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Category Archives: Business Planning

Crowdfunding: Another Tool in Your Marketing Tookit

Crowdfunding: Another Tool in Your Marketing Toolkit

“I’m a marketing consultant, what do I really know about Crowdfunding?” was the dialogue going on in my head when I received a phone call from a respected agency in Massachusetts asking if I was available to develop a presentation on Crowdfunding for their semi-annual meeting of non-profit agencies.

Fortunately, she couldn’t hear this brief, internal conversation and over the years I have learned not to share my every thought. I was grateful that my inner-entrepreneur immediately took over the real conversation and said, “While I’m not an expert on this hot topic, I have been watching it from my ‘marketing chair’ and see it as another tool in a small business owner’s marketing toolkit to help promote and grow their business.”

Sold! She loved this angle so I was hired and began to think of the best way to put together a dynamic, one-hour presentation on Crowdfunding, making it valuable for folks contemplating a campaign to raise funding for their business venture and educational for individuals not ready or just curious to learn more.

Most of you know my perspective on luck, we create our own as we proactively do the ‘right’ business activities. So, as luck would have it, one of the women I’ve been mentoring over the last 10 years, Joanna Alberti, approached me as I was searching for the right story to share. She asked me if I thought it was a good idea to create a Kickstarter campaign to fund a booth at Surtex, one of the top licensing shows held annually in NYC.

small version of sophie on broadwayIf you’ve read either (maybe even both) of my books, you are familiar with Joanna’s story.  In 2005 she launched PhiloSophie’s®, a stationery and card business featuring the fabulous and fearless character, Sophie.  Joanna has already experienced a lot of success having been named the “Top 25 Under 25 Young Entrepreneurs” by Business Week and her cards can be found around the U.S. in stores like Target and Wegmans.

Now Joanna wants to take her business to the next level and was curious to learn if Crowdfunding was a good way to support her dreams. Damn – some times things fall perfectly into place and this was clearly one of those times. I definitely thought this was a great idea (not just because I needed a case study) but because Crowdfunding is a perfect match for her business.  To scale, Joanna needs more exposure, the kind that requires licensing her products to manufacturers. Combined with the fact that she is a part of the creative economy this was, without a doubt, a perfect fit.

So we were off and running at lighting speed. My presentation was in 3 weeks and we knew we needed to get the campaign completed before then, not just so I could feature her as a case study but to also ensure she had enough time to raise the funds required to pay for her booth at the Javits Center in NYC (not an inexpensive venue). So much to do… so little time to waste. If you’re considering launching a Crowdfunding campaign, below are the 9 steps that Joanna and I pursued. Trust me, the payoff has been significant. Within 72 hours, Joanna raised more than 50% of her $3,000 goal. Click here to check out Joanna’s campaign

9 Steps to Successful Crowdfunding

1)     Start with a SMART Goal. You’ve heard me talk about SMART goals before. Make sure your goal is Specific – Measurable – Actionable – Realistic and Time-Based. Of critical importance is ensuring your results are measurable in terms of dollars funded for your project, profit after fulfilling perks, exposure to new potential customers, and ROI on your time to create and fulfill the campaign.

2)     Think Location, Location, Location. Even online location matters so review the different Crowdfunding platforms. You have likely heard of the two major players (Kickstarter and Indiegogo), but there are do-it-yourself models and lots of other small players. They all have different audiences, criteria, and success rates. For example, Kickstarter campaigns have a 44% success rate, as opposed to Indiegogo whose success rate (according to sources like TechCrunch and the Verge) is only 9.3%. Data shows that 83% of Indiegogo companies have not raised at least 25% of their goal.

It’s important to understand the differences amongst the various platforms. Below I have provided details about Kickstarter and Indiegogo. However, there are many important details to consider when selecting your host location, so make sure you ask the right questions before you select a site.

  1. Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing model, meaning that if you don’t hit your goal you do NOT get to keep any of the money. However, if you don’t hit your goal you are also not obligated to fulfill the perks. If you do meet your goal you will be required to pay them 5% of what you are funded (plus an Amazon processing fee).
  2. Indiegogo will allow you to keep all of the donations you receive (even if only raise a buck), but if you do not hit your target donation goal you will pay them a 9% fee (to keep the funds). If you hit your target you only pay a 4% fee, lower than Kickstarter. However, if you don’t hit your target and keep the money donated, you must fulfill all of the perks promised.

3)     Perks Engage and Support Your Brand. Give yourself time to develop perks that excite and interest your audience. Remember, these are branding opportunities so make sure whatever you give away, it is related to your business to help build your brand power. That means don’t give away a toaster if you’re a video producer. For PhiloSophie’s® Joanna decided to create 3 Limited Edition versions of Sophie in New York City. These are beautiful renderings only available to Kickstarter donors – something you will NOT find on her website. Depending on how much is donated, the design is offered in different formats ranging from notecards and prints to recyclable totes and trays.

revised kickstarter4)     Perk Fulfillment Must Be Realistic. Make sure your perks are cost effective so that fulfilling them doesn’t equal (or exceed, yikes) the price of the donation or you’ll find yourself in the same or worse financial position as you were at the beginning of the campaign. Easily said, this needs to be strategically determined. For example, offering mugs can be twice as expensive to fulfill as recyclable bags when you consider packaging and shipping costs. Plus, how many people are going to see a mug on the donor’s desk (unless they’re wildly popular) compared to the number of people who will see your design on recyclable bags every time the donor takes them to the store.

5)     Understand Donor Categories. Most people will donate at the lower end ($50 and under), so make sure you offer and can easily fulfill those perks so you’re not tarnishing your brand by not sending the promised items out in a timely manner. Joanna and I created an excel file with all the perks, cost, and profit for each and how many we would need to meet her donor goal and her actual profit (amount funded minus the cost of goods sold, including her time).  Again, you don’t want to spend 50 hours on a project that ultimately only generates a couple hundred dollars (you could work at a fast food chain and make more money).

6)     Determine Approximate Range of Donors Required for Profit. Create a simple excel file that shows donation total, profit, and number of funders in each category. Manipulate the cells for the “number of funders” to see how much donation revenue and profit you’ll make depending on how many people donate in each category (i.e., 50 donors give $10 and 2 give $150). This creates a visual starting point so you understand approximately how many folks you need to make enough money to take your business to the next level. Continue plugging the actual numbers into the excel file as the campaign progresses so you know how profitable the campaign will be.

7)     Remember, this as a Marketing Campaign. A Crowdfunding campaign can and should mimic a typical marketing campaign. Let’s consider all the benefits that can be generated by a campaign.  To name just a few:

  1. Raise or generate money
  2. Uncover customer needs and interest in your product
  3. Validate a concept and/or identify key value proposition
  4. Test messaging
  5. Generate interest or create a buzz about your product or company
  6. Create brand awareness
  7. Create early adopters, raving fans, promoters, and a solid customer base

Notice how these benefits are precisely what you will achieve from a marketing campaign to promote your business. I know you wouldn’t dream of putting together a marketing campaign and not follow through with the all activities to ensure its success. Crowdfunding is no different. Focus on ensuring its success to achieve benefits that exceed the donation amounts.

8)     Launch an Integrated Campaign. Once you recognize the critical marketing benefits you can achieve, now is the time to create and launch your fully integrated marketing campaign. You want to ensure that your friends and family are not the sole sources of your funding. If that is the only audience you reach then you have lost an important opportunity to expand your reach and target new customers. To expand your customer touchpoints you need to focus on a variety of online and offline tools. For PhiloSophie’s® this included: email blasts, Facebook posts, Blogging, Tweeting, LinkedIn shares, newsletter outreach, and partnering with other brands to promote the opportunity. Don’t underestimate the time it will take to develop and run the campaign for the 30 days (or whatever time period you select) until you are completed. Many donations come in at the very end… you will want to ensure you have the ‘marketing copy’ ready to roll out the campaign before you launch (remember, you’re still running your business while managing this campaign).

9)     Measure, Analyze, and Course Correct as Needed. You must review the metrics that tell the story of your campaign’s success (or failure – but hopefully not). Even if you hate number crunching, this process is critical to ensure you are achieving your stated goals and can make changes as required if something isn’t working as anticipated. Here are some numbers you should focus on, but each campaign is different. Most of the Crowdfunding sites offer tools to help you do this.

  1. Number of visits each day and after marketing pushes
  2. Number of video/site views and percent that pledged
  3. Contributions after marketing pushes and by contribution amount
  4. Pledges from external referrers (outside the platform)
  5. Popularity of each reward category
  6. Visits from your website and other social media sites

So, are you excited about the opportunity or have I scared you off? Here’s a summary of the Lessons Learned from the PhiloSophie’s® Kickstarter Campaign:

  • Select the right venue (location, location)
  • Advanced planning drives traffic
  • Perks are a branding opportunity
  • Make sure you understand profit not just donations
  • Analyze, analyze, analyze
  • Remember – this must be an integrated approach

Best of luck growing your business and using all the marketing tools available to build your brand. If I can be of any assistance, don’t hesitate to email me at beth@m-edge.com. Click here to check out Joanna’s campaign!

 

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Are YOU a Game Changer?

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Regular readers of my blog know that this summer was pretty exciting for me as I had the opportunity to teach at two universities (Brandeis and Boston University) and visit Lagos, Nigeria where I spoke with over a thousand students about innovation and entrepreneurship.

However, the lesson that stands out the most from this summer is that one-time speaking engagements and short-term (3 to 5 day) conferences don’t really ensure nor support meaningful change. It’s great to speak with motivated students and business owners about change and innovation but it can also be quite disappointing if the impact you are aiming for is fleeting.

How many times have you left a seminar charged up and inspired to execute change within your organization only to return to your ‘daily life’ and ‘business as usual’ never implementing the much desired change? I can personally attest that this is something that plagues me and sometimes leaves me pondering why I bother attending or speaking at conferences if it isn’t going to make a difference.

This month we explore how to shake things up and become the game changer you need to be!

Beth

 We all know that change is hard, really hard, but if you (and I) don’t take the steps required to execute on our dreams, then nobody is going to do it for us.  Change is in your hands but it won’t happen simply by attending a few workshops or networking occasionally to make the ‘right’ connections. These are activities that are great starting points but you must take the time to create very specific and measurable goals in order to achieve the vision that you are aiming for.

As a trainer, my desire to have a long term impact on individuals I have the privilege to work with led to the creation of a business card handout used to capture an important SMART goal. It asks ONE simple question: “What SMART goal do you want to achieve in the next 30, 60 or 90 day period (you pick the time frame)?” Plus, there’s space for only four actions to be executed during that period to ensure you don’t become overwhelmed with too many activities that simply won’t get done.

Since I started handing these out at seminars I have been thrilled with the responses I have received. Months later participants in a workshop or talk I gave have come up to me to show me their SMART Goal card and tell me that they carry it around to ensure they actually do what they had committed to. This takes the prize when it comes to my own job satisfaction. Would you like your own card? Feel free to click here to download the SMART Goal Card.

 I’ve seen the benefits of follow up in my workshops and in the classes I teach at BU and Brandeis. One example is a course I taught over the summer called the BU Urban Business Accelerator. This is a 10-week course designed to help students gain expertise through consulting with small business owners in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. The students achieve solid experience as they begin to truly grasp what it means to be a small business owner and see first hand the obstacles encountered in growing and maintaining a business. The business owners get support from dedicated, hard working students who research their specific industry (e.g., beauty salons, electronic stores) and help them better understand how they are doing relative to others in the industry and learn how to manage their business by the numbers.

This course, masterminded by a BU student in his senior year, has a unique twist that is at the heart of its success and differentiates its impact and value from other programs. There’s a 24-month follow-up.  The program doesn’t end when the course does, unlike most traditional classes and business growth programs. This follow-up provides a chance to review what’s working, what’s not and what midcourse corrections need to take place to ensure the companies are using the new tools provided to them by the students. While we are still in the early stages of gathering this post-initiative data, I am convinced, based on early data collected, that this is a critical element that will help make this program a true game changer. In fact, I believe it makes enough of a difference that I am reviewing other business growth classes that I offer to determine how I can ensure that the lessons taught are lessons executed

Long-term success has a better chance of occurring when individuals measure their success not by the strength of their idea but by the actions they take to directly achieve their goals.

Like a great diet or exercise regime, success depends on what happens when we leave the protected environment of the classroom and return to working IN the business. Without making time to work ON your business and make appointments with that very important VIP – you, you may have had a nice experience but the bad habits return quickly.

Ready to set your SMART goals now? Simply visit the SMART Goals page here on my website for a worksheet to help you define your goals and executable action steps and to download my SMART Goal card.

http://www.m-edge.com
 

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Nigeria – Hope On the Edge of Chaos, Crime and Corruption

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Ever wonder where all the Volkswagen Microbuses from a bygone era disappeared to? It turns out they’re alive and bustling around, albeit at a very slow pace, in Lagos, Nigeria where I just returned from a speaking engagement on innovation and entrepreneurship.This month I share with you my impression of Nigeria, a place filled with paradoxes… the people are beautiful, hopeful and impassioned about making change happen while the streets are littered with garbage, rotting with sinkholes so enormous they could consume small children.There is a level of chaos that I have never experienced previously, not even during my multiple trips to China. Everybody is on the move yet they’re getting nowhere fast because there’s no order to the flow of traffic. This is a place void of traffic lights and seemingly traffic laws. The lack of infrastructure was haunting, yet the call for change from the people with whom I spent four days inspired me and I hope my stories will inspire you as well.Beth

Hope on the Edge of Chaos
Nigeria overview

Lagos, the largest city in Africa, is a blend of chaos and pollution mixed with passionate, energized Nigerians aimed at saving their country from the crime, poverty and go-slows (traffic jams) that plague innovation and growth.

This is a city filled with energy that can be deafening and yet defining as the tin and cardboard shacks that are home to millions of their citizens sit juxtaposed to the slowly growing middle class homes. I found it to be both scary and scintillating, but my feelings about the people that reside there was not conflicted in any way – I fell in love with their warmth, passion and drive for change.

A true urban adventure, the economic powerhouse of Nigeria was exactly what I needed after months of seven-day workweeks focused on teaching and consulting. Who thinks of “Nigeria” as a getaway for the weary? I certainly didn’t but it turned out to be exactly what the doctor ordered.

I knew I was in for an adventure when I found it impossible to purchase Naira (Nigerian currency) in the U.S. Everybody from my two banks to the currency exchange experts at Travelex informed me that they don’t carry Nigerian money. Most looked at me perplexed that I was going to Nigeria — you would have thought I had told them I was going to the moon. I assumed I’d have an easier time exchanging my money once in Nigeria but discovered that they don’t accept Traveler’s Cheques, my credit cards were considered foreign and therefore unacceptable, and my ATM card was rejected in the hotel’s machines. I eventually found a location that accepted my card at a heavily guarded ATM Gallery.


What did all of this tell me?
Nigeria, beyond its reputation as the hotbed of scammers trying to extort money from innocent email recipients, does not yet have the infrastructure to support tourism – an industry that could help infuse capital and business into their country. But it begs the question: What will it take to overcome their reputation so outsiders will think of it as a country to visit and experience?

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So how did I end up traveling to Nigeria? This has been the most popular question posed to me over the past few weeks. A former graduate student of mine invited me to participate in Nigeria’s Annual Business Competition. She came to Boston University with the goal of learning more about running a national Business Plan Competition for her country, Nigeria. She was working for a US-based organization whose focus is to mobilize university students to make a difference in their communities while developing the skills necessary to become socially responsible business leaders.  With skyrocketing unemployment this organization helps students develop leadership and entrepreneurial skills, skills that are not just nice to possess but are clearly necessary for success.

I felt proud to watch her realize her dreams. Students from the 36 states in Nigeria participated in this competition. Each team represented a year of planning along with the execution of their proposed business models. As part the competition, teams were required to prove that they had achieved measurable economic, social and entrepreneurial impact.

Celebration
I had the privilege of not only speaking at this 3-day event but also judging in the semi-finals round. It was quite moving to be in the room of over 1,000 students and experience their energy and enthusiasm as they simultaneously burst into applause and dance when the winning team was announced. This inspiring team had to work through bombings in the northern part of Nigeria that they called home and risked incarceration because they broke curfews mandated by the dangerous conditions in which they lived.

A chaotic city filled with noise, pollution, bumper-to-bumper traffic at all hours of the day and a lack of public utilities resulting in ongoing power outages, Lagos is clearly struggling with the enormous population growth that it’s experiencing. Unemployment is as high as 35% for 20 to 35 year olds. It makes one ponder how they will ever get past this poverty-riddled position to realize the small wins that most Americans take for granted every day.

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Nonetheless, the spirit of entrepreneurship clearly lives in the souls of their youth. You can experience this firsthand in the streets and roadways while traveling in your car or catching a ride on a VW Minibus (their national transportation system). While on the ride, you can purchase practically anything you need before arriving at your destination including plantains, soda, candy and fruit as well as mouse traps, car mats, jewelry, towels, videos and stuffed animals. If you dare to get out of your car you can even pick up a sofa, toilet, bathtub or a couple of dogs (I was tempted but realized it was simply not a good idea).
What are the takeaways for me? Where there’s hope, there is an accompanying entrepreneurial spirit of innovation and change that can transform a person, a business and even a country. This spirit, enabled by amazing women like my student, who have dedicated their lives to change, will be the driving force that empowers developing nations like Nigeria to find their place as a viable economic power. I hope to be a part of that transformation because observing that level of hope and energy is a privilege that every entrepreneur should experience at least once in his or her life. It will change your perspective forever.
 

Everything Critical About Business I Learned From My Dog

biscotti_ben_spaghettiThis month’s newsletter is dedicated to my recently departed dog Biscotti (pictured above with my son Ben about 10 years earlier showing their beautiful trusting relationship). Biscotti reinforced in me (and my children) the values that we hold true in business and life. After 15 years of loyal companionship and love, Biscotti is no longer with us, except in spirit.
The story I share this month is about a disastrous lobster bake I hosted for Ben’s high school graduation (he’s grown up since the picture was taken) and exemplifies the best and worst of people in business. I’m confident Biscotti is looking down upon us grimacing at the horrible traits that not even a bad dog would exemplify and secretly wishing he had been there – simply to have feasted on the lobster that splattered to the floor after 3 hours of cooking.Beth

Lessons From Our Canine Friends

Beth GoldsteinWhat are the most important traits that define a business and exemplify its brand? They include: establishing relationships built on trust, being loyal, making good connections, following through and showing unconditional compassion. Those characteristics are ones exemplified by our canine companions and the reason we call dogs ‘man’s/woman’s best friend.’ Biscotti held these traits, and as a member of our family, he was loved and respected by all. In the best business relationships, these same characteristics are self-evident. In the worst, they are completely mutilated, and my Lobster Bake story unfortunately shows the complete obliteration demonstrated by the owner while his young crew showed the best of these qualities.

It all began when I saw a Groupon for a Lobster Bake and thought – wow, what a great idea for my son’s graduation. I looked up the company, Saldoni’s in North Chelmsford, MA, (yes, in this rare instance, I am sharing the company’s name) and didn’t find anything negative about them. Since the Groupon was a bit vague, I called the owner directly to make sure I understood what was included, and he pitched me an offer to go directly through him. Knowing that Groupon would have provided him just 25% of what I paid, it sounded acceptable, and I hired his team months in advance. He told me his crew would arrive at 5 p.m. on the day of the event to setup and we’d be eating around 6 p.m.

A few days prior to the event, he called me to confirm, and we reviewed times again. Things, however, went downhill from there. On the day of the party, no one showed up at 5 p.m. The owner didn’t answer or return my calls to him at 5:15 p.m., 5:45 p.m. or 6:15 p.m. My messages began in a gentle tone and then escalated as time passed. I grew annoyed as my guests grew hungrier. At 6:20 p.m., he finally called back. That’s when the ugliness began. He told me he was sorry, he was catering another affair, and didn’t know where his crew was but that he would solve the problem ASAP. They showed up a few minutes later looking innocent and honestly surprised when I asked them why they were so late. They told me they were instructed to arrive at 6:30. Nonetheless, they could not have been sweeter. It was obvious that they felt terrible and quickly pulled things out of their car to begin the lobster bake.

Immediately, I felt better seeing this as a communication gaffe that wasn’t their fault but clearly the owner’s responsibility. I was watching them work hard to set up the equipment in my back yard when the owner called back and told me, “My crew had a flat tire!” Really? I exclaimed because they told me they were instructed to arrive at 6:30 p.m. I asked, “Which lie is the correct one?” and he got mad at me and said, “This is my business, and they had a flat tire.” I knew he wasn’t telling me the truth but checked with them any way. They were as surprised by the lie as I was and they were looking me in the eye telling me there had been no car problems.

The situation then went from bad to ugly. After learning that the owner had thrown his team ‘under the bus to protect himself,’ I then discovered there was a problem with the equipment. To make a long story short, they couldn’t get the water to boil because the equipment wasn’t working. Two hours later, we gave up with their efforts and attempted to cook the lobster on my stove (in my lobster pot) and finally got them semi-cooked by 9 p.m. The rest of the food couldn’t fit in my home-style pot so it had to be thrown away or frozen (anybody interested in frozen corn? I have a lot).

Talk about a WOW (NOT) experience! This was beyond disappointing. To top it off, the owner told me his policy was to never provide refunds (even when he’s at fault?) and kept insisting that I accept another meal on ‘the house’… personally cooked by him. Seriously, the last thing I wanted was this dishonest business owner, who treated his staff with disrespect, to cook a meal for me and my friends. It took me two days and one nasty YELP review (social media can be quite powerful) to convince him to give me a refund. Let’s face it, people make mistakes and equipment fails. I am very much pro small business and would have forgiven him (and not gone to the web to voice my disgust) if he had been honest.  But when he tried to place the blame on his honest employees… that was the last intolerable straw for me.

What does this tell us about his business and his brand? Nothing positive, for sure. He’s not trustworthy, doesn’t deliver on promises made to customers, is unfaithful to his employees and doesn’t follow up. If only he had taken a lesson from my dog BIscotti or perhaps yours, and shown loyalty and compassion… he wouldn’t have a really awful review on the world of social media (feel free to check it out).

In closing, as you manage your business, always keep in mind the important lessons of honestly, trust and loyalty that our four-legged friends teach us every day.

Now, please excuse me as I go give our other dog, Twizzler, a belly rub! Next month I will share stories of my adventure in Nigeria as I head out next week to speak at conference on innovation and entrepreneurship in that fascinating country.

 

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Say Yes to No

It’s critical to learn to say NO in business. I discuss the importance of doing this with JJ Ramberg on MSNBC’s Your Business.

I’d love to hear your experience saying NO to an opportunity that simply didn’t align with you company’s goals.

 

When Did Hiring a Lawyer Become the Easy Way of Handling Conflict?

 

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Ever have one of those days (or weeks) when you just felt like  sticking your head in the sand? I love a good challenge and embrace the opportunity to learn from every scenario presented to me. But I have no patience for people who don’t practice a high standard of business ethics and morals. 

In this month’s blog, let’s talk about why shared business values are so critical in selecting your partners, clients, customers and anybody with whom your business interacts.

Beth

I admit it, I’m a bit of a domain hoarder. In fact, I own over three dozen domains. I’m a marketer still plagued by the fact that I didn’t buy marketingedge.com in time. So now whenever an idea for a product or service pops in my head, I check to see if the domain is available…and buy it. They automatically renew, so oftentimes I forget I own them – which can create issues….

Recently, an organization that I did business with a few years ago decided that they should be the legal owners of a domain that I bought in 2008. This is a group to whom I had donated hours and hours of my time to help them create their product.

Instead of picking up the phone to call and ask me to transfer the domain to them, the head of this non-profit organization hired a lawyer (who I presume works pro bono) and sent me a certified letter DEMANDING that I turn over the domain to them.

As a small business owner getting a letter from a law firm via certified mail does not constitute ‘a great day.’  I turned to two different legal experts for advice and spent hours piling through contracts since I needed to know my rights. Frankly, I was shocked. If you’ve done any work with me, you know that I am a huge supporter of small businesses (for profit and non-profit). It’s simply not part of the ethical business standard that I follow to try to cause harm or disrupt the operation of any other organization. I won’t get into the legal issues here, but both lawyers assured me that I had not done anything wrong and could not be held liable. Nonetheless, I spent days dealing with this before I spoke to the organization’s president.
 
What was most surprising and what  I wanted to know was why she decided to hire a lawyer rather than simply calling me. Her response? It was easier to hire the lawyer. REALLY? When did hiding behind lawyers become the easiest way to handle conflict... especially when one party doesn’t even know that conflict exists.

A simple call would have been more than sufficient to resolve the issue. I would have given her the domain had she just asked.  Instead, this non-profit organization forced me to hire my own legal experts to confirm my rights.

In the end, I have agreed to give them the domain because I still believe in the stated mission of the organization and it is the right thing to do. But I’m disappointed (no, horrified) by this organization’s actions against me and by the fact that their stated mission to support small business owners somehow did not extend to me.

Contrast this recent domain-name trouble with an earlier one. About a year ago, I received a call from an organization that was running a national event called The Small Business Tour. They were using the domain name: thesmallbusinesstour.com and contacted me because I owned SmallBusinessTour.com (which, at the time, automatically directed to my website m-edge.com). It was causing confusion amongst individuals who wanted to register for their tour. They were interested in purchasing the domain from me.

The woman who called me was terrific and we had a great exchange about our business models and goals and quickly recognized that our missions intertwined. She asked me if I would be interested in being a speaker and sponsor for the “Tour.” To make a long story short, I pointed my site to their site (it’s still pointed there) and also got involved with the event. It was a win-win and they are great people whom I totally respect.

Both of these incidents raise the question: Should goodwill be a core value of a business or organization? 

Where do YOU draw the line for what constitutes right and wrong in terms of ethical and honorable business practices?

Please email me your thoughts on this compelling issue and, as always, I look forward to being inspired by what you have done to propel your business forward

 

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Empower Growth By Learning to Say NO

I want to share a story about a recent challenge I faced saying ‘no’ to an opportunity that my gut immediately rejected but my heart fought for (and lost). Back in November I was asked to serve as the president of an impressive product marketing organization based here in Massachusetts. I was honored to be asked, especially since the founder is an individual whom I greatly respect. The organization is successful and they are looking to take themselves to the next level. So, I had two key questions to answer: ‘Was I the right person to help them grow?” and “Was this the right organization to help my business grow?” The latter was harder to answer than I anticipated.

Over the past few years I have worked diligently to establish myself as an expert in business growth (building upon my marketing/sales background). While I love ‘all things marketing,’ as a small business trainer I have learned that teaching marketing on its own simply isn’t enough to help business owners achieve the success they desire.Being able to set actionable goals, understand cash flow and manage and motivate your team is just as important as understanding why customers buy from you and why they might also buy from your competitors.  I now integrate all aspects of business strategy, tactics and growth in my workshops to ensure a more significant impact on the small business communities I work with. Returning to a role focused solely on marketing strategy doesn’t align with my business model.  So, this should have been an easy ‘No,’ right? Wrong!

Lucky By Design RoadmapHere’s where my dilemma began. I was personally excited about working with this group because the people in the organization were truly passionate, dynamic and interesting individuals with whom I wanted to collaborate.But, the organization didn’t fit into my wheelhouse, so how could I say ‘yes?’ Good question! I searched for this answer for weeks. I interviewed almost two dozen individuals associated with the organization, looking for a reason to say ‘yes’ but I kept coming back with ‘no.’ Nonetheless, Irefused to listen to my ‘logical’ side screaming that this was not the right role for me.

So, how did I resolve this dilemma? I removed the emotion from the decision. I created a spreadsheet (nothing fancy, trust me) and on the vertical axis (also know as the Y axis for you engineering-types) I plotted all my 2012 projects, training initiatives and other key activities like my book tour, speaking gigs, articles, newsletter and blog. Then on the horizontal (X) axis I plotted my business goals: consulting, training, being a thought leader, helping inner city and small businesses, etc… You get the point. I also included a business goal category called college fund. Why? Because I could do what I love all day long but if I’m not getting paid, my kids will have to rely on the dogs getting great modeling jobs to support their college education (cute as the dogs are, that wasn’t happening any time soon).

Next, I decided that every project listed on the vertical axis had to fit into at least two of these goal categories (three if there was no revenue involved). For example, the training program I run in Salem, MA fit into several categories including: small business, training, coaching and college fund. Other initiatives such as blogging or writing my newsletter didn’t make the college fund but fit into small business, thought leadership and coaching categories. Simple, right?

TrainingYou’d be surprised how cathartic this was. When the chart was completed, I could see in black and white, no emotions involved, everything that I had accomplished in the past year. I could also see how some of the initiatives I had taken on were clearly not smart choices. Honestly, I already knew which initiatives I shouldn’t continue but now I had no reason to argue with myself over continuing them. Here it was, plain and simple, staring back at me from my computer screen – my smart choices and my ‘not so smart’ decisions. The visual impact was quite empowering.

 Ultimately, this chart gave me the power and internal strength to say ‘no’ to the position as president of this organization. The organization just didn’t fit into my current goals. I simply couldn’t justify saying ‘yes,’ hoping that the pleasure of working with the folks in the group would somehow payoff in the long term. It just didn’t make sense but now it was no longer based on a gut feeling or emotion. It was pure logic.

When I called the founder and politely turned down the opportunity, I knew I had made the right decision. Interestingly enough, several new opportunities opened up in the weeks that followed. Ones that I wouldn’t have been able to go after if I had agreed to serve as president of this group and ones that very clearly fit into my wheelhouse. Now I have this amazing chart to refer to each time I have to decide ‘yes’ or ‘no.’

PortfolioIf you are grappling with a logical system to streamline your goals, actions and empower your ability to say ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ spend an hour doing this exercise. I guarantee it’ll be the best hour you’ll spend on yourself and your business. When you’re done, email me and let me know what you are doing differently this year as you focus your efforts on growth and please share your stories of how you learned to say ‘Yes’ to ‘No.’ 

 

 
 
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