A SERIOUS QUESTION FOR YOU

THIS IS A POST FROM THE HARDCORE CONSULTANT – IF YOU’RE EASILY OFFENDED, OR DON’T WANT TO HEAR THE TRUTH, STOP READING NOW AND GO BACK TO HIDING YOUR HEAD IN THE SAND

So I was watching TV the other night…something that I don’t always have time to do…but here’s the thing…I saw this commercial and it was asking what the most powerful question in the world was.

So I was thinking about business as I always do and thought…What is the most powerful question in any business?

You know what it is?

it is simple.

PAY ATTENTION! YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS!

it is the question – Why?

I was doing a consulting job one time for a company that specialized in flooring. It was interesting to me from a number of standpoints. The guy who had called me in had been the lead salesman for the company and had bought it from the owner when he had decided to retire. The problem was, he told me, that he couldn’t make any money. So I asked the simplest of questions – Why?

The owner looked like I had just hit him between the eyes with a two by four. In all the time he had been owner, he had never honestly asked himself this simple question.

WOW! You really have to be kidding me!

After a few weeks of digging, we found out what the answer to that simple question truly was and when I help the owner correct the problems AND correct his thinking about his business, things started to turn around for him. He wrote a great letter to my company after the fact.

Here is an excerpt –

“ There are three things I will always remember about the Hardcore Consultant’s visit.

  1. The sick feeling I had as he tore everything I thought I knew about my business to shreds.
  2. The look on his face as he asked me “WHY?” over and over again
  3. The immense feeling of relief that I felt as I relearned how to correctly run my business knowing finally that it was going to be successful”

Do you know the whys of your company? Do I need to come there and ask you why? I guarantee that you don’t want me coming in there! Are you going to do it yourself? Honestly ask yourself why something isn’t working in your business?

WAIT…What? You don’t have time for that? MAKE TIME! See my post about Time vs Money if you want some more information on why you need to make time to ask WHY!

NOW QUIT SCREWING AROUND AND GET TO WORK!

My best regards

The Hardcore Consultant

PS. The Hardcore Consultant is available for speaking engagements and consulting. if you would like some Hardcore Consulting for your business, send a message to KZ Management and they will get you what you need, but be warned – Be prepared for truth and change!

The Silver Bullet Strategy and why it almost never works!

THIS IS A POST FROM THE HARDCORE CONSULTANT – IF YOU’RE EASILY OFFENDED, OR DON’T WANT TO HEAR THE TRUTH, STOP READING NOW AND GO BACK TO HIDING YOUR HEAD IN THE SAND

You guys remember the Lone Ranger? This masked man rides into town on a white horse, solves all of the towns problems and then rides off into the sunset leaving behind a single silver bullet as the only reminder that he was there.

Who was that Masked Man?
…and why the hell is he leaving so soon?
…and what the hell are we supposed to do with this Silver Bullet he left?
…and what, you may very well be asking, does this have to do with business?

I’ll tell you what it has to do with business – EVERYTHING!

Too many times as I visit with the owners of a business I hear something like this –

“If only we could get this one big contract, the company would be saved”
“If only we could hire this one guy, our sales would go up”
“If we just spend thousands of dollars on this one advertising campaign, the ad sales rep says we will get all sorts of new customers”

Yeah Right – and if only the Lone Ranger would ride in here and save us, it will all be all right

What a crock of shit!

The Silver Bullet that will save the company – maybe once in a great while a brilliant idea comes along that rescues a business, but as a general business strategy? I think not.

And yet, there are so many businesses that seem to rely on this strategy as a way to get themselves out of trouble. Smokin’ the Hopeium again? (if you don’t know what Hopeium is check out my post on this most dangerous of business delusions – Hopeium – The drug of choice for business owners who like to hide their head in the sand)

WAKE UP!  Relying on just one thing to make things right in your business is a dangerous route that can and will lead to ruin. Particularly if the fundamentals of your business aren’t right. There are three things that your business has to do to get and stay successful – Increase Cash Flow, Decrease Debt and Generate Net Profits – This concept comes from “The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement” By Eliyahu M. Goldratt & Jeff Cox. (If you haven’t read this book – Get it, Read it…I am not kidding – DO IT NOW)

Here’s the thing – If you don’t understand the fundamentals of your business, and by this I mean the relationship of sales to gross and net profits, COGS, ROI, how to develop healthy cash flow and the impact of debt – then you have no idea how any sort of strategy that you employ will impact your business.

There are no Silver Bullets out there. Get over it. If you really want to be successful in your business than get your fundamentals right. Stop searching for the guy on the white horse and remember the Silver Bullet you are searching for can kill you.

NOW QUIT SCREWING AROUND AND GET TO WORK!

Yours truly,

The Hardcore Consultant

The Rubber Band effect

I’ve often been asked about what happens as a business gains momentum and develops more sales. Every business, as it grows, will inevitably hit certain plateaus. The ability of a business to move forward off a plateau is based around the resources of the business getting stretched like a rubber band – tighter and tighter and tighter. Unless you as a business owner do something about this situation, that rubber band is going to snap. Now, that rubber band can snap back, smack you in the face and hurt – meaning that your company is going to contract back to a place where the resources of the company are comfortable meaning a lot of wasted effort and lost revenue, or it can snap forward driving the business off the plateau and on to greater revenue.

This kind rubber band effect happens at around $1 million dollars in sales it happens again around $3 million in sales again around $5 million in sales and so on. What you as a business owner have to be able to do…absolutely have to be able to do…is to take a hard look at the resources that you have at your disposal when those resources are stretched to their breaking point and make some very hard decisions.

These decisions may include completely reviewing your internal structure and staff. In many cases you may have to reengineer the way you do business to meet the growing demand. It may mean taking a hard look at your staff and evaluating their skill sets or looking at the tools that your staff has at their disposal. The right staff with the right skills and the right tools will take you forward. In my own business life, I did this every single time we hit that plateau and started seeing those resources get stretched. It’s not pretty – it’s not easy, but it is something that has to happen if you want that rubber band the spring forward rather than snap back in your face.

This is the essence of good business leadership – an intimate understanding of what your resources can do, and what they can’t do. Watch out for those plateaus and those stretched resources Make a deal with yourself to make sure that you do whatever is necessary to make sure that rubber band stretches and then snaps forward. Remember – if it snaps back you’re going to lose ground, lose business and that’s never good.

Send us your business problems – See if you come up with something we haven’t seen before – We may even discuss it here.

Online Traffic-Drivers That Grew In 2013

online traffic drivers

 

 

We recently attended a webinar covering online marketing trends for 2014.  The expectation is that the tactics that grew in popularity in 2013 will continue to be important into 2014.  Here are some highlights:

 

 

  • Search is #1 – Although losing steam to other channels, such as social media, online search is still the main way people find things online.
  • Good Ole Email – Although some have been deriding email as passe for some years, it continues to be a top driver of traffic to websites.  We believe it is because it is still a relationship comm tool that the consumer has (usually) opted into and wants to see.
  • Social Media – 2013 saw social media boom as a tool for consumers to find information and thus became a major driver of site traffic.
  • Sponsored Content – One surprising stat was that sponsored content, or advertising, has grown as a driver of site traffic.  Perhaps it’s the growing sophistication of targeting methods and technology.
  • Content is still king – This old adage continues to strengthen, as content marketing becomes more important for all facets of online marketing and having a solid online presence.  All of the examples above will rely even more on content.
  • Mobile!  More and more people have smart phones and are using them to search online and visit websites.
    • 56% of people own a smart phone
    • 50% of mobile phone users, use mobile as their primary Internet source
    • 80% of time on mobile is spent inside apps
    • 72% of tablet owners purchase online from their tablets each week

Do Small Businesses Benefit From Being Online?

The answer is a resounding YES!  Thanks to the Web, today’s small businesses can sell products and services worldwide.  However, many owners are hesitant to go online because they believe it to be too complicated or opt instead to forego their own domain and instead use only social sites or reseller sites like Ebay or Amazon.  However, a lot more can be done with a business domain online.  The article below, from Forbes (http://www.forbes.com/sites/thesba/2013/11/25/how-much-is-online-presence-helping-small-business/) discusses this.  We should add that nowadays there are many easy-to-use tools and services that allow a business to go online without having an IT department, as well as many business support providers that can help get your business online.  We at KZ Management are one of these – we can help you get your business online inexpensively and maximize market reach.

 

How Much Is Online Presence Helping Small Business?

Research demonstrates that smaller businesses, by and large, are not maximizing the benefit of their Internet presence.

This may be surprising to hear, and even disappointing to some, but it should be pointed out that those taking advantage of it, are really experiencing significant gains.

So why are so many still missing the boat?

Small businesses can often be charged with the harsh reality of just keeping the lights on. Computer and communications technology is complex and even somewhat obscure to the general public – not everybody wants to spend their weekend figuring out how to optimize a deployment, and others, well, they’re just not necessarily built for it.

But the research, conducted by San Mateo, CA-based Merrill Research, demonstrates that smaller businesses can leverage their position with minimal.

The a recent study — called Benefits And Barriers Of Bringing A Small Business Online: Perspectives From Global Small Businesses — helped to shed some lightThe study was conducted earlier this year (late May though early June) and measured the responses of 1,050 businesses with 1 to 49 employees. The demographics were as follows: 150 each from China, France, Germany, India, Turkey, the United States, and the United Kingdom. All of the respondents were from the commercial sector (i.e., not educational, governmental, military, or non-profit) and they had to have an online presence of some sort (either a website, social media account, ecommerce site, local review site, or blog).

What was ultimately discovered was of considerable interest. ils turned out to be pretty interesting. While most understood the importance of an appealing website, many simply opted for social media in its stead.

The essential wisdom garnered was that small businesses, most of which don’t have IT people on staff, think that using a social medium to host a Web presence is easier than doing it themselves. Why? Primarily because these sites offer a simple template that simply has to be populated. And, among those who were involved in eCommerce (selling things over the Internet) sites like Amazon.comEtsyShopify, or eBay seemed to most as good a place as any to set up shop online.

Unfortunately, those who choose such direction may be missing out on the true value of having one’s own, well defined space on the web..

The value of a domain for a small business is far more significant than many realize. Not only does it provide the foundation for one’s home page, but it can also be used to point at one’s Facebook or other social media site.  It may even be used for branded email – a hallmark for “real” businesses.

It turns out that before many respondents created their websites, a slight majority of thought that their greatest inhibitor would be a lack of technical knowledge. Some other perceived obstacles mentioned included cost, support, investment of time, and security. Upon project completion, concerns turned to web maintenance and content sources.

It seems most don’t realize how many affordable and effective solutions exist in today’s market.

Here are a few takeaways:

  • A great way to differentiate yourself is to find ways to continue great relationships and support with online customers. Let them know you care and that they are appreciated.
  • You are the expert of your product. And even online, special preference will be give to local business. Don’t miss the opportunity to remind how available you really are.
  • Make sure your online presence is all that it can be. Again, their are cost effective ways to look like you really know what you are doing. Looking established will set you apart right from the start.
  • If you take your online presence seriously, there is no better way to compete with “the bigs.” In fact, it is entirely possible to take a bite out of larger competitors’ volume.

Turnaround Business is Normal Business

It is a well-known fact that most startups fail, and some sources claim that up to 95% of new startups fail within 5 years. However, even those businesses that survive the first five years must make sure to not relax their standards or become complacent. Small business owners must keep their focus on maintaining ROI, efficiency, and cash flow as well as adapt to the ever-changing competitive environment. If business performance begins to slip, these businesses may quickly find themselves in a turnaround situation that requires adjustments to how they operate. In fact, a turnaround mentality may just be the best ongoing strategy to increase the odds of business survival.

Think Long-Term

Turnaround plans may provide tangible quick results but diligent effort must continue toward improving business performance. The term to always keep in mind is “Kaizen” which is Japanese for continuous improvement. It is an easy trap to see quick results and fall back on the bad habits or assumptions that caused poor performance to begin with.

 

Question Everything

Every assumption and operating tenet should be reviewed with an eye to improving performance. Many businesses owners and their staff make the mistake of relying on “that’s how we’ve always done it”. What may have worked in the past may not be working now.

Be Realistic

Many business owners look for a “silver bullet”, or a single tactical or strategic change that will turn their business around. While there are rare examples of such things happening, truly high performing businesses work to improve every facet of their operation.

Mind the Data

It is easy for panic or desperation to take hold when a business is in turnaround mode. The danger with this mindset is that it often leads to instinct-based decision making. While your “gut” is something to always listen to, don’t forget to check the data to ensure it supports your decisions.

Repeat what works

The business fundamentals of successful businesses are the same ones that help a business turn itself around and become successful once again. If it works, then why not keep doing it? These days, turnaround business mode is just normal business.

Featured Article: Small Business Should Pay Attention to Big Data

Here is a great article about how important data is to small business and provides some specific tools for gathering and analyzing data. The article deals largely with ways to leverage customer data for Marketing purposes. We have always believed that it is imperative to know one’s customer, and data tools are making this easier than ever.

Source: http://smallbiztrends.com/2013/10/small-business-big-data.html

Big data is big news. Everyday a wealth of digital information is generated by people around the world through emails, blogs, social media posts, online credit card purchases, cell phone usage and more. According to IBM, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are generated daily and 90 percent of the total data in existence was created within the last two years.

Todd Taylor, NetStandard’s Vice President of Hosted Technology, explained at IBM Edge2013 how this remarkable data growth offers businesses unlimited possibilities:

Business data will paint a true picture of business performance that goes beyond profit and loss statements…to display real-time performance in a global economy.

This information can then be translated into improved marketing, tailored services and cost savings.

Small Business, Big Data

While many large businesses have invested in big data technology, small businesses have been slow to take part. Taylor explains that while big data technologies might not seem appealing for businesses with limited resources, it is better for businesses to invest in analytics now, before their big data grows to unmanageable proportions.

Big data is more accessible than ever, thanks to a rise in cost-effective big data technologies. In addition to the well known Google Analytics and Google Adwords, there are many other free or low-priced technologies that are well suited for a range of small businesses.

Before investing and implementing big data technologies, small businesses should take stock of their existing data and their business objectives.

Personalized Business

In many ways, big data is making it possible for small businesses to return to their marketing roots.

In a recent Forbes article, Steve King, partner at Emergent Resources, explains how in the past:

. . .local shopkeepers. . .knew what their customers liked, right down to color, size and taste.

This personalization was lost for many businesses as their customer base became more culturally and geographically diverse, but now “big data is bringing back personalized service.”

So, when trying to harness big data, small businesses should select specific goals that relate to their business and their customers. The aforementioned Forbesarticle describes how some roofing companies use Google Earth to inspect the roofs of potential customers. This allows them to determine whether or not the repairs are feasible, saving them the time and money that would be required for an in-person inspection. It also gives them the information they need to market directly to other potential customers in the neighborhood.

Big Data Tools

In a recent interview, Anukool Lakhina, founder and CEO of Guavus, explains how small businesses already generate a wealth of useable big data through sales receipts, software-as-service applications, Excel spreadsheets and social media. The key is to connect the data together in a way that produces timely and actionable insights.

This is where affordable big data technologies come into play.

Most businesses, whether large or small, have a social media presence and sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are a ready source of customer data. Social Mention is a free tool that allows businesses to monitor social media sites for specific subjects. Users receive daily email alerts on online mentions of a subject of their choice, such as their company name, a competitor’s name, a certain market trend or a certain keyword.

Business accounting software can also be a rich source of big data. QuickBooks Onlineoffers a trends feature that allows companies to see how they are doing compared to industry averages. The trends feature compiles and organizes customer data to create overall industry trends. Users can then compare their income and expenses to those of similar businesses.

Once the data has been combined and analyzed, businesses should automate these processes for truly timely information. With targeted big data initiatives, small businesses can better tailor their services to their customers and grow their business.

Big Data for Small Business

As we have been saying for a long time — big data analysis techniques are not for just for big business.  This brief article from Experian QAS describes the growing trend toward small business data analysis and some of the benefits of doing so, such as identifying ways to cut costs or increase Marketing ROI.  As the field of analytics grows, so do the number of affordable tools available to small businesses.  One of the hurdles faced by owners is lack of in-house expertise, something that can be addressed by hiring outside experts, hiring staff to do it, or get the necessary training.  However, the first step is to recognize how powerful good analytics can be, and how it can help any small business.  Read the full article here.

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