Monthly Archives: November, 2015

Why You Don’t Need an Advanced Degree in Business

November 25th, 2015 Posted by Business is ART, Business Plan, Goal, Inspiration, Vision 0 thoughts on “Why You Don’t Need an Advanced Degree in Business”

MBA business degreeThe key to being a great business leader does not lie in the degree or degrees that you have hanging on your wall. It lies within your ability to lead and formulate a solid plan, as well as your ability to implement that plan successfully.

So, does that mean I should not think about attending college at all?

Absolutely not.

A college degree can be a valuable asset, especially for a young mind, and going to college can often make the difference in whether or not you are successful, but you have to remember that your degree isn’t everything.

Just ask these 100 entrepreneurs who don’t even have a college degree, let alone an MBA. Now, you likely won’t become the next Andrew Carnegie, Richard Branson or Coco Chanel (most of us won’t), but that doesn’t mean your lack of a degree prevents you from founding a successful business.

You most certainly don’t have to spend over a hundred thousand dollars to gain a fancy degree in order to do so, either.

You can actually get started on forming your business right away. All you need to begin is a solid plan.

How to Formulate a Strategic Plan

I highly encourage you to start with a strategic plan. In the Freebies tab of the Business is ART website, under Featured Resources is a 1-page strategic plan template that will get you started. Chapter 3 of my book Business is ART walks you through it.

But once the strategy has been developed, a next step is to put together a business plan. The difference is that the strategy looks out over an extended period of time and is designed to close the gap between reality and vision. But the Business Plan defines how you will manage day-to-day over the course of a single fiscal year.

How to Formulate a Business Plan

There is also a template available for download on the Freebies – Featured Resources page of the Business is ART website and it is discussed in Chapter 6 of Business is ART.

Formulating a business plan is one of the most critical steps in achieving success, no matter how you define it. Research shows that business plans increase your chances of success by up to 50 percent.

Too often business leaders simply watch the financials, wing everything else and call it a business plan…then wonder why things aren’t getting better. The Business Plan gets you to formalize your thinking around such subjects as market and market opportunity, sales, PR and marketing channels, facilities, and staff as well as budget.  It also encourages you to set targets that go beyond “we were profitable this week.”

From finding out what makes your business different from the competition to building the structure of your business by writing it all down on paper, planning will have you thinking about the short and long term future of your business.

Even without an MBA, or even a college degree, you can still act on your great business idea.

So Should I Go To College, or Not?

It’s best to look at college as you would any other business expenditure. It is an investment that can pay off or waste your money. There are things that you will learn and people you will meet in college that you might be unable to find anywhere else.

For me personally, meeting and interacting with a wide variety of people was worth the investment. There is nothing more educational that a room full of diverse people discussing the exact same topic from different perspectives that you can otherwise only imagine.

The value of a college degree depends on who you are and what you make of it. Just remember that with a solid strategic and business plan, like the ones outlined in Business is ART, your chances of business success increase exponentially.

No fancy degree necessary.

Digital Marketing

November 23rd, 2015 Posted by Business is ART, Business Plan, Digital Marketing, Engagement, Social Media, Strategy 0 thoughts on “Digital Marketing”

The business world from which I came included a marketing model that was effectively this: 1) show up at trade events, 2) have a booth, sponsor cookie breaks and wine/dine clients at industry conventions, 3) wait for an RFP (request for proposal) to come from potential clients and hope they have heard of us when we respond with a proposal and 4) request referrals from existing clients to include (sometimes mandatory) in our proposals.

Prior to this, the phrase “build a platform” meant constructing something from two-by-fours and plywood to put on a stage for the band or choir to perform upon.

Screenshot 2015-11-22 15.48.29I am by far not yet as good at it as I need to be, but I have learned a few lessons along the way:

  • Read/study
  • Content is king
  • Give, give, give ‘til it hurts – then ask
  • Don’t go it alone – hire help
  • Don’t try to be on every platform and don’t try to hop on every new trend (because they come and go so quickly)
  • Beware of the self-proclaimed social media experts (who by my estimation have a ratio of 1000-to-1 wannabees vs. actually talented, knowledgeable, helpful consultants)
  • Don’t ignore digital marketing, no matter your business or size

Although I’ve been at this for some time, I’d say we only began true, honest to-goodness digital marketing within the last month. I’ve yet to learn how what we are doing results in clicks, views and ultimately conversions to sales. Way to early to say. But we have started.

Here is a list of things we are doing, which you might find helpful in developing your own digital marketing campaign, but again, I am by no means an expert:

  • The Weekly See 7 Newsletter
  • Business Is ART blog multiple times per week
  • Personal blog (#significance) once per week (referenced on business blog and visa versa)
  • 3 Facebook posts per week (minimum)
  • Several Twitter posts per day (many predefined and scheduled, others “off-the-cuff”)
  • Frequent Instagram posts
  • Occasional Pinterest posts (I am not convinced this adds value – but it is extremely simple)
  • Weekly LinkedIn posts
  • Weekly online, on-demand talk show segments
  • I experimented a couple of times with Periscope but have not yet committed to it

BlogThere is a whole lot that goes on along with each of those items, like sharing others’ content, developing and making available “freemiums”, etc. but that’s a pretty good laundry list. Sound like a lot? It is. Someday we may have a well-oiled machine but right now we have on our training wheels.

If you haven’t made the dive in to digital marketing or have, but done so ineffectively, I highly encourage you to develop a well-defined strategy. The November 23, 2015 edition of my newsletter The Weekly See 7 is dedicated to digital marketing. Maybe some of the articles referenced there can help you define or refine your own strategy.

The Purpose of the Strategy

November 21st, 2015 Posted by Business is ART, Engagement, Inspiration, Leadership, Significance, Strategic Planning, Strategy, Vision 0 thoughts on “The Purpose of the Strategy”
1st Lt. Andrew K. Umstead

1st Lt. Andrew K. Umstead

In my weekly personal blog entitled #Significance, the focus is on life and not necessarily business. But in this week’s post, there is a direct business lesson to be gained that is completely consistent with Business is ART – the purpose of the strategic plan is to close the gap between vision and reality.

Read more at the #Significance blog site and see how my Army officer son has employed this theory while he and his team focused on the success of others.

So, You’re Starting a Business. Where Do You Begin?

November 18th, 2015 Posted by Business Plan, Goal, Inspiration, Leadership, Objective, Strategic Planning 0 thoughts on “So, You’re Starting a Business. Where Do You Begin?”

Starting your own business can be a scary endeavor. Even if you have a great product or service that is ready to hit the market, there is still a large amount of uncertainty that lies ahead.

Between statistics that show 50 percent of businesses fail in the first five years to people asking for your elevator pitch and more, a seemingly large amount of pressure can be placed on your shoulders.

This is especially true if you don’t even know where to begin.

That’s why formulating a solid business plan is one of the most important things you, a budding business owner, can do before pressing forward into your particular industry. There’s just one secret that a lot of people don’t know:

It’s not really that hard.

business planIt just requires a bit of careful planning, a decent amount of hard work and a whole lot of determination.

The Starting Line

A lot of what goes into starting a business relies upon your vision, your definition of success and the specific actions that you know you have to take to make your vision a reality.

In the Business is ART book, a 12-step process is laid out that covers the creation and implementation of your business vision. These steps enable you to make a self-assessment of your business and your goals.

Let’s say you’ve got an idea for a product to sell or service to provide, which is fantastic, but how do you separate yourself from every other business within the same industry? What makes your business different from the competition? This is a vital step to take before you begin establishing your business plan.

You also have to take into account what your business goals are. Yes, you want to make money and grow your business, but that is too broad of a definition of success. Your vision entails the specific goals that you have laid out for yourself and how you will achieve them.

The Beginning Steps

Now it’s time to get to the specifics. The acronym ART stands for:

  • Articulate
  • Refine
  • Track

Since you have already looked deep within yourself and articulated a vision, it’s time to lay out the steps that you will take to get there. Remember, you need to be as specific as possible when creating a plan.

Try to organize your business into sections such as production, employment, service, marketing, and evaluation. This will be particularly helpful if you are looking for lenders or investors, as they will want to see this plan laid out before they put money into your company.

Finally, remember that it is important to evolve as you go. This is where refinement and tracking come into the picture. As a business owner, you have to be able to track your successes and failures. That way you can understand what is working for you and refine what is not.

Learn as Much as You Can

The longer you run a business, the more lessons you will learn. Many of these lessons can be found in Business is ART. The book contains everything you need to know about getting your business off the ground and keeping it successful in the years to come. A Business Plan template is includes as a free download on our “Freebies” page.

Downtime

November 16th, 2015 Posted by Business is ART, Delegate, Employment, Engagement, Inspiration, Leadership, Relationships 0 thoughts on “Downtime”
Photo courtesy gratisography.com

Photo courtesy gratisography.com

A few days ago I had a long awaited hip replacement surgery. During this coming week, I have some unavoidable work and will take care of it accordingly. Otherwise, to recuperate, I am taking some time off and taking advantage of the downtime.

That doesn’t mean pop as many pain pills as I can or binge watch several shows on Netflix. In fact, I’ve watched very little TV so far and as of Saturday I went cold turkey off of the prescription pain meds because I didn’t like how they made me feel. I’d rather have pain and keep my mental capacity than be comfortable but paranoid, itchy and talking gibberish.

But, I’m not judging at all. To each his own, and I mean that sincerely. It doesn’t matter how you define downtime or how you spend it. All that matters is that you define it and utilize it, whatever it means to you.

For me, it means finishing the script to a musical that I started writing several months ago – something I like to do as a creative hobby. I’ve had the music maybe 80% composed and the script drafted in my head for a long time. I just haven’t created the time to sit down and complete it all. When I commit myself to something like this, it’s an all-in moment and I become very immersed in it.

Some may see it as a lot of work, or a huge commitment of time. But for me, it is a necessary thing. That creative time is something I need. I crave it. Once I have come through it, I feel energized for a long time to follow.

My definition of downtime isn’t limited to creative writing. Sometimes, downtime is floating on a boat. Sometimes it’s sitting in the backyard with a cold drink. Sometimes it’s snuggling on the couch with my wife, Carol.

I have multiple definitions of downtime and utilize them accordingly. Some of them are productive in the sense that I am producing a tangible item, but all of them are productive in the sense that I am providing or giving something that I or someone else needs.

Downtime is the theme of the November 16 edition of The Weekly See 7 available now at the SeaSeven website. How do you spend your downtime?

Kill the Monster

November 14th, 2015 Posted by Significance 0 thoughts on “Kill the Monster”
Karen Kelly Brown

Karen Kelly Brown

Karen Kelly Brown is the guest blogger at my personal blog site, ‪#‎significance‬, this week. Karen and her husband were featured in last week’s post and she was kind enough to follow up as a guest this week.

One of the things the Browns are doing is launching a Facebook campaign they hope goes viral, bringing attention to and eliminating the stigma of heroin addiction. Troy Community Radio currently has a FB post that shows you exactly what this challenge is. Go there to check it out, read Karen’s post at #significance, then take the PIE Challenge to do your part to help ‪#‎killthemonster‬.

Thank you, Karen!

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The Best Methods for Attracting and Retaining Customers

November 11th, 2015 Posted by Engagement, Relationships, Strategy 0 thoughts on “The Best Methods for Attracting and Retaining Customers”

Out of all the business tools in an entrepreneur’s arsenal, the ability to attract and retain customers is arguably the most important. After all, without customers, your business is nothing more than an empty void. You can stand inside of it and scream at the top of your lungs, but no one is going to hear you, let alone care what you have to say.

How to Attract Customers

Just like running a business, attracting customers can be considered an art, and just like most art forms, it must be handled with tact. If you are too timid, your message won’t reach any potential customers. If you are too heavy handed, you will frighten people away in an instant. So what can be done to reel them in?

Don’t Try to Trick Them

Modern consumers are far more informed than ever. If you think that engaging in chicanery is a great way to bring in the numbers, you will soon find out what it’s like incur the wrath of the consumer.

dog and treatNo one wants to have their time wasted with false promises. If you waste their time, they will only assume that spending money on your product or service will be a waste as well. With so many options on the market, customers have more choices that ever. Remember, they are looking for a reason not to give you their business.

Engage With Them

Potential customers are out there. You just have to bring your message to them, find ways to engage with them, then let them come back to you. This is the essence of inbound marketing.

Your customers have particular interests that align with your values, and they are constantly reading material related to your industry. It is up to you and your marketing team to create content that will grab their attention.

How to Retain Customers

It’s never enough to consistently attract new customers to your business, the real money comes from retaining your client base and having customers return to you of their own volition.

Why is this?

Because retention is usually cheaper than attraction. The money that you put into attracting new customers with ad campaigns and other forms of marketing is significantly more than the cost of good customer service.

Sometimes it can even cost up to six to seven times more to attract new customers.

Plus, returning customers spend more, a lot more. Returning customers are known to spend up to 67 percent more on transactions. Simply put, new customers are always wary of companies that they don’t trust. Once you earn their trust, you are far more likely to earn their business again and again.

So how do you retain customers?

Attract the Right Ones

If you are in the hardware business, is it more worth it to attract a college student who needs a screwdriver to hang a picture on his or her dorm room wall, or a contractor who needs a constant supply of tools and materials?

When engaging with your customers, it is important to identify niches in the market where repeat customers reside, then engage with them. Don’t treat your marketing like a shotgun blast that is meant to reach as many people as possible. Instead, treat it as a precise targeting system that locks onto high value potential customers.

Listen to Them

The best way to retain customer loyalty is to listen to what your customers have to say. Don’t dictate to them what they want. They will tell you, directly or indirectly, what they expect from your company as well as your product or service.

If you keep them happy, they will always return.

How You Can Learn More

Customer loyalty is important, but it is not the only facet of running a successful business. With the Business is ART book, you can learn all the tools you need to succeed in your industry. Better yet, you can also download the BIA software to keep your business on the path of success.

The Family Business

November 9th, 2015 Posted by Business is ART, Delegate, Employment, Inspiration, Relationships 0 thoughts on “The Family Business”

For those of us that are fans of mafia movies and The Sopranos, when we hear the term “Family Business” we think of a powerful Don in a nice suit, smoking a nice cigar, sitting behind a nice desk, listening to people who need a favor (or are seeking mercy). It usually doesn’t end well for those people.

Mugshot of Charles "Lucky" Luciano

Mugshot of Charles “Lucky” Luciano

In The Godfather, Michael Corleone tells his brother Fredo, “Never take sides against the family.”

In The Godfather II, Michael has Fredo executed for doing exactly that. At least he had the good taste to wait until after their mother passed away.

In most cases, the ‘family business” doesn’t include such dire consequences, but can be both a blessing and a curse. Many of us dream of creating something our kids can take over one day, but the day-to-day reality can make the dream seem like a nightmare.

In the November 9, 2015 edition of The Weekly See 7, we stray a bit from the usual format. Instead of running with the standard categories and links to articles and videos from multiple sources, we simply provide you with links to articles and videos from various postings at Inc. online covering a variety of areas with respect to this week’s theme – “family business.”

Take a look and share with us some of the things you do to ensure the family business doesn’t kill the family, succession planning, or anything else as it relates.

Finding What Makes Your Business Different From the Competition

November 4th, 2015 Posted by Inspiration, Significance 0 thoughts on “Finding What Makes Your Business Different From the Competition”

One of the keys to business success is differentiating your business from every other entity in your industry. It’s not an easy task, and it takes a bit of an existential inward journeying, but doing so will put you on the path to elevating your business above the competition.

Nowadays, consumers are inundated with near unlimited choices when it comes to products and services, so much so that decision fatigue and decidophobia have been recognized as real conditions by psychologists.

In other words, people have become tired of the same companies delivering them the same promises day after day. It’s a jaded culture that only reacts when a company so substantial rocks the marketplace.

Follow the Leaders

Years ago, MySpace ruled the social media realm, then Facebook came along and set itself apart with its simpler interface, more social interaction, and of course its initial exclusivity to college campuses.

Next came Twitter with its 140 character limit, which forced users to become wittier versions of themselves, LinkedIn with its focus on professional interaction, and Instagram with its image heavy interface.

Each of these companies has set themselves apart from one another, yet in the end they really all provide the same service to the consumer: social interaction.

Photo courtesy of gratisography.com

Photo courtesy of gratisography.com

So What Makes You Different?

Not even Business is ART can answer this question for you. What the book can do is get you used to being in the same mindset that the founders of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn were all in when they set themselves apart from the those already in their industry by encouraging you to create the Painted Picture, which is a detailed description of your Vision.

This exercise will help you prepare to really say what sets your company apart from the rest.

A Few Things to Avoid

Don’t go grasping at straws to set yourself apart. There are a few things that may end up hurting you in the process.

  • Being the cheapest: While having low prices is great, people often associate price with quality. Despite higher prices, people still buy expensive coffee, stay in fancy hotels, and buy luxury cars. Low prices are great, but don’t make it the ultimate way to describe your company.
  • Don’t make promises you can’t keep: Make sure you can back up what you say. Consumers will always punish those who try to deceive them.

A Few Things to Consider

  • Holes in the industry: What can you do better than anyone else in your industry?
  • Solving problems: How can you can solve the particular problems that your potential customers have?
  • Your guarantee: Whether it is superior customer service, quality products, or anything else, ask yourself what you want your customers to know about your company before they consider your product or service.

Find Your Own Answer

Remember, your company is unlike any other. These are just a few thoughts to get you going, yet none of them may accurately describe your company. It is up to you to sit down and take a deep look inside of yourself to find out what it is you want to achieve and why.

For more resources and business tools, sign up for the Business is ART newsletter. It can help to put on the path to business success.

Work-Life Balance : Myth or Real?

November 2nd, 2015 Posted by Delegate, Engagement, Inspiration, Leadership, Relationships 0 thoughts on “Work-Life Balance : Myth or Real?”

Some say there is no such thing as work-life balance – that it is only a myth because today’s demands are just too great. Others say it is achievable if you know and adhere to a few secrets to it. Still others say it is a moot point because it is all living. There really is no separation between work, play and life.

Photo courtesy gratisography.com

Photo courtesy gratisography.com

I agree with all three. Sometimes, people find themselves in situations in which life outside of work is virtually non-existent and it doesn’t matter how much he or she wants it to change.

But I also don’t believe that means giving up and just accepting a bad situation for just that. With a litte focus and effort, we can often find ways to make the best of bad situations. But it has to be deliberate. See my free ebook entitled “6 Steps to Evolving with Intent” for an approach that may help you find balance.

Meanwhile, work-life balance is the theme in the November 2 edition of my weekly newsletter – The Weekly See 7 – now available at the SeaSevenInc.com website.

What do you think? Myth or reality?

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