Why did you start your Small Business?

I commute from Norwalk, CT to Hicksville, NY four days each week. 58 miles each way. 3 major traffic patterns. 2.5 hours each day. For some reason, last week as I was driving down the Hutchinson Parkway, it hit me that every day I drive right past the exit for City Island…City Island

City Island just might be the very reason I’ve run my own companies for most of my life, because City Island brings to mind the best years of my Dad’s work life, and some of my best early memories with him. With not quite a 10th grade education, my Dad kicked around from job to job–some worse than others, but in early 1966 he scored big and bought a Snap-on Tools franchise.  With that and a small box truck he was in business. His exclusive territory: The Bronx.

Circa 1965, my Dad in his office on Tremont Ave, Bronx, NY

Circa 1965, my Dad in his office on Tremont Ave, Bronx, NY

I vividly remember the sparkle in his eyes when he talked about “his business.”  I casino remember his neatly organized office in the front room of our small rental house on Tremont Avenue in The Bronx. He’d come home from work and sit down to write up his product orders from a day full of stories of colorful mechanics, funny encounters, and tall-tales of sales closed and future potential orders. I was only 6 years old but I remember desperately wanting to go to work with him.

After a few months or so, he finally gave in (maybe it was me hanging onto his leg, crying hysterically every morning while he dragged me across the living room floor to leave for work that wore him down…). Wednesday was his shortest work day when his territory route took him to the auto shops, boatyards and mechanics on City Island, a small bucolic island nestled in the midst of New York City’s masses… and he said he’d take me with him.

 

To read the rest of this blog entry, please click this link taking you to The Small Business Lifer.

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How Would You Do in the Shark Tank?

The American Dream of building and growing a business is alive and well.  In fact, you can see it played out every Friday night on “Shark Tank” – a reality TV show with, at least, some redeeming value.

Shark Tank Logo

As avid fans, my wife and I are glued to the TV watching as each hopeful small business owner stands in front of a panel of five wealthy entrepreneurs/investors (“Sharks”) and pitches their dream.  I’m amazed at how many owners make the same two mistakes:

  1. Putting too high a value on their business
  2. Putting too low a value on others impact on their business

 

One episode that illustrates these two points aired on April 13th (click to watch) featuring a winery owner with a proprietary bottling process (he’s the only manufacturer in the world to bottle wine-by-the-glass).  He used his bottling process as a differentiator to sell his product into national chains—growing his vineyard’s sales to $5M. With orders outstripping production capacity and guzzling all available cash flow, he went online slots into the Shark Tank to raise $300K to increase production.  And, most unusual, this was his second appearance on the show.

On his first visit one of the investors – Kevin O’Leary–saw the billion dollar opportunity to license the bottling process to the biggest wine-makers in the world and he offered the owner $600K for 51% stake in his Intellectual Property—the bottling process. The owner walked away because he couldn’t grasp the thought of separating the business.  Now he’s back with the same pitch for a second try.

To read the rest of this blog entry, please click this link taking you to The Small Business Lifer.

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How to Ramp-Up to Serve a Fortune 1000 Company

Since I launched my first company in 1985 I’ve started a total of six SBEs. Each company was in the B2B space selling to the Fortune 1000. In each case I closed a large order with a F1000 that was the catalyst for significant growth.  And each time I went through the process I learned a bit more about how to handle the ramp-up. Here’s a sample of the progression:

Corporate Multi-Media – January 1985Stamford, CT – In our 2nd year we grew from $215K to ~$650K on the strength of a $200,000 contract to produce a national sales meeting for MCI International.  We went from 4 employees to 15 in a few months. My criteria for hiring was to put a mirror under their online slots nose, if they fogged the mirror (and had a seemingly valid driver’s license) they were hired.  I was 25… What did I know?

I had a refined organizational structure called The Wagon-Wheel… very effective. Everyone reported to me. If I was on a sales call, people sat and waited for me to return (see 1986: life without cell phones). If I ran to the bathroom, a line formed outside the door.  Real efficient (and a little embarrassing, I might add). It’s no wonder I regularly doubled-up with stomach cramps and employee turnover was so high.

I closed CMM in the “great recession of the late 1980′s”, spun my production department into a new multimedia company and merged with a “no-technology” 35mm slide production company with a staff of 4 artists—only one who could use a computer.  Total combined sales of $500,000…

To read the rest of this blog entry, please click this link taking you to The SBE Lifer blog site.

Brought to you by Supplier-Connection

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Please! Don’t Jump… into Social Media Without a Marketing Plan!

Dear Small Business Enterprises (SBE),

I never thought I’d even think the following sentence: I enjoy Tweeting.

In fact, of all the Social Media platforms, I enjoy Twitter most.  Every post is an intellectual and creative challenge to draft engaging thoughts—and in such small confines!  All designed to entice fellow Tweeters to my content, competing against a stream of other finely crafted, engaging thoughts aiming to drive me to theirs.  A veritable super-highway of business Haikus.  (“I will never use this again!” I remember complaining when faced with writing Haikus for 8th grade English.  Who knew?)

And where else but Twitter can you find such a plethora of content on running an SBE?  Does any other platform link you to a greater bounty of content than Twitter?  Especially links on how to use Social Media in your business?  Just run this search: “Tips on Using Social Media.”  Tweet after Tweet after Tweet after Tweet…

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there…”  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

 

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Funny Marketing Screw Ups: A precursor to my next post…

I was in the midst of writing my next blog on the importance of developing a Marketing Plan BEFORE jumping into the world of Social Media, when into my inbox popped this old gem from Bob Smith (a consultant @ The Allasso Group & long-time colleague).

Bob sent me ”Great Marketing Screw Ups”, a list of 10 colossal, mind-bending, classic marketing flubs.  It was originally published in 1997 by J.K. Davis, for which he/she claims a copyright.  (BTW, imagine someone getting a copyright on your screw-ups? How weird would that be? Mine would require a bit more space to enumerate…)

So.  All credit for the following laughs go to J.K., wherever he/she may be.  Enjoy!

BTW, the working title for my next entry to The SBE Lifer is “Develop a Marketing Plan Before Blogging, Tweeting, Facebook-Fan-Paging, Google’ing, eMailing, Webinaring, LinkedInning, Podcasting, YouTubing, Webcasting & Shouting From The Rooftop.”  It should get posted by the middle of next week.

GREAT MARKETING SCREW UPs  – Submitted by   J.K. Davis

1. Coors put its slogan, “Turn it loose,” into Spanish, where it was read as “Suffer from diarrhea.”

To read the rest of this Top Ten, please click this link taking you to The SBE Lifer blog site.

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200-310  
70-533  ,
500-260  ,
1Z0-803  
200-101  
70-178  
000-106  
ADM-201  
c2010-652  
350-050  
350-060  
HP0-S42  
200-310  
EX300  
70-533  
640-916  
PMP  
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CAS-002  
NSE4  
210-260  
70-483  
640-692  
210-060  
220-902  
M70-101  
300-135  
EX200  
CRISC  
ITILFND  
350-029  


Developing a Marketing Plan

When developing a marketing plan we need to recognize there are two sides to marketing. We’ll classify these two sides—except face-to-face selling—into two distinct categories, each with its own process:  Market Planning and Product Marketing (which also applies to service offerings).

Market Planning (sometimes called “Market Analysis) clarifies what our market is and will be.  It helps us choose the most attractive market segments and—most important—decide what we’ll need to offer them in the future.

Product Marketing is the process of making prospective customers aware of the products and services we’re offering now, creating a strong image for them, attracting prospects, canvassing for opportunities, and preparing the ground for closing sales.

No example or description of these will fit every company, market, product, or service.  The following examples are either 1) the general components of any Market Planning or Product Marketing initiative, or 2) examples of components, criteria, or factors from which to select for specific situations. The components, criteria, or factors you do include are most important and should be given considerable thought.

As an overview, the two sides of marketing may be described as follows:

Market Planning – Developing a comprehensive view, with sound analysis, of:
1. The market(s) we serve and will serve in the future
2. The offerings we’ll need to gain or maintain an acceptable market share and profit
3. Other requirements for success, for example, funding, staff, organizational change, partnerships

Product Marketing – A variety of initiatives to:
1. Promote our brand and offerings in the market segments we’ve chosen
2. Keep our customers with us—understanding our value proposition and confident of our strength and stability
3. Motivate prospects to do business with us—create orders or selling opportunities
4. Communicate our direction and future positioning

The Market Planning Process

The following items should be analyzed, decided, and documented as part of the Market Plan.  Any that were developed in previous planning or just evolved in our history should be reviewed rigorously.

Market Definition – the big picture of our market, especially:
1. Target customers, and their distinguishing characteristics
2. Where they fit in the larger market—their industry or line of business, their customers and suppliers
3. Their major dependencies and determinants, for example, economic conditions, government actions, demographics, technology, innovations outside their own

Market Outlook – where this market is going, for example:
1. Size and growth rate
2. Established competitors
3. Barriers to entry for new competitors
4. Stability—rate of change in products, services, customers, competitors, market conditions
5. Expected Profitability—considering margins, sales and support costs, R&D requirements

Segmentation – grouping customers of similar characteristics for analysis, for example by:
1. Size—revenue or people
2. Age—startup to stable long term players
3. Geography
4. Industry or line of business
5. Position in value or contract chain, for example, finished goods, components, prime contracting, subcontracting, sub to subs, outsourced support services, distribution, retail
6. Diversity qualification or requirement

Segment Analysis – quantified assessment of “best feel” segments on selected dimensions, for example:
1. Growth rate and potential
2. Longevity—startup to long term player in their market
3. Fit with our competencies, culture, and business practices
4. Stability of requirements—frequency and rapidity of change in what they want and need
5. Competition, barriers to entry, need to beat established competitors
6. Product/offering differentiation potential, value of innovation
7. Scope of decision to buy our type of product or service
8. Key buying criteria – for example, price, TCO, productivity, innovation, added function
9. Margins and profitability potential
10. Development cost
11. Marketing and sales cost
12. Length of sales cycles
13. Government requirements
14. Potential partners, primes, subs

Segment Attractiveness and Selection – choosing or confirming Target Segments, based on analysis results

Requirements of Target Segments – what they’ll want to buy in the future, and how
1. Products or services
2. Buying process—for example, RFPs, long term contracts, one-off subcontracts, online ordering
3. Compliance—diversity certifications, ISO, etc.

Products or Service Offerings (for those future products and services)
1. Fit with our capabilities and depth of understanding
2. Development time and cost
3. Maintenance time and cost
4. Staffing time and cost (development, production, admin, etc.)

Product Marketing and Sales Plans (for those future products and services)
1. Main product or service marketing strategy and tactics
2. In house or outsourced?
3. Time and cost

Now that we’ve defined the market(s) we’ll serve, evaluated which markets have the best long-term prospects for our industry, determined the most attractive segments, evaluated customer product/service needs in these segments, and determined which of our products would provide the best long-term success for our business, we can move on to the Product Marketing process.

The Product or Service Marketing Process

The following items need to be analyzed, decided, and documented before we develop new content or choose marketing media.  Some may already be in place for current products and services, in which case they should be reviewed rigorously.

Branding
1. Offering name
2. Descriptive sub-name—examples: “Expert help without an expensive hire,” “The World’s Best Solution for Great Requirements,” “Audit, tax, consulting,” “Premium web design”
3. Selling tag line—examples: “People who know know BDO,” “The quicker picker-upper,” “Engineered to amaze,” “Web design like it was our own site”
4. Logo
5. Advertising metaphor (gimmick?)

Value Proposition (relative to customer needs, not competitive offerings),
1. ROI and Payback—preferably with a tool which calculates these from input in typical industry or local terms
2. Improvements in customers’ operations, quantified whenever possible and prioritized by expected customer impact, for example:
• Sales
• Quality
• Speed
• Accuracy
• Information
• Customer relations
• Command and control
• Process management
• Staffing requirements
• Organizational capability and expertise
• Employee capability
• Employee satisfaction
• Compliance
• Overhead

Product Differentiators (versus competitive offerings), for example:
1. Functions and features
2. Performance
3. Volume capability
4. Adaptability and update or growth potential
5. Reliability
6. Price
7. Ease of installation
8. Ease of use
9. Ease of maintenance
10. Customer support
11. Reputation (track record and references)

Service Differentiators (versus competitors), for example:
1. Content of deliverables
2. Delivery time
3. Price (rates or fixed prices)
4. Processes, for example:
• Needs assessment
• Solution design
• Development or customization
• Installation and assimilation
• Project management
• Customer involvement, communication, and feedback
5. Expertise and experience
6. Staff strength (number, stability, reliability)
7. Reputation (track record and references)

The Business Operating Environment

Customer Decision Process
1. Typical scope of decision—at what level will the decision be made
2. Typical decision owner—who will need no other approval
3. Key implementation departments
4. Key evaluation departments—technical, legal, finance, marketing, etc.
5. Most important factors, for example, product or service fit, price, relationships, references

Customer Communication Preferences (for current and prospective customers)
1. Sources of input—how they learn about offerings—for example:
• Trade shows and associations
• Thought leaders, influencers
• Industry publications
• Sales calls
• Direct mail and email
• Internet searches
• Social Media

2. Opportunity communication, for example:
• RFPs
• Current suppliers
• Networking
• Internet posting (government, e-commerce, exchanges)
• Trade publications

Now that we’ve defined our value proposition, identified differentiators, evaluated the target customer’s decision process, and considered how and where to communicate with them, we’re ready to design our marketing campaign, write copy and chose media to reach our customers and prospects.


Interview with Richard Hodapp, Creator of Decision MAPping

Greetings to all,

As promised in my previous post (Why Do Small Businesses Stay… small?), here’s the two-part interview I did with Rich Hodapp, Chairman of The MAPping Alliance and creator of Decision MAPping(TM).  Over the next few weeks I’ll update this post to outline the key points and big ideas discussed during my conversation with Rich.

To hear the interview casino pa natet & to read the rest of this blog entry, please click this link taking you to The SBE Lifer blog site.

Brought to you by Supplier-Connection


Why Do Small Businesses Stay… small

Why do small businesses stay small? A pretty good question, especially to an audience of small business enterprises (SBEs) and entrepreneurs.

You likely joined Supplier-Connection to help grow your business by winning major contracts and building relationships with the Fortune 500 partners. Richard Hodapp, the creator of a business process called Decision MAPping® says SBEs stay small because they don’t have a best-practice, a process for understanding and affectingtheir customers’ decisions, severely limiting their win rate to about 2 out of every 10 opportunities for new online casino business.

And with almost 40 years of watching small clients become huge (like FedEx)—he knows a bit about the benefits of having Decision MAPping integrated into an organization’s business practices. In short, Decision MAPping is successful because it gives you a map of how to position your company at the strategy level of your customers—in order to make strategic decisions with your customers. When you engage your customers on their strategy level, you can participate in affecting their decisions, dramatically increasing your win-rate.

To read the rest of this blog entry, please click this link taking you to The SBE Lifer blog site.

Brought to you by Supplier-Connection


Live Interview Thurs., Sept. 1st @ 1:00PM ET

Brought to you by Supplier-Connection

This just UPDATED:
John Martin, the host of Small Business Roundtable has scheduled a live interview with Dan Gallo for Thursday September 1st @ 1:00PM ET.

Listen to the show Streaming LIVE on SBR Radio or you can LISTEN by calling the show line at 213-559-8022.

After the interview we’ll be taking call-in questions on the same telephone number, or you can Tweet your questions to #SBRTALK.

The primary topic will be Supplier-Connection and my role as Social Media Director and Small Business casino online Advocate. A study showed that more than 67% of the jobs created since the mid-1990′s were created by small businesses. The Supplier-Connection initiative aims to drive US-based economic development by committing to connect more Small Business Enterprise’s (SBE’s) to Member Company supply chains.  Current Member Companies include: AMD, AT&T, Bank of America, Caterpillar, CitiGroup, DELL, IBM, Pfizer & UPS. Their combined spend for all procurement operations exceeds $150B per year. The list expected to double by year end 2011.

To read the rest of this blog entry, please click this link taking you to The SBE Lifer blog site.


Welcome to The SBE Lifer

The following article was written by Dan Gallo for the Supplier-Connection initiative launched by Fortune 100 companies committed to increasing their spend with US-based small business to help spur job growth and economic recovery.

Supplier Connection has the potential to become your biggest new business generator. And I want you to leverage it for all its worth.

I’m Supplier Connection’s Social Media Director & Small Business Advocate, and I’m one of you.  I’ve been a small business owner since 1985.

People come in all shapes and sizes, with some hard-wired predilections, especially about earning a living.

I believe I was born to run small businesses: Errand-boy for small storefront businesses at seven. Reprimanded by the manager of a newspaper for taking customers from other paperboys at 11. A 15-customer lawn maintenance service at 13. A rock band with notarized contracts at 14. Etc.

It seemed natural when, at 25, married 18 months with a newborn son and a newly mortgaged condo, I grew frustrated with the service quality of my employer and started Corporate Multi-Media, Inc.

The stuff I didn’t know I didn’t know could fill several books. But I had passion in spades, a cast-iron stomach for handling pressure, and $15K borrowed from our families.

Five years later when that business failed, I didn’t run for the security of a paycheck. I started another company with more focused, more profitable services. Too risky? Maybe, but I didn’t hesitate.  It’s as if it was ordained.

To read the rest of this blog entry, please click this link taking you to The SBE Lifer blog site.