The Power of AND

Power of ANDThe Power of AND is often lost in our black or white, left or right,  pass or fail world, what happened to AND?  Why is it either/or?

Did you know you can have a business AND happy customers (not to mention employees)?   How about eating (some) junk food AND eating healthy?  Yes, you can have a beautiful garden AND have someone else tend to it.  Did you know you can have a thriving business AND a healthy marriage? Did you know you can believe in the power of God AND the eloquence of science? Did you know you can care for the poor AND be a capitalist? Did you know you can state your opinion AND have a conversation with a dissenter without hating (them vs you, you vs. them)?

AND takes courage.  AND takes presence of mind. AND takes work.  AND takes intention. AND requires a higher level of brain power. AND requires more of us. But, anything worthwhile is worth working on.

 

Everywhere I turn, I hear anti-business sentiment. Should I start a business in this environment?

start a businessBusiness has gotten a bad rap, lately.  Whether it’s from the masses that don’t understand how (small) business is the engine of this country or some are suspicious (or jealous) about the perks that large multi-national companies provide their employees (Click here for some of the most I-wish-I-had-those creative perks) or a serious lack of understanding from the media by generalizing business as greedy or bloated.  But even though some may be, generalizing  is globalizing.  Some even say starting a business is only for the young (Gen X and technology start-ups are often synonymous).  I challenge those naysayers, cynics and pessimists.  Business in its purest form creates jobs, provides a needed product or service, pays taxes and makes their local communities better.

If you feel called to start a business, the timing is right in any environment.  Look at these examples:

  • Gerry and Rosie Wilson, in their late 60’s, started a small boutique winery, Wilson Creek Winery, in Temecula, CA, with 20 acres.  Now a multi-generation family business, Wilson Creek Winery has 900 acres, bottles 30,000 cases annually, hosts 1,000 people every weekend and has 75+ employees. Beyond their winery, tasting room and bottling facility, they have a restaurant, a hotel, and picnic grounds. They are also known as the largest destination wedding event site in Temecula, CA.  They have been recognized and awarded internationally for their famous Almond Sparkling Wine served worldwide and on US naval aircraft carriers.
  • Publix Supermarkets, Columbia Sportswear, Little Debbie Cakes and other recognizable names were started during the Great Depression.  In fact, it may be counter-intuitive, but the % of entrepreneurship eclipses the unemployment rate when our economy tanks.
  • Joy Mangano started her household product mega-business as a struggling, single mother of 3, by inventing a mop. She persevered against naysayers, detractors and product failures.
  • And then there’s me, Annette de Lancey Giacomazzi, founder of CastCoverz!, and author of the soon to be published book, Till Business Do Us Part, How to Thrive in Your Business & Survive Your UnSupportive Husband, and this blog, survived and even thrived among unbelievable odds.  Not only was I in a battle with my emotionally unsupportive husband on a near daily basis, but my first (and only) business partner went MIA after just 3 months then requested a big check or a law-suit (buyer beware: don’t go into business with friends without a Partnership Agreement; especially friends that have similar skill sets).  Then, my first run of manufactured goods was flawed and couldn’t be altered or sold (another expense).  Finally, I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer on my 50th birthday.  All those events took place during my first year of business!

Don’t let anyone denigrate business or your calling to start one.  Going into business is courageous, humbling and noble.  You can either have a business or you can have excuses.  But, you can’t have both.

Your Happy Warrior (a person undiscouraged even in the face of difficulties; plucky crusader),

Annette de Lancey Giacomazzi

How Healthy is Your Business?

healthy businessHopefully, you check in with your doctor and dentist, annually.  You might even schedule an every 6 month cleaning at the dentist, and some annual required exams, after a certain age, or if you’re in a high-risk category.  But, have you considered doing the same for your business?  Your business has a pulse and you need to keep it strong to withstand market volatility and crises (they happen to every business, so it’s best to be prepared).   Following are some key performance indicators (KPI’s) or metrics that every business owner needs to know:

  • Financial Metrics

Cash Flow, Balance Sheet, P&L are the basics.  Make sure debt as % of revenue and net income are the basics, too.  Whittle that number down every quarter.   Be sure to include industry specific metrics, too.  As a manufacturer, I need to know inventory turns and labor rates. Another financial metric I watch is the funding level of an emergency account to the equivalent of 6 months expenses.  My favorite game-changing book is Profit First, by Michael Michalowicz. Mike challenged all my assumptions about sales (expenses) = profit.  Mike’s premise and the book’s bottom-line:  profit shouldn’t be considered last.  My company is leaner and more profitable since I read the book (about 3 years ago). Oh, and it is an entertaining, laugh-out-loud, “uh-huh, that is so me!” read.

  •  Professional Development

Education, Leadership Training, Coaching, Motivation, Success, and Industry Certifications.  No one operates in a vacuum.  In fact, we’re often (too often) in our own head and it’s kinda myopic in there. As your company’s leader, you need to get out of the office and be among your peers.  In addition, you need to stay abreast of the latest thought leaders.  Commit to reading 2 dozen business books a year, that’s only 2 p/month. Considering it takes 3-4 hours for the average reader to read and absorb a book, multiply that by 2 books p/month, that’s only 10-15 minutes a day. Audiobooks are fine.  But, recent research shows reading engages (good) parts of the brain that listening doesn’t. Don’t know where to start?  Read E-Myth, by Richard Gerber, it’s a seminal business classic.  He distills why we all need to process our business functions.  And it’s a well-told story, too. Take an on-line course or two to improve your skills and hire a coach; a good great one.  Your hand should be shaking when you are hitting that “enter” button to pay their fees.  On that note, if you expect people to pay for your time, you need to walk that walk, too.

  • Employee Metrics

Appreciation, Retention and Development Programs;  Sales p/employee, employee hours (sick-time, overtime, accrued vacation time); company benefits, timed response and satisfaction rates for employees directly involved with customers. Employee manual updates need to be logged, as well.

  • Customer Metrics

Without your customers, you wouldn’t have a business.  So you better know this one up, down and sideways.  I know my customer demographics and my end-user stats (they are not always the same).  I measure the # of orders, the AOV (Average Order Value), LTV (Life-Time Customer Value [tip: breakout the profit, too!]), CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost), CPC (Cost p/conversion), conversion % (for e-commerce stores; otherwise closure rate), CRM (customer relationship management) stats, return %, pipeline stats (# of visitors to store, sources of customers, etc…), social media stats (# of followers, posts, re-tweets, etc…) every week.

  • Process Metrics

Process is more than IT or engineering.  Process metrics monitor, evaluate and improve processes company-wide. From the simple, how employees answer the phone, to how refunds are processed, to the more sophisticated EDI for inventory controls, process is part of every company.  You think this doesn’t apply to your company?  Again, I encourage you to read E-Myth.  Mr. Gerber takes us on an entrepreneurial journey with Sarah, a fictional small town pie-maker.  If you’re like me, you’ll be converting her pies to your widgets.

  • Sales & Marketing Metrics

Though closely linked to Customer Metrics, classic numbers to follow are ROAS (return on ad spend) for each channel/medium, # of blog entries (and stats on those [tip: watch what’s effective and replicate it]), sales p/employee and p/account executive.  Do you have a metric to track follow up of calls, brochures, inquiries? I guarantee you, you are leaving dollars on the table if you have no formal process or system.

  • Strategic Metrics

I left the most important for last.  You need to spend time working on your business not just in it.  If you take 1 day p/month, off-site, to just think, dream and strategize about your business you will be farther ahead 1 year from today.

Things to think about are: what worked?  what didn’t? where do I want the business to be in 1 year?  What does it look like? How can I get there?  Who or what will I need to get there?  Who are our customers? What do they look like? What do they need?  What can I give them? What isn’t being met in the marketplace today? What strategic partnerships should I pursue?  What do they look like? How do I get there?  How are we perceived in the community? What can I do for my employees? What’s my exit strategy? Will I leave it as a legacy for my family? Should I liquidate? Should I sell? To whom? My employees? A competitor or a strategic partner? How do I prepare for maximum value and a meaningful exit regardless if I leave it as a legacy, close it down through a liquidation or a sale?   

At bare minimum, you should review the above metrics at least once p/month.  Only then can you address problematic trends, or dedicate more resources to solutions that are working.  Once you have them identified consider consolidating them to a dashboard on your computer screen.  Domo and GuidingMetrics are two I like. All the info and basic stats in one place change the way you manage your business and your team.

What did I miss?  Post your helpful comments below.