Foggy Lenses and Binoculars

Binoculars

This July in Florida has been extremely humid, with almost daily rains. When I drive someplace and get out of my car my eyeglasses almost immediately fog up. On a few occasions when I tried to look over them rather than wipe them, I have stumbled over parking buffers and once walked into a mailbox. Just as I would be safer if I cleaned them before setting out, business owners who can clearly see the environment around them will enhance their probabilities of prosperity and sustainability. Additionally, if they can see what may lie ahead, as one might with binoculars, they will be in a position to react and respond faster than their competition.

Some of the factors that might cause business owners to stumble are:  Continue reading here.

Speaking of Business Blog by Dr. Philip R. Geist, Area Director, Florida SBDC at UNF

Product is Key When Scaling Your Business

hands drawing a bar graphOne of the biggest challenges for an entrepreneur is to determine if they are growing or scaling their business. Sometimes owners aren’t fully aware of the difference but there are a few key questions you can ask yourself that will help you determine which path you are on.

  1. Am I free? Do I freely control my own time and schedule?
  2. Do I regularly work on strategy for my business instead of day-to-day activities?
  3. Am I removing myself from core systems and key processes – sales/lead generation, billing, collections, product/service delivery, etc.?

If you answered NO to any of these questions, it may be time to rethink your approach to revenue generation and how your business is managed.

Though there are a number of non-negotiable factors that must be considered when scaling a business, the products and services you offer are the foot soldiers in the effort. Not all companies, and certainly not all products and services can scale, but thinking outside the box and defining yourself by the benefits you provide, not the products and services you sell is one way to help you consider additional approaches to revenue generation that is scalable.

So what makes a product scalable? The simple answer is the cost of each incremental unit you sell should be decreasing rather than increasing or remaining constant. In accounting speak – the marginal cost to deliver each additional unit must be declining.

Some products can do this relatively easily – products and services that are delivered electronically is a simple example. Once the infrastructure and platform are built, the cost to sell one or a million units declines as the cost is spread across an increasing number of units. Think Amazon and e-books.

But if your product or service does not fall into this category, how do you make this happen? It usually requires stretching your idea of what it is that you offer.

When I had an idea for my first book, I learned that it was going to be very expensive for a small business to print, pack and ship individual books to individual readers. I also learned that as a small publisher with only one title, no traditional book store would stock an individual title.

So we started doing some brainstorming. Was I really writing a book? No – I was delivering information i.e. content, and the book was only a delivery vehicle for that content. That helped me recognize that in addition to hard copies and soft copies of the book, e-versions, e-courses, audio books, online workshops, video classes, podcasts, etc. were all viable ways to deliver the same content to different audiences through different formats and media. Each has an appeal to a slightly different audience, not based on interest in the content itself, but in the way it is presented.

This is an important point to keep in mind – the preponderance of media options now available to consumers allows them to choose which medium is most effective for them. Your customers can only take advantage of this if your product or service is delivered in that format.

How many times have you had an interest in something, only to let it go and fail to pursue it further because the only medium through which additional information and content was available was in some form that you didn’t really like? Maybe you aren’t a big reader. If the information and insight you are interested in is only available in the form of a book, newsletter, magazine or online article that you have to read, you may not have been motivated enough to invest the time to learn more.

But what if you learn that the same information is available in a podcast that you could listen to as you traveled to and from your appointments during the day? Same info, different distribution channel, and suddenly you are interested again.

Product development and product innovation are truly where scalability begins, so I challenge you to rethink what you offer your customers. Customers don’t buy things – they buy what those things do for them (entertain, educate, inspire) and/or how they make them feel. When approached from this perspective, how to continue to add to your pipeline of products and services becomes a little easier to think about.

The steps in the process are simple.

  1. Define what it is that you truly offer – comfort, security, knowledge, insight, support, simplicity, peace of mind, entertainment, beauty, order, etc.
  2. Consider all the ways you might provide this offering in different formats and from different perspectives
  3. Pick one or two and try them out.
  4. Get help working through the process if it becomes too cumbersome or if you can’t get traction because you need to know or learn more.

Here at the FSBDC at UNF, both of the previous Are You Growing or Scaling Your Business? workshops have sold out. The next will be held on August 14th from 9am to noon at our UNF office. Consider signing up if you have more questions about the concept of scaling. You can read more about it and sign up here: /register-for-workshop/?workshops_id=469.

If you would like to discuss your thoughts before that, feel free to contact me at l.t.kulka@unf.edu and we’ll schedule some time to talk.

by Linda Teza Kulka, Business Consultant, Florida SBDC at UNF

 

One for a nickel, two for a dime, five for twenty-five cents!

quarter, dime , nickel, pennyPricing: something many business owners fret over. They worry about local competitors, big box stores, Amazon, and other online sellers. They sometimes set prices based on what others are selling for and don’t consider customer value. If you set your prices arbitrarily, it might be the same as letting the customer make you an offer. Unless you have calculated your price based on your costs and expected profit, your profit may not be what you anticipate. Setting the right price for your products or services can often make the difference between business success and failure, or profit and loss. There are many paradigms that can be used to set prices, choosing the right one for your business can be critical.

Proper pricing is critical to a healthy and competitive business environment, and remains one of the most important issues for businesses both large and small. How you price your products and services should communicate both values that you have to offer your clientele and the vision that you have set for your company. If you offer installation, training, off-season storage, free maintenance, or a myriad of other services that are valued by customers, they will be willing to pay a higher price for the convenience. Small businesses should identify what is of value to customers and build these services into their business model because they will never have the buying power of large companies.  Continue reading here.

Speaking of Business Blog by Dr. Philip R. Geist, Area Director, Florida SBDC at UNF

 

Nobody Does It Better

Business For Sale signHave you been a customer in businesses where you noticed obvious inefficiencies or missed market opportunities? If you are among the millions of current or previously employed workers who have considered entrepreneurship as a means of independence, job security, and a way to build wealth; then buying an existing business and improving its performance may be a route to business ownership for you.

“Nobody Does It Better” is the ballad composed by Marvin Hamlisch with lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager and recorded by Carly Simon as the theme song for the 1977 James Bond movie, “The Spy Who Loved Me.” Its sentiment applies to entrepreneurs as well, especially those who can outperform the current business owners. Have you been a customer at a business where you thought, “I could do better than that!” If so, you may have identified a candidate business to purchase.

You should of course, never purchase a business you don’t understand, so I am making the assumption that if you ‘see a better way of doing things,’ that you understand the business. There are a number of factors important to identifying potential businesses to purchase, but the most important is successful experience in the type of business being bought. That’s because it provides the buyer with knowledge of how to solve them.  Continue reading here.

Speaking of Business Blog by Dr. Philip R. Geist, Area Director, Florida SBDC at UNF

What? Already!

hurricaneFor those of us living in Florida, we are getting an early reminder that the Hurricane Season is about to begin. While it officially starts on June first, the National Hurricane Center is watching the first potential weather system of 2018. Today is Monday, May 14th, 2018, and a mass of weather in the eastern Gulf of Mexico has formed and is causing heavy rain over South Florida and slowly expanding to cause the entire state to be rainy for most of this week, with some urban flood watches already issued for the southeast part of the state. The National Hurricane Center (www.nhc.noaa.gov) as of 9:35 EDT this morning stated that the weather mass will remain over most of Florida for the week and currently has a 40 percent chance of developing into a tropical weather system within five days.

While at most it could develop into a tropical storm, as the center of the weather is close to land and the water temperatures are still relatively cool, it serves as a good reminder that businesses should prepare (for those that do not have them) or update their contingency and emergency plans. This alert also applies to those of you not likely to be affected by a hurricane, as every area has natural threats of some kind. Whether they are from earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, or volcanic eruptions does not matter. What does matter is that your business is prepared to protect its staff, mitigate any risks, regroup after the event, and sustain its operations.  Continue reading here.

Speaking of Business Blog by Dr. Philip R. Geist, Area Director, Florida SBDC at UNF

On Target!

Target with arrow in center

Does your business have a customer or market niche? If so, you can conduct target marketing and focus your efforts directly on potential customers. If not, your business is functioning in a generic or commodity market where it is hard to distinguish your product or service from that of your competitors. Many businesses have products or services that can serve multiple niches. Finding the niches that your business can serve and marketing directly to them can reduce the cost of obtaining new customers and increase revenue at the same time, resulting in a higher profit margin.

Most large companies employ the Pareto Principle in their approach to marketing. They understand that 80% of their business comes from 20% of their customer base. By focusing the majority of their efforts on the niches in that 20%, they are able to maintain a high return on their marketing expenditures. Target Stores is a good example that begins with their logo. It exemplifies the company’s laser-like focus on meeting the needs of its niche customer. The typical Target customer, according to www.pymnts.com/news/retail, is young, affluent, and looking for products that are unique and stand out from the “run-of-the-mill” variety. Target’s customer demographics show the average customer is female (63% of total customers), between the ages of 18 and 44, and earning $12,000 more per year than their counterparts shopping at other stores.

Having determined that their niche customer prefers upscale unique products has allowed Target to develop merchandising programs with manufacturers who are willing to design specific products for the company that aren’t available elsewhere. Target also seeks out smaller manufacturers of boutique and upscale products that are not carried by their competitors. While small businesses don’t have the volume of sales to develop similar arrangements, they can take actions to attract niche customers to their establishment. The first step in the process is to identify the niches that your business can attract and serve. A photographer, for example, can have multiple niches: weddings, pet photography, real estate photos, classic and collector car photography, and so on. Each of those niches has customers with different characteristics. Those characteristics include the customers demographics, their geographic location, and their psychographic preferences.  Continue reading here.

Speaking of Business Blog by Dr. Philip R. Geist, Area Director, Florida SBDC at UNF

 

 

Business Ceredigion Style…

Tractor plowing fieldI was testing a random search function on Google and landed on an article about the land of Ceredig. While reading about historic agricultural activities in the spring, it occurred to me that analogies could be made with small business practices…

It’s always best to start a story at the beginning. For this one, that is in the land of Ceredig, for that is what led me to Ceredigion. Ceredig is ancient, but not mythical. Ceredig was a son of Cunedda, a chieftain who re-conquered much of Wales from the Irish around the 5th century. The land of Ceredig became known as Ceredigion as it was ruled by his descendants for over five centuries. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ceredigion)

The first analogy I considered was that of branding. Ceredigion changed its name to Seisyllwg in the late 7th century as it expanded and it’s then rulers wanted the name to recognize a larger territory. In the mid-10th century, Seisyllwg merged with Dyfed and changed its name to Deheubarth. Between 1888 and 1974, the county was governed by Cardiganshire county council, and on local government reorganization in 1974, a new Ceredigion district council was formed. On April 1, 1996, the Ceredigion district was made a unitary authority, under the name of Cardiganshire, only to change its name back to ‘Ceredigion’ on April 2. If you have an established, recognized brand, stick with it. Use your brand consistently and prominently as it will serve to distinguish you from the competition.

Back to the story…  after Ceredig lead me to Ceredigion, some further searching lead me to the Ceredigion Museum, which tells the story of the land and its peoples (www.ceredigionmuseum.wales). Ceredigion had a self-sufficient agricultural economy from it’s earliest days. In reading about the agricultural policies and practices of springtime, I was again struck by the analogies to small business needs today.

Springtime was the time for “Ploughing.” Plowing broke up the ground that lay dormant all winter and killed the weeds that were emerging so that the “cash croppe” could be planted. Being located in a northern latitude, most crops in Ceredigion were harvested in July and August, with early September reserved for the last crops of potatoes. After preserving and storing the harvest, October was a time of celebration of the bounty the land provided (Octoberfest), and for preparing the land for planting in the springtime, and planning the layout of the fields as crop rotation was used as early as the mid-fourteenth century in Wales. This might be a good time to review what is dormant in your business, how to rejuvenate it, and what ‘weeds’ might be in the way. Have you reviewed sales and profitability by product or service to determine which ones are the ‘cash crop’ and which are the ‘weeds’?  Continue reading here.

Speaking of Business Blog by Dr. Philip R. Geist, Area Director, Florida SBDC at UNF

 

Wheels of Industry, Tires, and the Right Interface…

rows of tiresA mishap with my car got me thinking about wheels and tires last night. The “Wheels of Industry” is a phrase first used and written down, according to oxforddictionaries.com, in the mid 1700’s by William Wilke, a Church of Scotland minister who used it in one of his sermons. It occurred to me that wheels need the correct tires to work effectively, and that tires can be used in a business analogy.

Last night on the way home, I ran over a bolt in the road that impaled itself in my tire. When I went to get the tire repaired I was told that due to the location near the sidewall, the tire was unrepairable. Murphy was of course on hand so my size tire was not in stock and needed to be ordered from the warehouse, and my spare was installed so I could drive while awaiting the new tire. As the spare was not the same size as the tire it replaced, I was cautioned to limit my speed and to expect the car to handle a bit differently. The correct tire is needed for the car to perform well.

As an entrepreneur, your business is the vehicle that provides you with a means of making a living and accumulating wealth. If it performs well, it can provide long-term financial security and independence for you and future generations. From a macro-economic point of view, it can provide employment and capital investment which will contribute to the economic viability and well-being of the community.

Continue reading here.

Speaking of Business Blog by Dr. Philip R. Geist, Area Director, Florida SBDC at UNF

 

 

Delivering the Goods…

semi-truck on highwayIf you have been following the news from England, you have been aware of the fiasco that Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) had to deal with there. Beginning on February 14th, 2018, and continuing for more than a week, KFC was unable to get chicken to their 900-plus stores in the UK and over 800 of them had to close. KFC became a target of ridicule and while funny to outsiders, the problem was critical for the company. Most of the KFC locations are owned as franchises by independent owners, who have fewer resources than KFC’s parent company, and were severely impacted by the crisis.

KFC has to be given credit for not making excuses, but rather using cheeky public relations to show its humiliation and poke fun at itself.

KFC has issued a high-profile humorous apology for its chicken shortages in the UK.  The fast-food chain used a full-page ad in British newspapers to apologize for shutting down hundreds of restaurants this week because it ran out of chicken. The bright red advertisement showed an empty bucket with the chain’s initials scrambled to say “FCK” on it, alongside an apology. “A chicken restaurant without any chicken. It’s not ideal. Huge apologies to our customers, especially those who traveled out of their way to find we were closed,” the ad said. (Source – CNN Money)  Continue reading here.

 

Speaking of Business Blog by Dr. Philip R. Geist, Area Director, Florida SBDC at UNF

 

Tips for growing your business…

grain image

If you want to find out how to grow your business, one of the best ways is to study the people who literally do that on a 24/7 basis, 365 days a year – farmers! Their best practices will revel many tips that can be applied to any business. Here are some of the key ones…

  • A successful business must be sustainable – From farmers’ points of view that not only includes agricultural practices to maintain productivity of the land, but also general business practices that apply to all types of businesses. Among these are:
    • Maintaining equipment on a regular schedule so that it will be operational for many years after it has been paid for. Your profit margin will automatically go up because you will no longer have interest and payment expenses. As an example, Certified Grocers in Ocala, Florida, was a grocery distributor incorporated on April 15 1948 that operated until it was sold in 1993. During those years it maintained a fleet of trucks that were tens of years old and had several million miles on them. Maintained is the key word… parts were replaced on schedule before they caused a break down; trucks were repainted and renewed inside and out every few years. The result was a paid-for fleet that looked and operated like new, which contributed to a higher than average profit margin.
    • Maintaining excellent customer service. A successful business must be able to sustain its customers as well. As it is easier to sell additional items to an existing customer than attract a new one, you should focus on customer needs and wants as time changes. Farms have added organic products, ready-to-consume items (like juices, jams, and salsas), and entire new ranges of items to their business. Recognizing that customers won’t eat beef, chicken, pork, or fish all the time, many small farms have diversified to carry more than one type of protein. Some previously strictly livestock farms have also begun growing and marketing produce.  Continue reading here.

 

Speaking of Business Blog by Dr. Philip R. Geist, Area Director, Florida SBDC at UNF

 

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