eBusiness Blog

Using Your Story to Build Your Business

How You Too Can Emulate the Nanaimo Bar Story and Be Legendary

Using Your Story to Build Your Business Let’s talk dessert. I love Nanaimo Bars!   A delicious chocolate dessert square filled with creamy custard, in a coconut graham crust. Grandma loved it, and it’s still a favorite today. It has a fascinating history that started in 1952. According to The Food Network, “the first known recipe for Nanaimo bars appeared in the 1952 Women’s Auxiliary of the Nanaimo Hospital Cookbook and was labelled 'chocolate square'. One year later a similar recipe was published in Vancouver’s Edith Adams’ Cookbook..." but with the word “bar” instead of “square” used. The history goes on from there with a variety of stories depending on who you ask. The only undisputable fact is that it started in Nanaimo BC, Canada. Regardless, the story captures peoples’ imaginations.

What’s the lesson here?  It’s all about the story.

Just like the Nanaimo Bar, you and your business have an interesting history, founders and myths that can entice people to keep shopping with you. So write your fascinating business story. Use it in the company marketing and social media. Create a story people will love and remember you for! If you’re not sure where to start? Use the 5 “W’s” as your guide:
  1. What’s the story on your product? Did you create a product that people loved from the start?  Did you create different variations?
  2. Where did you start your business? In a garage?  A basement?  On a plane?
  3. Who helped you? Your kids?  Your parents?
  4. When was it? 25 years ago?  2 years ago?
  5. Why? Did you want to change the world, make a difference, improve the widget?
What story can you relate that will help you reach legendary business status like the Canadian Nanaimo bar? Leave a comment below and share! [article_about_author author="pamela"]

3 Key Areas to Spring Clean Your Business

3 Key Areas to Spring Clean Your Business It's that time of the year again. Winter disappears, and spring arrives. We open our windows to let the warmer breezes in and take pleasure in seeing lovely flowers pop up in the garden. It's also the time when our homes get an extra cleaning.  We vacuum the dust from dark corners, polish the windows and store away heavy quilts and blankets. Spring is a great time to clean and re-organize your business.

Here's 3 areas where spring cleaning can reap big benefits.

  1. Spring clean inventory.

      Every business has inventory, equipment or both. Spring is a great time to assess what is on-hand, along with working order.   Equipment and tools can be everything from office equipment, POS systems, or machinery, vehicles and tools of the trade.   Have a hard look and ask questions. Too many of any items? Out-of-style, old or damaged? Replace it with a more efficient model?     Inventory and tools are money! Sell off what you can, write off what you can't and replace what you should.
  2. Change your marketing with the season.

      What changes in your customer's lives in the spring? What do they need that you might be able to provide or promote?   Here's a great example of seasonal marketing:  Many of Joe's Towing Service clients play softball in the spring. Joe decided to become the food sponsor for their tournaments.   He got signs made, designated a company truck to tow a catering vehicle to the ball field, and provided free hot dogs and drinks.   The result? Everyone at the game sees the truck, appreciates the food, raves about the company and when they need a tow, they call Joe.
  3. Spring clean your office and your business.

      Business owners often live with a disorganized filing system, walk over the same dirty office carpet or by the same dead flowers outside the door.   It's easy to ignore it or just not see it. In yearly business planning, designate spring as the time to do a major clean in the business.   Here's three tips to help get the cleaning started:
    • The business owner won't see everything. Recruit a team to help make the list.
    • Get fresh eyes involved, such as a painter or a gardener. They can make suggestions for improved curb appeal. Hire them if you can. They can finish a job faster or more proficiently.
    • Make it fun! Book the day every spring (and even a day in the fall), to have a business clean-up party.   Make an advance plan, create a list, involve everyone in the company, (and a few volunteers), designate jobs, and provide food and beverages for the hungry workers.
If you need a bit more motivation to spring clean your business, here's more reasons: It brings personal satisfaction, more organization and efficiency, a fresher, cleaner business image, gets rid of useless items and can free up money. Now get out the sponge mop and get to it! [article_about_author author="pamela"]

How to Dream BIG in Your Business

How to Dream BIG in Your Business

The ABC’s of Business Basics Series: Tips for Your Company’s Mission to Mars

According to Google, “In theory, the closest that Earth and Mars would approach each other would be when Mars is at its closest point to the sun (perihelion) and Earth is at its farthest (aphelion). This would put the planets only 33.9 million miles (54.6 million kilometers) apart. However, this has never happened in recorded history.” Wow! Think about it... 54.6 million kilometers. It is a number many human beings can't relate to or believe would be possible to travel to. However, this doesn’t stop space scientists. They don’t focus on how far away the planet is, they just want to get that spaceship to Mars. In my practice as a Business Advisor, I see too many owners who play it safe. They set low sales targets, retain a minimum number of employees, or advertise only to existing markets because they don’t want more customers than they can handle or to get too busy. Yet big dreams can actually propel you into the life and business you want. Let’s look at a business owner I know who had a big dream...Walt Disney. He "saw" Disneyland in his head. He knew where his company was headed, and held the dream through the naysayers and the banks. Imagine how proud he was when his dream became a reality. Do you have a dream large and exciting enough for your business? If not, then perhaps it’s time to create one. Just like the Mission to Mars, it may feel so big or far away that it doesn’t feel realistic. It may scare you or it may seem impossible to accomplish. Create one anyway.

Not sure how to dream big in your business?

Here's three tips to help out: Tip #1: Don’t get hung up on the "how," just the "what." Do you want a 2nd location? How about an international presence or double the revenues? Identify your "Mars" first. Tip #2: Own it. Is this really what you want? As the owner, and just like Disney, you need to really believe this is what you want and where you are taking the company. Tip #3: Share your dream "Mission" with everyone. The "dream team" will help make it happen! Dreams give us the incentive to get out of bed everyday, fill us with renewed purpose, energy and effort, and ignite the spirit of human achievement. Go for it! [article_about_author author="pamela"]

The True Costs of Not Having a Customer Loyalty Plan

Customer Loyalty Plan

The ABC’s of Business Basics Series - L is for Loyalty

As the old expression states, “people come and people go.” In your personal life, it can be easy to shrug off a person and move on. However, when it’s your business, this can be a very costly attitude to adopt. The creation and implementation of a customer loyalty plan is necessary for all small businesses. Look at the costs of customer acquisition vs. customer retention. While sources vary, they do agree that it costs between 4 and 10 times more to find new customers than it does to keep the old ones happy.

First, let’s look at the cost of acquiring new customers.

Do you know how much your company spends on attracting new customers and getting them to buy? It’s called the ‘Cost of Acquisition.’ There are varying ways to flush out this important number. You can look at what it costs to send out an email, an advertisement, purchase Google Ad words, or arrange a visit from a sales person. However, you also need to look at other costs such as training, agency costs (if you use one), or internal costs for marketing. Once this number is added up, owners are usually surprised at how high the initial costs of acquiring a new customer can be. How about the customers you attract through the door or by getting them to click online and shop? Here’s the reality for you. It can take several transactions with that customer before they become loyal (Source: www.refresher.com/the-real-costs-of-losing-customers/).

How much is it costing your company every time you attempt to draw them back?

If you are unsure of what to review, look at performance indicators like marketing and advertising costs, employee costs, cost-of-goods, the hard costs of keeping your business open such as rent, hydro etc. Customer retention is the name of the business game. Here’s a statistic that should give you incentive: “A 5% increase in retention yields profit increases of 25% to 95%” (Source: Bain & Co. 1990). So, in the big game of business and profit, it’s all about loyalty. [article_about_author author="pamela"]

Don’t Be a Jack (or Jill) of all Trades. Be an Industry Master

Don't be a Jack or Jill or All Trades

Why focusing on your core competency will get you greater returns and more referrals

Have you ever hired someone to do a job believing they were the expert you needed to fix the washer or repair your car? When the washer leaks again or the car breaks down within 24 hours of having it fixed, it is incredibly frustrating. You thought you had the right company to do the job but instead, you find you hired a ‘Jack of all Trades.’ Unfortunately, the world is full of companies who pass themselves off as experts, but they are really generalists in their trade. Now, I'm not saying most businesses do a lousy job. I'm just saying that if a company is a ‘Master’ of their industry and knows their business, it can help that business to stand out from the competition. And who doesn’t want to stand out? Becoming a ‘Master’ in your field also leads to making better business decisions when hiring the right people and identifying the necessary up-to-date training. It also incites innovative thinking by setting the performance bar higher. We ask, “How can we do it better, faster or more efficiently?” Masters of the business game want, and more often than not, success in turning customers into raving fans. Here are a couple of additional benefits to discarding the ‘Jack (or Jill) of all Trades’ label:
  • It becomes easier to create a clear marketing message. Once a business has identified its special differentiator, the messages can focus in on what your company does best.
  • The customer may demand a higher quality of work from you, but you can charge higher rates.
  • You don’t always need to chase new markets. Referrals will come naturally as the standards of excellence are established and delivered. This may save marketing dollars.
So, is it time to do a business review? Is your business a ‘Jack (or Jill) of all Trades’? If so, perhaps it is time to shift the vision and examine how your organization can become a ‘Master’ or more of a Master of the business game. It’s worth the effort it will take to get you there. The added bonus? More money in your bank! [article_about_author author="pamela"]

5 Ways to Create a Culture of Innovation in Your Business

5 Ways to Create a Culture of Innovation in Your Business

The ABC’s of Business Basics Series - I is for Innovation

What’s one really big advantage a small company has over a large one? The smaller company can adopt innovation and introduce change quickly.   Innovation can result in increased revenue, cost reduction, better client relations, improve your competitive edge, and create an exciting work environment. Let’s not confuse innovation with creativity. WhatIs.com defines ‘Innovation’ as, “an organization’s process for introducing new ideas, workflows, methodologies, services or products.” As Siyana Sokolova states in her blog: “Creativity goes hand in hand with innovation.  And there is no innovation without creativity. While creativity is the ability to produce new and unique ideas, innovation is the implementation of that creativity - that's the introduction of a new idea, solution, process, or product.   Creativity is the driving force behind innovation and the incorporation of looking at things from a different perspective and freedom of restrictions by rules and written or unwritten norms.” Here’s a recent example of a simple, but impactful innovative idea.  I recently took a WestJet flight on my way home from Costa Rica.  After boarding the plane in Liberia, the plane was reversing, preparing to taxi to the landing strip.  I looked out the window and saw 5 men walking towards the plane, all in a row. They all stopped and unfurled a banner with a WestJet logo on it.  The banner was held and directed towards the plane.  It read, “Thank you for visiting Costa Rica.  Come back soon.  Pura Vida.” The whole planeload of people laughed, smiled, waved and took pictures to post on social media when they arrived home.  What a powerful way to make a lasting impression! Someone had come up with the idea, and then a team had created a plan to carry out the farewell message for every WestJet flight that left the country.

Here’s 5 ways you can create a culture of innovation in your company:

  1. Hold regular idea generation meetings and involve your staff whenever possible. At each meeting, pick one area of the business to concentrate on.  Pose a pre-planned question or two.    For example, if you are a retailer you might ask the question, “How can we sell more at our POS?” or “How can we get our staff excited about the new fall line-up?” Be sure and give everyone an opportunity to share ideas.    Remind your staff that there are no bad ideas.
  2. Hold follow-up meetings with your leadership team. Use the terms, ‘feasibility’, ‘desirability’, and ‘viability’ as your guidelines to evaluate ideas.
  3. Keep the great ideas stored somewhere. Not every idea can be adopted right now, but you never know when they can be used.
  4. >Once an idea is adopted, create an action and implementation plan. Examine current practices and brainstorm new ideas for improved efficiency, increased revenue, or better client relations.   Identify who will be involved and what specific steps need to be taken, then attach working deadlines.  Hold everyone accountable to the process.
  5. Book time in your management meetings for discussion around innovation. Create a culture of research.  Encourage information sharing, both from a local and global perspective.     Monitor trends, and be open to new ideas.  Encourage outside the box thinking.
Business innovation is crucial in our fast-paced world.  Technology often demands response quickly.  Be brave.  Be unique.  Be innovative. [article_about_author author="pamela"]

5 Tips to Loving Working in Your Business Again

5 Tips to Loving Working in Your Business Again

The ABC’s of Business Basics Series: H is for Happiness

Do you remember Winnie the Pooh and his long-eared, gloomy, and very pessimistic donkey friend Eeyore? Just like Eeyore, retail store owner Jane is always sad and gloomy. She may get up in the morning, put on her public face and go to work, but she is just going through the motions. No longer happy with her role or contribution to her company, Jane is missing the fun and the excitement of growing a new company. She is also sure she is never going to get these feelings back. Jane feels guilty for feeling this way. She has built a highly successful retail business with 2 stores and revenues of $3M. Jane has set up online shopping, has a loyal clientele of over 5000 customers, and great staff. Jane’s staff love working for her, she trains them well, rewards them financially, and publicly applauds their efforts. She knows she should be happier. Jane’s employees are beginning to notice that she isn’t the happy business owner she used to be. She is aware of this, and is afraid her moods will soon affect her staff. So what’s gone wrong? For years, Jane had committed everything she had to building the business and now she is feeling wrapped up in the day-to-day and no longer enjoying the work.  She has lost sight of how valuable she is to her company and she is also so busy rewarding others, that she forgets to reward herself. Do you ever feel like Eeyore (or Jane) in your business? Here’s 5 tips to help you love your job again:
  1. Step away. Take an extended holiday.  Owners don’t do this often enough. If you can’t take an extended holiday, at the minimum take a regularly scheduled couple of weeks off.
  2. Work with a business advisor/coach. Redefine your role as the owner and create a new vision for the company while establishing new and unique goals.
  3. Pass work along. Remember, it will be new for someone else and can add interest to their job.
  4. Find new projects. Free up time to research new projects or services, create new marketing, assess company performance, and get out into your community and build new relations.
  5. Know what makes you happy and do more of it. Is it a weekly spa trip, a golf game, time with children?  Block out small blocks of time for personal reward.
If you are a business owner and find yourself feeling like Eeyore, give yourself a happiness check-up. Identify what you’re missing, then create a plan that will give you reward and purpose. Commit to you. You owe it to your staff and your customers to be happy. The money will naturally follow. [article_about_author author="pamela"]

ABC’s of Business – Gratitude

ABC’s of Business – Gratitude Merci.  Mucho gracias.  Grazie.  Danke. No matter what language you speak, the words ‘thank you’ means the same thing; being grateful and appreciative. Children are taught from a very young age to say thank you.  We say thanks to mom for the cookie, or to our Auntie for the gifts.  We give our teachers presents at the end of the school year to show appreciation for the learning. We are taught that it is better to give than receive.  No matter the occasion, gratitude is an integral value that is instilled in us as children. So why, then, as adults do we sometimes lose sight of this all-important childhood value?  Even though we might feel bad, we miss opportunities to show gratitude.  It is no longer a priority in our lives. In business, we can’t afford to miss opportunities to say thank you.  Gratitude makes us money.  So today I’m sharing with you, 4 ‘Gratitude Tips’ to ensure your clients know you appreciate them.
  1. Small gestures make big impacts. I received a box of cookies and gift card from my car dealership for a referral I sent them.  This gesture was low cost to them, but was I impressed?  You bet!  Will I continue to refer them?  Of course. ‘Thank you’ gifts are cheap marketing for any company.
  2. Gratitude is a core business value. When a business owner takes a few minutes to publically celebrate an employee’s efforts, they are saying to the world, “We are a caring company.”
  3. Elephants have long memories…and so do our customers. Good or bad, they remember.   What do you want your company to be remembered for?  Include ‘gratitude’ actions in sales scripts, marketing activities, and customer follow-up.  Appreciate your customers, and they will return.
  4. Consistency is key. Show gratitude unexpectedly and regularly.  Don’t let the plan fall off the radar.  Hold everyone (including you) accountable to one another, and to the customer.  Be grateful daily, weekly, and monthly in action and words.
While the 21st century business model is fast-paced and aggressive, many companies are choosing to return to the ‘simple’ business model.  Consumers are demanding companies be ‘real’, transparent, and work to their core values. I propose that gratitude be at the top of that list.  Conduct a gratitude audit today.  Plan some small, yet impactful action steps. Remember the smile on Auntie’s face when you said thank you, and gave her a hug?  It’s time to pass that same good feeling along to customers and staff. Remember, everyone benefits. [article_about_author author="pamela"]

Finicky Employees Could Be the Key to Business Success

Finicky Employees Could Be the Key to Business Success Jane owns a retail store that specializes in glamorous women’s wear. She’s owned and operated the business for 15+ years. Jane will tell you, that the store has been successful because she oversees every little detail of her business. She knows her customer’s tastes, personally greets them, and will step in on a sale when she sees that her staff could be selling more. Jane does all the buying, receiving and is hands-on when it comes to design and merchandising.   Her staff will tell you she has eyes in the back of her head. She notices every detail to ensure her store and staff are as perfect as possible every day. Would you call Jane an obsessive micro-manager or finicky? A definition of ‘finicky’ is: “Fussy about one’s needs or requirements, showing or requiring great attention to detail”. Jane’s staff will tell you there’s a fine line between micro-managing and finicky. There are days when they feel disempowered because Jane gives them no opportunity to make even the simplest of decisions. On the days when Jane isn’t in the shop, they find themselves enjoying their work more. It feels great to use their skills, intelligence and experience. Yes, Jane may be a micro-manager and needs to trust and train her employees to think like her. And yes, Jane is also finicky; but being finicky is a great asset for business. She is one of those fine-detail folks that in our highly competitive world, every business needs. Let’s face it. As an owner, you’re likely like Jane. You want your business to be perfect, and so do your customers. But why do it all yourself? Take a step back and look at your employees. Who are your ‘Janes’; the employees that feel responsible for the small details of your business? The employees that look for dust bunnies, accounting mistakes, and ‘small stuff’ that no one else notices. Do you have enough ‘Janes’ on staff? Have you appreciated them lately? Do you have a reward program in place for those who go the extra mile? Do you have the routines and procedures in place that support their ‘finicky’ efforts? The message here? Hire finicky people. Train your people to be detail oriented, to notice what you don’t need to notice. Get out of your staff’s way and let them step up for you. The payback will be loyal customers, raving fans and extra dollars in your pocket. The bonus? You won’t need to work 24 hours a day fretting about the small stuff. [article_about_author author="pamela"]

ABC’s of Business – E is for Enthusiasm

Entrepreneur Sleeping at Desk

Do you have a case of the business blahs?

Have you lost your business mojo? Are words like 'enthusiasm', 'excitement' and 'fervour' a thing of the past?  It can be a challenge for a business owner to keep the fire lit in the belly. Remember, the antonym of enthusiasm is apathy. Face it, after an owner has been in business for a few years, it can often be difficult to find passion for the job, once again. Another scenario which is an enthusiasm killer is when business gets tough. Many owners think about walking away, rather than sticking it out. If you're a business owner and finding your enthusiasm dwindling, take a moment to think back to the days when you began your business. Can you recall the feeling of excitement when you had a day of new projects to look forward to? What about that feeling of everything being so new that even though it was a bit scary, it made you feel happy? Starting and operating a business is like deciding to take a vacation. There is the excitement in the decision to take a trip, setting the date, picking the destination, the trip planning, deciding who you will travel with, saving up for the trip, and in particular, the build-up of having it to look forward to. Once you go away, you enjoy it. However, once you come home, all you have are the memories.  It can often feel like a let-down unless you have another trip to look forward to and start the planning. Your business is similar to trip planning. So why not treat your business like a holiday? Here are 5 action steps that you can take that will keep your business enthusiasm alive:
  1. Have a 5-year vision in place, (the destination and the date).
  2. Look at it daily and plan your tasks around it. Make sure everything you do, takes you in the direction of the dream.
  3. Share the Vision with your staff, (your travel companions).
  4. Set financial targets, and track the numbers against the vision.
  5. Celebrate success every time!
Remember, human beings need exciting new opportunities to look forward to. Without it, life can become humdrum. Business is no different. By constantly create new dreams, the enthusiasm for your business will come back naturally. [article_about_author author="pamela"]