Why Local Small Business Matters

On the way to work today I passed a ball field that is on the campus of a school. I pass this field every day on the way to work and I see the banners that festoon the fence in the outfield. But today, somehow, they meant more to me than before.

Why? What made this shift?

Today, for the first time I noticed that every banner was from a small, local business. No big brands, no on-line merchants, no international corporations. Not even the local utilities who support the community. Just local small businesses.

Now to be certain many of the banners represent businesses that are owned by parents of the children who attend the school. Some are owned by former students, and some are owned by the employers of parents of the children who attend. There are many ties that bind that result in a business that supports a school athletic program.

But not a one of those ties is the best price on products and services. Not to say they don’t have the best price for their products and services, just to say that’s not a tie that results in a business being asked to support a local school athletic program.

Yet that is the very thing that will result in a purchase for many who attend or pass the school each day. And if not the lowest price, our thoughts are certainly of the largest inventory and best service. It’s almost natural to thing “big” when buying.

I can tell you from experience, the big companies both on-line and brick and mortar don’t support small-scale needs like a local school athletic program. They can’t. It’s a matter of scale. If they supported every local school financially, they’d have to raise prices, cut inventory, or reduce staff. Doing so would defeat their unique position in the marketplace.

And that is why your local school, sports association, scout troop, charitable organization, and other groups turn to local small businesses for support. They convince themselves they’re helping these businesses promote their business. Sometimes that’s true. But more often than not the local small business is giving far more than they’ll ever get.

Small, local businesses advertise (actually, it should be sponsor) local sports, associations, charities, and local print publications in large part for a very different reason and in very different ways than large, impersonal businesses do. While large business advertising focuses on omnipresence to keep them top of mind, the local small business does so to keep them close to the heart.

The heart they’re staying close to is the heart of a thing called community. And you can’t have a community without local small businesses who make it so. They’re the people who you see at the ballfield and at church, in the local restaurant, and on the local charity board. They’re what make our communities.

This is National Small Business Week in the United States. A time to recognize the role small businesses play in our country. Two out of three new jobs will be created by small businesses.

I’d argue every week should be small business week. But just for this week, I’d ask you join in thanking a local small business for what they do with your patronage, recognition, and vocal appreciation.

Local Small Business Matters.

If you're a local small business join the movement: #GrowMyLocalBusiness


The Strangest Thing About The Strangest Secret

In 1956, Earl Nightingale recorded what would become the first spoken word recording to receive a Gold Record. In a recent interview with Earl's widow Diana Nightingale (View Interview Here) I learned that he recorded the message for his salesmen before he went on a fishing trip. Earl loved the water and loved fishing but he also took his role as leader very seriously. Leaving a recorded message was unusual for the day but it ensured he would communicate the tone and message in the most effective manner in his absence.

One might picture Earl sitting down to the recorder at his desk. Having written out his intended message and dressed in a dark grey Hickey-Freeman suit, freshly pressed and starched white shirt and conservative tie, his deep and comforting voice would command attention as he leaned slightly forward in is chair.

But I know Earl was far more likely to have recorded the message in a fishing shirt and a pair of jeans. You see, Earl was a real person and if you watch the interview you'll learn a lot about him and how he looked at life.

The message was intended to inspire the people in his office in his absence. It ultimately would inspire a generation, perhaps not directly with that message, but with the hundreds of thousands of messages and ideas spawned from this one simple thought, "We become what we think about."

The strangest thing about the strangest secret is that while you become what you think about, your knowledge of what is possible and available to you expands so you are constantly thinking about becoming that which you have yet to see evidence of possible.

This falls directly in line with Earl’s belief that “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal.”  

You must think progressively in your quest to become that which you desire.  The fool-hearty believe they will one day arrive at a destination of happiness or success.  But true happiness is dependent upon living.  Living is dependent upon growing because you are either growing or dying. And growing is dependent upon action.

You must have a need or desire to be motivated to act

You must have action to have experience

You must experience to gain knowledge

You must have knowledge to gain competence

You must be competent in one area to grow into another

You must grow in order to be living

You must be living in order to be happy

You must be happy to persist in the face of difficulty

You must persist in the face of difficulty in order to progress toward a worthy goal or ideal

In progressing to a worthy goal or ideal you are exposed to new opportunity and new experience that reveal those things possible you could not imagine.

Much has been said about having a "why" that is big enough to overcome any "how". While I agree this is important, too often we become so consumed with the "why" and the "how" that we fail to do the "what". If you're struggling to achieve that which you know you are capable of an desire to attain, stop thinking and start doing. You'll find the more you act the more you'll learn about your "how" and "why".


The Brilliance of Westin’s Gear Lending

I like to believe we’re like most people. We try to take a vacation once a year, and a couple of times a year we get away for a weekend.

We used to stay exclusively in IHG hotels (e.g. Holiday Inn). I’ve been a member of their Priority Club (now IHG Rewards Club) since its inception in 1983.  From Holiday Inn Express to Intercontinental Hotels, we’ve stayed in a lot of IHG properties.  And we’ve generally enjoyed the experience.

Recently we’ve found ourselves staying at Westin Hotels. I’m not sure when it began but over the past year, we’ve stayed almost exclusively at Starwood Hotels (and mostly at Westin Hotels).

 

You may have heard by now that Westin Hotels have a workout gear lending program at their hotels. Westin is encouraging you to “Pack Light, Stay Fit”. They also run ads promoting their “Eat Well SuperFoods RX menus”.

I’m an avid runner, and I really enjoy running in cities I visit when on vacation. And because I’m on vacation, I usually indulge in foods I wouldn’t normally at home. To find a healthy food oasis at my hotel is a real treat.

This is a brilliant positioning and marketing move by Westin. While I’m not likely to take them up on their gear lending program, and I’m more likely to enjoy a Peameal Sandwich in Toronto than a superfood salad, the mere fact that they are available tells me that Westin understands me and my needs.

But that’s not all. Because they focus on what’s important to me in my everyday life, I expect they’ll understand my needs better than the average hotel when I travel.

Best of all, I know because they’re focused on people like me, I’m likely to find people like me at their hotels. And who doesn’t want to be with people like me?

Westin launched their “Six Pillars of Well-Being” for guests and employees in 2014. Do you think perhaps that their employees not only understand me but also are likely to me like me? You bet.

This is a wonderful example of a corporate valuable corporate initiative. Westin has immersed their culture in healthy living. Their employees benefit, their guests benefit, and you can bet their investors benefit.

Oh, and by-the-way, you simply must try the aptly named “Heavenly Bed”.  You may not want to come home.

So, here’s the call to action for you and your business. What can you do that will make it clear to your clients and prospects that you understand their needs, and that because you do better than anyone else, they’ll feel likely to find people like themselves when they visit your business?

This should be your focus. You’ll attract employees who will be just like your offering. You’ll attract clients who will be just like your employees. And when we find ourselves around people just like us, we find ourselves more than satisfied.

Believe me, the rest will take care of itself.


New Client? Avoid This Major Misstep

Does your business have a way for new clients to sign up or request service without speaking to you or your staff personally? You should.

We've entered a wonderful new world in client recruitment. Clients today can research, review, and ultimately choose a new vendor for products and services (including yours) without ever talking with you or your staff. It's a beautiful thing to turn on your computer or pick up your mobile device and find new clients requesting service.

But, because they have signed up without our help, we'll likely make a big mistake the first time we interact with them. It's the same mistake salespeople make all the time that creates confusion in the mind of a prospect and ultimately kills the sale. We want to tell them everything we think they should know about our product or service.

In the past, salespeople would keep telling about features and benefits long after a client had decided to buy, only to find their zest for their product or service has killed the enthusiasm of the client in making a buying decision. Having missed the obvious "I'm ready to buy" moment, the salesperson kept talking and lost the sale.

How do we do this today when clients tell us, "I'm ready to buy" online? We keep talking and do everything we can to keep them talking too.

Here's what it looks like. A client places an order or service request. We reply through email or text thanking them for the order (appropriate to be certain) and then we add something more. Sometimes it's a little more about the product or service than the client needs to know to buy but we feel they need to know in order to get full enjoyment or value.

What we've forgotten is the client decides what full value or enjoyment is, not us. And, because the client has decided without our help, our help is a distraction to their satisfaction.

But, the most obvious killer of the joy of purchasing your product or service without our help comes in the form of a question. It's the worst possible question.

"Do you have any questions?"

Ugh! Now we've placed uncertainty in the mind of the client and in their decision to buy. If they had a question they likely found the answer through their own research. And if they didn't find the answer they most assuredly would ask if it would determine a purchase or not.

Let's say I've just signed up for your service and you've asked me if I have any questions. Since I've never experienced your service, I'll assume you know more about your service than I do. I'll assume I should have a question for you since you are asking me if I have one. I'll wonder, "What am I missing?"

Maybe you know something I don't know. In the absence of any real question I may have, I'll likely ask if there are any specials or discounts I don't know about. And now, you're on defense. Defending your product and price and in the process devaluing it to the one person who had decided it was worth the money to buy it.

Whatever you do, don't ask someone who has already made an intelligent purchase in their mind, "Do you have any questions." Trust me, they don't.


The Five "C's" That Keep Us From Growth - #1 Contentment

Not so long ago I decided I'd make a few changes. I did what all the gurus tell you to do. I had a "why" that was bigger than my "how". I had a plan. I even started. And then, a few short days into my new life, I found myself doing the same old thing I had done before. Have you been there?

Of course you have, we all have. But what causes it? I've found there are several culprits and they all start with the letter "C".

So today, we'll take a look at the first "C" - Contentment.

Chances are if you don't make changes you think you wish to make, you're really contented with where you are. After all, if you weren't contented, you'd make a change, wouldn't you?

Perhaps not. There's a different "C" for that situation, and that's for another post. But, very often, we fail to change because we are unknowingly content with our situation. I discovered this quite by accident.

I found that I was content with my current situation when I started to rationalize my failure to change. "Hey, you're already pretty good here" I'd say and follow with, "You know if you stay right here you're going to be good enough, don't you?"

But here's the fallacy. In life, it is impossible to stay anywhere for any length of time. You might stay the same, but the world won't. The likelihood that you will be the same three years from now is an impossible idea. The thought that you won't change is ludicrous. By simply interacting with the world you'll change.

And if you try to change just as the world changes, you'll most certainly be left behind. The world changes so fast, you must either be proactive in changing to stay ahead or be changed by the world at its whim.

So, I've determined that I cannot be contented any longer because at the moment I'm contented, the world around me changes and thereby I do too. My contentment can only be momentary.

If you're contented with your current situation you might just want to take a closer look. Oh look, things just changed. Best you plan to change too or you'll be changed in a way you might not care for.