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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

5 reasons you will be successful in 2017

Yes, I know that you are preparing to swap gifts, travel way too far to see family, and eat enough to put you into a sugar coma, however, a brand new year is right around the corner.


Below are 5 reasons you will be successful in 2017:
  1. You will find a qualified CPA who can assist you and your decision making year-round, set a fixed amount that you will pay them, and use their advice.  They will save you more money than they cost.
  2. You are going to perform a cash flow projection for 2017 and identify potential shortfalls today, not tomorrow!
  3. You are going to raise your prices, because you offer a premium product/service!  You will have a better profit, better customers, and sleep well at night.
  4. You are going to delegate some of the roles that you currently perform in your business, so you can grow the business, i.e., bookkeeping, digital marketing, payroll, and anything that someone else can do as well as you, for less money than you!
  5. You are going to schedule an appointment with your local TSBDC counselor to get a jump start on your 2017 goals!
Go ahead and visit Aunt Edna, attend Christmas Eve services, and hang on to those gift receipts and we will see you next year!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

You think you're better...but you're not


Have you ever noticed that you are constantly comparing yourself with others?

And yes, I blame Facebook for most of this!

Was your vacation cool enough, is your car new enough, are you as fit and trim as you should be, etc.?

Many times you compare yourself to others, who are in worse shape, to justify your situation.

For example:

  • An out of shape person may feel better about themselves after watching The Biggest Loser.
  • A financially strapped person may feel better about their finances, after listening to the first few callers on the Dave Ramsey Show discuss bankruptcies and foreclosures.
  • An overwhelmed parent may feel better about themselves after doing some service work in a shelter.


However, you may still be overweight, broke, and in disarray.

So should you bother comparing yourself at all?

If you are a business owner, the answer is YES!

Why?


 “What gets measured gets done!”


Unfortunately, there are many business owners still justifying their situations.


  • A restaurant owner may feel good about their business, because they have great Yelp reviews, but they could still have a net loss for the year.
  • A landscaper may feel good about their Accounts Receivable being an average of 60 days, because they know a consultant with an average of 90 days.
  • A hotel owner may feel good about their debt-to-equity ratio being low, because it was even lower last year.


However, the restaurant is still losing money, the landscaper still has some collecting to do, and the hotel owner is still upside down on the business.

So how should you compare your business?

The best way to measure your business is against your competition.   This way you get an apples-to-apples comparison, instead of an apples-to-oranges comparison.

Common measurements are your costs-of-goods-sold (COGS), net profit margin, current ratio, payroll expenses, advertising expenses, etc.

In fact, the TSBDC has a “comparison” tool that compares your type of business vs. others in Tennessee and nationwide.

Comparing against other businesses in your industry is a more accurate way to determine how well you are doing and what you could improve upon.

And remember, nobody posts the bad stuff on Facebook, so stop comparing yourself there too!

p.s.
Email me at charles.alexander@volstate.edu to learn more about the "comparision" tool.












Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Would you rather eat an elephant, a snowball, or a frog?


I know you have heard this one.  How do you eat an elephant? Wait for it…one bite at a time. We all know the saying, but we often fail to apply this lesson in our businesses. 

Brian Tracy wrote a book called “Eat that Frog.”  He quotes Mark Twain, saying, “If the first thing that you do when you wake up in the morning is to eat a live frog, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that’s probably the worst thing that’s going to happen to you all day long.”

Yuck!

And we’ll discuss snowballs in a moment.

Right now, I'm working with a business owner right now that needs to eat an elephant, a snowball, and a frog.

She has a decent size business with 5 employees.  She has been at the same revenue for as long as I've known her and she wants to get over the hump.

She wants to work on marketing, managing her production crew, her admin staff, bookkeeping, and her own day-to-day activities. 

In other words…everything.

  • First eating the elephant.

She’s finally letting me really dig in and help her. We have identified her three major goals for the next year and are simply breaking down each area of her business, one bite at a time.

  • Next is the snowball.  Well, she’s not actually eating it, but you’ll get the point.

She is taking on the easiest project of her business first, like Dave Ramsey's snowball method for paying off debt. In this case, it is just job descriptions. She feels like this would be easy to work on.  Once she has that done for November, she will have some confidence and see her progress paying off and we move on to the next project. 

  • Lastly, she is eating the frog.

Even though she is taking on the easiest project of her business, she is committing to working on the hardest task first each day.   In the case of job descriptions, she works on them for 30 minutes each morning, before answering any email or phone calls.

It's never a perfect process and there can always be a reason to put it off. 

The key is to break down the process into small bites, starting with the easiest project, and do the hardest task first each day.  

This will make the process manageable, allow you to build some early victories, and make each day count toward your goal.   



Thursday, September 1, 2016

The New Overtime Rule



Recently a new overtime rule was passed.  Currently, salaried employees making less than $23,660 are eligible for overtime pay IF they work more than 40 hours in a week.  That amount is being raised to $47,476, effective December 1st, 2016.

This will be a big adjustment for small business owners and they will have some tough decisions to make regarding salaried employees making less than $47,476.

What can you do?
  1. You can simply pay those employees time-and-a-half for all hours worked beyond 40 each week
  2. Scale back their hours to just 40 per week and still pay the same salary
  3. Give the employee a raise to $47,476 or above so they can continue working more than 40 hours per week without overtime pay
You can also use any combination of the three options.

You will not be the only business owner impacted.  In fact, 4.2 million employees will be affected, which means your business could be impacted as well.

It is not time to panic, however, it is time to make some decisions.  Have you looked at your options?  Do you have the correct systems in place to handle those options?  What will be your best cost benefit?  


I would recommend talking to your payroll company or your accountant to make the best decision for you and your employees.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Customer Service: Case Study


We all have stories of what our best and worst customer service experiences are. For some of you, this experience will make you a loyal customer for life or make sure that you never use that company again.

Below are two experiences that come to mind for me.

Worst

Our television service provider, who shall remain nameless (not a satellite company), is somewhat notorious for poor customer service. They have a good product, but if and when you need to have an issue resolved, it can be a train wreck of an experience.

For example, a few years ago we had to close our checking account. We had several monthly bills automatically withdrawn every month: electric, gas, water, cell phone, cable, etc. We called each of them, filled out paperwork, and were told the process for each.

When we contacted our cable provider, after waiting on hold for over twenty minutes, being disconnected, then connected to the wrong department, then finally transferred to a real person, we were told that this would be no problem. “Just fill out this form and send it in, and then next month the billing will come out of your new account.”

Fast forward two months. The billing is still coming from the old account or rather the closed account. And each time it does, there is a “bounced check” fee and late fees. After several rounds of calls and discussions, I was told, in a condescending, you’re-too-dumb-to-be-on-the-phone-with-me-manner, that I should know that it takes several months to change this process and there is nothing more we can do about YOUR PROBLEM.

The icing on the cake - after I refused to pay the fees, they finally managed to go into my new account and take the “late” fees out without asking, but still would not connect billing to my new account. 

Best

On the other hand, I do have an example of exemplary customer service, and it’s a familiar business -Publix.

Several of us could probably give a glowing story or two about this grocery store, however, I have long been a resentful shopper there. You see, I’m a cheapskate. I have been known to squeak a little when I walk. With that being said, I’m also a converted shopper to this place.

Last year I made a quick shopping trip in to get a few items I needed to make gumbo. I had my items in my basket and was ready to check out, when I realized that I had the wrong sausage (not the one Mr. Cheapie had a coupon for), so I set my basket down up front and ran back to get the right sausage. When I returned, my basket was gone. Was someone else too lazy to shop for their own gumbo items? No, the fast and friendly folks at Publix had noticed the unattended basket and put the items back where they came from.

When I asked an employee where they may be, he asked for my grocery list that was in my hand, and took off. He was fast, too. In just a few minutes, he returned with the items on my grocery list, wiped the sweat from his brow, and apologized for the inconvenience.

Now this is not ground breaking stuff here, but I could just imagine if this happened elsewhere, the reaction would have been much different. 



As a small business owner, you have a choice.  An easy choice.  Do you want to provide customer service that is so good that people have to talk about it or do you want to provide service so bad, that people have to talk about it? 

Monday, June 6, 2016

I Got a Boo Berry Up My Nose!


A couple of weeks ago, I was getting ready to leave the house early for SBA Awards in Nashville.  I was excited because I had nominated Angel Carrier, owner of the Tennessee Pour House, for SBA Woman Owned Business of the Year, and she won!

On my way out the door, my three-year-old Lane, kept telling me “Daddy, Daddy, I go a boo berry up my nose!”

He’s three.  He says crazy things like, “I’m Spiderman”, “I washed my hand, weally I did”, and “I like Mommy better than you.”   I just thought this was one of those things.  I finally said, what do you mean little buddy?  He says, “Come here.  I show you.”  He leads me over the board game, Operation, and said, “Dis one, see”, and he points to it.  I notice all of the game pieces are still in there…minus the grapes in his chest. 
Me - “Lane, did you put the grapes up your nose?”
Lane – “Yep.   And it huwts too.  See?”
He leans his head back to show where has stashed them.

So my wife and I are now in a real life version of Operation.  I’m holding his head and she has the tweezers.  She’s crying, he’s screaming, and I’m late.  Needless to say, we didn’t make much progress.

So an hour later, a couple of well-trained nurses pluck the grapes out within a matter of seconds. They were professionals.

Oh, and I missed the SBA Awards.  Sorry Angel.

It did make me think of small business owners and the problems they solve.  So many times, your customers have grapes up their nose and they don’t know how to extract them.  Heck, they don’t even know they are grapes.  They think they have blueberries up there.  They could try to fix the problem, however, they usually make the problem worse.  That’s where you come in with a unique skill set and a long set of tweezers.

Make sure your clients and potential clients know:

  • There is a proven return on investment of using your services.  Show them the money than can save by using you to solve their problem.
  •  You can take care of their problem immediately.  They won’t be burdened with their problem and have it hanging over their head.
  • You are going to do a much better job than they could ever do.  Ever.  If they want it done right and not have to re-do it, they should hire you.  This is where good referrals come in handy.

 And if necessary, show them the tweezers.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Tennessee Pour House owner honored by Small Business Adminsitration



Angel Carrier, owner of the Tennessee Pour House, has won the SBA Woman Owned Business of the Year for Tennessee.  She was nominated by the Tennessee Small Business Development Center at Volunteer State Community College.
Located at 880 Greenlea Blvd. in Gallatin, Tennessee Pour House uses fresh, ethically-sourced products for its coffee and other offerings. Angel says her goal is to help improve the local and global community one cup at a time.
Angel came to the TSBDC at Volunteer State Community College in the fall of 2013.  Coming from Colorado, Angel wanted to open a specialty coffee shop in the rural community of Westmoreland. She learned steps to open a business in Tennessee, created a business plan and financial projections to reach her goal.
And in the spring of 2014 Angel opened the Tennessee Pour House. She used the business plan and projections to self-finance and hire employees.
After creating a following and reaching break-even, Angel decided to move the business to Gallatin in 2015, to reach a larger population.
Carrier again used the services of TSBDC and did her own research to find her next location and develop a new marketing strategy.
“The TSBDC has been a great resource in helping us start and grow our business,” Carrier said.
"Working with Angel has been awesome," said Charles Alexander, director of the TSBDC. "She is a bundle of energy and has worked very hard to create a niche here in Gallatin.  She has a loyal following and brings something new to our area.”
Since moving the business to Gallatin, Tennessee Pour House has expanded into a breakfast and lunch menu that provides a multitude of organic and vegan options.
Tennessee Pour House coffee is also sold at 40 Kroger locations throughout Middle Tennessee, including the Kroger Marketplace on Nashville Pike near Cages Bend Road.

Friday, April 29, 2016

5 Customers You Need To Fire Today



I have a client, let’s call him Bob, which had a nightmare of a customer.  Bob’s customer was always late on payment, was high maintenance, and was never wrong.  I suggested Bob fire this bad customer.  The problem?  This customer was 25% of Bob’s revenue. Ouch!

After Bob had finally had enough, he bit the bullet and let his customer know they would be no longer be working together.  Bob was professional, gave them a 60 day notice, and even offered some names of competitors (Bob thought that was funny).

Bob’s business took an initial hit financially, however, over the course of only 6 months, he replaced the income.  And Bob was happier than ever.

There are certain customers you have, that are like Bob’s customer.  Let’s take a look at five of them.

·         Whining customers – I’ll bet you that there is one particular customer that you absolutely hate taking a call or email from, because you know that they are going to find something to whine about.  They don’t think they should have to pay a certain price, they want something for nothing, or they just plain ole whine about life.  This customer is not only a drain on your bottom line, but they can be a drain on your mental well-being.
·         No profit customers –Take a look at your customer list and examine it carefully, Odds are you will find customers that do not make you a profit.  In fact, a few may cost you money, just to do business with them.  Unless they lead to larger customers or referrals, they need to be sent away.
·         Frustrating customers - Customers that make poor use of their time create emergencies for you.  If they are always running late or canceling meetings, not prepared to take product or service, or don’t respond in a timely manner, you may need to reconsider this customer.
·         Late paying customers – This customer always has an excuse, but in reality, they are either disorganized or not respectful of your business.  Either way, they may not be a good long-term customer.
·         Know-it-all customers – If you are a graphic designer and your customer insists on using Comic Sans, because “it looks so cool”, you may need to move them to a competitor. 

Firing the customer is never easy and may not always be right for you.  The thing to remember is that you are running your business to make a profit and to provide a product or service that helps others, and that product or service may not be right for everyone. 


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The 3 Obstacles between You and Success – Faith, Family, and Friends



Every month I teach a "Starting a Small Business" workshop here at Volunteer State Community College.  I usually get a dozen or so wide eyed optimists wanting to pursue their dream of entrepreneurship.  They tell me they want to start a business so they can immediately call their own shots, spend more time with family, come and go as they please, and do what they want, when they want.

Their priorities are faith, family, and friends and no amount of success will change that!

Then I chuckle a little.  Not out loud.  That would be rude.

We then spend the next couple of hours discussing what it takes to start a business successfully.

I also see the same for businesses that have plateaued or never really taken off. They want to do the same things that the startups are aspiring to, without doing the hard part first.

Of course their priorities should be faith, family, and friends.  Most successful people have those priorities.  But they can’t be your excuse to not building your business, i.e. my business won't take off, because I won't sacrifice my faith, family, and friends.   The truth is, YOU can have both!  

It’s more about what you are willing to do, to truly make those priority matter.

You may have to do some things you don’t want to do, in order to get the things you want.

Doing the following in your business will help you in making your faith, family, and friends your real priority.
  • Don’t wait on the economy to take off.  I think we are there.
  • Create your goals.  Then create steps to reach those goals.  Then create the team and time to reach those goals.
  • Turn off the TV
  • Back off golf or “insert-hobby-you-have-justified-here”.
  • Exercise
  • Read books
  • Turn off email, text, and Facebook alerts
  • Step outside of your comfort zone, knowing that making an omelet involves breaking a few eggs, i.e. put yourself out there to make sales.

And once your business has a strong foundation, you will then be able to call your own shots, spend more time with family, come and go as you please, and do what you want, when you want, without sacrificing, faith, family, and friends.



Monday, February 29, 2016

March Seminars



Creating an Empowered Workforce workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 2-4 p.m. Thursday, March 3, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. 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 8, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. Free.

Getting and Creating Loyal Clients for Your Business workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 9-11 a.m. Wednesday, March 9, 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, 9-11 a.m. Tuesday, March 22, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. $10, payable at the workshop.

Friday, February 5, 2016

The 5 Simple Actions to More Revenue This Year



If you own an accounting, financial planning, HVAC, sign, construction, graphic design, landscaping, consulting, attorney, insurance, catering, massage, photography, insert-almost-any-type-of-business here, this is written for you. 

This process (borrowed from the highly successful businesses I have met) will grow your business in 2016.  Not overnight, but it will build a foundation that, if repeated regularly, will give you more work than you can handle.

     1.    Send a monthly newsletter (yes, I’m partial, but it works) – Just a few effective tips, pretty pictures, and a call to action can make an effective monthly newsletter.  The idea is drive people back to your site and learn more about how you can help them.  And if you are using an email service, you will know who is engaging with your newsletter and you can follow up with them later.
     2.    Use Social Media – The same content in the newsletter can be used in your social media platform of choice.  Additionally, you should take the time to interact with others and use social media to be, well…social.  This helps you continue to build brand recognition and identify people and follow up with them later.
     3.    Networking – Attend at least 2-3 networking events per month.  Make sure to collect at least 3 business cards from people that you can help and follow up with them later.
     4.    Coffee or Lunch – This is the “following up with them later” part.  When you have a coffee or lunch date, make sure to be the one that listens and finds a way to help that person, even if it is not with the service you normally provide.  
     5.    FOLLOW UP the FOLLOW UP! – This is the biggest miss by most entrepreneurs.  They may make great contacts, but then don’t follow up.   At all.  They assume that the other party isn’t interested because they didn’t buy immediately. 
The truth is that people are busy.  Too busy.  They are thinking about themselves and not you.  It is up to you to follow up.  And in most cases it will take 7-12 times before they make a buying decision.  Use hand-written notes, emails, phone calls, gifts, and your newsletter to follow up.

Add these activities to your calendar and treat them like a doctor’s appointment.  You would not let a phone call or an urgent email prevent you from your annual physical or getting your back adjusted when you are in pain. 



Monday, January 11, 2016

6 Foolproof Steps to Reach Your Goals


I remember meeting with one of my very first clients here at the TSBDC.   They owned a local restaurant (no longer in existence.)

Me: So, what is your goal for this year?
Restaurant Owner: Well…to be one of the best restaurants around, I guess. 
Me: Okay, but how much money do you want to make?
Restaurant Owner: You know, a lot. 
Me: Alright, how will you know if you hit the goal?
Restaurant Owner: Well, I reckon if I have money in my account and happy customers, I hit it. 
Me: Hmmm…do you want to write down some specific goals, steps, and measures for that?
Restaurant Owner:  Nah, I have a gut feeling for these things.  Hey, but thanks anyways. 

I swear, they almost patted me on the head like I was a child trying to tie my shoes. 

So why do we need goals?  Goals give you focus, energy, persistence, and make you successful. 
They also need to be written down and visible.  Unfortunately, only 2% of people have written goals and those with written goals are twice as successful, than those without written goals. 

These 6 steps make reaching your goals possible. 

1.  What - What is the goal?  Is it specific?  Is it realistic?  Can it be measured? If not, pick a new goal.
2.  Who – Who on your team is responsible for meeting this goal?  Who will you surround yourself with to meet this goal?  Who are you going to share your goal with that will hold you accountable?
3.  When – When is the deadline?  Sometime this year is not a “when.”  Give it a date.
4.  Where – Where will it be measured?  Is it the profit-n-loss statement, balance sheet, number of customers, number of leads, number of employees, etc.
5.  How – How are you going to reach the goal?  Are there specific steps that you can lay out that will lead you to your goal?   There better be.  Otherwise, that would be like taking a trip to an unknown destination with no GPS.
And most importantly…
6.  Why – Why does this goal matter?  Will it change your business?  Will it change your life?  Will it make you happy?  If you don’t know the answer, start again with Step 1.

And if you need help in setting your business goals for 2016, contact the TSBDC.

Monday, January 4, 2016

January Seminars























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


The Ultimate Branding Blueprint workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 9-12 p.m. Wednesday, January 13, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. $30, payable at the workshop.
  


Website & Online Marketing Fundamentals: Building A Local Powerhouse workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 3-5 p.m. Wednesday, January 27, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. $20, payable at the workshop

Monday, November 16, 2015

December Seminars

Oh, I love TSBDC seminars soooo much!!!


QuickBooks Introduction for Small Businesses workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 9-12 p.m. Friday, December 4, 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 8, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. Free.


Social Media for Entrepreneurs workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 1-4:30 p.m. Thursday, December 10, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. $59, payable at the workshop

Monday, November 2, 2015

7 Habits of Highly Effective Entrepreneurs



Over the summer, I was chatting with a fella that was complaining about everything under the sun. We'll call him Mr. Grumpypants.  

"You can’t find good help anymore, the banks won’t lend money to the little guy, and customers don’t want to pay anything”, Mr. Grumpypants said.   He wanted to know how everyone else was “getting by.”

I told Mr. Grumpypants that effective entrepreneurs are doing the following, to “get by.”

  1. Market relentlessly – This is not a once in a while thing and only when they have time.  It is all the time.  They have a marketing calendar and they stick to it! They schedule their social media posts with Hootsuite/Buffer, they attend at least one networking event per week, have coffee with strangers, and they follow up with their customers regularly.
  2. Create a niche – They know that not everyone will be their customer.  They are good at what they do and they want people to know it.  Consider the legal and medical profession.  Would you go to a patent attorney for a defense case or a see a pediatrician for a heart procedure?
  3. Read and respond to financial statements – They compare their Profit and Loss statement to last year’s P/L, the industry average, and their budget.  They also calculate a few key ratios, such as the current ratio, debt to equity, and track accounts receivable.
  4. Reinvest in the business – They don’t buy that boat or take a trip to Hawaii - yet.  They take their profits and reinvest into the business until they reach their goal of being financially independent and fully managed.
  5. Hire the best people and delegate – They have heard “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.”  They know that if you want to own your business longer than a few years, you learn to delegate and deal with imperfection.
  6. Set goals and prioritize – They don’t run around putting out fires all day.  They set 2-3 goals annually, and set time aside to reach those goals.
  7. Personal and professional development – They don’t spend all day staring at their magic phones mindlessly or catch up on every show ever made on Netflix.  They read books, attend conferences, and interact with their trade associations.
Don't be a Mr. Grumpypants during this Thankful Season and follow these seven habits to effectiveness!


Monday, October 19, 2015

November Seminars



Make LinkedIn a Part of Your Revenue Action Plan workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 9-11 a.m. Tuesday, October 27, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. $30 payable at the workshop.

5 Steps to Marketing Success workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 2-5 p.m. Wednesday, October 28 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. $25, 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, November 10, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. Free.

Time Management and Goal Setting for your Small Business workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 9-11 a.m. Wednesday, November 18 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. $20, payable at the workshop.


QuickBooks Introduction for Small Businesses workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 9-12 p.m. Friday, December 4, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. $45, payable at the workshop

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Preparing for Murphy’s Law




So this past weekend I watched my favorite college football team botch a 13 point lead in the 4th quarter and lose the game in heartbreaking fashion.  They played too conservatively, made too many mistakes, and didn’t expect to win.  They make it hard to keep rooting for them.

So this past weekend I watched my favorite pro football team botch a 13 point lead in Copy and Paste, Copy and Paste, Copy and Paste, Copy and Paste, Copy and Paste, Copy and Paste, Copy and Paste, Copy and Paste, Copy and Paste, Copy and Paste, Copy and Paste, Copy and Paste.  

Yes, it happened just like that.  There is something bad that has crept into the DNA of Tennessee Football teams.

This happens to entrepreneurs as well.  There seems to be a black cloud that hovers over the head of particular business owners and busy professionals.  Not all of them or even a majority of them.  But too many of them.

Just like my favorite football teams, it appears to be self-inflicted.  Sure bad luck happens and Murphy’s Law is invoked.  And if you have never heard, Murphy’s Law states, if something can go wrong, it will go wrong.  Yes, that is the Debbie Downer version of life.

However, I have always heard that:

Good luck is where opportunity meets preparation.
It also appears that bad luck is where threats meet disorder.

So, if every time you:
  • Get money saved for taxes, a piece of equipment breaks.
  • Get all of your open positions filled, somebody quits.
  • Find a marketing strategy that works, it suddenly dries up.

It may be time to better prepare for Murphy’s Law.  You can’t avoid it, but you can at least minimize Murphy and his black cloud.
  • Begin a savings plan that includes you paying yourself first.  Once it becomes habit, you won’t even know you are doing it. 
  • Always be on the lookout for talent.  Use your referrals, LinkedIn, and even check out your competitors for potential employees and have a list ready to roll when someone quits. 
  • Make sure to consistently use 3-5 marketing strategies at all times.  You should review where your business is coming from, at least monthly, and tweak your strategies accordingly.

Again, this won’t solve all of your problems, but it will keep Murphy at bay.

Now for the football teams…I’m open to suggestions.

Monday, September 21, 2015

October Seminars



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

Patents, Trademarks, Copyrights, and Trade Secrets for Entrepreneurs workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 9-11 a.m. Thursday, October 15, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. Free.

Make LinkedIn a Part of Your Revenue Action Plan workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 9-11 a.m. Tuesday, October 27, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. $30, payable at the workshop.


5 Steps to Marketing Success workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 2-5 p.m. Wednesday, October 28, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. $25, payable at the workshop.

Monday, August 31, 2015

If You Play with Snakes, You Will Get Bitten!

Those aren't all participation ribbons chief!


If you have ever listened to Dave Ramsey’s advice on using credit cards, you will know that he often says, “When you play with snakes, you will get bitten.”  He means that getting cute with credit cards will end up with you paying finance charges and piling up debt. 

This can also be said of slithery people and businesses

For example:
Pediatric Dentist A
I have always selected the cheaper dental insurance because I can be penny wise and pound foolish sometimes.  I then selected the behemoth pediatric dental practice, despite less than stellar online reviews.  See where I’m headed?

Well, lo and behold, my 6 year old had a few small cavities.

Despite lackluster interactions up to this point, (always had different dentists, different opinions, and little follow up), this pediatric practice was suddenly in full blown communication mode.  They told us we needed to schedule an appointment right away and have all of her molars capped!  ASAP!

Despite our reservations, we moved forward.   They were supposed to only do half of the teeth with cavities and schedule the remaining later, but they managed to do way more than what a 6 year old should have to withstand in one sitting.  We felt like we had been bitten!


Pediatric Dentist B
Luckily, my wife had the common sense (not me) to call and get a second opinion, before we moved forward with the slithery plan. 

The second pediatric dentistry, Just 4 Kids Teeth, told us that they would recommend just a few fillings and that crowns were not necessary.  They also said this was probably caused by reflux, but not by a lack of flossing as we were told by Dentist A.

The Just 4 Kids Teeth staff was very friendly, immediately went out of their way to build rapport, and there was constant communication and they even asked us for our feedback! 

This was another lesson learned in parenting.  I played with snakes and my 6 year old was bitten. 

This also holds true when running a business
  • Think twice before hiring who person that has a very spotty resume and has an excuse why the last place “didn’t work out”
  • Do not use that marketing firm that makes sweeping promises with very general ideas and no specific plan
  • Stay away from that consultant who doesn’t really have any referrals and guarantees dramatic increases in revenue.
  •  And do not even consider buying that piece of equipment with bad reviews.

George Phillips an attorney from Bone McAllester Norton says this:
“A bad contract with good people, will in most cases, work itself out because everyone will do what they should to try to make it work. 
The opposite is also true.  No matter how good the contract, no matter how hard your attorney works on it, it is still only as good as the person or business it is with.”

Maybe I should talk to George before I pick the kid’s orthodontist.
 

September Seminars


Starting a Small Business workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 4-6 p.m. Tuesday,
September 1, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. Free.

Content Creation for Social Media, Made Easy workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 9-11 a.m. Wednesday, September 16, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. $30, payable at the workshop.

QuickBooks Introduction for Small Businesses workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 9-12 p.m. Friday, September 18, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. $45, payable at the workshop.


Monday, August 3, 2015

4 Things You Are Too Old to Do!


“You’re only as old as you feel.  False: You're as old as how many times the Earth has revolved around the sun since you were born”. – Dwight Schurte

One of the benefits of entrepreneurship is being able to do what you want, when you want, and of course, nobody can tell you “you are too old to do that.”  

However, I have discovered that there are a few things that we may be too old to do.

For me, I am too old to wear my hat backwards, too old to let a football game ruin my day, and too old to giggle every time someone says “they do do that.”  All of which I still occasionally do.

My kids are the same way.  

Ava is 6 years old.  She is too old to sit on the couch and yell for something to drink.  She is tall enough to reach the plastic cups and get water from the fridge.
Lilly is 4 years old.  She is too old to get out of bed three times every night.  There is no reason for her to tell me that she has to go potty, that it is dark outside, or tell me she likes mermaids.
Lane is 2 years old.  Well, he’s 2 so he gets a pass.  For now.

There are several things a business may be too old to do:

1. 1 year old business – This is too old to have an informal bookkeeping system.  The “shoebox of hope” may get you by for a month or two, but it is time to use QuickBooks, Xero, or Freshbooks so you can clearly understand where your business stands.
2. 5 year old business - This is too old to forgo employee handbooks, job descriptions, and on-going training for staff.  Simply letting everyone do “their own thing” may work for a while, however, a goal and direction for your business is necessary or it will be rudderless.
3. 10 year business – This is too old to have a significant amount of debt and no management structure.  Unless you want a haircut like mine, you will want to increase your equity and lessen your responsibility.
4. 20 year business – This is too old to lack a succession plan.  Succession planning is a must if you plan on retiring.  

So unless you are Betty White, there may be some things you are too old to do.

Monday, July 20, 2015

August Seminars


Starting a Small Business workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 4-6 p.m. Tuesday, August 4, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. 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. Friday, August 6, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. $25, payable at the workshop.



Social Media Intro for Entrepreneurs workshop of Volunteer State Community College's Tennessee Small Business Development Center, 9-11 a.m. Friday, August 26, 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, TN in Building 300. Registration is required. Reserve online. www.tsbdc.org. Free

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

How to Dramatically Increase Your Sales without New Customers!


   Every year I spend an hour on the phone with the same giant corporation, which shall remain nameless, because every year they jack up my rate and add new services that I have never approved.     And every year, I call and threaten to cancel my services.  And every year they eventually remove the unwanted add-ons and lower my rate.  Did I say, this happens every year?

  The kicker is they lower my rate, to the same rate, they offer new customers!  Not existing customers they already have, but just for new customers.  Classy!

  Most of the businesses that I consult with have recurring customers.  Several of these businesses also focus on getting new customers, instead of focusing more on their existing customers.  I always advise them to focus on the existing customer first.  Why?

Check out this simple example:

Lane’s CPA Solutions

Lane is a CPA that wants desperately to grow his business.  The problem is he just doesn’t know who he should target or what he should do.
Lane has 50 tax only clients (small businesses) at $500 each = $25,000/year
Lane also has 10 of these clients, that use his other services (payroll, sales tax, bookkeeping) all         year long at $500/month = $60,000/year.
Lane makes $85,000/year.   
Not Bad


Since Lane wants to increase his revenue, he may be tempted to look for new tax clients.
5 new tax clients = $5,000 increase in revenue/year or now $90,000 revenue/year.  
Good


However, he may instead find it easier and more lucrative to convert a few of these tax only               clients into monthly clients and not focus on new clients yet.
5 converted monthly clients at $500/month = $30,000 increase or now $115,000/year.
Better


Also, what if Lane got each of his 10 existing monthly clients to spend just 20% more or                     $600/month by adding another service?  That would be an increase of $12,000/year with                   minimal effort to $127,000 revenue/year.
Best


  Okay, I said it was simple.  I didn’t say it was easy.  But you get the point.

Do you have any semi-regular customers that could be converted into regular customers?
Do you have any other fantastic products or services that your regular customers could use?

If so, you may be on your way to increasing your sales, without new customers.

If you want to meet one-on-one with the TSBDC and increase your sales, contact us today.