Small Business

Business Networking: How to build your personal value.

network.gifBusinesspundit has a post on networking for introverts.


So you're really not much good at networking. You keep a drink in one hand and the other in a pocket. You stand against walls. You avoid direct eye contact. You pretty much suck at it and since you suck at it you hate doing it. You're constantly standing around trying to look pretty and hoping that someone you're interested in meeting will come and talk to you. 

Me too.

It's interesting to watch the dynamics at a networking event. I've attended many but there's often a sense of being disassociated from the main conversations. The worst are the hard sellers.

The Hard Sellers: These guys are there to pitch. For the most part they're talking to themselves. Whenever I'm near a hard seller I'm tuning them right out and trying to scrape them off my shoe asap. The Hard Sellers listen little and talk much. They've done this and that and would appreciate it if you validate their existence by doffing your cap. 

I hate that and respond poorly to it as most people probably do.

Poor networking is usually cause by embarrassment and fear of rejection... hey , it's just like dating. (Here's my eminently readable post on Horizontal Networking)

I have a good friend Chia in NY who's a photographer. She's about 4'8" and 73lbs (I'm 6'3" and 260) Chia used to be an actress before she became a photographer and now she's the most sought after actor photographer in Manhattan.

Chia lives down in the Flat Iron district (The triangle shaped building in Spiderman). A boxing gym opened up next to her building and  Chia thought it would be great exercise to take up boxing. (Here's her boxing photography)

Interestingly, the gym owners thought this was kind of cool so Chia hired a trainer and started hitting a heavy bag. It was a scene straight out of Million Dollar Baby except that Chia was much shorter.

Of course Chia never actually wanted to fight. In fact, the gym ordered her a pair of pink boxing gloves which, I have to say, were really cute.

Anyway, Chia hit like a girl. She'd prance around and make 'hitting' noises while she punched at the air.

Chia wanted to be more serious. She wanted to move and hit like a boxer, not like a girl. When she talked to her trainer he looked at her like she was as stupid as a bag of hammers. "Chia", he said, " Just act like a boxer." That was it... Chia knew how to act and she was a boxer after that.

The point being: It's always something you can act through. If you're not a great networker... act as though you were.

Works for me. 

Studio Salons of Draper is now open.

My buddy Shane's new business for hair stylists, Studio Salons, is now open in Draper.

I was in the location yesterday and it's fantastic. It acutally made me want to cut hair. There are more pictures here.

studio%20-%20draper%20009.jpg

If you know any hair stylists who are tired of booth rental or commissions and want to own their own business. Studio is a perfect fit. The Draper location is open now. The location on 4th South and 5th East will be open in a month or so. 

This model is potentially disruptive to the entire salon and spa industry. We'll see how it goes. 

 

Does anyone have experience dealing with the GSA?

Main_cord-manager.jpgA buddy of mine, Robin Peng, has a device called the applecore that has been licensed for consumer electronics. That's it to the right. (Steve Jobs has called it 'genius')

From what I hear it's doing well with Wal-Mart taking a million units.

I'm looking for some help in trying to get a deal done with the US government throught the US General Services Administration (GSA) but want to hear from someone who's had some experience with them.

If you have any leads in this direction, please email me at jeffbarson @ gmail. 

I promise to treat you really, really well... or give you money.

Critical Mass: To make it, you have to stay in business.

Josh has written more commentary on MWI's 2006 financials on his Don Loper blog.

critical-mass.gifHere's what Josh feels he's learned lately:

In looking over the financials for the last year, I started thinking to myself "Ok, if I hadn't done that, I could have saved $20K, and if I hadn't hired that person I could have saved another $50K and we probably would have gotten by ok..." etc. When I totalled everything up, there was probably $120K worth of expenses that were a total loss as far as return on investment, or could at least be debated as being a total loss. What else could I have done with that $120K?

I've heard, and I can't remember where, that the number one reason businesses don't last is that someone doesn't keep them in business long enough to turn the corner.

A business is very much like any investment that accrues compounding interest over time. Skills, networks, clients... all of these slowly gather momentum and aggregate over time. You know better what you're doing. You make better decisions. Your staff is trained. You don't waste as much money.

The analogy I use comes from the board game Risk. When I was in college we used to play with two boards. The games would take 8-10 hours with tiny incremental position changes. When someone looked to be gaining an advantage the other players would team up and take turns attacking the leading player.

But then a change would come. A subtle shift would benefit a player and advantages would multiply until, at the end, it was a completely one sided affair that ends in minutes.

If you're going to enter a business, better plan on staying in business.

Big Chair: Just what every stylist wants.

My good buddy Shane Jones is getting close to opening his business Big Chair Salon & Spa Suites.

Big Chair (He stole that name from me.) is an almost tech solution to a small business problem.

Opportunity: Every hair stylist, massage therapists on earth wants to own their own salon.

Problem: Salons and spas don't make money (6% margins nationwide) and have high startup costs.

Solution: Big Chair builds out individual 'suites' that they lease by the week, providing exactly what the market wants. Every stylist can now own their own salon and run it however they wish.

Shane's a smart guy and knows this market. The beauty of this business is that he'll have 'no employees', it's just a simple lease agreement that gives the tenants what they want and prevents all the headaches.

My Secret Chef - How to show your inexperience in a service industry.

People don't want to look stupid. So they act stupidly in an attempt to avoid being embarrassed personally.

Nimbleit.com has a business (My Secret Chef) that is run by a young Weber State business graduate (Adam). My Secret Chef has been on the site for a while and this last week made it's first sale.

Now I had met with Adam and offered to put him on the site gratis since hes a young guy with a semi-struggling business. Since his business had been put on the site without the usual payment, his banking info had not gone through the usual process and since he'd not yet sold anything his direct deposit hadn't been initiated. So, when he made his first sale he recieved an instant email notification that the sale had been made and wanted to know how he would be paid. (I had explained it previously but it had been a while.)

(By way of explaination: Nimble directly deposits all sales for the previous 7 days into the listed businesses checking account every Friday.) 

So what did Adam do? He charged the customer full price and told her he'd refund the sale to her card if and when he got paid.

Did he behave in his own best interest? I'd say no. In his desire not to loose a single dollar of potential income, he blamed everything on a third party... us. Then he sent us a nasty all-caps email demanding immediate email although he'd been told that the deposit would go through on Friday (which it did.) So he was in a position of having charged the customer and receiving payment twice.

Had we done anything wrong? No. Had we not done anything we were supposed to do? No. Did anything not work the way it was supposed to work? No.

What should he have done? Even if he'd never been paid, he should have told the customer, "You paid for this in good faith and I'm going to honor this."  Then he could contact us if he didn't recieve payment the way it was promised.

Adam showed his inexperience with customer service and business relationships by overreacting. He damaged his relationship with his customer, his relationship with us, and our relationship with the customer. He's made himself conspicuous as a potential problem and used up all his good will with me personally. Fight Club.

The moral: Business is about the value of personal relationships. That's what I consider capital and I value a business relationship over $20 worth of cheese. 

Complexity causes 50% of product returns.

Complexity causes 50% of product returns.

blockquote.gifHalf of all malfunctioning products returned to stores by consumers are in full working order, but customers can't figure out how to operate the devices. Product complaints and returns are often caused by poor design, but companies frequently dismiss them as "nuisance calls.

blockquote.gifThe average consumer in the United States will struggle for 20 minutes to get a device working, before giving up.

blockquote.gifMost of the flaws found their origin in the first phase of the design process.

This last one might be viewed as the most important. During the design of a system program or product, most of the problems with interface or use that are going to crop up are built into the system.

Preventive hiring as a start-up?

Nothing I do as an entrepreneur/business owner is as important as hiring. But hiring is tricky.  It's very easy to pluck someone that's immediately available when you need boots on the ground. But, I always keep two things in mind when looking to hire someone.

1. A bad employee always damages your company.
2. Succesful recruiting means hiring above yourself, not below.