While there are several books in the Rule of Thumb series dealing specifically with business finances, including A Guide to Financing Your Small Business and A Guide to Small Business Finances, any consideration of business growth has to encompass at least some discussion on financing options such as mergers, acquisitions, joint ventures and franchising. This entry will focus on franchising which is often suggested as a quick growth mechanism. It is usually financed by the franchisee and thus becomes an infusion of cash to your business while offering the opportunity to rapidly increase your market share by offering expanded services into new geographic locations with little or no investment from your company budget.
This opportunity does not come without challenges, however. While your basic business may or may not be heavily regulated, franchises have intense legal requirements and thus are suggested as appropriate as a long-term growth option. Here are management questions that need to be carefully analyzed before committing to a franchise program:
What legal fees and considerations are necessary before you can offer a franchise?
Is there a demand for your product that will be continuous enough to support a franchise?
Does your business have customer appeal?
Why would someone want to become a franchisee of your product or service?
How will you control the quality of your product or service being delivered by the franchisee?
What is your comfort level with someone else representing your product and service?
Which functions are you willing to delegate to the franchisee?
These are just a few of the considerations you should be discussing with your legal counsel and other advisors as you try to determine the feasibility of franchising.
Customer Service…what is it? Is it like beauty, you know in the eye of the beholder? We all have a different perspective about what makes service good. Many years ago, I worked for a very large utility company where I was recognized for delivering good customer service; I also worked for a ginormous telecommunications company where I received an award for quality service to customers. Although I am a glutton for being recognized by those around me, I love the attention and it makes me feel valuable, nothing compares to truly knowing that I did something positive for someone else. When I can see in customer’s eyes that they have found some satisfaction in their experience that involved me, I, too, get a sense of satisfaction.
Recently, I was involved in another situation that brought me a great deal of satisfaction. I was at a shoe store where the salesman had gone out of his way to help a customer find the perfect pair of shoes. The customer had traveled over two hours and had called weeks ahead to set up an appointment. The salesman had pre-ordered some specialty models that he thought the customer might be interested in, although he knew he would more than likely only sell one pair of shoes. He spent over an hour with the customer as he explained each model while doing at least ten different fittings. He listened to the customer and really took in all the information in order to help make a good recommendation. The customer explained to the salesman that she had been fighting many issues with foot pain and it was quite frustrating.
Once she had selected the shoes she wanted, it was oblivious how satisfied and almost relieved she was in making a decision and an investment. The salesman answered all questions and made it a point to give the customer his card and explained that if there were any issues not to hesitate to contact him. Although, the salesman maybe didn’t realize it, the customer left with such an elated feeling and with such anticipation of using the new shoes and alleviating the pain she had before. On that day, a customer was greatly satisfied and it wouldn’t have been possible without the incredible patience, effort and attention from Art, the salesman. I think about this each time I put on my tennis shoes!
We’ve all received form letters and mailings from businesses that have personalized information inserted throughout the document. Frequently they will look something like this:
Thank you for the purchase you made on 7/29/2011 at our Omaha location. We hope you enjoy your purchase and if we can be of assistance, don’t hesitate to contact us anytime.
The best compliment you can give us is to refer your family and friends to our store. If you know of anyone in the Omaha area who might benefit from our products and services, refer them to us and receive a 20% discount on your next purchase.
We appreciate your business and look forward to serving you in the future.
A letter like this usually consists of several components: a base document, a client database (or spreadsheet) and merge fields. In Word, the process of creating a customized letter by inserting information from a database is called Mail Merge. Businesses use mail merge to personalize client correspondence for mass mailings. For instance, instead of using a general greeting, such as “Dear Sir/Madam”, mail merge will allow you to insert specific information from your client database via merge fields. A merge field is a placeholder that displays variable (changeable) bits information. So instead of a general greeting like “Dear Sir/Madam”, a mail merge greeting will display each customer’s name by ‘merging’ information from the database into the Word document.
Ruth Graham writes, “It is difficult to trust things that change. Trust is built on the assurance of constancy.” It’s almost cliché to say that we live in times of constant change – we know more change than we do steadiness. Fourth generation (4G) mobile technology is being released and I didn’t even know there was such a thing as generations of technology! The iPod was launched in 2001 and is in its 6th generation, meaning that the technology is waaaayyyy better today than it was in 2001, right? Besides technology, we see change everywhere around us. Egypt is in the midst of a chaotic change to its political system as individuals take to the streets demanding to be heard. Companies have had to react to economic changes, forcing some to shut their doors for good, others to lay off scores of workers, while others took the opportunity to reinvent themselves to survive and thrive rather than fall victim of the recession.
So what is a leader to do when followers are looking for an anchor when change is swirling around them? The simple answer is character. The leader who forgets that people are looking for stability will soon find their followers stopped in their tracks, unable to move forward because uncertainty has paralyzed them. This disengagement occurs when leaders put forward momentum before relationships and miss opportunities to assure stability of character despite uncertainty and shifting priorities within the organization. I worked for a company that had three CEOs in less than five years and a new one was just coming in the door when I was leaving. Each executive had his own agenda, which meant no one knew from one year to the next what was going to happen to their job. It didn’t help that this company has a reputation for regular layoffs, so the level of uncertainty was magnified and pandemonium reigned. People put in their time, but politics and turf wars prevented the organization from thriving.
But there were some managers who did especially well even in this tumultuous climate. Leaders were often in the same boat as their followers however, I witnessed a couple of outliers who managed to maintain the trust of their team even though the future was uncertain. These leaders demonstrated constancy of character in the following ways:
Transparency. The leaders who were best at creating constancy amidst change were honest and open. They shared their own concerns and frustrations in a way that promoted dialogue without promising anything beyond what they could commit to. They didn’t pretend and they didn’t ignore the issues, but faced them plainly and honestly.
Positivity. Those leaders who could keep a proper perspective helped their followers to do the same. Positivity in the middle of uncertainty is challenging, but I saw leaders who could communicate with a long-term vision and foster a sense of “everything is going to be alright” amongst their teams. They remind people that change can be good and that even if we don’t initially like the outcome we will adapt, learn, or find something that fits us better in the long run.
Reliability. Leaders who avoided jumping on the bandwagon of rumor, second-guessing, and chasing scape-goats provide an anchor for followers, a positive example of reliability and duty that strengthens the group. The reliable leader listens well but doesn’t allow finger-pointing or back-stabbing. This sends a message that the leader can be trusted and a calm in the storm.
Assuring constancy amidst constant change is a critical skill for leaders to develop in our fast-paced world. The first century Greek philosopher Epictetus, in The Art of Living, says, “To live a life of virtue, you have to become consistent, even when it isn’t convenient, comfortable, or easy.” Virtuous leaders who develop the consistent character traits of transparency, positivity and reliability when it is inconvenient and difficult, find that they are boosted by the support of faithful followers. This mutual partnership can withstand constant change in circumstances because it runs deeper than the external chaos in which it operates.
I’m reminded of scenes from one of my favorite American movies, Red River; namely, the branding of cattle in preparation for a historic cattle drive along the old Chisholm Trail. Brands were visual symbols of ownership. They depicted in graphic geometric shapes and/or letters the names of the various ranches: The Circle R, The Flying P, and The Two Rivers are examples. The brand message to all who saw it said, “This is mine, and it is separate from the rest of the herd.”
The most successful and durable brands like Coca-Cola, Walt Disney, Ford, and Budweiser create a special relationship between the company providing the product and the customer—indeed, the brand becomes the product in the mind of the customer.
“Brand Bonding” results in the customer experiencing a feeling of ownership. Recent television and print commercial scripts have the actors saying, “that’s my CVS,” “my Sprint,” my Tide.” After multiple repetitions and images of people just like us embracing a product, an almost subliminal message becomes imprinted and oftentimes drives the sales decision.
I receive hundreds of calls and emails each year asking, “Can I get a grant for my business?”Frankly, it’s not a quick and easy yes or no answer.In this article, I will share everything that I’ve researched with you.
When you start a company (or buy one), you have to choose who you are. Possibly you have been the boss or at least had a leadership role as part of a management group.As the company develops, you will have to change your role (probably at several intervals along the growth curve).Continue reading →
Who is a leader? Any person who works with others in the role of coordinator and inspirer, for the purpose of reaching specific goals and moving an organization or our society forward in some way. Leaders have earned the right to be decision-makers, and we depend on them to safeguard everything in our lives, from the safety of products to the establishment of laws intended to last generations. If our leaders are going to be successful in transforming our world in the right ways, it is important they are able to say what they mean. They are judged by the words they use, as well as by the actions they take. Continue reading →
As leaders we often have team members come to us because of a relational or strategic logger jam that is impacting the workgroup. And more often than not they are looking to you, the leader, to fix it for them. So being the good leaders that we are we jump in and start problem-solving. After all, we have the insight, experience and position to push the team to resolution, right? Continue reading →
Part I of “Banishing Writer’s Block” emphasized that writing is a process, not the finished product. Writing is how you get to the finished product. Once you make a habit of following the writing process – or you might think of it as a pattern – the mystery and fear of writing tends to disappear. Continue reading →
Do you ever catch yourself in a moment and think…”wow, I am really responsible for this,” or “seriously, this is great, something must be wrong…wait,” or “I am really happy and successful, surely there must be doom lurking somewhere, right?”What is wrong with us?Why is it that we seemed to be programmed to doubt ourselves when things are going in a positive and optimistic direction?Why do we question our own success? Continue reading →
Because those in cubes are so visible, there is a subconscious assumption that the person is always available. Following are some guidelines for our workday life in the cubicle world: Continue reading →
As a business owner, you are likely working seven days a week and upwards to 18 hours a day. Whether you’re a new business owner or well established, this is what entrepreneurs do in order to start, grow and sustain our businesses.
All organizations have employee and human resource (HR)concerns. A growing company will have expanding HR needs and should take time to evaluate them as it starts to add team members. The first thing – before you hire anyone – is to prepare an organization chart. Continue reading →
Market, market, and then market more! I can’t stress the importance of letting the world know that you have something to sell them. Market daily.
Network, network, and then network more! You can’t sit at your desk or stand behind a counter 5 to 7 days a week. It is critical that you venture out and network with potential business-to-business buyers.
Draw no or minimal payroll from the profits in your new business for as long as you can. Doing this allows you to build a reserve for repairs, new equipment, unexpected expenses, and emergencies.
Change our businesses website monthly to offer new services or products and to create tickler headings that will fuel potential buyers to read more and call you and/or walk in the door of your business.
Throw out the old adage that the customer is always right. If the customer were always right, they would not need your services or products. The customer is missing something and it’s whatever you have to sell. You are the expert; you are right and you have something to share that is of value.
Brand your name and your business via social media marketing. Be the go-to expert for all areas related to your business. Stay visible by submitting articles to your local news media, tweeting daily, posting to LinkedIn, and create a Facebook page for your business.