Welcome newsletters to your family

Posted by ninahershberger on December 9, 2018

Not all relatives are created equal.

If you’re fortunate, you have siblings who would gladly donate a kidney, aunts and uncles who inspired you to reach new heights, and still-close cousins with whom you shared many legendary youthful misadventures.

Then there are the vaguely familiar relatives who never write or call and whom you may run into only at family funerals.  Some of them are nice enough folks, but many have nothing in common with you except DNA, feel they’re superior to you, and only show up when they need something.

I’m writing about families because many companies think of their employees as family, and their customers as extended family.

If you want to foster that image of warmth and togetherness, a regular newsletter is an effective way to go about it.

Sure, you can limit your contact with customers to the times they need to replace a major appliance or buy a house or get a six-month checkup (or whatever pertains to your particular business), but you risk becoming abstract and “out of sight, out of mind,” like those not-so-close relatives.

It’s like you start over from scratch with each transaction, struggling to develop a rapport and brand loyalty.

A company newsletter helps you import the best things about a tight-knit family.

As with the beloved uncle who “knows a guy” who can get you a discount diamond, a newsletter gives customers an adrenaline rush from receiving “insider information” about special sales, Customer Appreciation Events, and other promotions.

Families can reminisce about last summer’s beach get-together or about long-departed ancestors.  Whether you’ve been in business for 5 years or 100 years, a newsletter is a chance to share past milestones, give your business some gravitas, and develop deeper bonds with the public.

But one can’t dwell on history.  At family get-togethers, new girlfriends and boyfriends are introduced to the clan, retirees are welcomed to the next phase of their life, and babies are fawned over.  It’s a time for sharing hopes and dreams.  And an optimistic newsletter is a way for a business to share its own aspirations — for remodeling, for new products and services, for new locations.

Family gatherings are a time-tested way to pass along knowledge: recipes, genealogy, the best way to toss a football or tune up a Mustang.  A “Frequently Asked Questions” section of your newsletter can pass along knowledge about store return policies, the most efficient extension to dial with a particular problem, maintenance tips for customers’ purchases, etc.

If Grandma lives 3,000 miles away, Skype and occasional week-long visits help her seem more like a flesh-and-blood person to the grandkids.  Similarly, an “Employee of the Month” spotlight can make your staff seem more real and relatable.  (“Hey!  That redheaded clerk was a member of my sorority!  I’ll have to chat with her next time instead of just dashing in and out.”)

Good families keep you from feeling alone in the world.  Similarly, a “Customer of the Month” story can boost a customer’s confidence that he has made the right choice.  (“Hey, if the mayor and my old pal Charlie both drive past six competitors to deal with insert-name-of-your-business, maybe I’ve not crazy for doing business here.”)

Family gatherings are a lively showcase for inside jokes, tall-tale swapping, and good-natured joshing.  Your newsletter can be a chance to share puzzles, jokes, and humorous essays.  It’ll even extend your reach.  (“Let me tell you about this cute story I saw in the newsletter…”)

Sometimes it’s inevitable that spouses will “drift apart” or “grow in opposite directions,” but a well-placed relative can see the early warning signs and nudge them to rekindle their love.  It’s the same way with businesses.  Most business relationships don’t end with a heated argument; customers gradually drift away as they find someone who is a nickel cheaper or who is closer to the softball field.  A well-designed newsletter can keep customers connected and motivated.

Of course, you get only the bad aspects of family if you don’t avail yourself of the resources to do a good newsletter.  The periodical needs punchy text, a graphically pleasing layout, and a variety of material. You don’t want the articles to be boring, like the long-winded, tedious anecdotes of that in-law who corners you.  You don’t want the photos to be like that folder of family pictures where Uncle Dufus had his thumb over the lens. You want to build up your customers’ self-esteem and not make them feel like ingrates because they haven’t already rushed out and utilized your latest piece of advice.

Are newsletters outdated?  No, they’re just as vibrant and vital as cousin Margaret’s cheesecake and four-year-old Johnny singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Grandpa slipping you a little “mad money” for your honeymoon.

It’s time to give newsletters a big ol’ hug.

 

 

 

It’s Time To Dust Off The Ol’ Suggestion Box

Posted by ninahershberger on October 30, 2018

What do you think of when you hear the words “suggestion box”?

You probably picture a quaint, cobweb-covered container or a Black Hole from which nothing ever emerges.

But in today’s competitive market, management can no longer ignore the insights and brainstorming of employees.

Ideas from employees can eliminate inefficiencies, reduce turnover, and enhance customer satisfaction.

Of course, management needs enough humility to maximize this potential.

At one retailer in the Nashville area, low-paid workers in the cavernous warehouse endured bitterly cold winters year after year.  The store manager merely chuckled when reminded of his broken promises to build an office in the warehouse.  Chuckled, and continued providing expensive kerosene for a heater that sent 99 percent of its warmth to the high ceilings.

Finally, during the “honeymoon phase” of hiring a new warehouse supervisor, the boss relented and paid for materials, so employees could build their own office.  The office is now cozy with just an inexpensive electric heater.

The employees could have been spared years of hardship and the company could have saved hundreds of gallons of fuel if not for the boss’s “if I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you” attitude.

Even in a small business, the people at the top can’t possibly know (and remedy) all the day-to-day aggravations, annoyances, and wasteful practices that employees and customers face – unless there is a well-publicized “suggestions” search.

Here are some pointers for such a program:

 

Set ground rules 

It’s a waste of everyone’s time if the suggestion box is inundated with pie-in-the-sky demands such as “Pay us more!” or tightly targeted smears such as “Make Judy in Purchasing stop wearing that awful perfume.”  Employees need to know that their suggestions should be specific, concrete ways that management would be able to afford raises – or less personal guidelines for maintaining professionalism and co-worker harmony.

Tailor the program to individual personalities  

Some employees may want only the boss to know their suggestion.  Others (for fear of reprisal) may want total anonymity.  Still others may really crave the spotlight for their innovations.  Don’t force anyone into a one-size-fits-all mold; ascertain what works best for each employee.

Trumpet visible results of employee suggestions

A cookie-cutter pep talk about employee participation goes only so far.  So, if employee advice has enabled you to enjoy 300 accident-free days, keep insurance premiums steady, double the Christmas bonus, improve the parking lot, or snag that coveted customer you’ve been chasing for five years, be sure everyone knows such things don’t occur in a vacuum.

Share the wealth 

Some improvements are so intangible that it’s hard to put a dollar amount on them.  But if it’s demonstrably true that an employee’s suggestion has directly enabled you to cut utility costs by 25 percent or land a million-dollar customer, don’t begrudge him a slice of the pie.  A slap on the back and a Dollar Tree trophy cup won’t suffice.  Think about an expensive jacket, a family meal at a ritzy restaurant, or a paid vacation.

Spread participation as broadly as possible 

A good idea is a good idea, regardless of the source; but it’s counterproductive if employees get the perception that the same individual, team, or department is always getting management’s praise.  Don’t create co-worker friction by giving the impression someone is the “boss’s pet.” You may even have to visit various work areas and think out loud, “I’ll bet someone here is sharp enough to solve Problem X…”

Make awards for suggestions recurring but not regimented 

If management makes a big deal out of soliciting and rewarding employee input on a single occasion and then never mentions it again, employees will (justifiably) view it as a half-hearted “dog and pony show” gimmick to give the illusion of open-mindedness. On the other hand, if you straitjacket yourself into recognizing a “Suggestion of the Month” or “Suggestion of the Week,” you will face diminishing returns and fading enthusiasm.  Most likely, the “low-hanging fruit” of glaring problems will be dealt with early on.  Employees will feel stressed out if they must routinely top themselves every time they turn around.  They will become dismissive of the entire program as increasingly nitpicky, “Mickey Mouse” suggestions are lauded.

Be patient 

Most workplaces are saddled with a culture that sees the suggestion box as (a) an exercise in futility connected straight to the incinerator or (b) an opportunity for backstabbing individuals at various levels of the hierarchy to steal an idea and claim it as their own.  But, if month after month and year after year, you build a reputation for at least studying every reasonable suggestion, it will become second nature for rank-and-file employees to share their perspective. Companies have Human Resources Departments, not Interchangeable Cogs Departments.  Treat your employees with dignity and compassion.   Morale, productivity, and profitability will soar.

 

 

How “bullets” can bring business of Biblical proportions

Posted by ninahershberger on October 12, 2018

Were you aware that the Bible, as originally written, wasn’t broken down into the convenient chapters and verses we’re accustomed to?

It gets more daunting.  There weren’t even spaces between words.

Yes, the letters all ran together, which made dealing with those scrolls a tedious task for priests, scribes, and later translators.

Can you imagine the typical 21st-century reader (his attention span diminished by glossy brochures, pop-up online ads, scrolling TV blurbs, 10-second radio jingles, billboards, flashing signs, bumper stickers, product-promoting T-shirts, etc.) relishing the chance to dig into such an overwhelming block of text?

If he thought anything at all about two tablets, it would be two tablets of Tylenol instead of two tablets of stone.

Of course, today’s Bibles have large print, red letters, maps, illustrations, marginal notations, dictionaries, concordances, and other features to make them more accessible and user-friendly.

Certainly, if you’re a businessman with a product or service not quite as urgent as escaping Egyptian bondage or fighting Philistine giants such as Goliath, you’ll need a user-friendly message, too.

They’re not quite as attention-grabbing as burning bushes, but well-done bullet points (with the right mixture of bold fonts and italics), paired with a headline that speaks directly to the customer, can be the secret to making your ads “pop.”

Notice I said “well-done.”  When a prospective customer devotes a few precious seconds to scanning even the most graphically pleasing message, he is not going to be impressed by vague, trite blurbs such as “Unbelievable prices,” “Friendly service,” or “Wide assortment.”

Your prospective customer had already heard such claims ad nauseum since he was a toddler.  He has probably been stung by assurances such as “it’ll pay for itself” and “high quality.”  He has probably hired an incompetent, unmotivated employee or two based on a friend of a friend assuring him, “Charlie is a good guy.”

Sure, a clever pun might buy you an extra split-second of attention; but if it’s superficial, you still won’t make the sale.  Thou shalt not put all thy eggs in the cute wordplay basket.

If your prospective client thinks of you at all as he tosses your flyer into the wastebasket, he will assume (a) that you are too lazy to write better copy, (b) that you are taking his business for granted, or (c) that you really don’t possess any substantive advantages to differentiate you from your many competitors.

Whether you prefer to break up your text with big dots, asterisks, numbers, letters, or emojis is a matter of personal taste.   The real secret to bullets is providing specific, verifiable, customer-oriented information in bite-size chunks.

From all indications, the honey-like manna that the Israelites ate while journeying was both easily digestible and gave them the strength to do what needed to be done.   Your message should offer the same benefits.

I have faith that you really do have a message.  Because a run-of-the-mill, face-in-the-crowd operation with nothing unique to offer would just plug along with mediocre sales no matter how much it spent on advertising.

You, on the other hand, if you are justifiably proud of your business, should be able to articulate the reasons for your pride and fortify your ad with a barrage of easily understood selling points that make you invaluable to the customer.

Not every point is going to convince every prospective customer that you are the Promised Land they have been seeking, but something should make the waters part and reveal you as just what they’ve been looking for.

Even without Charlton Heston’s booming voice, you can draw business with true statements such as:

  • “All products 100% made in America.”
  • “Zero percent interest for 48 months.”
  • “All mechanics are up-to-date on manufacturer certification.”
  • “Named mid-state’s best restaurant by the Daily Tribune for 15 years in a row.”
  • “Not 100% satisfied? We pay return shipping!”
  •  “We are the city’s exclusive authorized dealer of (insert brand name) products.”
  • “The city’s only automotive shop with this year’s Hunter alignment system.”
  • “Yes, shoes up to size 17 are guaranteed to be in stock!”
  • “Styles or models out of stock in our showroom? We will deliver them to your door within 24 hours.”
  • “All equipment is plug-and-play, with free 24-7 technical support.”

So, for example, one prospect might be planning to pay cash and couldn’t care less about your financing options; but if he has been railing against the influx of foreign-made goods, your “American-made” blurb is going to compel him to take a second look.

Another prospect might not demand a particular brand from you, but a chance to avoid paying through the nose for returning defective products would really resonate.

And so forth.

Don’t leave your potential customers wandering in the wilderness.

Your advertising should show concisely and convincingly that you can work miracles for them.

 

 

 

Mind Your Own Business!

Posted by ninahershberger on May 26, 2018

The concept of minding your own business means that while you are grinding away at your day job you need to be investing in your future and minding your own business. Pretty soon you’ll be able to walk away from that day job and mind your own business full time.The best way to do this is through the acquisition of real estate.

Let’s take a quick look at where you are losing all your money-taxes. Taxes have been around since 1913 in the U.S. (earlier in England).

While the original intention was to only tax the wealthiest of the population, obviously that’s trickled down to the masses, including those in poverty.

Now, keep in mind the more money you make the more taxes you pay. The wealthy know a way of getting around this-form a corporation. Corporations offer tax benefits and protect you from lawsuits. To learn more about this talk with one of our business coaches or your attorney.

We’ve all heard the golden rule of: Pay Yourself First.

But, many of us don’t do it. Until you learn and put this rule into effect, you won’t have any chance of getting out of the rat race. What this rule does is force you to come up with more income to pay your expenses.

There are some key areas of finance you should learn about, taking classes is one of the best ways to do this. Here are the basics you should learn:

Accounting

It pays to know how to read financial statements. When acquiring businesses or assets you need to quickly see the financial standing of the company you are acquiring.

Many grown adults do not know how to balance a balance sheet. In the long term, this knowledge will pay off for you and your business.

Investment Strategy

This skill will sharpen with experience. Talk to investors and observe how they play the game.

Market Behavior

Know the laws of Supply and Demand. No business owner can do without understanding these basic principles of the market. Bill Gates saw what people needed. Open your eyes to opportunities. Look at what sells and who buys.

Law

Do everything you can to grow your business within legal boundaries. Know your corporate, state, and accounting laws.

Once you know these areas of finances you can make them work for you. The rich practically invent money. You have to know where to find a great deal. Let’s continue with real estate. Look for houses in trouble or find the court in your area that handles foreclosed, police impound or other real estate situations. You can either renovate and sell or rent for residual income.

So, essentially there are two main types of investors:

  1. Those who buy pre-packaged investments
  2. Those who create their own investments

You know which are the most successful. In order to be one of those people, you need to know what to look for and how to respond.

You must:

  1. Find a good deal other people have missed.
  2. Raise the capital needed for the transaction.
  3. Put together a svelte team to execute the plan.

There is risk involved in every acquisition. The goal is not to avoid the risk, but to respond to the risk with confidence and a steady hand.

If you need help identifying potential money-makers, where to get the capital you need and how to put together a smart team, try our FREE test drive to gain access to our resources and tools.

Get Out of the Rat Race

Posted by ninahershberger on May 21, 2018

We’ve all worked jobs we hated. We were underpaid, underappreciated and bored out of our minds. We either quit these jobs or were fired for poor performance because we just gave up. Instead of taking that approach you need to consider every job an opportunity to learn something new that you can apply down the line to find success.

When you give people the tools they need to come up with unordinary solutions, you are enhancing their lives for the long run. You need to take this approach. What if one of your terrible jobs had been one with no pay at all and you needed to come up with some ingenious ways of making money? I bet you could have found a diamond in that rough. This idea can also be used in your own company.
Now, I don’t recommend going into the next meeting declaring that no one will receive pay anymore, but you can tell them that their potential raises, bonuses and other perks are now dependent on their creativity in ways to enhance business.

Let’s talk about a great concept called financial literacy. This certainly isn’t something they taught you in school, but is still essential to know. So, what is financial literacy?The old school way teaches people to be good employees and not employers. This mindset will never make you wealthy. You need to focus on becoming a good employer. You also need to learn how to not only attain wealth but sustain wealth for generations. This is what financial literacy is all about.So, how do you get out of the rat race and start working toward a wealthier future? You need to understand the difference between an asset and a liability.

Take a look at your own life and you’ll probably find the following:

Assets

• Real Estate
• Stocks
• Bonds
• Intellectual Property

Liabilities
• Mortgage
• Consumer Loans
• Credit Cards

You’ve probably been fooled into thinking things like your house, car and entertainment system are assets. They aren’t! Assets should be continuing to MAKE you money. When you continue to struggle, you are not building wealth. If your primary income is from wages and each time you make more money, you pay taxes-you’re not really creating wealth either, are you?
So, if buying a house isn’t an asset (and, it’s not because you spend about 30 years of your life paying it off), then what is. Here are some of the best assets to attain and when you can start to actually see wealth being created because of it:

Average time of holding on to an asset before selling it for a higher value:
1 year
• Stocks (Startups and small companies are good investments)
• Bonds
• Mutual funds

7 years
• Real estate
• Notes (IOUs)
• Royalties on intellectual property
• Valuables that produce income or appreciate

So, here are the steps to getting out of the rat race and onto your journey of creating wealth:
1. Understand the difference between an asset and a liability.
2. Concentrate your efforts on buying income-earning assets.
3. Focus on keeping liabilities and expenses at a minimum.
4. Mind your own business.
If you need help getting out of the poor mindset and into the wealthy one, try our FREE test drive and work with one of our experienced business coaches today.
We went through the first three and next time we’ll talk about how to mind your own business to keep your eye on the prize.