You could call it a blog but I prefer actionable advice for local business owners
Starting a business isn't difficult.
Sure, there are some hoops you have to jump through at first, but you're excited and perhaps a bit giddy at the thought of starting something amazing that everyone will love and all the piles of money and fame you'll receive as it becomes the most outstanding business on the planet.
This part, like dating, is what I call "the glow." Everything is bright and shiny - the new computer purchase you just rationalized, your logo, business cards, website, and office space. The Glow is a glorious place to be...because it's new.
Let's jump ahead six or eight months when the Glow has faded a bit and getting customers is no longer a dream but a necessity, or you'll have to find a JOB.
This is reality, and as reality television has shown us, it's messy most of the time.
This is where connection comes in. Connection means purpose, and purpose is not without flaws, but it is a roadmap that defines your way.
We'll be talking a LOT more about "connection" over our journey together. It means a lot to me because I know how much it can mean to you.
Have a great rest of your week!
Not too long ago, I semi-retired from my life as a wedding photographer. I say "semi" because I still get asked now and again to shoot, and I have a hard time saying No.
Having shot over 600 weddings, I have heard a LOT of priests, pastors, rabbis, and other ordained dignitaries giving their advice to committed couples on their big day.
Most all of these "sage words of wisdom" were sadly forgettable...with one exception.
It was a young priest who probably read the story somewhere in some motivational manual and didn't know how powerful this story would be not only to the couple but to the young photographer who called the priest the next day to get the story so he could share it with his boys (which I did).
Now, because we're friends, I'd like to share this with you.
You've probably heard it, but I'm guessing that it will still be good to hear again - most good stories are.
An elderly carpenter was getting ready to retire.
He told his employer his plans to live a quieter life and spend more time with his wife, kids, and grandkids.
He would miss the paycheck, of course, but the time was right, and he was ready to hang up the hammer.
His boss was disappointed as the carpenter had been a loyal and diligent worker for many years, and he was sad to see him go. He asked for one last favor, requesting that the carpenter build just one more house before retiring.
The carpenter reluctantly said yes, but in time, it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work.
He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end a dedicated career.
When the carpenter finished his work, his boss came to inspect the house. He handed the front door key to the carpenter. "This is your house," he said, "my gift to you."
Though this story has been told for decades, it's a great one for young couples on the verge of their new life together, preparing to build something great.
As business owners, we're building something too...a legacy.
We're all building every day, and it's up to us if we choose to create something that will last or something won't. The choice is always ours.
Take a moment to reflect on your business today. Is it something you're proud of? Are you using your best craftsmanship? It's never too late to shift a bit and start making things better.
Have a wonderful weekend, my friend, and don't forget that no matter what you do, you're always building. Make something beautiful!
You know how I know he's a great kid? He lets me do a Dad Talk and doesn't complain.
While driving our oldest son back to college yesterday, I took the opportunity to drop a Dad Talk on him.
This "drop" wasn't as welcomed as the latest from one of his favorite Americana bands, but he took it like a champ...better than that, in fact, and that made me proud.
He's going to be graduating college next year, and I wanted him to know that the working world is much different than the college world. Of course, he realizes this, but the main point was that he needs to be ready for it, primarily because he's venturing into a career where first impressions are critical.
I don't worry about his drive, work ethic, or passion, but I do often worry, as most parents do, that my kids aren't ready for those moments when opportunity softly knocks.
Loud banging is hard to miss, but those light taps are, more often than not, the times when opportunity is there, right in front of you, but you have to pull it in.
Local business is precisely like this.
I can't count the times I've strolled into a local shop with no agenda, and the person at the counter simply greeted me and then went back to what they were doing.
Perhaps they might ask if I was looking for something in particular (good start), but when I said I was "just looking," they left me to browse.
This might seem like the right thing to do, but it's opportunity tapping on the door.
You don't have to pester or push, but you should connect. Tell them something about yourself, compliment their shoes, but do SOMETHING to engage so they know you care.
Opportunity is fickle sometimes, and this is where preparation comes in. You must be ready for this moment.
This is what I told my son, and I think it landed or at least he feigned enough interest for me to believe it landed (Did I mention he's a good kid?).
Opportunity is knocking all the time. Sometimes you have no trouble hearing it - sometimes, you have to listen very carefully.
Keep your ears open and keep connecting!
I love conferences. I try to attend them as often as I can or at the very least, watch the recordings.
I prefer the 60 minute versions that are packed with info and then end. "Leave 'em wanting more!"
is what I always told my boys. It's the first rule in show business or at least it should be.
I also love taking notes at conferences. Not long drawn out dictation, but quick punches of gold that move you and almost scream at you, "This is what you need to do!"
Since my passion is business and marketing, I thought it might be fun to dig up a few of my old journals and sprinkle some of this gold around. It might move you like it did me and it might not. Context is everything at a conference which is why being there, in person is so much more powerful that watching a replay.
So with that ringing endorsement, here are some service-based business tips that made into my notes along with some brief commentary as to why it was important to me.
Target YOUR market and focus on IDEAL clients - Ask yourself, "What kind of clients do you want?" Life is short and business is hard enough. Go where the ground is fertile and plant in a place that wants and needs what you're growing.
It's not your work, it's HOW you market it and how you treat your customers - Don't kid yourself, you're not the only one doing what you do. But you are a complete original in how you present yourself and how you take care of your clients. Make them love YOU more that your work...then they'll love your work too.
It's not about price, it's about VALUE - There will always be someone cheaper. Create a business that is offers UFB service, Un-Freakin' Believable service - Make this your style, your signature. What can you do to make your customers so impressed that that they MUST tell someone about it. Be creative, be bold, be UFB!
That should be enough to chew on for now. I have notebooks full of quick tip like this that have evolved into some of the best business decisions of my career (along with some fantastic "dadvice" for my boys). I do feel compelled to tell you the number one secret when gathering notes whether from a conference, TED Talk or or even reading a book on marketing or business...
Take action on ONE thing - You don't have to change the world with all the information you heard or read. Just take one thing and put it to use NOW. Even if it's clever technique or snappy line you heard someone say. Try it out on your next customer. See how they react. I've found some of my best sales techniques just listening to others and then trying them in my own way. The trick is to do something.
"You don't have to be great to start, but you do have start to be great." - Zig Ziglar
Quick show of hands, how many have a drawer with a bunch of keys in it and you have no clue where the locks are?
Be honest...I know I do.
For new business owners, it’s not uncommon and, in fact, it’s probably the more common practice to create a business around something you’re passionate about and THEN look for an audience that would be interested in your product or service.
While this might sound logical, it is a bit backward. In fact, it’s a lot like making a key and then looking for a lock that your key will open.
Now I’m not saying that you can’t pursue an endeavor that interests you, but the better approach would be to find a market that is aligned with your “passion“ and see what they want first.
Find out what they’re willing to spend their money on BEFORE you become the master-builder of a potentially obsolete product (did you hear me, Blockbuster? Of course you didn't).
Do that and you’ll not only be seen as a genius in your market ("this is exactly what I needed"), but you’ll be genuinely serving your customers in the best possible way.
OK, I hear ya. You already have a business or a service. Are you out of luck? Do you have to start over? Of course not.
I would recommend that you take a step to the side. Not a step backward but a step to the side and find a way to get in touch with your customers 1 to 1.
Email is a great way to do this. You could do a short survey or even talk with them in person.
The key is connection.
Connect with them and find out what they want. Find out what they need. Find out what's working and what's not.
This is your Golden Ticket to a possible new market
Again, when you do this you will be demonstrating a level of care that most businesses do not take the time to engage in.
And don't for a second think that a plumber or hair salon can't do this. This works for ever business, but especially for small businesses, like yours.
For your action item, I challenge you to connect with a customer or three. Find out what they’re interested in, what they need, and then, see if there’s something you do or sell that you can position specifically for them.
Today’s message was inspired by what’s becoming dangerously close to my favorite marketing book of all time, This is Marketing by Seth Godin.
Check it out from the library buy the audiobook like I did and you too will find yourself with more ideas to improve your business than you could ever imagine.
Have you ever heard someone say (brag), "I've read that book eight times, and I learn something new each time I read it!" Yeah, it's annoying to hear no matter who it's from.
Let's get real, who has time to read a book about business more than once? There are SO many incredible business books out there (so I hear). How in the world will I have time to read them all...and then read some more than once!
I feel ya, and I think I might be able to offer some advice.
For starters, choosing the book is key. Don't choose sucky ones! How's that for beating around the bush?
There are classics, and there are wannabe classics. If you're not a reader, stick to ones that have been proven and recommended by everyone. Here are a few to start with:
How to Win Friends and Influence People
This is Marketing
Think and Grow Rich
Laws of Marketing
The Psychology of Selling
Start With Why
Blue Ocean Strategy
The E-Myth Revisited
Thank You Economy
Next up, I recommend audiobooks. Unless you like to curl up with a book before you drift off to sleep each night, audiobooks are great because you can listen most anytime using your phone AND you can speed them up (I prefer 1.5 as a standard).
Here's a huge tip: If you don't like the book in the first quarter, STOP reading it! Even some of the classics can be a chore to get through. Don't do it! If it's not resonating for you, punt! I promise not to judge.
Also, on that same note, if things start sounding repetitive, stop reading. Just because a book is great doesn't mean the author didn't run out of material two-thirds of the way in and started regurgitating. That's fine; just hop to the end. It's your book.
That also brings up a great point. While I approve of a nice home or digital library of business books, you don't have to own them all. Start at the library and get 'em for free, including the audiobooks. Yes, I have an Audible account and an Audiobooks.com account, along with others, but I only buy what I can't find for free. And with Audible, if you don't like it, you can exchange it. That's a pretty fair deal!
Now, let's get back to the repetitive reading theme I started with.
For most books, I don't need to reread them. I might pick up a summary as a refresher, but I don't need to invest another four more hours...except with Seth Godin books.
Seth is a successful entrepreneur and business book-writing legend. His writing style is short, punchy, and a lot like a series of blog posts than a traditional book. This is perfect for me because I like bite-sized nuggets to chew on, try out and then move to another.
He has SO many great ones, but the latest one I'm reading (again) is This is Marketing. I actually think this book was created from a series of posts or emails that he sort of compiled into themes. It totally works, and like most of his books, you can read, stop, test, read some more, rinse, and repeat.
The bottom line, my business-owning entrepreneurial friend, is that you need to stay in the game...always. Business books are a great way to do this if you're not fond of podcasts, webinars, or YouTube videos.
I like to consume them all in moderation, but my phone is always with me, so that means I always have a book or three to pull up and keep me company while I'm in traffic (or anytime I'm in the car)....at the gym...or grocery shopping...or in line waiting anywhere.
Your Action Item for today is to get started with a book on business... Spend 30 minutes or so each day listening or reading something good, and in a year's time, you'll have that MBA you've always wanted and a successful business as your diploma.
Have a great week!
Using curated content isn't something I prefer to do very often (kind of like eating sushi), but in the event that I come across a juicy little nugget of insightful information, it really wouldn't be very nice of me to keep it all to myself.
This is a bit longer than my usual post so I'll give you the bullets and add the link below for the full article that came from Beatriz Estay writing for BigCommerce.com
1. Learn from your customers
2. Prioritize customer support
3. Stay focused on your niche
4. Deliver an experience your customers won’t forget
5. Be time-efficient
6. Think omnichannel
7. Find a balance
8. Don’t fear larger, more established competitors
9. Take an organized approach
10. Choose your battles wisely
11. Build a team
12. Learn to be flexible
13. Be true to your business
14. Data analytics are your friend
15. Be the best at what you do
16. Think holistically
17. Be passionate in everything you do
This is a great list and the details in each are very insightful (I wouldn't have posted them if they weren't, right)
You can read the Full Article Here and it even comes with the option to download it as a guide which is always nice for later reading.
Enjoy your weekend and we'll talk again soon!
As I was waiting for the train to pass yesterday, I small piece of metal outside my car window caught my eye.
I had a pretty good idea what it was, and just seeing it lying there on the ground made me feel a bit uneasy.
You're probably familiar with it too, and if you are, you also know what it does.
It's called a linchpin, and basically, it holds two things together - a latch to a door, a wheel to an axle, you get the idea.
I took a quick pic since I got lucky and was stopped at the very beginning of the 20 mile long train caravan and had more than enough time to kill.
Seeing this made me feel a bit unsettled because unless this fell out of the pocket of someone's jacket, there's a door or gate open or unsecured and something will probably be tumbling out of its holding container and on its way to dent my car.
But this got me thinking (as most small pieces of metal tend to do), who are the linchpins in small businesses? Can a person be a linchpin? Does this have anything to do with bowling?
OK, the last question is a bit dopey, but being a linchpin in business means being essential. Of course, a person can be essential. So this brings me to the Action Step for today: Find a way for you to be essential to your customers or clients.
This is especially relevant if you're a service provider like a plumber, chiropractor or landscaper.
How can you position yourself, so your customer NEEDS you? How can you make your service something worthy of coming back for more of...again...and again...and again?
When you can answer that question, you're put in a very valuable position.
It's going to take some strategic thinking, but that's what marketing is all about.
Go back to your USP, your unique selling proposition or unique selling point, and see how unique it really is.
If it is unique, how can you make your customers see this?
Once again, when you can answer this question, your business will never be the same.
This weekend I got an email from my goto business/tech/trends resource, The Hustle and there was an an interesting story (of course, there are always interesting stories, but this one was particularly interesting) that made me think of you.
It opens with some less than encouraging news:
Businesses today face more competition than ever. Five years ago, the typical business had just 2.6 competitors. Today? That number has almost quadrupled, to 9.7.
AWS, Shopify, and no-code significantly lowered the barrier to entry, which shifted the risk from, “Can I build this?” to “Will anyone care?”
So...yay, our job as business owners is even tougher than ever.
The solution? Well, the article say that it's "branding" but I gotta disagree with my respected resource...sort of.
While I don't think that branding is the answer, I do agree with a couple of the answers they call branding.
For starters, don't get too sucked into the "branding" thing.
This might ruffle feathers, especially for people who make their living as Brand Manager, but the word "branding" is sooooo nebulous.
They're probably all right to be perfectly honest, but for sake of how can you succeed in your business when your competition is huge and your audience's attention span is small, branding is about connecting with your potential purchasers so they CHOOSE YOU. Whatever it takes to do that, that's branding.
I told you it was tough to define.
The article gave four things to keep in mind when building your brand and I won't spoil the surprise in case you were interesting reading it along with the bevy of other juicy segments.
How about I give you the first two?
This really is about what makes you different and how that difference relates to your perfect customer.
You don't want everyone to be your customer, as blasphemous as that sounds, it's true.
You want the people that love you and what you do and what you're about and what you represent to be your customer. THOSE people will love you and buy from you for life.
Your ACTION ITEM is to define your business. Why should I be drawn to you? If the answer is because you have warm cookies waiting for me...you're off to a very good start.
What does your perfect customer look like?
Have a great week!
PS, Let me know if you like The Hustle. If you do, then I know we're connecting.
As we build our business foundation, it's important to know WHY you're doing what you do.
I know this may sound weird if you're already running a business (we'll get to that one in a sec), but if you're still in the creation stage, this is big.
I'm sure I'm not the first one to refer Simon Sinek and his book, Start with Why to you (yay me, if I am), but his TEDx Talk is actually what launched his career. YOU CAN SEE IT HERE and it's a more condensed version of his book but just as powerful.
He refers to the Golden Circle (spoiler alert) and at the center of the circle is the WHY you do something - your purpose, cause or your belief.
I really think this simple idea is rather profound and apparently a few hundred thousand people also think so based on his book sales.
It's easy to tell someone WHAT you do and HOW you do it, but WHY you do it...that's personal, and that's the action step for you today Aspiring Entrepreneur - discover your WHY. Once you have this written down, you'll be surprised how many decisions are affected by it.
If it doesn't follow your WHY, you might have to ask yourself if you should do it. Will it advance your mission? Will it take you away from your WHY?
"But Chris, I already have a business!"
I hear you and it's not too late. Your action step is to pinpoint your WHY, and then work your way back to it. Hopefully you're not too far away, but it's never too late to work with integrity and that's the part of Start with Why that I like the most. It's not a roadmap, per se, but more of a tool for reflection and inspiration.
Of course, this principle is huge for service-based businesses but what would happen at your dry cleaner or restaurant if your customers and employees learned why you started your business. It would give everyone a better appreciation of your situation.
THIS is the power of good story. Whether it's a story that guides your future or a backstory that defines your past, YOUR story is worth sharing.
Your WHY is worth sharing.
Enjoy the video and we'll talk soon (Thursdays are the day, from now on, if you're keeping track at home)
PS, give me a shout if you need a little help telling your story. You can use it in a lot fun ways to connect with your customers and clients.
PPS, I thought I was pretty darn clever with the title of my post today, but suspected that someone had already said it. In fact, not one but two different podcasts are using that title for their show. Not so clever anymore are you? Sadly...no.