Archive

Archive for the ‘Business Strategy’ Category

Lessons in Branding from Lady Gaga

March 8, 2017 4 comments

LadyGagaWas it just me, or were the Super Bowl commercials as a whole this year disappointing? Now let’s not mistake my personal point of view (POV); I’m a Super Bowl viewer for the football and the food. That being said, I’m always interested in watching the commercials because this is where the best of the best marketing campaigns are supposed to be launched, right? Apple, Doritos, Budweiser, e*Trade and others have made splashes with their highly expensive time slots on national television. My response to this year’s crop was a resounding….”meh.”

The vast majority of the commercials focused on something other than their brand. In some cases, you were left to wonder what the product or service was. Marketing execs seemed to go out of their way to make social statements rather than stating their own POV to their target audience.

If I were selling beer, I’d focus the viewers attention on people drinking beer and having fun. If I were selling cars, perhaps a wise strategy is focusing on creating a desire for said make and model of transportation. Bottom line, politics impacted thinking around branding this year. The problem is people watch the Super Bowl to be entertained both by the game and the commercials.

Alternatively, Lady Gaga left no doubt about her brand. Her performance for the halftime show was brilliant because it showed off her main talents – singing and entertaining. There were no overt statements made; the focus was on her music and style. She sang her most popular songs to expand the net of those who only occasionally here her music. I admit I don’t know all her work, however what she sang at halftime, I did.

She added surprise to her routine by starting the show on the roof and then repelled down to the stage. She concluded by jumping off the stage while catching a ball and disappearing to raucous applause. No one watching was left uncertain of her POV or brand.

So what’s this mean for you as a business owner?

It’s very easy to become confusing to your target market, if you’re not careful. If a beer manufacturer can lose it’s POV of what it does with a scattered marketing message, then the same can happen to you. Your marketing focus should be more Lady Gaga than Budweiser. Here’s how…

Be clear about your market. Ideally, who will purchase your products or services?  Are you B2B or B2C? This is important because B2Bs write a company check based on a budget; B2Cs must be influenced to part with a portion of their paycheck. You’ve got to start with this because your marketing will be focused on this buyer.

Be clear about your image. Lady Gaga’s wardrobe and stage was consistent with her brand. What’s your image say about you? Image is portrayed in style (old school vs. contemporary); language (bold vs. tempered); platform marketing (Social media vs. word of mouth); or any number of other characteristics based on your industry. The key question is – are you consistent?

Create curiosity and engagement. There was a lot of pre-halftime buzz about what Lady Gaga would do based on her penchant for being unpredictable (which is in itself consistent).  No matter what you’re marketing, there has to be some allure, some area of curiosity, and some engagement where your customer interacts with you. She had a live audience; what do you have?

Be you. Don’t try to copy others; be yourself. Be clear about your value and how you’re the company (or individual) best suited to improve the condition of your ideal customer.

Be bold. If Lady Gaga is one thing, she’s bold and a risk-taker. However, she has a plan. It’s all done for the benefit of her customer, the audience (whether in person or watching on TV).  If your marketing message is boring or white noise, it gets tossed in the virtual trash can, never to be retrieved. You might think you are bold, but how do you know your target customer thinks so? What kind of analytics do you run? What type of metrics do you use? Have you ever even asked?

Leave them wanting more. Lady Gaga left the stage with pizzazz and her followers can’t wait for the next performance. Does your marketing strategy motivate people to contact you or do they even care? You must be innovative around the idea of getting people to take action. That action is engaging in some way with you.

And she told two friends. And so on, and so on…. If you’re my age, you remember that shampoo commercial exhorting the power of name brand and referrals. The Lady Gaga brand is best spread through social media. Not only did she “trend” on social media platforms for days afterwards, it actually converted into big revenue. According to USA Today, her sales spiked by 1,000%!

Nielsen Music reports she sold 125,000 song downloads. That’s up roughly 960% compared to the day before the game. She sold over 23,000 albums on Sunday, representing a 2,000% increase.

Wouldn’t you take those kinds of returns? Bottom line is this – if you want to avoid having a Bad Romance with your business, increase your revenue, be wildly successful, and have more fun doing it, be more like Lady Gaga. Be clear on your value and messaging, and then pack the house!

Dan Weedin is a strategist, speaker, author and executive coach. He helps small business and middle market business leaders and entrepreneurs to grow more profitably and create a better life.  He was inducted into the Million Dollar Consultant™ Hall of Fame in 2012. You can reach Dan at 360-697-1058; e-mail at dan@danweedin.com or visit his web site at http://www.DanWeedin.com.

The Power of the “POP’

February 8, 2017 Leave a comment

punch

(My real home gym where the bag lives!)

It’s easy to get bored with a workout routine if you don’t change things up. I found myself in that predicament a few months ago. I started taking a class that included punching a heavy bag as one of the circuits. It scratched three itches – it was different, it was great exercise, and I got to hit something really hard without the peril of being hit back or sued! I became so enthralled with it that I asked for – and received – my own heavy and speed bag combo unit for my birthday.

When hitting a golf ball or baseball squarely, you hear this sound of perfection – POP. It’s the sound of the ball being hit perfectly off the club or bat. Likewise, when you hit the heavy bag squarely with your fist, you both feel it and hear the same POP. It’s an exhilarating feeling of adrenaline and keeps me going back to the golf course and heavy bag for more. I want to keep hearing and feeling that POP.

In this final segment of my 3-part series on profitably growing, developing, and protecting your business and people, we will examine a topic you should be very interested in – Growing the equity value of your business. The result of successfully doing this should give you the same adrenaline rush of squarely landing a punch on the heavy bag…. that POP should equate to the financial reward you’re receiving for the risk you took in starting a business.

I speak regularly at events where business owners are in attendance. I’m no longer surprised that many of them have never heard of EBITDA (if you say it fast three times, it reminds you of Porky Pig signing off!). EBITDA stands for Earnings Before Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization. Your CPA and financial advisors know what EBITDA is and so should you. In essence, it’s your real profit and one of the factors in what you can eventually sell your business for.

This column can’t adequately explain EBITDA, so I encourage you to discuss how yours is derived and what it actually is with your CPA. Here’s what you should know about it for today…

Most business owners will eventually sell their business in order to use the proceeds to fund the lifestyle they desire for their “golden years.” They may sell to children or other relatives; an employee (or a group of them); or to a competitor. Regardless, just like with your house, you want to get full value for your blood, sweat, and tears. You want to maximize the equity.

For every $100,000 of profit increase, your small business (and your wealth) will be more valuable by a range of $300,000 to $500,000 based on valuation multiples of three to five times EBITDA. If you’re a company in excess of $10,000,000 annual revenues, that multiplier is probably closer to five to seven times EBITDA. That’s real money. Do you see now why you as a business owner need to stay apprised of what your EBITDA is?

So why don’t so many business owners pay attention to this, when it’s as important as their 401K and/or stock investments? Because many small and mid-size business owners get caught up in a “success trap.” In other words, they get trapped in your business doing “stuff” that they think they should be doing because it’s their business. While this “stuff” may be important (and at one time you needed to do when they were starting out), much of it can now be delegated by training others or allowing them to do it. Ask yourself this question – Are you optimizing your personal value to the company or are you really an employee with a fancy office?

You can maximize your value by developing leaders and focusing on tasks that improve the value of your company. It’s better both for you and your employees. One of the areas you should focus on is your profitable growth and the valuation of your company because if you wait too long, you may not be happy with the results.

You may be thinking, “I’m not a financial expert.” That’s not a problem. That’s why you build a team of experts – your CPA, wealth advisor, business consultant, insurance broker, attorney, etc. If you invested a couple hours a month to stay current on the equity of your company, you’d be able to strategize how to move forward in regards to growth, scalability, profitability, employees, and clients.

The financial piece of your puzzle is undoubtedly the most complex, and that’s why you must be confident enough in yourself to ask for help from smart people. It’s worth your time and financial investment.

Final thoughts on increasing your business value: While EBITDA is important; it’s only one factor. The topics and concepts we discussed in the past two parts of this series are equally important. The valuation of your company when you’re ready to sell it will be based on three factors:

1.    How attractive you are to an ideal buyer.

2.    How scalable your business model is beyond your existing market.

3.    How many buyers are interested.

If you’re successful in the first two of these, you may not even need the third. Maybe you don’t sell it; maybe you put yourself in a position to sell and keep it or become an acquirer yourself. In the end, you want to create a legacy for your business and build the equity to make decisions on your terms, not someone else’s. And when you do that, you’ll hear the sound of perfection and feel the power of the POP over and over again!
This article appeared in the February edition of the Kitsap Sun/Kitsap Business Journal as part of my regular monthly column.

© 2017 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Protecting Your Profits

January 11, 2017 Leave a comment

20 Under 40 20_3This is my monthly column for the Kitsap Sun / Kitsap Business Journal. It’s Part 2 of a 3-part series but will stand alone in it’s value to you. Enjoy!

Last month’s column unveiled Part 1 of creating a strategic growth plan with eschewing the traditional business plan model and focusing on a strategic marketing plan. This month, we dive into a topic that most business owners and entrepreneurs should care a lot about – profits. A strategic growth plan better include profitable growth or you’re just messing around.

There are three components in my strategic growth plan — marketing, protection and financial. This column will cover protection, with the final one to follow next month.

Let’s face it; talking about growing profits is a sexier topic than protecting them, right? The problem is that there are so many monsters out there ready and willing to devour those profits that you need to build a fence around them.

I hate the phrase “risk management.” To me, it implies that “risk” is a bad thing. Without a healthy dose of risk, there are no rewards. Risk is simply a function of your tolerance for it. As an entrepreneur, you need a lot. That’s why I suggest you need to be resilient. My personal definition of resilience is this – the ability to take a punch; jump back up and throw two more of your own. Heck, as a business owner, this may be a daily discipline!

The “burden of reactive chaos” is a state where you’re constantly putting out the proverbial “fire” at the office. Instead of having a plan of attack to deal proactively with chaos, you’re seen constantly running around stamping out those flames with the same vigor and angst as kids hitting a Whack-a-Mole at a carnival. You are reacting to outside crisis and allowing that effort to exhaust your time, your energy, and your mindset. Left unchecked, you’ll find your profits dwindling because you and your employees are working less effectively, while also leaving gaps for those profit monsters to eat at your bottom line.

In order to avoid the “burden of reactive chaos,” you need to have a strategic resilience plan. Have no fear. I’m about to tell you how to get started with one!

How to Create a strategic resilience plan:

— Commit to investing time and money for the protection of your profits and sanity. This is the same concept as preparing your house for a disaster (which I’m certain you all have done). If you as the boss don’t commit to this investment, then who will? That’s right, nobody. Consider your ROI gobs of discretionary time, dramatically improved performance, and happier employees.

— Identify the monsters. What are the most probable obstacles to being wildly successful? The answers are bunched into four categories: physical (e.g. fire); human resources (e.g. employee issues); liability (e.g. negligence to someone else); and loss of income (e.g. brand/reputation). You can’t plan or prevent without identifying what can hurt you. This is the most important step.

— Assess the threats. Are these “monsters” lying in wait under the bed, or almost non-existent? Based on your industry, geography, and best practices, you can determine the likelihood of the chaos. You can also guess how bad it might be (e.g. lost days versus lost weeks). You can build a plan around certain calamities or create a “plug and play” model.

— Write it up. Once you’ve got a plan, write it down and share it with everyone. Create a committee or task force in charge of implementation. Make sure that everyone knows what to do in case of an emergence, especially how to evacuate. If it’s not written, it won’t be followed and your work will have gone to waste.
Practice. When I coached basketball, we would drill daily on end of game situations so we would be prepared when it happened. You need to do the same thing. Ask yourself how many employees can actually use one of the many fire extinguishers in your building. If there is no confidence in carrying out a plan, then reactive chaos flourishes and eats away at your profits like a hungry dog on a bone.

— Build a team. There are plenty of experts out there that can help you. Insurance brokers, consultants, technology specialists and more should be part of your team. Once a year, bring everyone together and brainstorm. Your resilience program needs to be nimble. Things change all the time, and your plan needs to be ready for that.
Patience. This isn’t the most fun thing you will do in your business, but it may be the most important. The main reason smart people let this slide is because they get impatient and allow it to not be a priority. In this case, patience isn’t only a virtue; it might save your business.

There are three key factors that keep otherwise savvy entrepreneurs from getting out of the “burden of reactive chaos.”  They are apathy, complacency, and arrogance. They think it will never happen to them, they’ve done all they can, or (worst) they will figure it out when it happens. Don’t be that guy or gal. Too many people need you to be profitable and open for business – your employees and their families, your clients and customers, your key vendors and partners, and your community. Invest your time in slaying those profit monsters, escape the burden of reactive chaos, and stay constantly in the pink (or in this case, the black!).

Next month: Strategic Growth Plan #3: Financial Fitness

Dan Weedin is a strategist, speaker, author and executive coach. He helps small business and middle market business leaders and entrepreneurs to grow more profitably and create a better life. He was inducted into the Million Dollar Consultant™ Hall of Fame in 2012. Contact Dan at 360-697-1058, dan@danweedin.com or visit his web site at http://www.DanWeedin.com.

© 2017 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

The Enemy Within Your Walls

December 16, 2016 Leave a comment

He is ready to fight for success

This past week, Wake Forest University had to deal with a very unsettling matter. It was revealed that a former assistant football coach turned team radio analyst for the Demon Deacons football program was found to have passed on game plan information from his team (provided to him as part of his job in preparing for games) to opposing teams prior to games.

Let’s make it clear. This guy (for ease of the example) was an assistant coach for the Wake Forest football team. When a coaching change was made, he was not retained as the new head coach brought his own team of assistants with him. This guy was a Wake Forest supporter through and through, seemingly accepted his fate, and then immediately was brought on to the team as the color commentator for the games. Unbeknownst to many, this is akin to be a member of the team. He has access to practices, gets private information on game plans, and is trusted with this material.

After a game against Louisville, it was discovered that game plans had been distributed to Louisville prior to the game. Further investigation found it wasn’t an isolated incident. Long story, short, This guy was implicated and fired. We still don’t know the reasons for this betrayal, but let’s just guess.

Here’s This guy that was terminated. He was allowed to stay in the program because he was deemed “loyal.” Turns out he harbors a grudge and gets on the inside to sell team secrets to opponents. Who knows how long this would have continued if This guy hadn’t been caught.

I know this isn’t national security stuff, but let’s not minimize that these are organizations that employ people. These people keep their positions based on wins and losses. Families are impacted; students are impacted; and the university is impacted. I’ve worked with many small and mid-size businesses that have had similar issues. In fact one small painting business – about 15 employees – had their bookkeeper (acting with CFO functions) steal $25,000 over a 3 year period and used that money to fund her wedding! My client said, “I would have never imagined she would do this.” No kidding! If he had, she wouldn’t have been working there. Problem was, she had done this to a previous employer and my client had not checked references prior. (Yes. She listed the company she stole from. You can’t make this up.)

My question to you is this – could this happen to you?!

The answer is YES. It can and may be to some of you reading this now. While you can’t prevent this in totality, you can greatly minimize the risk to it. Here are three things to consider:

  1. If you terminate someone – or they leave on their own accord, like retirement – the escort them out the door nicely. Do not let them leave with anything that is yours. Cancel their log-in information.
  2. Take care of your client list and proprietary information. That means check their phones for addresses and other important information. If you don’t know how this works, call me and we can discuss.
  3. Be aware of anything that can harm you, including social media.

Bottom line – terminated and disgruntled employees can cause great harm to your company. It happens all the time, yet we rarely hear of it when it happens to small businesses. Protect yourself with a resilience plan that includes this very important issue.

You just may then be able to assure that your “game plan” is safe and secure from This Guy in your own house.

© 2016 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Podcast Interview on Business Growth

November 2, 2016 Leave a comment

podcast-page-option-3-1I was thrilled to be recently interviewed by Shawn Casemore for his “The Growth Inspired” podcast.

LINK to listen

Our topic was how to build a strong team that supports growth and create a strategy around resilience management.

What you’ll hear in this episode:

  • Learn more about Dan, his background and his work
  • Dan’s ‘secret sauce’ to business growth – there are 3 areas
  • Why is resiliency so important to a business?
  • Why you need to grow profitably
  • Dan’s tips you should look into to grow your business

Enjoy and be unleashed!

© 2016 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

 

Why You Hate Your Boss

September 8, 2016 Leave a comment

20 Under 40 20_3This is the second of a three-part series for my Kitsap Sun business column…

This is the second of a three-part series on running a family business profitably and equitably. Over the past 27 years, I’ve worked with hundreds of family businesses. Even though the industries differ, the challenges surrounding them are very common. In the next two columns, I will draw attention to the three most critical topics that all family businesses need to address for both profitability and family bliss.

So you work for “the man,” do you? Or maybe, “the woman?”

So much of our popular culture revolves around the conceptualization of the persecuted and overburdened employee who works for a horrible boss and uncaring business. A modern day Willy Loman character that is doomed to a dreadful employment while the boss lives a carefree existence carousing on their yacht and mansion.

When it comes to small family businesses, the true picture is often very different.

I find that a very high number of business owners fled one horrible boss for an even worse boss…themselves! So many of you — yes, you — have started or inherited family businesses and find yourselves being treated more contemptibly than you’d accept from any other employer.

Let’s do a quick check:

Do you start work at 6 a.m. and then stop at about 8 p.m. (or later)?

Do you take fewer vacation days than your employees?

Do you accept and return work calls and email until you go to bed?

Do you go to work sick, even when you’d not allow employees to do the same?

Do you fear leaving your business unattended by you for more than a week? So much so that you constantly are checking in when you’re away?

Do you hate your boss?

Let’s be clear. I’ve seen all of these iterations in small family-run businesses over the past 27 years. I’ve heard all the usual excuses:

“I have to make sure the work is done to the company standard…”

“No, I really thrive when working in chaos for 12 hours a day…”

“I have to set a good example of work ethic or else nobody would work hard…”

“I’m not a micro-manager; it’s just that I need to know everything that goes on in my business…”

“My employees feel empowered when I’m always around. They hate it when I’m gone…”

“Oh, I’m only being controlling until (fill in the blank)…”

I could go on for the entire column. In fact, you may have others to share, especially if you are employed at a family business!

Here’s the stark reality of the situation — if you own and operate a small family business and can’t walk away for two months without touching it, then you don’t have a business, you have a job! In my experience, entrepreneurs start their businesses not to have a job, but to create jobs; create value; do what they love; and eventually sell that business to fund the rest of their lives. If you work yourself to the bone and create a condition where you’re always stressed out, burned out, and dreading your work, you may not have a much of a life left to enjoy.

The answer is to stop hating your boss. Here’s my five-step process to doing that quickly:

1. Empower your employees: That means train and then trust them. They want autonomy and the permission to fail and learn. That means delegate things that you shouldn’t be doing anymore. It means that you must create a culture and operation where you’re working yourself out of a “job!”

2. Take time off: Force yourself to take vacation time. You can still make yourself accessible in the event of an emergency, but in most cases it won’t happen. Your life balance requires relaxation and recharge. Take it.

3. Give yourself a break: Too many CEOs by their own actions seem to require perfection in themselves. If you do that, stop. You don’t require perfection from employees (and if you do, stop that, too). Allow yourself to be human, to make mistakes, and to be resilient. By doing this, you’ll alleviate stress and anxiety in yourself and your employees.

4. Ferociously guard your time: I cover this in my book, Unleashed Leadership. Learn how to prioritize by triaging what is urgent, important, and normal. The bulk of the time will actually be spent on the last one. Your time is extremely valuable. Save it for what only you can do and what you want to do.

5. Commit to having fun: That’s right. You can have fun. What does this look like? For the savvy CEO of a small family business it looks like actually enjoying what you do and manifesting it through your self-talk, your behavior, and your leadership. You must have a passion for your product or service; must enjoy people; must be a lifelong learner; must be a risk-taker; and must be an encourager. You must be able to reward and forgive yourself; seek out new challenges; create and innovate; and be a positive influence in your company.

People don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses. You’re stuck with yourself. You’d better come to a lifelong “employment agreement” where you wouldn’t even dream of working for anyone else.

Next month, Part 3: Dysfunction junction — What’s your function?

© 2016 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

What’s My Lie?

August 18, 2016 Leave a comment

Dan Weedin Unleashed-40It looks like the story of the four U.S. swimmers being robbed is a fabrication. If that is clarified, it takes on the impact on the grand scale of former NBC news anchor Brian Williams and his expansion of the truth dealing with his involvement with enemy fire in the Middle East. Believe me, the new “enemy fire” will be aimed right at these four swimmers and will haunt them for years, if not their entire lives.

This morning’s NY Times story – read here – is shedding light on what really happened a few nights ago in Río de Janiero.Ryan Lochte is the most well known of the quartet of athletes and he served as the poster boy for the media. His tale is all about having a gun pointed to their heads and fearing that they wouldn’t make it out alive. Well, he made it back to the United States before his buddies, who were unceremoniously dragged off the plan by Brazilian authorities for more questioning.

You can read the entire story for yourself. Suffice it to say, there appears to be some monkey business going on. This “tall tale” looks like it’s been invented to cover up for some misdeeds committed after the swimming competition was over, and the Americans shone as one of the brightest stars.

How does this affect you?

As a business leader (owner, manager, executive), you deal with people all the time that have reason to be untruthful. Your biggest concern should be with your employees. While I believe you should begin any relationship like this as trusting, you need to be vigilant on what the truth is becasue it affects your company. While you may never get into fabrications as large as this one, small white lies can cost you money. They can range from untrue resumes, explaining why someone is consistently late to work, to thievery (I have one client that had $25,000 stolen over time from their bookkeeper).

You also have an obligation not to be untruthful with employees. There’s ample opportunity to withhold information or stretch the truth for your own purposes.

Look, the bottom line comes down to trust and transparency. This incident is going to have serious ramifications on the swimming program and the United States. Lying is most often used to cover up something that is awkward, unpleasant, or embarrassing. If we are honest, at some point in our lives we have all been guilty to some extent. However, creating a culture of playing for each other (as outlined in my book Unleashed Leadership), will prevent the really embarrassing and potentially damaging consequences for you and your business.

© 2016 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved