Category Archives: Business Tips

Business Tips. Improve your business by using these simple business tips.

Business Tip #3: Embracing Technology.

If you haven’t already, it’s time to embrace technology.

Like it or not, it is not going away.  If you own a business, you NEED to have a website, and an email address, (and probably a Facebook page, but more on that in a later post).  If you don’t, you are leaving customers on the table for your competition.

There are several local businesses that have been in business for years, some for generations.  They do a great job, and people trust them, and they don’t have a website, or even an email address.  They do fine, and phooey with this new-fangled internet.

First off, let me say that providing superb service/products is extremely more important than having a web presence.  After all, you can have an amazing website, but if what you provide is terrible, you won’t stay in business long.  I’ll say it a different way: a website is not a replacement for the hard work and dedication that goes into caring for your customers.  BUT, if you do have a business that provides good service and/or products, embracing technology will supplement your sales, possibly exponentially.

By now, you probably know AT LEAST one person who uses the internet to research a service business or product before buying.  Probably way more than that.  You are on the internet now reading business tips, so you yourself have probably used the internet to research services or products.   So what about the business that don’t have websites?

There are two ways that I can think of that these are researched.  The first is that they aren’t.  You do a search.  Those with websites come up in a search, those without, do not.  The second is on a list with other like-businesses (if you do a Yellowpages search).  Basically it will list all the (we’ll use plumbers as an example) plumbers in the area.  Some will just have a phone number or address, and some will have a website as well.  Chances are, you are going to skip the non-websited results, and at least explore the websited businesses.  If the best plumber does not have a website, but the fourth best does, chances are the 4th best is getting the sales.

In both these examples, potentially great businesses are losing sales to the competition, solely because they don’t have a web-presence.  Email, is another example.   If your business does not have an email address, you may lose a customer.  Many people do not like calling a phone number for whatever reason.  (no time to talk, anxiety speaking on the phone, etc)  But if they can write an email and send it off, it is convenient for that customer.  With the younger generations growing up and wielding buying power, you cannot afford to utilize this medium.

“But, Jason,” you say, “what about the time and money it costs to create and maintain all of this?”  That is entirely up to you.  It can take minimal time once and no money at all.  Or you could sink many hours and many dollars into this.  It is really your choice.  As always, research things before investing in them.  But, for sake of argument, I will share with you the quick and easy (and free) way of getting email and a website set up.

The quick and easy (and free) way.  Before I started Green Owl Enterprises and all the sub-businesses within it, I caned chairs.  It was just a little operation out of my garage.  The work was not at all steady, but it did provide a little income now and then.  There were a few other caners in my area, but people only knew about them from word of mouth.  (I’m certainly not knocking word of mouth, it is extremely important)  I decided I needed to set myself apart, to give myself that edge, an advantage.  I also had very little extra money to spare.  So I set up a free website.  You can see it at https://greenowlcaning.wordpress.com/ if you want.

I happened to use WordPress, but there are several web hosts that provide the free option.  The trade off?  Your site is not white-label; meaning you have to put up with branding (or sometimes advertisements) that are not your own.  You’ll notice pretty quickly that wordpress is smack in the middle of the URL.  Anyone visiting my website knows who is hosting it.  If they want their own website, they know to head over to wordpress (that is actually how I learned of it myself).

If you want a white-label website (like greenowlenterprises.com), you have to pay for it.  The website you are currently on is also a wordpress site, but you wouldn’t necessarily know that.  The “proudly powered by WordPress” at the bottom of this page is removable if I so desired.

There are several pages on my caning website, but you really only need one.  The information that should appear at minimum on your site is the business name, address, phone number, and your email address.  And if you own a restaurant, your menu.  Certainly you will do better with a more refined website.  But if you are a technology hold out, please, please do at least this.

A quick word about email:  it too, can be free.  Using my caning business again as an example, the email address is GreenOwlCaning @gmail.com.  Good old Gmail.  Or Lycos, or Yahoo, or Hotmail, or any other of the many free email providers.  Does a white-label email address look better?  Sure.  But if you need a quick easy email: YourBusinessName@FreeEmailProvider.com works just fine.

So in closing, I implore you to set up a webpage with at least the bare minimums.  Pay your 14 year old nephew $20 to do it, if need be.  But just do it.

I’ll cover more on embracing technology in a later post, where we will look at the social media side of things.

Jason

Business Tip #2: Customer Service needs to be your business’s top priority.

It seems like a simple enough concept, but many businesses fail to keep this as their first priority.  If you always, always, ALWAYS put customer service first, you will have a significant advantage over your competitors that don’t.  (Even if their prices are cheaper!)

Often times, small businesses are AMAZING at customer service.  They are brand new in town and need to make that good first impression.  However, over time, as a business settles in and develops a pretty solid customer base, this priority starts to slip.  Not a lot at first, just a little.  But when side projects, or the new building expansion, or even the bottom line become more important, you run the risk of losing customers.

Let me share with you a story from yesteryear.   Back in the day, I worked as a stock clerk at Cuba’s Giant Food Mart.  One of the first lessons I learned during training was about customer service.  If I was stocking shelves and a customer approached me and asked where the peanut butter was, there was a right answer and a wrong answer.  “Aisle 8,” was the wrong answer.  Not because that was the wrong aisle, but because I did not go above and beyond for the customer.  The right answer was, “Aisle 8, let me show you,” and then escorting the customer to the peanut butter section of aisle 8.

Another example was bagging groceries.  Most of the time the cashiers could bag the small orders for the customer after ringing up their groceries.  But when it got swamped or even if there was just a big order, a stock clerk was called up to assist.  The protocol was, that when called to the front, you dropped what you were doing and bag the customer’s groceries.  It didn’t matter what you were doing; stocking shelves, gathering carts, or even on a (non-lunch) on-the-clock break.  The only exception was if we were directly helping a customer already (like taking them to the peanut butter in aisle 8).

Once the bags were packed and the cart loaded, we were to take the cart to their car and help them load it (unless they declined the help).  We were not to take tips, and explain that we were just happy to help.  If they insisted, we just took the tip to the head cashier and explained.  We did not want to offend a customer who wanted to be generous.  Remember, making them happy with their experience with the company is top priority.  And certainly, however we were helping a customer, it was with a smile.

As I moved up the ranks at Giant, I saw more and more how customer service was emphasized.  If a customer had a dispute, often times we (Giant) would yield to them, even if we were in the right.  Going out of the way for the customer was always driven into our heads as the most important job we had.  We heard it constantly.   After all, without the customer, we didn’t have a job.

The service wasn’t limited to where you worked in the company either.  I started as an entry-level stock clerk and before I left, I was the Grocery Department Manager.  Those positions and everything in between, I can remember rushing up front to help bag groceries or help a customer load their car.  Even the owner of the store could be seen bagging groceries from time to time, or helping a customer with their order.  (This same owner got in the trenches with us during crunch times, and did the same low-man-on-the-totem-pole work you might not expect from the top guy at the company.  More on this in a future Business Tips post about being there for your staff).

Now, to work my way around to the point of this article.  Giant’s prices are not the lowest in the land.  They have decent sales, but if you are looking at the retail prices, Aldi or Walmart will beat them every time.  But Giant is always busy and has very loyal customers.  Is it because it is easier to stay in small town Cuba than drive into Olean or Wellsville?  For some, certainly.  But mostly it is because of their exceptional service.  They make it easy to shop there, and you can’t get out of the place without being greeted by at least 3 or 4 staff members.

Let’s step away from my days working at a grocery store now.  Present day, even with all the different ways a company can market and advertise to its customers and potential customers, word of mouth is still the most reliable and effective advertising tool.

If someone has a good experience with a company, they will tell an average of 4 or 5 people.  Maybe more if the service was absolutely exceptional.  But if someone has a bad experience with a company, they tell an average of 12 or more people.  This assumes they don’t post their experience on Social Media for the whole world to see, which more do these days.  This makes it even more important for you to offer exceptional service to your customers all the time.  It needs to be your top priority.

I, like most customers, will give repeat business to companies that I feel are willing to take care of my needs, and even go out of their way to do so.  Likewise, I will “punish” those that clearly could care less about me by not shopping with them again.

How do you shop?  Answer that and you will have pretty good insight into how your customers shop, too.

I’m not sure if my old boss Chris will ever read this.  But I certainly owe him a debt of gratitude.  He helped to shape my understanding of the importance of taking care of the people who make the business itself possible.

So remember, keep customer service as your very top priority, and you should be successful.  If you need to tweak your business model after reading this, do it today.  Your customers are the people keeping you in business.  Thank them by giving them the very best service you can.

Peace, out.

Jason

Stay tuned for more Business Tips with Green Owl Enterprises.

Business Tip #1: Have a plan for the year.

It is important to have annual goals for your business. Most business owners are not content “staying where they are” as far as the business is concerned. Most either want to grow the business, or at least make it more efficient and profitable. A great way to track your progress is to have a plan. What are your goals for the business this year?

Don’t just write down a few things and say, “yep, let’s do this in 2016” (or whatever year you are reading this) and call it good. But make it detailed, and make quarterly goals.

Here is what I have done for Green Owl’s goals for 2016. I started with a list of all things I wanted to achieve for this year, in no particular order. Once I had them all down I went through each one and decided which quarter I wanted to achieve each item. My Q1 is rather ambitious, and the other three quarters have modest goals. There is a reason for this, and I’ll explain in a minute.

Once all the goals I want to achieve have been mapped out by quarter, I took an additional step that I recommend you do too. There are 13 weeks in a quarter, and so I made a numbered list 1-13. I looked at the goals I wanted to achieve in Q1 and further sorted them by which week I want to achieve each. If a particular goal could not be achieved within the week, I would put “work on Task 1.” I might have this goal on a couple other weeks with the last one being, “Complete Task 1.” In this way, I can see that I progressed with Task 1 until its completion.

The more specific you are in what you want to achieve each week, the better. I probably could have been more specific than “work on Task 1,” for what does ‘work on’ really mean? Is it so much time on the task? Certain objectives met? Opening a Word file and writing “Task 1” on the top, and calling it good? Spelling out exactly what is to be accomplished makes it much more likely that you will get it done.

A bad example is: do some networking this week.
A good example is: Make 5 networking connections.

See the difference? The good example is measurable. At the end of the week it is clear whether or not you met the goal. Did you network with 5 people? Yes I did, or no I didn’t. If you did 5 (or more), you were successful with your goal.

On the other hand if you ask yourself at the end of the week, “did I do some networking?” Your answer may be yes, but how successful were you? 1 person? 5 people? 100? If you look at this goal a year from now, you will not know how many people you networked with, only that you did some networking.
As I said, the more specific your goals, the more likely you will follow through with them. If you look at your weekly goal every week, it stares you in the face and encourages you to get it done, or risk leaving it unchecked. I don’t know about you, but that drives me crazy, and I need to feel that sense of completion.

Now, realistically, you will not accomplish all your weekly goals in the week you said you will. Certainly try your best, but don’t beat yourself up if it’s too much. Remember how I told you I front load the first quarter of the year, and make the other three a bit lighter? This is in case I need to shift some tasks a little further down the schedule.

Do your absolute best to meet your first 13 weekly goals. At the end of each quarter, reassess anything that needs reassessing, and plan out your Q2 weekly goals. If you didn’t complete all the Q1 goals, move those ones in to Q2. I’m not saying to just keep kicking the can down the road and procrastinating all your tasks until the end of time. I’m saying tweak and adjust as you go in order to make you as successful as possible.

You will find that using this technique will help keep you on task throughout the year, and help you to accomplish most (if not all) of your annual goals.
Good luck!

Jason

Stay tuned for more Business Tips with Green Owl Enterprises.

Example of Annual and Quarterly Goals for 2016.

Q1 January 3 – April 2, 2016. (13 weeks)
1. Task 1
2. Task 2
3. Task 3
4. Task 4
5. Task 5
6. Task 6
7. Task 7
8. Task 8

Q2 April 3 – July 2, 2016 (13 weeks)
1. Task 7
2. Task 8
3. Task 9
4. Task 10

Q3 July 3 – October 1, 2016 (13 weeks)
1. Task 11
2. Task 12
3. Task 13

Q4 October 2 – December 31, 2016 (13 weeks)
1. Task 14
2. Task 15

2017: Tasks I want to complete, but may not be feasible this year.

Q1 Goals by Week:
1. Work on Task 1
2. Work on Task 2
3. Complete Task 1
4. Task 2
5. Task 3 / Task 4
6. Work on Task 5
7. Work on Task 5
8. Complete Task 5
9. Work on Task 6
10. Complete on Task 6
11. Work on Task 7
12. Complete Task 7
13. Task 8 / Write Q2 Goals by Week.
All weeks: An ongoing task I want to stay on top of every week.