Small Business Insights from Outsiders

While it is essential to practice ongoing education to stay current with trends, technologies, and best practices – it is much easier to acquire that same knowledge through networking.

In fact, networking is nearly always the top reason given for attending industry conferences and expos. The conversations in the halls after an educational session – or at the end of the day, are often the ones that lead to the most profound and lasting insights.

To generate more fresh ideas, it’s also essential to network and learn from business leaders outside of your industry. 

Here’s a few I learned by doing exactly that.

Stick to Your Niche

Mike Chapman of Chapman College Admission Consulting helps college bound students in central Ohio make the most of their college experience – from the planning and application process, to finding and securing financial aid, all the way through to post-graduate career advising and interview coaching.

Chapman serves a narrow and defined niche – central Ohio students seeking to attend a four year college. While Chapman considered expanding its business reach to include the entire state of Ohio, the decision was made to limit the population served in order to serve them well – by offering more extensive services and personalized attention.

What Mike Chapman practices is something I’ve learned in my business ventures. Stay focused on those you can best serve if you expect to sustain passion for your work – and the profits that come from doing it well.

Explain What You Do – For a 3rd Grader

If you do not have a well defined business processes, then you cannot possibly explain to your prospects how and why you can help them.

Having clear processes accomplishes a number of things. The most important is projecting confidence.

When you can describe what you do in simple and concise language, your prospect instantly knows you have a plan or method for reliably taking them where they want to go.

A well-defined process also ensures that each and every member of your team is applying the same proven formula – thereby avoiding embarrassing and costly mistakes.

How do you explain what you do so a 3rd grader can understand?  Video and Powerpoint presentations are excellent vehicles, and both are easily embedded into your website and social media pages and profiles.

Creatively Engage Your Community

In considering how to get the most bang from his marketing budget, Mike Chapman came up with a exceptional idea for extending his reach deep within his target market.

Instead of spreading his dollars around, he instead chose to make an impact by investing $5,000 to fund an annual scholarship for one fortunate student.

To be considered for the scholarship, the student needs to simply agree to enroll at one of Ohio’s four-year colleges, and pledge to work or attend graduate school in Ohio upon graduation. The idea is to recognize and reward a student who is truly passionate about Ohio.

To apply for the scholarship, students have to create a 2 minute video describing what they love most about Ohio. There are a number of things I like about this idea – all of which affirm the company mission or purpose.

So, the challenge for adapting this to your business is to first get clear about your company mission. Then ask yourself how you can extend that into your community in an engaging way.

Incidentally, the winner of the Chapman scholarship is determined by crowdsourcing the community response to the students videos that will be hosted on the Chapman College Admission Consulting website.

Isn’t that a brilliant way to make a difference and get the community talking about your brand – while also driving traffic to your website?

See what I mean? The new ideas you are looking are already here.

You just have to get outside of your comfort zone to find them.

Leave a comment below or share this with your community with any of the share buttons below – or with those on the little red bar at the bottom of this page.  

Until next time,  Jeff

How Giving Your Customers Your Best Energizes Your Business

Are you giving your customers more than the competition? How about your absolute best?

Both approaches will enable you to keep their business.  One of them will make you better for all of your customers – while also helping you to attract new ones.

This weekend we successfully moved my daughter into the house she is sharing with four other young ladies who are also college seniors. The experience is one that compresses within a day or two virtually every type of thought, feeling, and emotion a human being can experience.

As a result, you walk away from it completely changed – but most importantly, so happy with the results that it energizes you beyond reason.

Hmm, how can I use this I thought?

During our 5 hour drive home through the Indiana countryside that night I had plenty of time to think about that.

Here’s what I came up with – a simple formula for serving your customers better.

#1 – Prepare

Any endeavor of significance requires preparation.

Our most valuable planning was arranging a rental truck well in advance of our trip. We actually made two reservations, one for a truck and another for a van, with plans to decide later which to use.

That turned out to be a good move as one reservation was unexpectedly cancelled on us due to a lack of vehicles in the area.

Are you planning far enough ahead with your customers such that you can make last minute adjustments if things go wrong?

Despite your best efforts, circumstances arise.  Plan ahead and you’ll be able to more readily make the necessary adjustments to retain your customer.

#2 – Have Fun

How can you not have fun when you have focused time with your children – helping them to best prepare for what is an important chapter in their lives?

When you are making a move like this, there will be delays, frustrations, and minor accidents.  It’s much easier to keep going if you remember to enjoy the process.

Aren’t your customers a little nervous when they hire you for the first time?   By making the process of doing business with you fun for them, you can alleviate their apprehensions and minimize any stress.

#3 – Get the Job Done

Most of us are pretty good at procrastinating. But once we get moving there are deadlines that hold us accountable to getting the work done as close to on-time as possible.  A few minor things will invariably be left for later –  with the major work having been accomplished.

We bought a new bed and dresser for Ali from IKEA.  I had to laugh when I opened the box to discover bags with literally hundreds of fasteners and connectors.  Moving slowly at first, and committed to the goal, we eventually got everything put together well.

More important than perfection is getting the job done.  However you accomplish this, you have to deliver for your clients.

#4 – Improvise

Getting a job done usually  involves some improvisation.  The hardwood flooring in this room was slightly uneven, and my best effort to level the bookshelf still resulted in it being wobbly and unstable. So, I had to step back and take some time to find a solution – which was anchoring it to the wall.

It wasn’t the best solution, but one that will hold up for the next nine months until Ali graduates.

There are variables in every business.  No matter how well you plan you will run into the unexpected.  If you are enjoying the process, you will be much more mentally prepared to improvise and solve any problems that arise.

#5 – Give A Little More

Late in the day I was sore and tired from moving and installing furniture with the help from Shiply who helps with the delivery for big items.  But we still had some unfinished tasks. So, off we went to the hardware store across town – getting there minutes before they closed.

By giving a little more – and not giving up, we had a much happier daughter.

And that makes for much happier parents. This made the long drive home a joy – despite the sore muscles and fatigue.

That shared energy is a powerful thing. The way to make it happen is to prepare well, have fun, get the job done, improvise, and give a little more.

The energy that you and your customers create and share will make you that much better for the next customer.

Of course, it also helps if you love your customers, or at least the opportunity for serving them.

Leave a comment below or share this with your social community by liking it on Facebook, or sharing with any of the share buttons below – or on the little red bar at the bottom of this page.  

Until tomorrow,  Jeff