How To Keep Up While On The Road

Glendale CALast week I drove out to see my son in Glendale, California. We were giving him our old Acura with 180,000 miles on it as he has been driving a 1991 Toyota Corolla. The Acura should be a more reliable car, and it is definitely cooler, so he was really excited to be getting it. I made sure my client was ok with my working remotely for the week, as I planned to drive the car out one weekend, stay for the week, attend my cousin’s wedding in Arizona, and fly home the following weekend. A very busy schedule, and one where I really needed to keep up with my workload and business activities.

I think the only difficult think I could imagine was: What if I got something in the mail that needed to be handled urgently? Well, Chris was still home and getting the mail, and she would let me know if anything came in the had to be dealt with. Otherwise, we use Quickbooks Online for our accounting, Intuit for payroll, and most of the client work can be done with Remote Desktop through a VPN. I use my Apple Macbook Pro to run everything, including a copy of Vista, so no problems there.

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When A Company Should (And Should Not) Invest In Technology

Investing in technology for your small business may seem like a good idea.  Many small business owners have laptops, smart phones, color laser all-in-one printers, digital cameras, or any number of other hardware devices.  Their business may also have specialized software and hardware to control inventory in their warehouse, or to share data among their employees.  There are all kinds of uses for technology and it may seem natural to use technology for any business process that can be done with technology, but that may not always be the wisest choice.  This article discusses when a company should invest, and when it should not to invest, in technology.

Justifications for a technology purchase

When starting new technology projects or purchasing new technology, business managers often use the following justifications:

Competitive advantage – Competitive advantage is when one company has an advantage over another.  As an example, company XYZ has competitor ABC, which has a CRM system.  Company XYZ buys a CRM to eliminate company XYZ’s competitive advantage over it.   Competitive advantage would also apply if company XYZ buys new technology company ABC does not yet have; company XYZ would then have competitive advantage (in theory).

Support a strategy – A company CEO may have a vision for the company’s future.  He or she creates a mission statement to detail the vision, and strategies to realize the mission statement.  The company then buys technology to support one or more of the strategies.

Create a product – Many companies in recent years have used technology to create a product: from web sites such as Facebook.com to companies like Oracle that develop software solutions.  Other companies like Cisco, IBM, and HP develop hardware products that they sell.

Be able to share information internally and externally – A company may invest in a customer relationship management (CRM) product or exchange data with a business partner via Electronic Data Interchange (EDI).

Manage and control the organization better – Companies will buy financial packages such as Quickbooks or software solutions as elaborate as Microsoft Dynamics Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) package to share and control information within a company.

Market products and share information with customers on the internet – A company may develop a website to share information with their customers about a new product offering or information about contacting the company.  These days the internet has become a self-service marketplace, allowing customers to research, buy, and get service after the sale.

When to invest in technology

The following are situations when companies should seriously consider investing in technology:

When there is a need – The technology is a requirement of doing business.  For instance, a customer begins requiring data transmissions about the status of shipments.  Not implementing the technology means losing the customer’s business.

When there is a significant savings to be had – Implementing the technology means not hiring 5 people, saving the company $250,000 in salaries, taxes, and benefits.

When there are significant revenue gains to be had – A new customer will only do business with your company if you accept their orders electronically, and will sign a contingency contract to that effect.  The value of the business is $2 million per year.

A reasonable return on investment is needed to justify the above arguments.  If it costs $50 million to get $2 million more in business yearly, the 4% return may not be worth the investment.  In addition, many companies underestimate the costs of technology investments, often leading to a smaller return on investment than expected.  It is important to make realistic estimates.

While operating on the “bleeding edge” of technology may seem to be a risky endeavor, the competitive advantage it provides may produce an exceptional return on investment.  Again, it is important to make good estimates for cost and analyze the expected return on investment to see if it makes sense to proceed with the new technology.

When not to invest in technology

Here are some situations when a company should not invest in technology:

To get the cool new thing – Investing in cool new toys may not be the best use of company resources.

To keep up with the Jones – While competitive advantage is important, it is also important to make sure that keeping up makes financial sense.  Perhaps the Jones’ new technology purchase was not such a good idea for them.

To sell new, unconfirmed business – One logistics company implemented warehouse automation they did not need, believing they would be able to make new sales because of it.  The company is no longer in business because the new sales did not materialize.

To get technology for technology’s sake – A company wisely declined to invest $500,000 for a machine that would have eliminated one $20,000 per year job.  The machine would have also required regular maintenance and repair.

To develop a new product without marketing research – New technology can be expensive.  Make sure there is a market for your technology idea before you invest a fortune.

Technology can be a wonderful investment with a magnificent return for your company, but you must make sure your investment will produce a good return.  Jumping in is almost never a good idea.  Make sure to do your research to keep your eyes wide open for the best possible result.

Do You Think With Emotions Or Logic?

Sometimes I want to do what is best for the customer at all costs. That objective sometimes creates an emotional trap when considering price increases, service changes, or product discontinuations. Yes it is a good and noble objective, but you really can’t always do what’s best for the customer in all cases. I mean, you can’t sell your best product for nothing for instance. You may not be able to provide 24 hour customer service. You may not be able to be the best or fly across country at a moments notice. There is some limitation to what you can do for your customer.

The same could be said of any of the truths you hold to be self-evident. Are all men really created equal? Do we all have the same access to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Is lying always wrong? Do we owe our shareholders more than our community, or vise versa? Must we lay off employees when times get tough, or not lay off employees at any cost?

Rather than answering these questions, I would like you to know that some choices are very tough and take careful consideration. Some choices that look easy may have unforeseen consequences. If possible, you really need to take a step back and consider all the ins and outs of a problem before you do something about it. And that means initially setting aside you long held beliefs and come from a position of logic rather than emotion.

Is this yet another long, boring discussion about ethics? Well, no. People are emotional about all sorts of things. It is usually because you paint yourself into a corner about something and have no options when you encounter a problem that doesn’t fit. Try this on for size: “I will never…” or “I will always…”; these can be problems because what if you must or must not? What kinds of things do you use these phrases with? “I will never leave the house without an umbrella.” What if you left your umbrella at work? Silly, eh? Well people paint themselves into corners with these kinds of things all the time.

While having absolutes makes things difficult, there is one absolute. You must always follow the law. Think you must break the law? Consult with an attorney. Don’t know the law? Learn it. It is said that ignorance of the law is no excuse. You can go to jail for decades for ignorance. Do you have a good excuse for breaking the law? Again, pass it by a knowledgeable attorney before you do anything. He is likely to tell you the consequences.

How about you? Do you recall having an emotional response about a question somebody asked you? Or a problem you were working on? Or just responding to something somebody else said?

Originally published 8/8/2011 on businessfizz

Get Fresh Leads By Promoting Your SplashPlan site

10362286_1420343261571590_1005938937_nWith SplashPlan.com, you can get fresh leads… Exactly what do we mean?

Your SplashPlan site: When you sign up as a member on our SplashPlan.com site, and fill out your profile, you will get a SplashPlan site similar to SplashPlan.com/yoursite.

Promoting your SplashPlan site: We offer you several ways to promote your SplashPlan site for free.  Mainly you add a link to your SplashPlan site on other web sites such as Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and so forth.  Participate on these sites to make your link more powerful.

Leads: A lead, in the case of SplashPlan, means that somebody signs up as a SplashPlan member after they visit your site… You want to provide your lead with quality support for using SplashPlan.  A lead changes to a prospect when they ask for information about your network marketing program.

Prospects ask for information about your network marketing program: Once they become a prospect you can send them information online or by mail, then follow up with them by your chosen method until they ask you to stop or they sign up in your program.

Fresh Leads: Mailing lists tend to be a little stale, but you will get SplashPlan leads at the moment they sign up as a SplashPlan member.  Again, you will want to build trust with leads by providing top quality support for using the SplashPlan site.

Internet Marketing Training: Training included with your SplashPlan membership that shows you ways to promote your SplashPlan site online.

That’s about it… let me know if you have any questions…

How To Build A Big Business In A Small Town

I moved to the Chicagoland area when I was 21 years old. It was much, much different than what I had experienced before that in my life. You see, I had grown up mostly in Oskaloosa, Iowa having moved there when I was in 6th grade. I graduated from Oskaloosa High School and went to Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa where I received my AAS degree as a Systems Analyst. Even before moving to Oskaloosa I had lived in small towns for the most part. I had lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico for a year and Des Moines when I was really young, but mostly small towns otherwise.

Oskaloosa was a town of about 10,000 people but our house was actually in Beacon, a town of about 50 houses. Growing up in such a small place was a little weird, as everywhere you went people would know you, your parents, your grandparents, your great grandparents, your aunts and uncles, etc. Much of my family lived or had lived in the Oskaloosa area so our family was well known. Many of the people who lived in Oskaloosa were senior citizens and or people living below the poverty line, so you might guess there was little opportunity for creating larger businesses. Small, home town businesses yes, but growing up there you could not imagine how big the world really was. Leaving, especially for larger cities, was something pretty scary. The idea that over 2 million people live within the Chicago city limits is just crazy talk.

In Oskaloosa and the surrounding areas, we have a few bigger businesses such as 3M, Rollscreen (Pella Windows), Clow, and Musco Lighting. Musco was founded in Muscatine County and has done some amazing things, like put up the lights at Yankee Stadium. Their website still has their corporate headquarters as Oskaloosa. The others are located elsewhere. But Musco is a great example of building a large business in a small town.

When you grow up in a small town, you really don’t see the opportunities that are out there in the world. That is why I will suggest you travel to Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, New York City, Atlanta, or other large cities and learn about needs outside of your small town. I am not suggesting that everyone move to a bigger city, but you really should experience what things are like, what opportunities exist, what people value throughout the country in both urban and rural areas. If you can, travel internationally to learn what things are like in other countries. It really is an eye opener. If you cannot travel like this, at least research what different people are like in different parts of the country and world.

Like Musco did with lighting, create your own dream and develop a product to appeal to people of all types or businesses of all types. The great thing about living in a small town is that there are a lot of great people who will pitch in and help you build your dream into a reality. Of course there are going to be people who know you and don’t believe you can build your dream, but that’s ok, just keep your eye on the prize and keep working for it. If you break down all your barriers, you will be surprised what you can accomplish.

When I decided on my career, I thought that working with computers and creating software was my way out of the factories. What I didn’t know is that my dream was still pretty small and that I could do much greater things. Here’s a small town boy that did pretty good in the “big city”… but my kids are going to do things far greater than I ever could have imagined. Make sure not to sell yourself short.

Originally posted 7/18/2011 on businessfizz.com

Starting A Business Too Much Of A Gamble?

Grand Victoria Elgin, William Hopkins via Flickr

Grand Victoria Elgin, William Hopkins via Flickr

Many people think that investing in the stock market or starting a business is too much of a gamble.  Actually gambling is too much of a gamble, but with proper strategies, investing or starting a business doesn’t have to be a significant gamble.  Of course, most new businesses fail… So this post is going to give you some suggestions for making your new business less of a gamble.

1. Play the right game

While casino games are losing propositions for everyone in the long run, some games give you more of a fighting chance.  In the casino, the closest game to even odds is blackjack, and you can turn the odds in your favor by counting cards.  While not illegal, being a good counter will get you banned.

Most poker games pit you against other gamblers, so the smartest player, as well as the luckiest, will often walk away with extra money.  It should be noted, though, that the house takes a bit from each pot.  No matter what, in each game played, the house is the biggest winner.

In business, you play the right game by finding growing, profitable markets with customers willing to spend money.  From there, you study your customer and learn what makes them tick.  Rather than trying to fool them into parting with their money, we find out what they truly need and provide it for them.  Without good up-front marketing, you are really taking your chances.  However, you can opt for the following strategy instead:

2. Know how much you can lose and walk away after it is gone

When I go to the casino, which is almost never as they mainly take my money, I have a stop loss of about $100.  So nine times out of ten, I will walk away $100 poorer.  The one time out of ten I might walk away with a $500 win.  I figure the casino is entertainment, so winning is a very good night.  Note that a $100 loss is not that big of a deal when I might go to the casino twice per year.

In business, we might do the same thing.  We take $5000 and sink it into a new business and once it’s gone, we move on to the next business.  It is possible to see some promise along the way and choose to invest more, or find others to invest in your idea; but you must really see an opportunity before you do that.  Consider the investment an education in what not to do.

3. Use a methodology

When I play blackjack, I play the same way given the same circumstances.  I might increase or decrease my bet, but my plays are always the same.  I might win a hand, might lose a hand, but I always play the same way.

In business or investing, you create a methodology based on many factors.  A methodology in business might be to create business processes that do the same thing in the same circumstances for all customers.  For instance, you might create an unconditional money-back guarantee and provide exceptional customer service hoping to get word-of-mouth advertising from your customer base.  Maybe each customer will not spread the word, but some will.

When selecting a product or a stock to invest in, you might use methodologies that give you a “yes” or “no” about whether or not to go a certain direction.  Your formulas would be based on sound judgement, but you might not always pick the right product or investment.

4. You will eventually win

When I play blackjack, I might not win tonight.  However, if I play often enough, I will eventually have a winning night.  Even though this is true, my overall net will be a loss.  This applies to all kinds of gambling including the lottery, blackjack, slots, roulette, etc.  Overall, you always lose.  You could have a positive net with poker if you are good enough… and perhaps that is what we should consider a business win… when you are good enough to mostly win.

In business, one win is typically all you really need.  You can have 2000 failed business, yes, but if you keep trying and keep learning, you will eventually have a success.  Again, one is all you really need.

It is tough to try and fail over and over, but in order to succeed we must also fail.  Not trying to be in business because you could fail is a horrible reason not to try, because one success is all you typically need.

So what do you think, is it worth the gamble?

Originally published 6/13/2011 on businessfizz.com

Do You Want To See The Stars?

800px-Elgin_Observatory-300x225The picture to the left is the Elgin National Watch Factory Observatory, a picture from 1994.  I remember going to the observatory while my kids were still small and seeing the stars from inside the building, projected on the ceiling.  It was like being in a cloudless, lightless evening staring at the sky.  It was a cool experience I wish I could share with you, although I believe you can visit the observatory yourself today.  It is at 312 Watch Street in Elgin, Illinois.

Now if seeing the stars within the Elgin Observatory is not good enough for you, there are many places throughout the country where you can look at the stars without having city lights dim them.  Or maybe your goal is to see the stars from outer space.  That dream is possible through much training and sacrifice, but is a much bigger dream.

I say all of this because I really want you to seriously consider going for your big dream.  Especially if you are in high school and dream of a college degree.  You can accomplish this goal, and you can accomplish this at the college of your choice.  Probably the bigger question is what do you want to do with your life?  I am sure that the college education is not your ultimate goal, but a stepping stone along the way.  Would you like to be a policeman or fireman?  Would you like to be an actor or musician?  Would you like to be a talk show host, news anchor, or sports announcer?  All of these dreams are very possible, you just have to pursue excellence in your chosen profession; you have to be the best at what you do.  And you can be… if you really want your dream to become reality, you will try your best to be the best.

Parents, please support your young dreamers with their dreams of choice.  The scary thing is that they just might make it.  They just might be excellent at what they do and raise the next generation to new heights.  It is worth the risk you have to take to get them there.

My dream is not nearly as glamorous as my childrens’ dreams.  I have three children and one is an excellent salesman, one is a promising actor, and one is a promising musician.  My son Jeffery graduates from AMDA in Hollywood next month and has already been an extra for Glee and CSI.  My daughter Chelsey heads to Belmont University this fall and is hoping to be a songwriter and musician.  Big tough dreams.  But I have to tell you that falling short of a big dream is much better than falling short of a small one.  Maybe they will or maybe they will not get their ultimate dream, or maybe it will be even better than they hoped.

I have always felt that I have exceeded my expectations for myself.  But what if I had gone for a larger dream?  Where would I be today?  I am not saying that I regret the path my life has taken, I do not.  But it is always curious to think about what might have been.

Originally posted 6/23/2011 on businessfizz.com

How To Get Massive Traffic To Your Website In 30 Days

Can you get massive traffic to your website in 30 days?  Sure… it depends on what you are willing to do to get it.  If you want to build consistent traffic without spending money, it may take a bit longer than 30 days.

Our SplashPlan.com site will help you build your network marketing business.  Mainly all you need to supply is traffic.  So getting traffic is the challenge, and the battle, and the victory.  If you can get traffic to your SplashPlan site, you can get all the leads you will ever need.

How can you build traffic?  Here are some ways:

  • Set up a Twitter profile and consistently participate on the site.  Make sure to include a link to your SplashPlan site in your public profile.
  • Participate on small-business-forum.net daily.  Make sure to fill out your profile and include a link to your SplashPlan site.  Set up a signature with a link to the SplashPlan site so it will be included when you post a message or response.
  • Respond to blog posts on problogger.net and copyblogger.com daily when it makes sense to do so.  Find other popular blogs and comment daily.  Make sure to use the link to your SplashPlan site.
  • Advertise if you can… on facebook, twitter, google, bing, or any number of other places.  It will cost money but you will get visitors.

I would advise you to avoid spending money for advertising.  Go the slow route and you will generate consistent daily traffic.

There are any number of other ways to generate free traffic to your blog.  Make sure to do a google search.  If you have time, the possibilities are endless.

Now, if you want to improve the quality of your visitors, you must do one of the following:

  • Make sure they are looking for exactly what you are offering
  • Make sure they know and respect you as a leader

So in comes attraction marketing.  Warm up your leads by promoting yourself and or your expertise.  You can do this by:

  • Creating how-to youtube videos
  • Write a blog about things you know
  • Put your face and resume on linkedin
  • Make sure people know who you are and what you can do to help them

Attraction marketing is about attracting people to you based on: them knowing who you are, them knowing some of your skills and abilities, them knowing about your company, and so forth.  Create a brand – you!

Let me know if you have any other ways to generate massive traffic… beyond link bait of course.

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Just Getting Started With SplashPlan.com

Our SplashPlan.com site is nearly two years old, but we are really just getting started.  The reason is: We are just not promoting it enough to get it off the ground.  We have had some really good members that are just starting to promote their sites, but the second-level ramp up is a little slow, as expected.

Now I could whine about how it is too hard and just give up.  Some would do this.  But I have a vision for the site and it really is going according to plan.  What I did not expect was the last two weeks of a huge number of signups per day.  Apparently from robots.  Because when I put in Google’s reCAPTCHA, the signups stopped.  Is it a bad thing that the signups stopped?  Not if they were all robots.  I would rather see reality as it is than think I am doing great.

We do continue to get good signups but they are far in between, which is ok with me.

SplashPlan.com is for network marketers of all kinds to promote themselves and their businesses.  There are tons of network marketing companies too… Amway, Melaleuca, Avon, Tupperware, Watkins, Plexus, Isogenix, ACN, Ambit Energy, Amsoil, Beachbody, Longaberger, Pampered Chef, Forever Living, Primerica, Shaklee, and many others… and you can be a member of SplashPlan.com to promote any of these companies.

Network Marketing is great because you can grow your business to a very large size.  But it usually starts out very slow.  With SplashPlan.com, you can use our affiliate programs to get current income while you also build your network marketing group… rather than trying to find some way to sell the company’s products to customers some way, some how.  Yes, most companies will not allow you to advertise or promote online… another good reason to join SplashPlan.com… you do not show your network marketing information until sombody signs up as a member.

If you have any suggestions for the site, please let me know.  We are looking to make it as good as possible for you.

References:

Online Security – My Journey Down The Rabbit Hole

You think you are safe and secure online?  You are not.  You are smart, you learn all about how hackers can get at your websites, exploit your data, change your pages, or extort you as I read in this article:

If you are outraged after reading, I just want to let you know that Naoki did get his Twitter handle back after much effort.  So ultimately extortion is illegal and companies will try to help you out after they check every last detail.

Preventing security problems is what we really want.  We want to prevent somebody from getting into our Paypal, Amazon, or Godaddy accounts.  We want to prevent somebody from spending on our credit card after they extract it from an online database.  We want to prevent somebody from phishing our password then using it to post on our facebook account.

All I can say is good luck.  My understanding after much research is that hackers are getting smarter all the time.  But you can take some basic steps to improve your odds:

  • Use a unique password for each site that has your credit card information
  • Use two-step authentication with your cell phone on every site you can
  • If you have a Godaddy account (or any other web hosting), avoid using the same credit card from Godaddy on any other web site
  • The bigger websites are the biggest target for hacks: Amazon, Paypal, eBay, Google, Facebook, Walmart, etc.  Be the most vigilant with them.
  • Banks are usually very good with security but make sure your bank requires more than just a password to get into your account.
  • Never, ever click on a link in an email then sign into any web site.  In some cases, password resets may be the exception, but only if you are expecting them.

As far as our website security, we take the following precautions:

  • We do not take your credit card for any reason on our site.  We do not even do paypal.  Note that our partners do take payments.
  • We use an SSL certificate for splashplan.com.  We do not use one for The SplashPlan Blog.  You do not sign in on it.
  • We store your password and password reset codes in encrypted form in our database.
  • Our form fields are escaped to prevent SQL insertion.

Nothing we can do will entirely prevent a hacker from getting in.  But we have very little sensitive information. Please make sure to use a unique password with our site.  Nobody can see it on our site, not even me, but it is a good idea anyway.

Is there anything you can add?

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