Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Perseverance Pays

Let’s face it, victory goes to the most resilient. Almost nothing, small or large, was ever accomplished without setback after setback after setback. A lot of people cut and run, and sometimes that makes sense. But others take their lumps, fall down, bounce back, get knocked down again—and come back for more.
You might be in that same situation now. If so, don’t give up too easily. Ignore the naysayers and put a hand in the face of the doubters. Use Fred Smith as your role model. No one exemplifies this “I’ll Show ’Em” attitude more than Smith.
As a graduate student at Harvard University, Smith was excited to discover one of his class assignments was to develop a business plan. The students would develop the plans and the professor would grade the work on the viability of a fictitious business.
Smith came up with the idea for a one-of-a-kind, overnight package delivery business. The more and more he became involved in the project, the more passionate he became. He really felt the business could work. He spent day and night fine-tuning the business plan and finally submitted his dream to the Ivy League professor.
His grade: C. The professor said the business would never work.
Smith decided to prove the professor wrong. When he graduated, he began turning that plan into the American dream. Today, Smith’s dream is Federal Express, a multibillion dollar company. And when you walk in the Memphis, Tenn., headquarters of Federal Express, you’ll find Smith’s original college paper framed for all to see. Complete with a red “C” slashed through the top.
The paper sits in the front lobby to remind Smith and his employees of a simple lesson: Persevere and never give up on your dreams.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

What Does Success Look Like?

Is your company a success?
This is a question I've received from time to time since I became a business owner in 2007.  My response?  "What's your definition of success?"
It's a tough question to answer because success could mean a variety of things.  Is it 10% profits?  Low turnover? Extra time with your children? Not living paycheck to paycheck?  Survival? Large paycheck? 
The definition of success is different for everyone.  The problem is that we often let others define success for us.  We see other businesses that have more employees or more offerings or bigger offices and we all the sudden shift our definition of success.
Is that wise?  Not in my opinion.
Social media has exasperated this issue when each post becomes a competition to see who is more valuable, reliable, wonderful, etc.  It's like little league parents on steroids.
Bottom line: You can't judge yourself (or base your idea of success) on someone else.  Not in business or in life.  We all come from different backgrounds and experiences.  For example, I can't judge my small firm based on a much larger, nationwide company  I'll never measure up.  I can only judge my company on where it was 10 years ago or 5 years ago.  We can only judge ourselves based on where we came from.
In this pursuit of success (mainly defined by others), many businesses loose site of their focus and the vision they built their company on in the first place.
Define your own success and focus on your vision.  Don't try and measure up based on what others are accomplishing.
So, what is my definition of success:  profitable company at the end of each year,  eagerness to come to work each morning, and having fun each day.  Today, my company is a success.
-Ron Ameln, SBM

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Are You Meeting Employee Needs?

I  had a great conversation today with Dr. David "Doc" Vik, former culture coach at Zappos.  Vik, who is now an author (He has a new book out, "The Culture Secret:  How to Empower People and Companies No Matter What You Sell.")
We talked for an upcoming culture article that will highlight some of Vik's views on building a successful culture (see that article soon in SBM).  I did, however, want to share some of Vik's ideas on what employees need.  I have highlighted the three things he believes employees need.  See how your company stacks up:
1.  Purpose.  Employees today don't want to waste time.  They've seen their parents, family, friends, etc. work like dogs and then get let go in an instance.  So, today's employees don't want to waste their time.  They are looking for value.  They want to know that what they do matters.
2.  Autonomy.  They want some freedom to solve problems and help the company succeed.  They don't want to be micro-managed.
3.  Compensation.  They want to make a decent living. This certainly hasn't changed over the years.
Hit all three of these and your company won't have a problem attracting and retaining the best employees.  "If leaders don't think they have to focus on attracting and retaining the best employees in today's hyper competitive war for talent, they are living in the past," Vik said.  "The employees and customers of today have a choice and a voice.  Take care of your people, never stop innovating and leave customers wowed."
-Ron Ameln, SBM

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Advertising Basics For Growing Businesses

Bruce Kupper, founding partner of Black Twig Communications, gave a great presentation on marketing and advertising at a recent Commerce Bank Small Business Network meeting. 
One of his key points focused on building a strong customer database.  "Businesses always seem to be searching for new clients and ignoring their current clients," Kupper said.  "Build on the customers you have."
He also talked about some basic advertising strategies most growing businesses are ignoring today.  For example:
Retailers, low frequency/high recency Retailers never know when the time is right for a prospect to need their services.  So, it doesn't make sense to do heavy advertising all at once, according to Kupper.  That's why he believes, for retailers, in smaller positions (spots, ads) that extend over a longer period of time. 
B-to-B, surveys, tests, trials (trial offers), new products, new executions.  B-to-B marketers need to secure access.  These types of campaigns help marketers locate those who might utilize their products and services.
B-to-C, product benefits, uniqueness, production/development story.  Testimonials are big with this group and ads that tell consumers this product or service is something they need to buy.
All in all, Kupper believes 3rd party endorsements are the keys to building confidence and trust.  Testimonials, case studies and success stories will help businesses accomplish this feat.
--Ron Ameln, SBM

Friday, March 22, 2013

How Are You Perceived?

How are people viewing you?  Do you know?
This week SBM brought in Peter Strople for our Top 100 People To Know Award luncheon.  Peter, better known as the Most Connected Man In America, asked the audience these questions.
They are great questions.  As business owners, we spend so much time and energy trying to satisfy our current clients and woo new clients, we never really step back and discover how we are being perceived in the marketplace.
And perception is reality.
Peter challenged everyone in the audience to sit their customers and prospects down and ask them.  You might be surprised at the response.
--Ron Ameln, SBM

Monday, March 18, 2013

Foundation For Growth: People Helping Others Succeed

There is always a lot of talk around town on what the region can do to create a better environment for entrepreneurial success.
Do we need a China hub?  Do we need more incubators?  More venture capital?  More angel investors?  More universities?  You get the point.
All of those things are important.  No question.
However, what we really need is more people helping others.  We need more people stepping up to unselfishly help others succeed.
This means we need more larger companies taking smaller, younger firms under their wing to incubate them, helping them grow and introducing them to possible contacts.
This means we need more smaller companies doing the same things with even smaller companies.
This means we need all of them to encourage our children to think about entrepreneurship.
If we want to be known as a community for entrepreneurs, we first need to be a community that is willing to reach out and help others succeed.  Not for any personal or financial gain, just to help others succeed.
If we can accomplish this feat, every entrepreneur will find us.
-Ron Ameln, SBM

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Training May Be The Key To Future Business Growth

The world of business is about to change--dramatically.
It all comes down to demographics.  The baby boomers are about to leave the workforce in droves.  (Think about the many business leaders between the ages of 55-65...many will be retired in 10 years.)  On top of that, consider that the birth rate the last 5 years was lower than any time in this country's history since the 1920s.
Bottom line:  There will be a huge shortage of workers.  This will happen as soon as eight years in the U.S.
What does all of this mean to businesses?  Finding the right experienced employees will be difficult, but the companies that can successfully train employees in the proper skills will have the advantage.
Training is something many companies have ignored recently.  The costs were high and cramped reduced budgets and employees don't stay at one place very long (why would you invest in training when an employee will leave for your competitor?).
All of that might be changing in the future.  Instead of looking for an employee with the right amount of experience, who can come in and perform the job on Day 1, employers are going to need to train employees.  That will take a process.  That will take time.  Many will do it very poorly.  The ones that perfect recruiting and training, will hold the edge.
--Ron Ameln, SBM