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Let’s make Courtesy the Hallmark in Business for 2010

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=new+years+++ball+2010&iid=7442881″ src=”8/a/6/2/Ball_Drop_In_dc39.jpg?adImageId=8778463&imageId=7442881″ width=”234″ height=”351″ /]A hallmark is a distinctive characteristic or attribute.  Kind of like a stamp used on gold and silver coins to mark them for purity and excellence.  If you get a gold coin with this hallmark, then you know it’s pure.

Courtesy, in a simple definition, is a polite gesture.  You say “thanks” when someone picks up the coin you dropped on the floor at the cash register or you say “no, you go first” when approaching a door and the person next to you has their hands loaded with packages.  Simple courtesy.

Since we just finished the major shopping season of the year for 2009 and most of us braved the stores amid madding crowds I wonder if you can recall moments of simple courtesy?  How many business people extended courtesy when the crowds were at their crush-iest and most demanding?  And, did you return courtesy for courtesy?  One example I participated in was to allow a pedestrian to cross the lane in a busy shopping center…I could have just plowed ahead pretending not to see this woman standing there hoping for a break in traffic.  But I reasoned that if it were me, I sure would appreciate having a car stop so I could cross…so I stopped.  She not only acknowledged my effort at courtesy, she returned it by saying loudly, “thank you so much.”

Last year, 2009, wasn’t a fun year in business.  Not a jolly year for the economy.  Too many people suffered job loss and paycheck shrinkage.  2010 may not be much better.   What could be better, however, is our combined efforts at being kind one to another.

  • sales staff people could acknowledge shoppers with a smile and a “how is your day?”
  • counter staff people could say “thank you for your business” and “is there any other way I can be of service today?”
  • on-site managers could both be kind to the employees and the customers – give the employees much needed positive reinforcement such as “you did a great job on that report,” or “I appreciate how you handled that situation with that customer,” or even “is there anything I can do to make your job easier?” [in some cases this could be a better chair or new keyboard or some added training]; the on-site manager could come out of his or her office and help customers…in a retail setting, the manager does not get sales compensation and shouldn’t take anything away from the commission-earning sales staff, but maybe the manager could help to tidy up the sales counter or do a little stocking of shelves to help
  • business leaders could literally lead in this effort by making courtesy a hallmark of doing business this year: acknowledge that raises may not come this year and no one might get a bonus, but that doesn’t mean that positive reinforcement needs to dry up.  Business leaders could do everything within their current budget creatively to make their businesses a positive place to work for the employees and a positive place for customers and clients to do business
  • solo-preneurs [single person businesses and home-based business owners] can also adopt the hallmark of courtesy in their relations with clients, customers, suppliers and competitors

What about the consumer? I’m not leaving them out either.  We’re all consumers, every one of us.  We all shop at the grocery store and gas station.  We all purchase food for our pets and visit our health care providers.  In every instance we can say “thank you for taking your time,” and “I appreciate your finding this,” and “yes, please” and even “no, thank you.”

Simple courtesy practiced and perfected by all of us on both sides of the business plate just might make this New Year a bit more pleasant for all.

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6 Questions to Spark New Year’s Business Planning

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=business+people&iid=7290606″ src=”a/d/0/8/High_angle_view_9e7e.jpg?adImageId=8463437&imageId=7290606″ width=”234″ height=”156″ /]Whether you’re planning global expansion for your business or you just want to see if it’s time to design new business cards, December is a great time to revisit your business. Pull up a chair, get a cup of eggnog, a plate of decorated Christmas cookies, a pad of paper and a pencil and see if any of these questions can help you spark some new thinking.

1.  Why do you have your own business?   [Are you a small business owner or the owner of a home-based business?  Or are you still in the idea stage…the entrepreneurial-thinking stage?]

  • What do you hope to achieve with your business?  Are you looking to augment your current situation or replace it altogether?  Do you plan to serve your local community or do you see a global presence?
  • Can you, in one sentence, declare the purpose of your business?  Do you have a purpose at the core of your business that is larger than the details?

2.  Can you state exactly how big you want your business to be?  Not everyone dreams of being a multi-national, multi-billion dollar business; some people are happy and comfortable being “thousandaires.”

  • Is it big in annual profit margin?
  • Is it big in philanthropic outreach?
  • Is it big in the numbers of people it touches?
  • Is growth part of your plan?

3.  What makes your business special?

  • What differentiates your business from another that is similar?  You might be an independent distributor with a direct selling company, but your business is still your own business – what sets your business apart from another independent distributor selling the same product?  Is is customer service?  Added value?
  • What is your uniqueness?  Is it your product or service?  Is it the quality of customer service your business offers?

4.  Do you know who your customers are? Do you have a business-to-business product or service making other businesses your potential clients?  Do you have a consumer product or service that appeals to a specific niche or does it have broad appeal?

  • Do you know where they are?  Are they your neighbors?  Are they online?
  • Can they find you?  Are you distributing information about your business and products/services in as many ways that potential customers can understand and find?

5.  Do you have a road map of strategies to get you where you want to go?

  • Do you know where you want to be this time next year?
  • Do you have strategies that apply to the short-term “survival” needs of your business?
  • Do you have business-building strategies in place that will lead you to where you’d like to see your business in ten year’s time?

6.  Do you have outlined how you’re going to achieve your stated goals?

  • Do you have recognized milestones in place that will let you know where you are on the path to your goals?

You may not want to totally revamp your 2010 business plan halfway through December, but these questions might give you a way to tweak some spots in that plan to make 2010 more of a positive adventure.

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What’s the deal with gold and bridge tolls?

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=gold+bars&iid=7094402″ src=”f/f/3/c/GLD_Fifth_Anniversary_6d0f.jpg?adImageId=8306180&imageId=7094402″ width=”234″ height=”158″ /]There is a song on the Christmas holiday television special, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” that has Sam the Snowman storyteller singing about “Silver and Gold” on the holiday trees.  Who doesn’t like gold? One of my favorite color combination’s for Christmas decorating is red and gold [blue and silver falls second for me].

I’ve been following financial news this year – who hasn’t? – and wondering what all the fuss is about investing in gold.  I’ve said before that I’m not a financial whiz and certainly no expert in investing.  So I read with interest one of Cliff Pletschet’s recent columns in which he answers some questions for me about gold.  He wrote a column on December 9 in which he touched on a couple different topics, gold included.  About gold he said, “Remember how I recently lamented that gold was not a good investment because of its price volatility, because it doesn’t pay dividends, and because timing is essential since you can make money only by selling before a drop in the price you paid?...”

In asking his questions he answered mine.  Okay gold is a problem because:

  1. price volatility
  2. no dividends
  3. timing is key to the buying/selling for profit

But Cliff goes on to include these issues:

  • “…storage facilities for gold bars and coins have been filled up. HSBC, owner of one of the largest gold vaults in the United States, has told retail clients to remove their small holdings from its lock-up to make room for lucrative institutional investors….”
  • “…Internal Revenue Service has reminded gold owners that gold and silver are considered collectibles, not capital assets…When these assets are held for less than one year, gains are taxed as ordinary income.…”

Okay, so now my list of reasons to avoid gold as an investment is now:

  1. price volatility
  2. no dividends
  3. timing is key to the buying/selling for profit
  4. no place to store my minuscule horde
  5. it’ll be taxed just like a paycheck [if held less than a year – and if longer, according to Cliff’s article, “…gains on the sale of gold and silver investments, including gold and silver-backed exchange-traded funds and gold and silver bullion and coins (except certain U.S.- issued coins) are taxed at the maximum rate of 28 percent when held for longer than a year.…”

There are those reading this who will have their own list of reasons why gold makes a good investment but after doing a  Google search I found it difficult to find someone who thinks so in a way I can understand.   Dominic Frisby, whose December 1 article at MoneyWeek [dot com], kind of helps. He says in the article, “…Gold remains a great bet…” but then goes on to talk about rising and falling and shakeouts and patterns and corrections and throws in something cautionary about the Dubai credit crisis, “…If the fears stemming from these Dubai debt problems are real and we are on the cusp of another liquidity crisis, then I would expect gold to fall, at least at first. Despite the fact that gold is a safe haven during times of stress in the banking system, there is also a lot of hot and speculative money pushing gold higher….”

I admit to being confused.  Is gold a good investment because its price is high and looking to stay high so that those who watch it very closely can sell if it looks like it’ll drop in price?  Is it virtual gold?  How much gold is actually out there for people to invest in?  Bars? Coins? Jewelry? Do we keep our gold bars in the bank in a safe deposit box and hope that one day we’ll be able to sell it for more than we paid? – kind of like houses in California.  Not good investments, houses in California.

I like reading Cliff Pletschet’s column for two reasons: one, his column appears in my local newspaper’s business section so I can read it over my breakfast with my cup of tea and second, he writes in a way I can understand – I’m not a financial person but he makes it understandable. Thanks Cliff. Well, there is a third reason, Cliff and his wife, Fran have a home-based business and produce a Personal Investment Educator newsletter.  They say this about their business:

  • “…[Personal Investment Educator] P.I.E. is a home-based business operated in Oakland, California by Cliff and Fran Pletschet. Their main goal is to encourage people to educate themselves so they can become independent investors and take charge of their money….”

I like to highlight home-based business as this is my niche.

Speaking of niches…it doesn’t matter if you have a home-based business or a large business, if you live in the Bay Area of California, bridge tolls are about to get financially crippling.   Toll roads and bridges are nothing new and show up all over the country. We ran into toll roads last winter while vacationing in Southern California, traversing highways 241, 261, 133 and 73.  Tolls can nickle and dime you to death it seems.  Here in the Bay Area, a rise in tolls is going to hurt pocketbooks, both during the work week and the weekend.  My husband and I live in the East Bay but occasionally travel to other areas which require crossing a bridge and we currently have to fork over $4.00 each time.

The best write-up about the possible raise in toll fees came in this morning’s paper on the Opinion Page – the Editorial, “Onerous toll hikes.”  I like that word, onerous;’ it means burdensome.  The online article has a different title, but the copy is the same.   The most telling remark for me is this, “…The toll czars say they want to introduce Bay Area motorists to congestion pricing — how arrogant and dismissive that is to those who cannot alter their work hours. Many of these people are in lower-paying jobs and can ill afford to pay an extra $2 a day, or $500 a year, just to get to and from work…”

It’s not just those with 9-5 jobs who cannot change their hours, it’s the many folks who are solo-preneurs who must travel to visit clients and customers…and potential clients and customers.  It’s the many folks who have home-based businesses who must travel to purchase supplies and make deliveries.  Just like the little penguin Ramon in “Happy Feet” who says, “Lemme tell something to joo…” I say to whomever listens, California is a very difficult place to live on a budget.  Housing costs are way too high. Grocery [food and sundries] prices have risen too high. Gasoline prices remain too high. It costs too much to get around.  In this part of the world jobs are in one geographical location and housing in another…most people cannot afford to live near their employment so travel on the freeways and over bridges is necessary.

Yes, I’m complaining.  On behalf of the truckers I’m complaining.   “…The toll for a small three-axle truck would rise from $6 to $15. Large seven-axle semis would see their tolls rise from $13.50 to $35.…” [from the editorial]

And these increases would, of course, be passed on eventually to the consumer.

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Standing for the tiny business sector

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=paperboy&iid=75238″ src=”0072/8b6b57a7-cc06-4e2d-b8ac-6459166865c6.jpg?adImageId=8110054&imageId=75238″ width=”234″ height=”351″ /]There exists a business segment that I’d like to hear and read about more – the tiny business sector.  Businesses with 10 employees or less. Businesses with only one person – the solo-preneur.  Just like the newsboy in the photo, there are millions of people working [or trying to] around the world to make their living out of their home office or garage or a corner of the kitchen.  Or they have a small shop downtown with two or three employees.   You don’t read about federal government bailouts for owners of lemonade stands or taco lunch trucks do you?

I’ve been noticing some articles around the news that seem to be addressing small business, but most seem to be in the jobs creation department rather than the stimulating more consumer spending department which is what the tiny business sector needs.  One interesting article is at  The Huffington Post [dot com], written December 3 by Shahien Nasiripour and titled, “No Easy Jumpstart to Get Small Business Hiring Again.”  There was one spot in the article that caught my attention and I thought was right on the money [so-to-speak]:

  • “…The two leading small-business advocacy organizations – the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and the National Small Business Association (NSBA) – have differing views. The NSBA points to the lack of credit as one of its top priorities. But in a report released last month based on survey data, the NFIB noted that while its members were having difficulty getting loans, it was far from a top priority. ‘Too many [business] owners have no reason to borrow,’ the authors wrote. ‘The biggest problem was a dearth of customers.’…” [note: I kept Mr. Nasiripour’s links intact in this excerpt except one]

What I want to point out is the last statement of that excerpt: “…’The biggest problem was a dearth of customers.’…” – For the tiny business sector getting a business loan seems pointless…what for?  What we need are customers, cash-in-hand paying consumers.  I read a comment on an article somewhere yesterday [forgive my faulty memory as I’m fighting a cold and laryngitis this week] that suggested the U.S. federal government give all taxpayers a monthly ATM card pre-filled with $500 that has to be spent within the 30 days.  The idea was given as a way to boost consumer spending.  An interesting one.

Another article I found today at the Wall Street Journal online by Diana Ransom and titled, “The White House Works It,” summarizes the most recent ideas to create jobs.  Small business owners, about 130 of them, were among those who met at the White House with others representing differing business segments and sectors.  But in looking at those top ideas, none seemed to benefit the tiny business sector – the one sector most probably not expected to be part of  job creation.  The top ideas from the article:

  1. Work Share Tax Credit – the one comment I found relevant was “…Micro-businesses (firms with fewer than 20 employees) would likely be left out, says Dean Baker, a co-director at the nonpartisan Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. “Presumably, you would want to aid firms other than ones that employ close friends and family members,” he says….”
  2. Jobs Tax Credit – solo-preneur businesses will not benefit from this as this type of business does not hire or job share.
  3. ‘Cash for Caulkers’ “…Depending on how many property owners take up the initiative, the plan could not only provide jobs to the hard-hit construction sector, it would limit carbon emissions and reduce owners’ energy costs….” My thought on this one was that if you had a fellow who was an independent contractor, this could be a help to him…and I know two personally; however, this idea does depend on property owners having the budget to hire the work done. [As an aside, it is one thing to offer home owners tax incentives to participate in this type of initiative, but the reality is that they still must have the budget to afford it in the first place.]
  4. Public Works Projects – This one might be valuable to solo-preneurs if there are people with their own business who have these skills and if the initiative would include the solo-preneur.
  5. Payroll Tax Holiday – again this idea is vested in job creation rather than increasing consumer spending.
  6. Capitalizing Community Banks “…would give small businesses a greater chance of landing loans…” – this idea is grounded in the getting loans for expansion which would result in more hiring.  Tiny businesses might need loans for improvement or supplies…what about that kind of loan?

As followers of this weblog may have noted, recently I changed my own solo-preneur business from that as an independent distributor of a direct selling company’s product to being the direct seller of my own [art] product(s).  Life is a journey and it has been interesting to me to watch my own understandings and ‘light bulb’ moments as my business has grown and changed.  I have friends who remain in that other business and this past year their customers have been buying less or dropping as customers altogether.  If any reader is familiar with the art market, for the home-based artist-preneur, the art market for the past two to three years has been like a desert.  I participated in a huge Open Studios tour in 2008 that the previous year had been a financial success for many artists…last year sales were dismal and attendance was down 50%.  People just weren’t buying art.  Even the artists at the event who normally can expect a portion of their annual income went home greatly disappointed and in the red.

So. In all the plans and discussions about economic recovery and helping small business, where are the ideas for the tiny business sector and for jump-starting consumer spending?

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How to build Brand Trust

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”false” link=”term=sears&iid=6092209″ src=”3/d/5/b/Sears_Posts_2nd_6427.jpg?adImageId=7761923&imageId=6092209″ width=”234″ height=”156″ /]Why do I begin this conversation with a photo of a Sears sign?  Because in this discussion, the Sears brand has been and still is, a trusted brand name in my family.  There are a few things that are iconic to my family generational-ly and the Sears Christmas catalog [their first Christmas catalog came out in 1933] is one, and the tool and appliance departments at the stores are another.  When my mom brought home the catalog early in the month every December, my sister and I would sit and devour it.  We’d mark the pages and leave it sitting around just where dad could see it.

The products that my parents and their parents purchased at Sears were trusted simply because they came from Sears.  My dad would not buy tools for his garage shop from any other vendor.  My grandmother and mom only bought their clothes from Sears.  Up until my mom passed away a few years ago, I was taking her on her monthly shopping trips to Sears.

So how can you and I – small and home-based business owners – build a brand that has this kind of trust attached to it?

I began exploring this question due to an article in the business section of my morning newspaper on November 10.  I had time that morning to read through more than just the front page of each section and on page four in the biz section that day was a big article titled, “PayPal could overshadow eBay” with a subhead: “Convenience, trust in the brand help build loyal following for online pay service.” [article by Rachel Metz, Associated Press-San Francisco].What jumped out at me in the subhead was the phrase “trust in the brand.” I believe this to be true of PayPal. I’m a home-based business owner and I do business through PayPal…in my etsy store I only accept PayPal.  I utilize PayPal as a way to pay for supplies through my mosaic tile supplier.  Why?  Because I’ve grown to trust PayPal.  Why?

  1. PayPal does what it says it will do
  2. I have never been sorry or inconvenienced by the service – from the article: “…PayPal doesn’t share your financial information with merchants. That brings peace of mind to people who might otherwise worry about shopping at a site they’ve never heard of….”
  3. PayPal offers enough services to meet my business needs

According to the article, “…As of the end of September, 78 million people had active PayPal accounts, up from 65 million a year ago….” What does this tell me about trust in the brand?  That people trust PayPal to be consistent: what you see, what you hear, what you read about PayPal is what you get…every time.

I thought some more about the question: how do you build brand trust? For answers I went to the experts who shared some valuable wisdom.  The key things I think they are saying is that your business and the way you do business needs to be consistent and transparent: what is seen, what is heard, and what is read about your business should be what your customer/client gets…every time.

The question I posed: How do you build brand trust?

  • “…You create a product, service, message, or name that’s simple and memorable.  You surround it with easy to understand differences and you consistently engage every corner of space online and off and then you do it next week and the next and . . ..” – thank you to John Jantsch – a marketing and digital technology coach, award winning social media publisher and author of Duct Tape Marketing  www.ducttapemarketing.com
  • “…When it comes to a small business building trust in their brand particularly online, the first thing they must do is approach it with the give-to-get principle.  Every relationship must be approached with the mindset, “how can I help?”   They will position themselves as a connector and expert in their industry…Perceived risk is the number one barrier for small businesses.  The more important thing a small business can do to build trust in their brand is to be clear about exactly what business they are in, keep their word and deliver on their brand promise….”  thank you to Melinda Emerson “SmallBizLady” Author, Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business that Works!  (Feb. 2010 Adams Media) www.succeedasyourownboss.com www.melindaemerson.com
  • “…I believe brand trust is about getting your organization’s message out frequently and consistently – and then following through. If the message and the user/customer experience do not match, trust is eroded. It’s like the old adage about saying one thing and doing another – customer/client service must reinforce the marketing/branding message for strong brand trust to be forged….” thank you to Jane K. Stimmler, The Marketing Edge
  • “…Following are two ways I recommend building brand trust: Have a suggestions/comments area on your business’ website– and a system in place for responding to all comments received in a timely manner.  If you know there are times you’ll have heavy traffic, have a standard email that gives an “estimated waiting time” for a personalized response.  ALWAYS RESPOND…Call with no news: very often people don’t call back because they don’t have the information you requested.  Making the time to call whether you have good news, no news, or bad news is a fast way to build brand trust….” thank you to Frances Cole Jones,   www.thewowfactor-thebook.com
  • “…I’d say the best way to build trust is with brutal honesty…I think brands do themselves the MOST good after a ‘drama’ of some kind – some kind of bad publicity. I recommend the sooner they come forward, and the more honestly they come forward the better.  There have been cases  where people have started Facebook groups or started tweeting relentlessly about brands that have stuffed up in some way or another and stupidly the brand has IGNORED all of the drama expecting it to ‘blow over’ – and of course with this kind of social media available – it DOESN’T!  So eventually after much delay they have no choice but to speak up, but by then it’s too little too late…I think brands have the most potential to win raving fans during times of trial and bad publicity – the more humbly they come forward and either say “we were wrong” or the like the better it is for them and their future sales....” thank you to Allison O’Neill author of  The Boss Benchmark www.thebossbenchmark.com
  • “…A satisfied customer is not a loyal customer by any means.  I build brand and customer trust by NOT expecting them to be loyal to me, but by being loyal to THEM!  I earn loyalty by giving it.  I do it one “D” at a time: Discover (what is important or of value to my customer), Decide (what their experience will look like), Deliver (what I set as their expectation) and Do It Again (it’s an ongoing process that changes and improves with feedback….” thank you to Chrysty Beverley Fortner www.linkedin.com/in/chrystybeverleyfortner www.chrystybfortner.wordpress.com

Here is what I think the above experts are telling me when it comes to building brand trust:

  1. give-to-get; this is very much like having a service mentality.  Instead of positioning your business in your own mind as “the customer is lucky to have this,” you position yourself as “how can I be of service?”  As businesses, as business owners, we need to remember there is no entitlement.  We are not entitled to have customers or clients simply because we hang out a shingle.  A customer may purchase once, but what will bring them back?
  2. consistency – this is a principle that says you treat every customer exactly the same; your products are of the same value and quality from one season to the next; your message, although worded to fit various occasions, says the same thing each and every time
  3. transparency – this is the “what you see is what you get” concept; your business is open and visible – your customers and clients [and competitors for that matter] can see what your business standards are by the way you do business, by what you say and put “out there” and by the way you treat your customers, clients and vendors [suppliers, even the FedEx delivery fellow]
  4. honesty, open and frequent communication – to me this means the right hand and the left hand are working in concert on the same tune; that your message and actions match; that you and your business are accountable for every message, product and service
  5. follow through – do what you say you are going to do or deliver…make no promises – rather, say what you stand for

My personal input on this question is that building brand trust takes time.  Do all of the above and over time your brand will stand the test of economy and fluctuating customer demand.  Also, I think it needs to begin with a leadership question: what exactly do I want my brand to be, to say, to be known for and trusted for?

 

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From Business Entrepreneur to NonProfit Entrepreneur

Linda’s Business Blog is an ongoing conversation about all things business…mostly.  I’ve digressed from time-to-time, written about a vacation or two, done a book review or two -but always relevant to what I’m doing.  In January – hopefully – I’ll not only write about vacation again but the process of buying a fruit tree.  Tomorrow I’m going to write about a small, tiny even, business owner’s reaction to the differences between China’s cultural outlook on national economics and the United States’ cultural outlook on national economics.  However, today is today.

I’m writing a book  whose working title is, “Your Presence on the Internet-A Beginners Guide for Home-Based Business Owners.” [What do you think of the title?] In there I have four definitions that are relevant to what follows:

  • An Entrepreneur – someone who organizes a business venture and assumes the risk for it…you put up the capital and all the risks is yours; all the benefits are yours, also
  • A Small Business Owner – a small business is…independently owned and operated, with a small number (1 to 10) of employees and relatively low volume of sales [this is relative of course]
  • A Business Leader – the capacity to establish direction and to influence and align others toward a common goal
  • An Innovator – act of introducing something new

I’ve met someone who meets all these definitions and who has done something exciting beyond the day-to-day of business.  Leah Oviedo is a California businesswoman.   Her business, Mercado del Mundo, is [from her website]: “…in business since 2006, selling Women’s Clothing, Men’s Clothing and Accessories, Fine Art and Organic Products from around the world! Our goal is to support artists and cooperatives that have a positive impact on the world!…”

Leah has a heart for reaching out and created Investing In Women [from that website]:

  • “…Investing in Women is a place for Empowering Women through education and appreciation. The goal of this site is to invest in Women around the world from big cities to remote communities…Our main goal of Invest In Women will be to give information and access to resources and issues concerning women today.  We also have a micro grant program for women business owners in the USA…”

Investing In Women was created in the spring of last year [2008] and on November 9 of this year awarded its first micro grant to a woman-owned business, The Underground Railroad To Success [URS]. From the press release that Leah sent to me:

  • “…The recipient of the award is Tanisha Cunningham, founder of The Underground Railroad to Success (railroad2success.com). The URS is a non-profit that provides a service to foster children aging out of the system to live independently as adults while becoming an integral part of society. This is great for foster children and also has a positive affect on our society as a whole…The recipient of the award is Tanisha Cunningham, founder of The Underground Railroad to Success. The URS is a non-profit that provides a service to foster children aging out of the system to live independently as adults while becoming an integral part of society. This is great for foster children and also has a positive affect on our society as a whole….”

There is an old saying that “even one person can make a difference” and the examples of Leah Oviedo and Tanisha Cummingham are proof of that saying.  I think it’s a lesson that illustrates that:

  • none of us should feel that we cannot help in some way to make this world a better place
  • that just because our business impact might be small does not mean we cannot make a great impact socially
  • change starts with an idea

The new year, 2010, isn’t that far off now.  If you have a business – of any size – do you have somewhere in your business plan some kind of “giving back” to your community or the world-at-large?  It doesn’t have to be money, we all have other resources: time, talents and gifts that we can share.

 

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The Burger King thing and when it’s not your idea

A franchise, I think, is both big business and small business.  I’ll explain myself in a moment.  According to InvestorWords.com, a franchise is:

  • …A form of business organization in which a firm which already has a successful product or service (the franchisor) enters into a continuing contractual relationship with other businesses (franchisees) operating under the franchisor’s trade name and usually with the franchisor’s guidance, in exchange for a fee ….”

[picapp src=”d/a/2/4/Burger_King_Opens_6099.jpg?adImageId=7533708&imageId=4987767″ width=”234″ height=”148″ /]From the corporation’s point of view, its entire network of franchise locations equates to its big business profile.  From the point of view of an individual franchise holder at a specific location, this is that individual’s small business venture.  So, you could argue that a Burger King franchise is both big and small business.

I was prompted to think more about last week’s business news about the fact that a large percentage of franchise holders for Burger King are going to/thinking about suing Burger King corporate for the  $1 double cheeseburger promotion .  You kind of get the feeling that the marketing folks at corporate thought ‘wow, what a good idea,’ while the individual franchise holders thought ‘hey, nobody asked me!’

I mention this because of what the checkout clerk at my grocery store said in conversation yesterday as I was paying for my groceries.  I’ve been shopping at this store for the past six years so the checkers and I are familiar enough to chitchat as she scans and I bag…seems young people don’t want to get grocery bagger jobs anymore and more often than not I’m bagging my own groceries…I’m not complaining, just pointing it out.

Anyway, the checker mentioned that she had taken her sons with her this past Saturday to one of the Burger King locations in our area-we have two.  Talk about a new fan and potential new customer for this company!  She said she doesn’t usually go to this franchise, but because of the special deal, she thought she’d try it.  And she was pleased!  In her words, [I don’t have a photographic memory, but this is very close]: “This was one of the best cheeseburgers I’ve ever had.” She appreciated the fact of the value and quality versus price.

I’ve written before about what customers want: quality, value and a reason to return.  This unusual promotion by Burger King met, for this customer, these three key things:

  • in her estimation, the double cheeseburger was of high quality
  • and, not only was the quality high, it was an incredible value – she received far more for her money than what she initially expected
  • Burger King gained a new customer, at least in the short run, because she said she plans to return, that she didn’t realize how good the burgers were

So, this promotion, while not popular with the franchise holders, was successful in the mind of one customer.

What I find interesting is that this fast food eatery would use the loss leader of one of its quality menu items.  Grocery stores use this marketing method all the time, but they have thousands of items in the store…a fast food place has few items in comparison.  I love that term loss leader, as it is so descriptive.  It is a consumer item that is sold at a loss with the hopes of leading in new customers/retaining current customers.  But I don’t know of very many small or home-based businesses that can financially afford to use this marketing technique.

It’s kind of fun when the world of business, news headlines and real life all come together at the check-out line at the grocery store.

 

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