An Invitation by Incentives

The PALACE Radio Promo

One way to stir interest for your business is to offer incentives for trying your product or service. As part of the grand opening celebration for The PALACE, I decided to offer a chance to win a free themed birthday on us. What better way to have an opportunity to experience a new party place than to enjoy it at our expense. Take a listen to the Radio Promo above…

The PALACE-Elevator Pitch

“The Place to Make Drams a Reality”

Whenever you are considering a new venture, you must assess the market to see if your great idea is filling a need. We are created to solve problems; even ones that the consumer doesn’t realize that they have yet. Elizabeth Cityans are accustomed to traveling to Virginia for all the special things that can not be found in our town…fine dining, upscale shopping, and entertainment. We travel across the border for goods and services. I attended a themed party in Virginia and thought that we could use this service in Elizabeth City; which is centrally located within 25 radius of 6 counties. I believe in keeping tax dollars in our state. Take a look at this extended pitch value position video for The Palace and let me know if you think there is a market for it in Elizabeth City.

JustGiving Crowdfunding

“Making Good Things Happen”

JustGiving is a global online social platform for giving. It currently has over 22 million people supporting charity and personal causes. It has helped people in 164 countries raise over $4.5 billion for good causes…

Here is a presentation that will tell you about JustGiving and show how easy it is to join this giving community.

Your Repetition-Your Reputation

In his book Poverty, Riches & Wealth, Chris Vallotton makes the title statement “your repetition becomes your reputation” that is a game changer for anyone who is starting a new business in an existing market. He explains that businesses are based on trust, not your product or service. “Trust means that you create expectations that you will fulfill consistently. The fastest way to break trust is to overpromise and underperform.” Have you considered your relationship building skills here? People do business with people, not bricks and mortar. Many businesses offer the same products or services, but what is going to make yours a success? You…your decisions, your problem resolutions, your word. Once you set a standard, how will you maintain it in the lean times and in the fruitful times. Your customer should not be able to tell the difference. Your repeat performance will create a reputation that will precede you in the marketplace, ultimately creating a valuable addition to your town.

I suggest that you consider a way for customers to provide genuine feedback. It is important for our present and future. Allow them to let you know what you’re doing great as well as what you could be doing even better. The open communication will create relationships – what business is all about!

Vallotton, C. (2018). Poverty, Riches & Wealth. Bloomington, MN: Chosen Books.

CONSIDER COMMUNITY

Even though the community bank presence in local communities have been declining since 1984 from 17,401 to 6,146 in 2013, their contribution to small business operations still makes and impact in the communities they serve. (The Statistical Protal, n.d.) WHY THE DECLINE? Stricter regulations due to the housing crisis almost ten years ago, shift in demand and interest rates initiated the spiral. Many community banks have changed faces several times, “but the profitability of those remaining has recovered closer to pre-crisis levels than it has for larger banks. And, perhaps most important, community banks’ share of the market for small business loans—the lifeblood of community banking—remains robust and vastly disproportionate to their size.” (Community Banking, 2016)

WHAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE? People! People bank with people and not buildings. Most banks have similar products and rates, but it the teller, customer service representative and bankers who are constant fixtures even when the name changes that make the difference. Community Banking in the 21st Century 2016 National Survey “…offers insight into the close relationships that community bankers cultivate with these borrowers, to whom they lent $340 billion last year, an amount that, while slightly lower than in previous years, was nevertheless higher than the amount extended by their larger counterparts.” (Community Banking, 2016)

WHY COMMUNITY? Community Bankers are our friends and neighbors. The personal attention with face-to-face interactions all allow for long-term relationships to be maintained and consistent not wavering with a .25 discount on a loan. “Unlike the large banks, community banks have usually been seen as a friend to the entrepreneur.” (Rogers, 2014, pg.180) Many of the larger banks offer an order taking style of service. Even though you can sit down with a personal. Lending decisions are made from a centralized loan office at head-quarters which is hundreds of miles from small town USA. Depending on loan size, community lenders can decision loans at the branch and have answers within 24-48 hours. The community banker knows their customers and the customer capacity outside of the ratios.

They work with you where you are andnot from an electronic application. “Close relationships between businesses and banks also are suggested by the frequency with which community bankers meet with, provide advice to or otherwise monitor small business borrowers.” (Community Banking, 2016) The frequency of the meeting may vary from quarterly to annually, but the premise is based on the needs of the customer.

I support community banks because I used to be a part of this financial sector. It brought me joy to accommodate a customer’s needs or offer an alternative solution. Community banks are from a trusted friend for entrepreneurs. Start building your relationship today.

Resoures

Community Banking. (2016, September 28). Retrieved from Community Banking: https://www.communitybanking.org/~/media/files/communitybanking/2016/cb21cpublication_2016.pdf?la=en

Rogers, S. (2014). Entrepreneurial Finance Finance and Business Strategies for the Serious Entrepreneur. New York: McGraw Hill.

The Statistical Protal. (n.d.). Retrieved from Statistica: https://www.statista.com/statistics/318034/community-banks-number-usa/

Bank on You

The life-line for creating a successful start-up entails securing capital. Be it your money or someone else’s, the financing of your big idea or dream translates into cash flow-in and out. Maybe you have been saving for this new venture or you are enlisting financial support from venture capitalists or angel investors. Another alternative funding source could derive from a financial institution. Any external funding support will require that you prove your ability to be trusted in order for risk to be taken by others. You can risk your own money at your expense, but when you enlist the help of others, your dream becomes their expense or profit.

You, the entrepreneur are the key factor for debt or equity financing. What makes an entrepreneur attractive for risk? “Ideally, investors prefer people who have both entrepreneurial and specific industry experience.” (Rogers and Makonnen, 2014, pg. 2) Investors are more comfortable with those who have the know–how to make it work. It is similar to applying for a job. The employer may require a certain degree level and years of experience or the years of experience in lieu of the degree. They want to see a proven track record of success.

Investors rate entrepreneurs with an A, B, or C depending on experience. The table above taken shows how these ratings are determined. An A rating is given to a person who has “…experience as an owner or even an employee of an entrepreneurial firm and also experience in the industry that the company will compete in.” A B rated entrepreneur has “…experience either in entrepreneurship or in industry, but not both.” (pg. 2) The C rating, which is least desirable, with no entrepreneurial or industry experience, sends a red-flag to investors. No history in business says that you are still a dreamer.

RATING                                                       EXPEREINCE                                                   A                                                                      Entrepreneurship and industry            B                                                                      Entrepreneurship or industry                  C                                                                      No entrepreneurship or industry Table

1-1 (pg. 2)

Position yourself for favorable outcomes. The life of your business depends on your expertise. A race car only experiences the checkered flag because of the driver’s practice, perfection, and pursuit. Even though a race car only has a seat for one, the help of the pit crew (management team) creates a winning situation for everyone. But it is you, the driver, which everyone is banking on to come across the finish line first. Bank on you to make the business successful and others will bank on you too.

RESOURCE

Rogers, S., & Makonnen, R. (2014). Entrepreneurial finance: finance and business strategies for the serious entrepreneur. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Shop the Problem, Not the Product

The Philosophy

“A start-up begins with a vision: a vision of a new product or service, how the product will reach its customers, and why lots of people will buy it.” I believe this sounds right thus far.

“But most of what a startup’s founders initially believe about their market and potential customers are just educated guesses. A startup is in reality a ‘faith-based enterprise’ on day one.” Now that was a humorous reality, but I can still agree. Customer Discovery is “to turn faith into facts…to know whether they have a valid vision or just a hallucination.” (Blanks, 2013, pg. 43)

Customer Discovery occurs when you seek out potential customers to buy your product or service. Blanks defines it as “time to hit the streets and identify your repeat buyers.” This discovery goes beyond gathering electronic market data. Instead it translates into being “…out in the field, listening, discovering how consumers worked and what their key problems were.” (Blank, 2013, p.28)


The Question?

When you began this journey, did you shop your product or service or did you shop the problem that your product or service would solve?

I find this question very important when building a business. Are we following our passion and dreams or actually lending our dreams to a product or service that can solve a problem, which will provide sustainability for your company. It’s like applying for a grant. Many people think they have a great idea for someone to fund. When in reality, your idea needs to fit the goals and mission of a granting organization. It’s all about how you fit in the grantee’s world and so it also is about the consumer that you will be serving.

“The concept is deceptively simple: form hypotheses around the problem that your product solves, and around the product itself, test these hypotheses with those who could be your potential customers to verify, iterate or exit. This discovery process is part of the larger customer development model where the minimally viable product resulting from customer discovery undergoes validation testing among customers.” (savvyinternetmarketing)

I agree with Savvy Internet Marketing when they say it’s “deceptively simple.” You have to get the buy in from a group of strangers that will agree that what you are offering will solve their problem. And remember the problem may not exist yet. Once you gather real data, you are testing or tweaking to make adjustments from their feedback. Then you hit the pavement again to gather another round of feedback. In this round, you have your reality check of where the pairing of the product/service and the consumer provides conclusive evidence; to draw a conclusion you hope will say that you have made the right decision and it makes sense financially.  It’s the beginning or the end.

Just think, you haven’t sold a thing, but you have gathered valuable information that will allow you to be profitable. This in depth approach to gaining a viable consumer following could make the difference in a start-up’s continued success. And don’t think it’s the end, it’s just a place on the journey. Our value position can change over time. That time could be before we open the doors or later on when the market changes. Or even more, the problem could change. Your willingness to be open to your competitors as well as your buyers can make a difference in the footprint of your business.

Resources

Blank, Steven G. The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products That Win. 2nd ed. California: Steve Blank, 2013.

Customer Discovery Basics. (2016, November 25). Retrieved February 12, 2019, from http://savvyinternetmarketing.com/customer-discovery-basics/

Keep My Eyes on Mexico

You only fail if you quit…

Eyes on Mexico

There is something about time that makes you wiser and stronger if you will allow it to transform you. I don’t mean change, but truly transform. I know there are some mornings I go through two suits, three blouses and four pairs of shoes until I get the fit and feel for that day, which happens to be the first suit, second blouse and third pair of shoes. So change is interchangeable depending on your mood, perspective or your preference. But transformation comes with a type of metamorphosis where you’ll never be the same; that caterpillar to butterfly kind of thing; a total unrecognizable chain reaction that literally causes you to take flight. And the beauty of it all is that you are equipped with everything necessary to make it happen.

That which stands in between the transformation is time and season. If the caterpillar’s life-changing process is interrupted, it dies. Failure is interruption that could cause your life-changing process (dreams) to die. Getting knocked off your twig by nature (failed attempts) can cripple and crush you transformation. But you have to set your eyes on Mexico; you must take flight or death is inevitable. The transformation is necessary for the journey to a warmer climate (better days). If you do not transform, you die from the cold (giving up). You only fail if you quit.

In his book It’s A Jungle In There, Steven Schussler gives three things to learn from failure to graduate to success. One, failure isn’t permanent. You are working with an EXPO marker and not a SHARPIE. “Failure should act as a stimulus, not paralysis.” (2010, pg. 141) An entrepreneur should have the capacity to get back up again. Two, failure should bring humility. “You need to be humbled by your mistakes, not crippled by them.” (pg. 142) Check your ego and how highly you think of yourself. Humility gives you a window seat to the truth. Your idea wasn’t as great as you thought it was or you aren’t as invincible as you thought you were. Thirdly, failure translates into appreciating success-“…how precious it is to achieve and how difficult it is to maintain.” (pg. 142) Each success is a milestone to be celebrated and treasured. Failures transform you, successes transforms others. Your failures forerun a path for others to learn from and avoid.

We are far greater than the butterfly dangling from that twig with hopes of continued life. Life continues when you recover and keep it moving. Time has shown me those things that I counted as failures like my marriage ending in divorce, loss of that significant job where I had influence and power, or not spending enough quality time with my daughter because I am tired and she thinks I work too much were merely reminders that the life-changing process is just that, a process. As I journey on this entrepreneurial landscape, I’ll keep my eyes on Mexico and never quit … How about you?

Schussler, Steven. (2010) It’s A Jungle In There. New York: Sterling Publishing Co. Inc.

Count the Cost

Integrity versus Investment

I think we all can agree that when billionaire business mogul and philanthropist Warren Buffet speaks, people listen. Let me mention billionaire one more time for the man that still lives in the home he purchased in 1957. I was reading an article penned by Courtney Connely, “Buffet’s career advice will change how you approach your job,” where CNBC Contributor Suzy Welch said that Buffett who gave her the career advice that had helped her more than any other wisdom she’s received. What was this piece of wisdom? “You cannot make a good deal with a bad person.”

I stopped to ponder what does this statement mean to me. My mind went to ethical behavior, code of conduct, honesty, integrity, trustworthy, kind, and compassionate. Take a look around you, what have you draped yourself with in your circle of influence. Your closest friends project a picture of your future. What are their values? Fortunately, you have an opportunity to spend time with them and get to know your personal partners. But what about your business partners?  Will you have that kind of opportunity to forge a viable relationship before you shake hands on a deal; before you sign on the dotted line; before you say yes? Did you count the cost of the relationship in conjunction with the return on investment?

I encourage you to take inventory of your ships-friendships, relationships and partnerships. A person’s values are just as important as their valuables. Are their words in alignment with their actions? The cost of doing business with one who lacks integrity could cost you your business. Conflicts of interest do not have to exist, the appearance of them is enough for reputation risk that could cost market share. Questionable character can erode your value position. Count the cost.

It is important for entrepreneurs of start-ups to establish a code of conduct for their employees. You set the tone of what is to be expected. Governance and ethics should be part of the culture. If you are employed for a company, find out what is the company’s whistleblowing policy and how do they handle misconduct. If you are seeking employment, do your homework and interview the company to find out what is the tone at the top for ethical behavior. You need to know what is expected and what is tolerated. Everything that sounds good isn’t always good for you.

I encourage you to align yourself with those who walk in integrity, deliver the truth in kindness, even when it stinks, and do what is right in the face of adversity.