Have A Cookie

1538382_1555501981350264_1128781899_n-300x300Opportunities abound. I mean, they pass you by every day. Really. Once you tune into them, your problem will be which one to choose… and I am going to give you some help there.

To reach the most people, you need a unique solution to a problem. There are so many problems to solve too. For instance, how do I get from point A to point B at 800 miles per hour without leaving the ground? How do I get into space with much less waste? How can we use much less oil-based energy?

Problems like these are gifts. Like a cookie. If you can create a practical solution, you can become wealthy beyond belief.

Many of you have smaller dreams… like to own a service station on the interstate, or become a distributor for a product line. Regardless of what you do, you can create a unique product and a unique brand that will do better than a “me too” business. Study what’s out there… many people get it and you will see them with their unique takes on given businesses.

Frustrated? Change Your Mindset, Improve Your Business

Chelsey with guitar through camera

Chelsey Satterlee courtesy Deanna Roberts

I have to tell you something: You cannot get anybody to join as a distributor in your company.  You cannot, so why try?  Why make yourself crazy trying to get Bob to join.  Bob is not going to.  Bob is tired of hearing it.  So how do you fill up your downline with good distributors?  Follow these rules to improve your business results:

(Note: These are not facts, just a way to think)

Rule #1: Nobody you know will join your company

Rule #2: Although nobody you now know will join your company, you have an obligation to promote your business to your “warm market”.  You have an obligation to be brave, let your family and friends know what you are doing, and to give them an update from time to time.  Family and friends can talk to each other, and can be excited about what you are doing.

Rule #3: Your friends know people.  So does your family.  If you are excited and talk about your business, they in turn will talk about it to others.

Rule #4: Anybody who asks about starting a business with your company deserves information they can hold.  Get them information, then follow up for questions.  Do not try to explain the whole business to your prospects, it is just too difficult.

Rule #5: Be prepared with features and benefits, and to answer objections.  Objections may be pleasant or hostile.  Either way, they deserve an answer.

Rule #6: Join or not, it is okay.  No need to force.

Rule #7: It will take time to sponsor your first distributor.  Let it.  It will get easier and easier as time passes.

Rule #8: No frustration should be involved.  It has been a month, okay.  It has been a year, okay.  No problem, just let it take time.

Rule #9: You should be focused on results in lead gathering, not signups.  If you are not getting enough leads, you should somehow be promoting more.  This may mean networking.  It may mean advertising.  Lead gathering is key.

Rule #10: No particular lead will sign up.  Some leads take years.  Some take days.  Some will never sign up.  No matter what, it is okay.

Your prospect will sign up when they are ready, not when you are.  No amount of persuasion will change that.  The only way you can get more sign ups is by increasing the number of leads you get.  Even then, it might take a while.

It Is A Business, Something Must Be Sold

Wicker Park Sushi

Wicker Park Sushi at O’hare airport

How can you ever say that you have a business opportunity with no selling involved?  Try this example: You subscribe to Directv.  You introduce Directv to a friend and he gets $100 for joining and you get $100.  Introduce 10 friends a month to Directv and you will make $1000 per month.  Did you sell anything?

Technically you did.  You sold Directv service to your friends, letting them know that they get $100 for subscribing.  Maybe you also told them you get $100, maybe not.  But it did not feel like selling did it?  You are giving them a great deal, they can take it or leave it, no problem either way.

What you are not doing is cold calling people, continually pushing stuff they do not want, or knocking on doors.  All those bad images you get when you think about selling.  You are also not bugging your friends over and over to join a company that they do not want to join.  You are asking once, and letting them know the benefit if they do.

Sponsoring people can be done in a nice, laid back format similar to asking your friend if he or she would like to subscribe to Directv for $100.  You offer a program to get a discount on high-quality products, or perhaps you are a little more focused and say they get 25% off high quality kitchen items like vanilla, black pepper, and cinnamon for joining.  And it only costs $39.95.  Let them know they will love the products and it is possible that their parents or grandparents also used the products.  Many people, in fact, drive miles to buy them.

So what is being sold so far?  You are making an offer for your friend to join a program or club to receive a discount on great products.  I guess you are selling the membership by being honest and telling them the features and benefits of joining.  It is fine if they say no, just ask for other people who might be interested.  You could ask if they know other people who like to cook, for instance.  Then repeat the process.

At this point nothing has been sold, at least nothing that will make you money.  The products still must be purchased.  Now you want to promote the idea of buying the products with the people you have signed up, but no heavy pressure.  Some will buy, some will not.  It is okay either way.

I do not know if I make this sound easy or not, but while it is work, it is very straight forward.  Can you get rich selling household products?  Let me ask you a question: Can you get rich selling computers?  Can you get rich selling ice cream?  Can you get rich selling beer?  The answer to all: If you sell enough.  And generally, you do not do it alone.  You need a team, people to help.  And for some of the people who just signed up as discount customers, it  might just be them.

I would call it a sales business, yes.  But no selling ice to Eskimos or distasteful selling.  Just promoting your business, your products, and your opportunity.  And of course the discount.

Work At Home

I work at home.  I work at home all the time.  I used to work at home when I was employed, for my employer.  With technology these days you can do many jobs for an employer at home.  Or you can work for yourself at home.  So the first question is: Are you looking for a job or for a business?  Personally, I have been self employed now for four months and am very happy being self employed.

My self employment is consulting mostly, which is still selling time for money.  So it’s kind of like employment.  I work three days at the client and two days at home per week typically, not counting the time I’m working on the weekend.  If I work after hours it is typically at home.  I also have quite a bit of administrative work to do since I don’t have employees.  So I am creating my time sheets and status reports, keeping track of expenses, and ordering office supplies I need.  Stuff like that.

You can start a business at home if you like, and long term this makes the most sense assuming you are successful.  The game you have to play in business is about getting the most from your initial investment.  So you constantly have to work at saving money or getting more for the money you do spend.  Still, you are most likely going to spend more than you’re taking in when you first start a business, and will perhaps lack profits for 2, 3, or 5 years.  So you need to be able to handle the losses as you start out.

Many people start out part time in their business pursuits and work a full time job so that they can have an income while they are starting out.  This creates a time crunch especially if you have a family, so you often have to sacrifice things like TV time.  The last couple of weeks I’ve had a hard time even working out, so it can get kind of busy.  And if you do it right, your business will make you more busy than you expect.  Note that your business should drive you not the other way around.  The trick is to generate buzz or somehow have a constant inflow of customers.  Advertising is a good way to do this (free is best).

If you want to go the other route and work from home for an employer, you have to be aware that you are only saving yourself drive time typically.  You will still have to do the work.  If you have distractions around the house you may find that really difficult.  You should look for employment with some flexibility as to when you will work, so you can work after the kids go to bed for example.

Good luck to you and let me know how it goes…

How To Help Small Business Create Jobs

Several things have to happen for me to decide to hire: 1) I have to have the business to support the new employee, 2) I have to have work for that new employee to do, 3) I have to be able to know that the employee is doing an appropriate amount of work, 4) I have to be able to find a qualified person, 5) I have to have no other choices.

I have to have the business to support the new employee. For my consulting business, I need a new project that I can place an employee at, that I probably cannot take on myself with my current workload.  There may be a day when I hire to support the consultants in the field, but right now it’s about getting business that a new consultant will do.  Getting this business may be about proper marketing and sales, and I am not sure what our government could do to help me get new business except for overall growth in the economy.

I have to have work for that new employee to do. Today this means getting that new project.  Tomorrow it may mean supporting the business by answering telephones, filing, paperwork, and billing.  There has to be some need to fill.  Government is not going to create needs within my business to fill unless they make things more complex for me, meaning that I am hiring to do things that will not add value to the business.  Adding value makes me more money, adding complexity and administration ultimately helps nobody.

I have to be able to know that the employee is doing an appropriate amount of work. People are different.  One may love to work and will get tons done and another may have many distractions and will do little for you.  While you don’t need to crack the whip, you need to be aware of what value employees are adding to the business, or if they are just dead weight around your neck.  They do not have the motivation (profit) that you do, and there is nothing you can do to change that.  Even something like profit sharing will mean nothing if the employee does not feel that they contribute to profit.  They can and often do, but that can be difficult to communicate.  So employees do need to be managed.  In my case, I might just call them regularly to see how everything is going or follow up with the client.  Not sure what government can do to help me manage employees.

I have to be able to find a qualified person. As much as some people would disagree, it can be extremely difficult to find the right person to fill an opening.  In the past few weeks I have been trying to create a network of people I am willing to work with and I have asked for resumes of potential consultants for projects.  I have gotten one resume.  I have also asked people flat out, people I know are being cut from their position soon, if they would be interested in doing consulting for my company.  I have actually gotten very little interest in return.  I tried to fill a marketing position with an independent consultant and spent weeks trying, and finally I found somebody but why is it so hard?  It might be my particular small business that is not appealing.  However, with 10% unemployment in this country you would think people would be jumping at a potential job… and note that I have been extremely negotiable on salary or rate… The problem is that there is a shortage of qualified people for knowledge jobs.  Government can help by getting more American citizens trained.  There are so many people who want to go to college, or to be trained in other ways, but they are frightened by the costs.  And they should be.  Who wants to wind up with $100,000 in debt for a BS?  We need more of our population educated, and not loaded down by all kinds of debt.

I have to have no other choices. I am not going to hire a person where I can easily do the task myself.  Or maybe I’m overwhelmed by admin today, but I can improve my situation with technology.  I don’t want to spend money for an employee to do things that can be handled a different way.  Even at $10 per hour, an employee ultimately will cost at least double that with employer-side taxes, unemployment insurance, benefits, office space, computer, etc.  So if software means that I don’t have to hire, software it is.  Spending $5000 on software to avoid a hire will pay for itself very quickly.  Because of technology in the past 20 years, many manual jobs have been eliminated.  And businesses have benefited in productivity.  Goods of all kinds are much cheaper than they used to be because technology has helped us squeeze out costs.  This is all good except for the people who have not been retrained for doing thinking jobs rather than muscle jobs.

As I said last week, complexity is business’s enemy.  But the enemy of the American economy and the reason for high unemployment is the severe lack of skilled workers and the overwhelming numbers of unskilled workers.  We need to do much more for the individual who wants to be educated so they can get what they need and not be burdened with a lifetime worth of debt.

One thing that might help is if more (or all of an education) could be paid with Stafford loans with their current rules.  We could even eliminate subsidized Staffords.  With income sensitive repayments, students are only on the hook for 15% of their income over poverty for 25 years with the remainder of the loan forgiven.  If somebody is extremely successful, the loan is repaid.  If not, they are not overburdened.  It’s really not about helping the individual student, but about helping business, society, and the American economy become stronger.

What do you think can be done to improve conditions for small business now or in the future?

Isn’t Marketing And Sales The Same Thing?

Well no… marketing and sales are not really the same thing.  They provide two different functions.  With sales, a salesperson with technical skills attempts to sell something to somebody.  Well managed companies will have a well-defined sales process so that the few variables that remain are handled by the sales person’s skill at selling.  For instance, a company may advertise to get leads that the sales person will attempt to convert into sales, using a standard process.

The standard process is usually defined by marketing.  Marketing’s job is to gather information and create a strategy.  Marketing can have an impact on everything, from the company’s mission statement down to the way orders are fulfilled.  Marketing’s job is to understand the customer: what they are most interested in, how they are likely to buy, what features are most appealing, what they look for in a vendor, and what kinds of services they expect with a purchase.  Marketing studies the customer from every angle and makes suggestions to management on how to change to get more customers and keep existing ones.  Marketing doesn’t reach out and touch the customer, except when gathering data, so marketing doesn’t directly create sales.

I usually say that marketing is a soft discipline where sales is a hard discipline, meaning that marketing is a management type of skill that is sometimes hard to quantify.  Sales shows direct results of effort… however, sales can be more or less effective based on how good the marketing is.

Ethics plays a role in both marketing and sales.  For instance, you don’t want to cheat your customers by promising one thing and delivering another.  Marketing can play a role in deception by delivering the product in a way that causes more to be consumed, such as making the measuring cap of detergent a color that blends with the detergent, causing the consumer to use more of the product than needed.  I am sure you have heard many stories of evil marketing people or horrible sales people, but in both cases the function of sales and marketing is to meet the needs of the customer in a way the benefits both the company and the customer.  Cheating the customer is not part of this equation.

If you sell stuff to a customer, you are not a marketer, you are a sales person.  If you study your customer for clues to how you can serve them better, you are marketer.  What do you think?

Have The Courage To Do Something Dumb

This is a line from a Montgomery Gentry song that’s pretty popular right now, check out http://www.ourcountryroad.com/montgomery-gentrys-new-single-while-youre-still-young/.  It says to have the courage to do something dumb, while you’re still young.  And, oh, by the way, we’re all still young.  But the thing is, as we get older we build walls because we create our own little reality.  Anything that falls outside of that reality is in error.  Younger people in their teens and 20’s tend to accept that there are many realities out there and might be willing to go out on a limb to find a better one.  But their good-meaning parents tend to want to protect them from the pain of falling on their face, and help them build walls.

Not everyone that goes for a dream is going to be successful.  That is true.  But some will.  And it’s worth taking the chance at the risk of falling on your face because you don’t get a second shot at life.  What if you could be a famous singer?  An A list actor?  CEO of a major corporation?  President of the United States?  What if you try your hardest for a dream and don’t make it?  At least you had the adventure of trying.  You have something to talk to your kids and grandkids about.  It’s worth it to try if just for the adventure.

Now we do have responsibilities and if you have kids and a mortgage, you probably want to really think about your risks in setting out on an adventure… That’s why it’s tougher later in life, and why it’s better to take your chance at a younger age.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t go for a dream as an older person, it just means that your sacrifice is going to be much greater… and you are going to have to consider that.

So have the courage to do something dumb.  Something that breaks down the walls you have built.  Pursue your dream.  Dreams can become realities!

My Greatest Problem

I work during the day 9 to 5
Watch TV in the evening, sometimes play some ball
My weekends are running my little girl around
How can I do more when I already give my all?

I see my friend over there from high school
He’s got a little business on the edge of town
He plays softball with us on Thursday nights
Otherwise he’s real busy and I never see him around

In fact I know he squeezes a lot into every day
He has a calendar and a secretary to help him get through the chase
And business is really booming I’ve got to say
You can see the change in him by the smile on his face

He works hard, he plays hard
He puts his fear upon a shelf
And I know I could do the same thing
But my greatest problem is myself

You see I know there’s some risks to his crazy life
And I know I’m going to have to sacrifice my comfortable little world
I may not be able to see my favorite shows on television
But what will I say someday to my little girl?

Do I tell her that hard work is rarely rewarded
And that her dreams will never become reality?
Or do I show her that you can do whatever your passion is
So maybe I can change myself and then she’ll see

Me work hard, and play hard
Put my fear upon a shelf
Show her she can do the same thing
No longer will my greatest problem be myself

What To Do About An Unhappy Customer

With unhappy customers, you can take the attitude that not everyone is going to be happy or you can do something about it.  An unhappy customer may be just somebody trying to take advantage of you or could be the symptom of a problem, and your job is to first determine which it is.

Listen and try to understand the problem

Many disgruntled customers will be hostile and you want to calm them down a bit so that they explain their problem.  Don’t get in a shouting war or get personal, just listen and try to make sense out of the customer’s problem.  When you think you have it, repeat the problem back to the customer so that they can acknowledge that you have it right.

Try to make it right with the customer

Rather than suggesting remedies for the individual customer’s problem, ask them what you can do to make it right with them.  If they are unable or unwilling to give any suggestions, make a suggestion but give them the opportunity first.  Often their suggested remedy will be reasonable and something you can easily do, as customers just want things to be even.  If you do get a pie-in-the-sky suggestion from the customer, you can tell them that you are unable to do what they are asking and make a counter offer.  Try to get an agreement to make the problem right.

You may get an indication during this step that the customer is just trying to take advantage of you.  If this is the case, you may want to stand firm.  Generally though you have to assume the customer is honest and dealing in good faith.

Ask the customer how you could have avoided the problem

See if the customer has any suggestions about how the problem could have been avoided.  If the customer has constructive ideas, make sure to take notes.

If you have employees, work with them to improve the business processes

Rather than implement process changes based on the customer’s suggestions, consult with employees or business partners about the problem and see if they have any suggestions that might help.  Often employees will have good ideas that can help and you want to get their input.  You also want them to buy in to the solution so that they will execute the changes, rather than being resentful that another stupid change was forced down their throat.

Unhappy customers are typically not caused by bad employees

Unhappy customers are typically a management problem, not an employee problem.  You may have a story of a bad employee, but most employees want to do their job well and often they are prevented by management policy from doing so.  That is why it is so important to work with employees to improve things rather than blame employees for problems.  Create policies that empower employees to do their jobs well rather than restricting them.

Above all, learn from and avoid repeating customer problems

Nothing is more agravating than having a customer problem that happens over and over again.  It wastes time and resources to deal with unhappy customers, and often loses valuable customers that you worked hard to attain.  Make sure that these problems do not happen more than once.

The Rain

Blue skies all around me
You would think I’m happy but I only feel pain
Although my skin is burning from the sun in the sky
All I can think about is the rain

She left me with a sad look on her face
But the relief shined through she was playing a game
And my world crumbled all around me
Now all I think about is the rain

Nothing was more important to me
Though I worked hard to keep the life that we made
A difference of opinion just cut our life in two
Now all I think about is the rain

Today is the start of another beautiful day
But I have to lock myself in a dark room just the same
Though my business is meaningless to me now
Cause all I think about is the rain

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