August 30, 2011

Another Kind of Challenge

As I step into my 7th year in business, it strikes me that I’m facing a whole new set of challenges this year. That means new experiences and probably some goof-ups to learn from.

For my first few years in business, my focus was on sales and marketing. I should say that it’s where my focus should have been but wasn’t always. I spent a lot of time (and money) to get good people to help me in my efforts – and lots of good people invested their time in me.

Almost two years ago, I changed my whole business model because it became clear that a strategy which depended on cold calling wasn’t going to work for me. Since then my strategies have been networking, referrals, social media and e-marketing – and it’s been working so good that now I have a whole new challenge:

How do I increase my capacity? Now that I have a fully integrated sales and marketing strategy, how do I continue to take on all the work I’m generating?

I’m painfully aware that I’ve reached a very critical point in the future success of my business. If I continue to take on work without considering how I will get it all done, I will surely fail – because my customer service will suffer. I pride myself on my customer service – I have dozens of testimonials to prove it - and I’m not going to let that suffer, or settle for ‘just OK’.

Since my previous career was in operations and logistics, you’d think I’d be really good at facing this challenge. The big difference now is that I manage no team that will help me strategize and then do all the work. Building a team isn’t so easy on a limited budget and with an undefined path forward. And it’s hard to build that path forward without a team. I can’t sit around thinking about the chicken and the egg, I have to get tough and bite a bullet. Is this when I become a true entrepreneur?

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on August 30, 2011

August 28, 2011

Would you like some service with that ink?

Last week I had an experience that brilliantly shows what I think is wrong with customer service today. I walked into my local Staples store here in Regina to pick up a couple of printer cartridges. It was 9am and when I walked in I was just happy that they were open. I knew what I wanted, where it was in the store, and I hate shopping so I made a beeline for the ink cartridges, grabbed the two I wanted and headed straight for the till.

Only one till was open and there was a woman with a cart full of school supplies at the front of the line. I was next, then a gentleman with a single item in his hands stepped into line behind me. We were not long in line when one of the clerks opened a second till.

The gentleman and I walked over to the newly opened till and he said to me, "after you"... that was our only mistake. The clerk rings my ink cartridges through and it comes to $51.36. I give him $100 bill and $1.36 in change. He puts all that in the till and then sighs. "It's a little early to change $100, I am going to have to call for change." I am thinking 'well alright but you have been open an hour, it is school supply shopping week and I spent half of that hundred already' but of course, I say none of that.

After a few minutes, the change person had not yet arrived at the till so I said, "Let me see if I can find something else." I knew I had two twenties in my wallet and had seen a folded up five in my change purse. Along with what loonies I had, I got $50.00 together and handed it to him. "There you go", I said. He looked at me and said, "It is in the till, I can't take that out now." I found this amusing because his till drawer is open and I can see the $100 bill sitting in the drawer but he cannot make the change to the transaction at this point.

I held back my snicker but the gentleman behind me began to get a little impatient after a few more moments of no Mr. Change-Guy showing up. He then stepped up and said, "Well, I am spending $80.00 for this so why don't you just ring me through and then you can make her change", pushing his four twenties toward the clerk. He looks at the gentleman and says, "It is already in the till, I can't do that."

The gentleman looked at me and rolled his eyes. It all seemed so ridiculous that I said the first thing that came to my mind... "The till has officially become more important than the customer!"

August 25, 2011

Hurricane Irene and Newsletters

To all of you readers who have established email contact lists... are you capitalizing on opportunities that are staring you in the face?

Today I received a timely and relevant email from Fairway Insurance Services - a warning about preparedness for Hurricane Irene.  It included an update on the storm, a colourful picture of the storm's expected course, and links to useful checklists and such to help me prepare for a storm.  Now how cool is that?

You don't have to wait till your next newsletter issue when something big is going on that affects your subscribers.  Help them out - provide useful information - make it timely and relevant.  Scan for opportunities to be of service to your community.

August 12, 2011

Join Me!

This is a no charge online meeting service that allows you to gather people and allows them to see your computer screen as you demonstrate, teach or collaborate. The applications for your business are endless:

August 4, 2011

Be a Tease!

I came across this excellent example of how to promote your newsletter sign-up on your website:

It's not visually appealing, but it says all the right things.  It tells me what I can expect by signing up and teases me with what's coming up next.  The only thing it doesn't mention - which is important - is how often I will receive her newsletter.