workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 9-12 p.m. Wednesday, April 17, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in the Betty Gibson Hall, Gibson Conf Room 104. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. $25 (payable at the workshop.)


Time Management and Goal Setting for your Small Business workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 9-11:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 29, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in the Betty Gibson Hall, Gibson Conf Room 104. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. $20 (payable at the workshop.) 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

It's Cinderella Time Baby!










  •  One of my favorite times of year in the sports world is the NCAA tournament.  68 teams take to the court to determine the national champion.  There are no convoluted polls to determine the winner.  It is all settled on the court.  And, it is the only time of year, I can stand to listen to Dick Vitale.
        The best part of the tournament is watching the underdogs (Cinderella) teams upset the bigger schools.  Over the last few years, we have seen some Cinderellas find a permanent place at the big boy table.  This used to be the exception to the rule, however, there are more Cinderellas than ever.  Teams such as Gonzaga, Butler, Virginia Commonwealth (VCU), and even Belmont are upsetting higher seeded teams on a regular basis and are now finding themselves to be favored teams themselves.
        What do these teams have in common that allow them to compete?  Fundamentals!  They play smart basketball, screen well, rebound, and even hit their free throws.  This in a league that is becoming more like an And1 Mixtape.
        Sure, there will be the occasional Florida Gulf Coast with their Dunk City approach, however, those will be the exception to the rule.
        Fundamentals, forming or relating to the most important part of something as Merriam defines it, is what can keep a small business on track.  All too often, we get caught up in what’s new, what the 24 hour news cycle is telling us, or just get bogged down in putting out fires.
       Specifically, financial fundamentals can help guide a small business.  Yes, I am sneaking a financially sound article past you, but rest assured, it will be over soon. 
    Below are three fundamental habits you should maintain in your business.
    1. Accounts Receivable – The last person to get paid is always the small business owner.  Ask my garbage guy.  Sorry, Gordy!
      Make it easy for your clients to make payment, bill immediately, and don’t be afraid to pick up the telephone to ask for your money!
    2. Annual price increases – I couldn’t begin to tell you the number of my clients who have not had a price increase since they have opened.  Your expenses have gone up and, in most cases, so should your prices.
      Consider having an annual price increase, add additional services as needed, and even write a letter to your customers explaining why you are doing this (you will find they are much more understanding than you may believe.)
    3. Keep an eye on expenses – We get so caught up in our day-to-day operations, we forget to keep an eye on the bottom line.Make it a monthly habit to review your cost of goods sold (COGS) and fixed expenses to see if anything is out of line.  You can compare them to your financial statements from last year and even compare them to other businesses in your industry by using a free site like www.bizstats.com.  

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

    Wednesday, February 19, 2014

    March Seminars

    Social Media Made Easy workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 9-11 a.m. Thursday, March 6, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in the Betty Gibson Hall, Gibson Conf Room 104. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. Free.



    Starting a Small Business workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 4-6 p.m. Tuesday, March 18, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in the Betty Gibson Hall, Gibson Conf Room 104. 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, March 26, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in the Betty Gibson Hall, Gibson Conf Room 104. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. $30 (payable at the workshop.) 

    Thursday, February 6, 2014

    Let Me Contradict Myself

       We live in a very contradictory time.  Everything is extreme to one side or the other. 

       For example, we have become politically correct to a fault.  The mere mention of your opinion on ANYTHING, can get you banned, fired, or ostracized (my dictionary word of the day) from your social media platform of
    choice.

       Yet, I can’t turn my TV on any regular network show in front of the kids.  Why?  Because they are filled with Viagra commercials, swearing, and gore.  And that’s in the morning.  Thanks Kathie Lee and Hoda.
    Also, everybody wants to be unique
       
       To become unique, everybody looks to see what other people are doing to be different, and then they copy that different person.  That’s why you have so many hip tweeters out there that call themselves “Social Media Maven, hiker/swimmer/runner and lover of insert-bad-for-you-food-here.”
     
       So in the spirit of being contradictory, I would like to offer my two-cents worth when it comes to businesses:
    • It is vital that small business owners to give great customer service.
    • It is vital that small businesses to fire customers. Bad ones.  These are the customers that are simply the “squeaky wheel”, that get greased, only to shut it up.  These customers define the 80/20 rule.  That is they bring you 80% of the headaches and only 20% of the revenue.  If you are afraid to fire them, simply raise the price of your services for them and most will leave.  The one’s that stay…….well at least you will be paid for the extra babysitting.
     
    • Be passionate about what you do.  Eat it, sleep it, and breathe it.
    • You don’t have to follow your passion.  That is, if you are passionate about children, you may not necessarily be cut out to own a daycare.  I am passionate about football, but would probably make a terrible GM (I was a Vince Young supporter, back in the day.)  You just need to be passionate about the business you have and passionate about doing the right things, in the right way.  If you do that, the money will follow.
     
    • Treat employees the way you treat your customers (assuming you treat your customers well.)  The number one reason good employees leave their job, is their relationship with their boss.  Allow them to provide input, give them regular feedback, and a little professional development.
    • Dismiss C level employees.  C level employees are the employees that are there merely for a paycheck.   They are the “that’s not in my job description” employees.  They are the negative people who are complaining about the weather, traffic, and just can’t be happy.


    Thursday, January 30, 2014

    February Seminars


    Starting a Small Business workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 4-6 p.m. Tuesday, February 11, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in the Betty Gibson Hall, Gibson Conf Room 104. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. Free.


    5 Steps to Marketing Success workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 9-12 p.m. Thursday, February 20, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in the Betty Gibson Hall, Gibson Conf Room 104. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. $25, payable at the workshop

    Monday, January 27, 2014

    Back By Popular Demand

    How to Write a Business Plan



    Fee: $ 30.00
    Payment will be made at the workshop. Checks or cash preferred.
    Thursday, January 30, 2013 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM 


    This is a hands-on workshop that will focus on Marketing, Management, and Financial planning for your business.

    Participants will complete a rough draft of the narrative portion of their business plan during the workshop.

    You will receive a 4 GB Flash Drive with the Business Plan Workbook in Word format.

    Reservations are required and this workshop is limited to 15 people.
    To get here take the GAP Blvd entrance to Volunteer State Community College. Then take your second entrance on the right into the parking lot and the Betty Gibson Building will be right in front of you.




    Wednesday, January 22, 2014

    Business Apps to Save You Time

    See what this paisley clad gentlemen at at Entrepreneur.com has to say about time saving apps:







    Monday, January 13, 2014

    Ditch the New Year's Resolution

    I hate News Year’s resolutions. Hate them.  Everyone always has a renewed sense of self, because of the calendar.  It seems to me that we shouldn’t need the calendar’s permission to do the things that we know,
    we should be doing. 
    However, I do like the idea of goals.  And yes, I understand they can be virtually the same as New Year’s resolutions.  But we can set goals any time. 
    Why in the world do we need goals?  Can’t we have just as much success without them and without the stress they bring us?  Chances are, if you search long enough, you will find some contrarian with an article or newsletter (we’re a dime a dozen, you know) that will justify your opinion. 
    But it’s pretty simple.  The successful and happy people I know have goals.  The less-than-successful, i.e., Debbie Downer’s, don’t.  I want to be like the first group.
    Case in point:
    We’ve all heard of the Yale study that surveyed the 1953 graduating class about goals.  They discovered that 3% of the graduates had written goals and 97% did not.  At the twenty year reunion, they surveyed them again and discovered the 3% with goals had accumulated more personal financial wealth than the other 97% of the class combined!  Amazing! This has even been quoted by Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy, Tony Robbins, and every other motivational speaker since.  The problem is the study never really happened.  I’m not one to be dissuaded by silly things like facts, so I have found another college study to my example.
    Domincan University (yes, it’s a real place) recruited 267 participants from a wide variety of businesses, organizations, and networking groups throughout the United States and overseas for a study on how goal achievement in the workplace is influenced by writing goals, committing to goal-directed actions, and accountability for those actions. Participants ranged in age from 23 to 72 and represented a wide spectrum of backgrounds.

    Participants in the study were randomly assigned to one of five groups.
    • Group 1 was asked to simply think about their goals.  
    • Group 2 was asked to write their goals.
    • Group 3 was asked to write action commitments for each goal. 
    • Group 4 had to both write goals and action commitments and also share these commitments with a friend. 
    • Group 5 went the furthest by doing all of the above plus sending a weekly progress report to a friend.
    So how did each group do?
    • Group 1 – 43% accomplished their goals.
    • Group 2 – 51% accomplished their goals.
    • Group 3 – 61% accomplished their goals.
    • Group 4 – 64% accomplished their goals.
    • Group 5 – 76% accomplished their goals.
     
    Take that Yale! So, if you want to get something done this year, ditch the resolution and set a specific goal and share it with a friend. 
    "If you're bored with life -- you don't get up every morning with a burning desire to do things -- you don't have enough goals." - Lou Holtz

    Monday, January 6, 2014

    January Seminars

    Starting a Small Business workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 4-6 p.m. Tuesday, January 14, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in the Betty Gibson Hall, Gibson Conf Room 104. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. Free.


    Social Media Digital Marketing Course of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 9-12 p.m. Friday, January 10 and 17 (this is a two part course), 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in room 175 in the Ramer Administrative Building. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. $99 (payable at the workshop.) 

    Monday, December 16, 2013

    Social Media Digital Marketing Course - January 10th and 17th

    $99
    Payment will be required at the first class on January 10th.  Check or cash preferred.

    Friday, January 10, 2013 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM

    AND

     Friday, January 17, 2013 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM


    This two-part, hands-on, computer lab course will cover the following:

    January 10th, Class One, 3 Hours 
    *Deciding on Your Platforms – Learning the Functions and Business Uses for Social Media
    Platforms Covered:
    o Facebook
    o Twitter
    o LinkedIn
    o YouTube
    o Instagram
    o Pinterest
    o Vine
    o How to run effective campaigns that combine both offline and online marketing.
    o Tracking – effective use of free/paid tools to streamline you social media efforts and tracking

    January 17th, Class Two: 3 Hours 
    *Social Media Plan Building, Building an effective Social Media Plan (3 Hours – Hands On)
    o Who and where are your best customers
    o Define your voice
    o Why would someone want to connect with you on social media
    o What are the big ideas that are going to drive your campaign
    o Content allocation – who will implement your social media projects
    • Who – Who is going to do the work on your social media marketing
    • When - developing a calendar / schedule
    • Where - Office? Outside resources? Mobile? Computer?
    • What – What pieces of content do you need? Do you need an image repository? Videos?
    • Develop a detailed calendar to structure your social media activities
     
     
    Speaker(s): Transparent - Jason Elkins
     

    Fee: $ 99.00
    The class will be held in the Ramer Administrative Building, room 175.
    Payment will be required at time of the first class on January 10th.  
    Check or cash preferred.

    Monday, December 9, 2013

    So Was Ebenezer Scrooge Really That Bad?

       Poor ole Ebenezer Scrooge.  His name is synonymous with being a cheapskate during the holidays.  As we are all aware, Scrooge had his flaws that included contempt for the poor, being rude to his only employee, and coining Bah Humbug.  
      But, was Scrooge at least a good business man?   You bet!
    Take the following into account:
    • He was passionate about his work – This man was willing to work day and night doing what he loved; a money lender….or a banker….um, or a solicitor.….mmm, I’m not sure what he was, but he loved it.
    • Worked his way up - Scrooge apprenticed as a low-level clerk to Mr. Fezziwig. From this humble beginning, Scrooge partnered with Marley and eventually made a fortune.  By the way, his business had to go through the Napoleonic Wars, the Industrial Revolution, and make it through a few economic depressions.
    • He has been played by the best - Partcik Stewart, George C. Scott, Jim Carrey, Bill Murray, and of course, Donald and Daffy Duck.
    • Kept his expenses low – “Scrooge prefers to hoard his money, denying himself proper conveniences and living a lifestyle of poverty.” writes Charles Dickens.  So he saved a little money on heat by not buying coal.  Big deal.  These days he would be considered an environmentalist. 
    • Had working capital – After keeping his expenses low, Scrooge hoarded his money.  And by hoarded, he probably had enough working capital set aside that when times got tough in London in the 1800’s, he would survive. 
    • He was a good business partner – He had to be at least a decent business partner, or Marley his deceased business partner, would not come back to warn him of his ways and how they could lead to roaming the earth for eternity.  A lot of the partnerships I have seen wouldn’t even warn each other of walking around with toilet paper on their shoe.
    • His name was Ebenezer! - You know who else is named Ebenezer?  Nope.  Me neither.  That alone makes him remarkable. 
      So does being a good business man make Scrooge a good person?  No.  But you know how the story ends.  He was Bill Gates, before Bill Gates.  
    Merry Christmas!

    Friday, November 22, 2013

    December Seminars

    QuickBooks Introduction for Small Businesses workshop of Volunteer State Community College's www.tsbdc.org. $25 (payable at the workshop.)
    Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 9-12 p.m. Tuesday, December 3, 1480 Nashville Pike,

    Gallatin, TN in room 175 in the Ramer Administrative Building. Registration is required. Reserve online.

    Starting a Small Business workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 4-6 p.m. Tuesday, December 10, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in the Betty Gibson Hall, Gibson Conf Room 104. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. Free.

    Getting Ready To Go To the Bank workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 10-11:30 a.m. Thursday, December 12, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in the Betty Gibson Hall, Gibson Conf Room 104. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. Free.


    Social Media Digital Marketing Course of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 9-12 p.m. Friday, January 10 and 17 (this is a two part course), 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in room 175 in the Ramer Administrative Building. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. $99 (payable at the workshop.) 

    Monday, November 11, 2013

    4 Ways to Say Thank You to Your Customers


    With three kids, ages 4 and under, I have been changing diapers for almost five years and have another couple of years ahead of me.  And by me, I mean me and my wife.  And my mother-in-law.  And anyone else with a pair of free hands.  So you could understand my eagerness to potty train our two-year old, Lilly.   
    My lovely wife found a way to reward Lilly for “taking care of business” on the potty.  Every fourth time she uses the potty, she gets a new toy.   Not to mention that every time she goes, we cheer like we just watched the Music City Miracle for the first time.  This recognition has Lilly Bug on the fast track to leaving me with only one kiddo left in diapers and more money in my pocket.
      One of the biggest desires of human nature is to be loved and to receive recognition.   That’s why employees may respond more to a pat on the back, than they do a monetary reward.
     That is also why a customer will spend more with a business that has shown them appreciation, than they would with an unknown business that is offering a “great deal” to new customers.
     With Thanksgiving around the corner, here four ways to thank your customers:
    1.  Create a customer loyalty program, by giving your existing customers a discount or reward for spending money with you.  In this fun digital age, it has become a lot easier to implement. 
    Try one of these apps that replaces physical loyalty cards:
    2.  Use Facebook, Twitter, or your social media of choice to openly thank your customer.  If you sell business-to-business, then this would also be a great opportunity to tell everyone why this customer is awesome at what they do.
    3.  Tell them thank you! Simply send them an email or if you really want to get into this, pick up the phone or write a personal letter. ACTUALLY HAND-WRITE THE LETTER. There is a catch to this though.  I have received a record number of handwritten thank you notes in the past year, and while I appreciate them, most of them look like the author of the note is getting this off their to-do list, i.e., “I really appreciate what your business/I appreciate what you do/scribble, scribble, looks like a ransom note/please tell all of your friends about us.”  That may actually be worse than no note. You can be brief; however, you must be specific.
    4.  Send cookies, gift cards, gift baskets, candy, or just anything small that is sincere.


    Thursday, October 31, 2013

    How to Write a Business Plan Seminar

    Sad pumpkin, Happy pumpkin (you should really unblock the photo, because I have to justify spending time on this silliness)
    Which Jack-O'-Lantern are you?

    How to Write a Business Plan


    Fee: $ 30.00
    Payment will be made at the workshop. Checks or cash preferred.
    Thursday, November 07, 2013 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM 

    This is a hands-on workshop that will focus on Marketing, Management, and Financial planning for your business.

    Participants will complete a rough draft of the narrative portion of their business plan during the workshop.

    You will receive a 4 GB Flash Drive with the Business Plan Workbook in Word format.

    Reservations are required and this workshop is limited to 15 people.
    To get here take the GAP Blvd entrance to Volunteer State Community College. Then take your second entrance on the right into the parking lot and the Betty Gibson Building will be right in front of you.

    Thursday, October 24, 2013

    November Seminars

    Starting a Small Business workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 4-6 p.m. Tuesday, November 5, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in the Betty Gibson Hall, Conf Room 104. 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. Thursday, November 7, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in the Betty Gibson Hall, Conf Room 104. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. $30 (payable at the workshop.)

    Health Care Reform and your Business workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 3-4 p.m. Tuesday, November 19, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in the Betty Gibson Hall, Conf Room 104. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. Free


    QuickBooks Introduction for Small Businesses workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 9-12 p.m. Tuesday, December 3, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in the Ramer Administrative Building, Room 175. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. $25 (payable at the workshop.) 

    Monday, October 21, 2013

    Recycling Company named 2013 Rising Star


    (Left to Right) Rising Star winners, Amy and Jason DiStefano,
    along with Vol State Pres. Dr. Jerry Faulkner
    and TSBDC Director Chalres Alexander 
    The Tennessee Small Business Development Center (TSBDC) at Volunteer State Community College has awarded Green Village Recycling of Hendersonville the 2013 Rising Star award. The Rising Star award goes to a small business that has had great success utilizing TSBDC resources. Owners Jason and Amy DiStefano worked with TSBDC Director Charles Alexander to develop a business plan when the venture was just an idea. Today, they have 500 customers in six counties.

    “Four years ago Jason came to one of our workshops on starting a small business,” said Alexander. “Jason was telling me about this niche, this idea in his head.”

    “Charles was the first person to read my business plan cover to cover,” said Jason DiStefano. “A lot of work has gone into this business and we could not have done it without the TSBDC.”

    Green Village Recycling handles business and residential recycling needs, taking more than 400,000 pounds of material out of the refuse stream last year. They have a target of a million pounds of recycling for this year.


    In 2012, the TSBDC at Vol State worked with 213 small businesses and clients, offering free and inexpensive classes, and counseling. In all, the projects raised $2.26 million in capital and created or retained 84 jobs. For more information and a list of classes contact Charles Alexander at Charles.alexander@volstate.edu or call 615-230-4780.