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Cross Promotion with Vendors

Cross Promotion with Vendors

Cross-PromotionYou want your vendors to be on your team, so show them that this is not a one-way street. Creating a trusting vendor relationship through a cross-promotion plan. Make sure to get your promotion plans in writing. When negotiating your contract with vendors, add in a small clause about what both parties plan to do. By working together to enhance your mutual exposure, you’ll be showing your commitment to one another, which will establish a trusting working relationship for the future. Creating a successful vendor relationship and promotion plan will take some extra work on your part, but if you are successful it is definitely worth the time.

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Transformative Change

Transformative Change

Fred in school learning transformative changeFred Flintstone was the prehistoric dad in an animated TV series that aired from 1960-66. Fred’s construction crane was actually a long-necked dinosaur, a phonograph needle was actually a bird with a pointed beak, and so forth.

In recent years, some of the most innovative technologies the world has seen have been adopted at an exponential rate. Now that everything, including business information, can be handled online via mobile or the cloud, it’s about time that we get rid of obsolete technology. In times of transformative change, it is not just our skills, tools, and practices that become obsolete. More fundamentally, our mental models become outdated, rendering them ineffective, misleading, or outright dangerous. I ask, are your business practices prehistoric? Have you ever asked a third party group of professionals to review your workflow? The call to action starts with you.

To make sure your business isn’t a cliché, or stuck in the past, ponder “Yabba dabba doo!” and Homer Simpson’s “D’oh!” The lessons we can learn about transformative change from animated cartoon characters.

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Sphere of Influence

who's cup of coffeeEveryone needs a sphere of influence. Not to influence others as much as to be influenced by others. Influence can work both ways; it has a halo effect, so association with others of influence, such as leaders, “movers and shakers,” or celebrities, extends your sphere of influence. I would like to share with you the types of influencers that I keep in my sphere.

 

  1. A VP or key sales person within a trucking or logistics company
  2. The owner of an auction company
  3. A soda or beer distributor route person

Never before in the history of business has there been so much change. The only constant in business today is change, from customer demand, to technology, to new products and services. Trucking and logistics companies are the first to feel a shift in the economy. They are the first to see a slowdown in manufactured goods and the supplies to manufacture these goods. They are also the first to see new business trends and are able to gage their growth before others even notice. Case in point, while visiting the small town of Centerburg, Ohio I spoke with the UPS driver that was dropping off goods to a company with which I was doing business. In a conversion, the driver told me about the fastest growing company in the area. It was an internet-based sales company with two employees that moved a 40ft UPS trailer of goods per day. Funniest part of this story was, none of the employees of the small town customer of mine knew of the internet company that soon grew larger than them. The owner of this growing internet company soon built a 100,000 square foot building in the small town of Centerburg. Trucking and Logistics people are great for your Sphere of Influence.

Auctioneers are the best storytellers ever because they learn so much from the customers they do business with.  If you take time to listen to them you will also learn these lessons, and that’s why they are a “must” for your circle of influence. Auctioneers are the first to hear of a business that may be failing or not paying taxes. They learn firsthand by the ones closest to the goods being auctioned how people once made their money and how they subsequently lost it. Auctioneers see trends in business models up to a year before other insiders get traditional “data.” They work hand-in-hand with all the banks and internal revenue systems. An Auctioneer is another perfect person for your sphere and I have one in mine.

Last but not least in my Sphere of Influence is a drink distributor route driver. This group of people are hardworking networkers.  Drink distributor route drivers service all types of businesses from convenience stores, to bars, to mom & pop restaurants. They see how much product is moving and the trends in consumer confidence. They drivers interact with not only the owner and managers of these businesses they call on, more importantly they interact with the employees who are face-to-face with the consumers. When the economy is growing, consumers buy more beer and soda and these drivers understand it and have great insights to the workings of many types of business that you can tap into—if they are in your Sphere.

There is no defined scale on how to measure the sphere of influence—fill yours with the kind of people who help tip you off to trends that are meaningful in your Sphere. “An Auctioneer, a VP and a Driver walk into a coffee shop…..” What happens next is up to You.

Seated Workstation Challenge

seatedThe truth is, sitting isn’t killing us. But as this photo will demonstrate, sitting in poor postures for long periods with little movement and few breaks for standing or walking can impact our health and reduce our productivity.

Training and education are made even more critical by the realities of today’s workplace. Workers are mobile. Armed with smartphones and laptops, they can be on the move. But while the benefits of such movement are clear, so are the risks. Access to treadmills and height-adjustable worksurfaces doesn’t stop deadline-driven employees from spending five hours each day huddled together in a conference room, hunched over computers on their laps, interrupted by stints of texting and emailing on handheld devices.

You must be prepared to educate employees on the available choices, and on how to make the right ones. Your employees bear a responsibility too. The good news is, technology has freed them from the cubicle. The bad news is, they can still sit poorly at an improperly adjusted worksurface. Workers must become more aware of the options available to them and, as they move throughout the day, they must learn how to choose their postures and places wisely. You can leverage the physical space and options they’ve made available to increase employee accountability on such issues. In turn, you should tie the use of sitting, standing and walking options to bigger organizational goals. The result can be workers who not only feel better; they also are more engaged with their work and their peers. Ultimately, that leads to a stronger organization, overall.

Don’t miss your Exit

Exit StrategyMy first question in any business conversion: “What is your Exit Strategy?” Without that answer our chat has no path, is without direction and has little to no success upon its conclusion. One definition of “Exit Strategy” is defined by John Hawkey, the author of Exit Strategy Planning: Grooming Your Business for Sale or Succession, “An exit strategy is a means of leaving one’s current situation, either after a predetermined objective has been achieved, or as a strategy to mitigate failure.”

People start companies for different reasons which can influence their exit strategy. The truth is that many small business owners have no exit strategy for their businesses in the event of their disability, retirement, or death. It isn’t surprising small business owners focus their energies on business survival, future growth, and even remaining active in business after retirement. However, a business exit strategy not only means having a plan for the unexpected, including financial hardship, injury, disability and even death, it also means having a plan for the succession or transfer of ownership of your business when it comes time to hang up your hat and retire. Some plans may include:

– Selling a portion of your company in the public markets in an IPO.

– Having another company purchase your business, a “strategic acquisition.”

– Make the business your “cash cow” by finding someone you trust to run it for you.

– Selling the company to the next generation, also known as a “management buyout.”

– The often-overlooked exit strategy of simply to shutting down, closing the business doors, and liquidating remaining assets.

For some, an exit strategy sounds negative. Actually, the best reason for an exit strategy is to plan how to optimize a good situation, rather than get out of a bad one. This allows you to run your business and focus efforts on things that make it more appealing and compelling to the short list of acquirers or buyers. Success starts with a plan that may include creating a peer board, upgrading financial reporting systems, or defining internal operations and training manuals.

Once your exit plan is defined, your marketing approach will need some tweaking. Marketing your company for growth is slightly different than the approach needed in presenting it to potential strategic buyers or investors. First things first; make sure you fully understand and can explain where you are right now. What customers do you have and how do they behave? What marketing are you doing, and what’s working? What’s happening in the marketplace and what are your competitors doing? What marketing methods are available?

Planning your exit is a big undertaking that affects employees, your business structure, its assets, and your tax obligation. Before you embark on your exit strategy, be sure to engage your lawyer and even a business evaluation expert like myself.  That way, you will be sure that you have explored all the options available to you.

Cheers,

Troy Selberg

Vision…. Wah Wah Wah Wah

PEANUTSAs a general rule, the first step in solving a problem is recognizing that one exists. Seriously? Who gives a rat’s … tail? But, When you speak, your employees can’t understand what you are saying. You remember Charlie Brown’s teacher, right? The cartoon character would sit at his desk and scrunch up his face as his teacher droned on, “Wah wah WAH wah wah …” Now that’s great for a cartoon, but when you’re among your peers and employees, it can be very frustrating.

Your vision is a roadmap for employees, communicating it is very inportant. While your vision is probably clear to you, how well do you think your employees know it? Try asking them… and don’t be surprised if they’re unclear or confused.

One of the ways I have learned to engage employees is through story telling. We are all hardwired for stories. And if you are going to include a story, make sure it’s a good one – with a beginning, middle and end, some characters, and a challenge to overcome. It could be said that the principles of engagement are based upon truth, positivity, effectiveness, efficiency, and a desire to move forward. Speak in a language that your employees will understand and it will be easier to bring them on board with your initiatives. You’ll be in a much better position to have real and effective conversations.

We all have to go to work each day, but there’s no reason it shouldn’t be enjoyable. When’s the last time you laughed at work, or encouraged your team to enjoy themselves, or did something playful, or any one of a thousand other things that could improve what is usually a pretty drab and colorless environment? C’mon… lighten up, and you’ll be surprised how much more people can do when they’re enjoying themselves . Employees who are informed correctly and enjoying themselves, can and will be motivated to move mountains. Perhaps the most important part of your job is communicating effectively. The best communicators know that business is about human drama: Facing challenges, overcoming threats and making new discoveries that sometimes change the world. If you can share the rich stories behind these, you create memorable and engaging narratives that will bring your business to life.

A Creative Bird

Creative hobbieCreative bacon turkeys relieve stress, less stress leads to higher productivity. Whether it’s rebuilding an old car or cooking during the holidays, the impact it can have on your work life might surprise you. Some of our best business ideas might pop up when we’re in the kitchen, in a totally different frame of mind.

 

Each year, on the fourth Thursday in November, we gather for a day of feasting, football, and family. Today’s Thanksgiving celebrations would likely be unrecognizable to attendees of the original 1621 harvest meal. With that said, Thanksgiving continues to be a day for Americans to come together around the table.

You have football games planed, family is on the way, and you’re set on going with a traditional roasted bird. Well… maybe you should look into a creative method for cooking your turkey. There are a lot of challenges in creative cooking and these challenges can build character. Here are some ideas to help your creative muscles flex.

Pancetta-Wrapped: Texas bacon- bold, delicious, super moist and savory.

Braised: (cordless crock-pot cooking) ensures moisture in the meat,

Deep-fried: a Southern tradition that’s biggest challenge involves not burn the house down or sending anyone to the ER. 

Grilled: the crisp smokiness of grilled turkey beats the oven and gives a reason to be outside enjoying drinks.

Manischewitz-Brined : cooked in Concord Grape Wine. This method will produce a bright purple turkey.

Smoked: slow, indirect heat using special types of wood will infuse different flavors to the bird. 

Beer Can: the beer-can stand ensures evenly cooked meat and the evaporating beer keeps your bird moist.

Spatchcocked: involves butterflying the bird, removing the spine, and splaying it flat. 

Stuffed with other birds: best know as Turducken, the delicate culinary concoction of a chicken, inside of a duck, inside a turkey…

If you often question, do I have a creative bone in my body? The answer is YES. Creative activities like cooking during the holidays, serve as a means to learn more about our individual strengths and weaknesses. Remember, there are a million-and-a-half recipes, and a million-and-one ways to prepare your culinary concoction. Be creative, flex yourself, and you just might find a part of you that never existed. Have a Safe & Happy Thanksgiving.

Words

All companies that grow really big do so in only one-way: people recommend the product or service to other people, sometimes through ads and ideally, through person-to-person recommendations. And the only way to generate sustained exponential growth is to make whatever you’re making sufficiently better, sometimes better than the competition, and in some cases, better than your company’s own last version.  For example, refer-a-friend-to-earn-credits programs can work–if the product is good enough to recommend anyway.  But that kind of program can fail for most startups because the product isn’t good enough yet or the sales team has over committed, setting expectations so high the production team fails and under-delivers.

I have mentored literally hundreds of business owners and almost every time I see a business not performing it is primarily because they are not spending enough time on relationship building. Whatever you provide, competition offers it too (or will) and your prospects will do business with the providers that hold the best reputation. I am shocked at how many business owners do not invest in marketing their reputation. Let’s look at an example: the relationships you have with your suppliers. These vendor partners come into your business daily, they have meaningful relationships with your staff. They know your strengths and weaknesses better than most. Your business must have tens to hundreds of them and you will completely transform your business when you begin to look at them as an extension of your marketing team. Trust me; they leave your business and talk to others about what is going on within your company. Your suppliers are a very effective and meaningful part of spreading the good word and growing your business. Why?? Because it benefits them, too. It’s the very definition of a mutually-beneficial relationship.

I think another very fruitful way of spreading the good word and growing your business is conducted in the cul-de-sack of neighborhoods around the country, when neighbors get together at weekend BBQs or moms who chat while they get the kids together to play. Yes, your spouses and neighbors are also an extension of your sales and marketing team! Almost no one wants to see you succeed more than your family, friends and neighbors. Everybody likes to be associated with a stunningly successful person, and they will, sometimes inadvertently help you become that very stunning success. Even the neighborhood guys boosting about your company’s great products and services at poker night while enjoying a cold beverage is powerful. In fact, this is the MOST powerful form of marketing. You know your friends and neighbors and trust them more than you trust a marketing campaign. These one-on-one encounters will boost sales far more than any sales team looking for new business.

What this means is that if you want to be a great company some day, you have to eventually build something so good that people will recommend it to their friends and families.  No growth hack, brilliant marketing idea, or sales team can save you long term if you don’t have a sufficiently great product.

“Do what you say and say what you do!” Word of mouth sells product and grows sustaining business relationships

Purpose and the Ants

life calling modelAfter 21 years of living in the same house, my yard has grown to take on a life of its own. So recently, I have been working hard to take my yard back. Working hard and fighting with ants led me to think about how we find purpose in our lives.

My release from corporate American is yard work. A set of ear buds and some yard tools relieve my mind to ponder about other things. If you have done any yard work at all, you have probably battled ants. They are very structured and are hard to deal with. By just watching their mound, it‘s plain to see that all ants in a colony work together cohesively. They all know their roles and nobody steps on each other’s toes. Together, they are the perfectly functioning organisms. It makes me believe they know their purpose.

Now, lets compare ourselves to ants: We wake up. We go to work. We come back home. We watch TV. We go to sleep. We wake up. We go to work. We come back home. We watch TV. We go to sleep. And it just keeps going day after day after day. Sometimes we wonder if we’ve been on the “wrong” path, chosen the wrong career, or the wrong life partner. Or that perhaps we haven’t realized that our chosen path could be more meaningful or purposeful.

The reality is that most people today are so caught up with a million things that ultimately do not make a difference in their lives. Ask yourself this; what are my personal values, strengths and capabilities—the things that are true of me and are at the core of who I am? What is the scaffolding of my purpose? We all have our unique set of talent, background, opportunities, ideas, creativity, and the like. The equation looks like this:

Your Values + Strengths + Passions + Service = Your Purpose

Don’t let all the different variables discourage you. Once you dedicate some time for introspection and reflection on those variables, you’ll rapidly start to realize the direction you need to move in.

Start by creating 3 lists:

  • Your values
  • Your strengths
  • Your passions

The key is to figure out how you can combine your passions and strengths in service to a cause, person, community, or organization other than yourself. Do that and your values will fall into place.

It took 21 years for my yard to become out of control and for the ants, to teach me about how nature works. Ironic how humans like us, whose behavior arises from the interactions of its components has something in common with ant colonies.

All day, every day, the world’s ant nests are active: scouting, processing food, fighting and tending to the young. It’s never too late to get your yard under control, never to late to find a purpose and never to late to learn from ants.