Why are your in business, why do your customers care #marketing #business

Why are you in business – why your customers care?

Too many new business owners focus on the what and the how of their business and do not ask themselves why they are in business. According to a 2012 study by Neilson, 92% of people, world-wide, buy based on personal recommendations. It is usually  easier to get personal recommendations from your clients if they know why you are in business.

In my work with people developing their marketing plans for their businesses I begin with the question why are they in business. I believe that this is a key determination of what will separate  them from their competition.

Since I am a business coach and not an author, I freely admit that I started doing this after reading the book “Start with Why“.  I am not an author, and just writing blogs is as much authoring that I want to do.  Perhaps it is because my grandfather told me “that those that can do, those that can’t teach“. I am a better coach than teacher because it is closer to the “doing” that is in my own DNA.  As a result of this belief,  I love using other books as additional references for my clients and I recommend Start with Why by Simon Sinek.

Begin with why

If I were to extract out the key takeaway from the book, it is that there are three things that businesses need to understand in order to be successful, the how, the what and the why.  The author refers to these as the “golden circle”.  The author believes that the why is the most important of these.  I do not agree that there are only three considerations, I believe the who of who we are selling to is almost as important as is your why.  But who you are selling to is next weeks blog.  I agree that starting with your why is a key and most important first step in differentiating yourself in your business venture.

What is your why?  What dreams, aspirations and passions are inside of you that are driving you and inspiring you to create you business?

An example works well as to how this can work in a standard “sales commercial” used in most referral marketing venues. A client of mine has given me permission to share this.

“Recently, Sam shared why he got involved in the auto repair and service business. Because of his motivation to help others be safe in their cars and other vehicles, we have formed deep long lasting relationships with our customers.

I want to tell you a short story about what that means to them. Last weekend we went to the ninetieth birthday party for one of our customers. Sam went, his dad who created the business went along with a long term mechanic and myself.  Our customers daughter who created the party told the crowed room that all of us had touched the lives of her father and she hoped the same was true for us.  I can tell you that for me it certainly was.

The why of how our business was created is the desire to help others and keep them safe.  We just happen to be in the auto repair business.

We are looking to grow our business and we need your help.  Who do you know that wants to buy someone who will not just service their cars as a one time transaction, but wants someone who has their back to take care of their kids as they drive off to school for the first time or keep their aging but beloved commuter car in safe and reliable condition?”

If you live in the North Hills of Pittsburgh, you might want to check out Glenshaw Auto if this resonates with you and you need a great mechanic or even just tires or a battery.

What about you?

How likely are you to trust an auto service company in which four people are invited to a birthday party? Do your customers know why you do what you do?  Will they invite you to their ninetieth birthday party because you have touched their lives?  If an auto repair shop does this, what does that mean for financial advisors, insurance agents, bankers, lawyers and health providers. How much easier should it be for you to touch the lives of your customers.

Why are you in business?

When does the second half of life start?

When I launched onCOREventures three years ago, I wanted to work with people in the second half of life.  For someone in their sixties like me, it is readily apparent that they are in the second half of life.  But, I had forgotten that when I turned thirty, I also thought that I was in the second half of life.  At that point, I was no longer a child, I also no longer had the swagger of my twenties.  For many of the earliest millennials, those people born between 1982 and 1985 after the “new mini-baby boom” (as it was called in 1982), as they turn thirty, it seems to them that they are in the second half of life.

The parallels between the boomers of the sixties who had to endure the absolutely absurd decide of the seventies as they came of age, today’s generation had to endure the absolutely absurd first decade of this century.  In the seventies we had the elimination of the gold standard, the final end of the Vietnam War, Watergate, the first and second oil embargo, the Iran Hostage crisis, runaway inflation, 20% home mortgage rates, the invention of the personal computer by Apple and really bad polyester clothing and hair styles.  This century we had 9-11, two major economic downturns, dysfunctional government, imaginary weapons of mass destruction, terror alerts on TV for years on end, our own personal cable hate channels, the invention of the personal hand held computer (iPhone) by Apple and constant interruptions so we are all busy all of the time.

In both cases as people turned thirty, they seem to realize that it is time to take control of the little bit of life that we can control, and that includes how we put food on the table and what food we choose to eat.  Today, more and more of my clients are in their thirties and they have no intention of doing what my generation did.  Our generation went to sleep, we sold out, bought consumer goods, big houses and absurd amounts of junk food.  We have ruined the environment, our own waist lines, our sense of self worth and our personal integrity.  Some of us are waking up.  But much fewer than I hoped for. Three years ago, I thought that most of us would wake up.  Today, I realize that most of my generation is fat, sick and living in a past that never existed in the first place. In fact, it turns out that twenty percent of them are being supported by their millennial and Gen-X “children” according to TD Ameritrade.

So, perhaps it is fortunate that the current “booming” generation now entering their thirties seems to have no such inclination to go to sleep.  The fifty and sixty somethings that stood by and helped this country become a debtor nation with crumbling infrastructure and bulging waste lines might be able to tread water until they die, but our children and grandchildren clearly cannot. And frankly, I am enjoying working with these people who have been called entitled and spoiled by the most narcissistic, spoiled generation in the history of the planet (that would be the baby boomers).  Todays thirty somethings know that corporate America will spit them out when the hit fifty five just like they are doing with the Pepsi generation, so why buy into it to begin with?  Why not build something that only you control and do it in such a way that you rely on a like minded community of people that want to help you do the same?

That is why I created onCOREventures.  I once asked another coach – do you define the market or does the market define you?  I suspected that it was the later, and in my case it turns out that it is.  So, if the second half of life starts when you hit twenty-eight to thirty and you realize that you are not a kid and that the only one who can make your life successful are you and your small circle of friends, then so be it. As Steve Jobs asked John Scully back in the eighties “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world? If you want to change the world, I want to help you regardless of your physical age.

But I have a challenge for boomers.  Wake up, find something that you are passionate about, support yourselves into your eighties and spend the next twenty years cleaning up the planet, reversing your self imposed diseases like type two diabetes and give back some of the wisdom that we have collected.  People like Steve Jobs and Princess Diana – people who truly gave to the world are dead and you are here – do something with what you have left of your life instead of going to Panera every morning and complaining about the Republicans who are running for president or the “socialist” in the White House.

In the meantime, like Obi-Wan Kenobi, I will gladly work with the people who self qualify as wanting to create onCOREventures. Whether you are thirty or sixty, there is time to create sustainable businesses or a life focus that helps to change the world into a better place to live that is in harmony with your values. I want to help you do it.

Image – Shutterstock

The #1 Best Way to Improve Your Content Next Year

As we head towards the close of the season, we are working hard to put the polishing touches on our business goals, priorities, and deliverables for the coming year.  Some call it creating New Years resolutions; some call it setting intentions (more on that next week!), while some simply call it smart business practice.

Whatever you call it, planning is essential.  And when it comes to the content you will share with your tribe next year – failing to plan is planning to fail.

So you know you need a plan. And you may have even heard about this fancy thing called an editorial calendar. But what is that really? And how do you create one? Where do you start?

First things first:

What is an editorial calendar – and more importantly – why should you care?

A content or editorial calendar is a simple tool used to organize content, article placement, due dates, and author responsibilities. It can be as simple or robust as you need. You might have just one master calendar or separate calendars for each information stream.

Content planning allows you to:

  • Plan ahead
  • Avoid last-minute content disasters
  • Generate fresh and winning ideas
  • Increase your content quality
  • Target audiences more effectively
  • Significantly ramp up your ability to promote new offerings

Ok – I get it! I want to create my plan to deliver awesome, relevant content! Now what?

Here’s where we get down to details.

The best way to begin is to think about your business goals over the coming year. Do you have new programs you are planning to offer? Are you trying to grow a particular sector of your market or reach a new audience? Do you have new products coming out that you’ll need to promote. Make a list of all of those things first.

Now think about the things you wanted to talk about this year but never found the time, or didn’t have the right research, or felt like maybe there was not enough information to share. Add those to your list.

Finally, engage in some friendly competitive research. I’m not talking about espionage here – just take some time to do a little reconnaissance. See what folks who offer similar products and services have been up to. See what they are highlighting, promoting, and talking about. Now think about how you can bring more value to those conversations for your audience. How can you inject your unique insight, perspective, and ideas into the areas that matter most to your existing and prospective clients?

You should have a pretty long list of potential ideas at this point. Read over it and start to notice any overarching categories or content buckets.

Is there a big chunk of ideas that focuses on one particular service you offer? Maybe that could be a series of blog posts that really dives into the nitty-gritty details.

Are there a bunch of outlier topics that don’t really jive with the rest of the material? Don’t sweat it – just make a catch-all category and worry about those pesky items later.

Once you have categories defined along with a list of potential topics for each – take a few minutes to jot down the main points of each idea. This will help you quickly determine if there is enough material for a full fledged blog post or if the content is more concentrated in nature – and therefore better suited to a Facebook or Twitter delivery.

Jot down any ideas on potential images that would complement your text. Maybe a few thoughts on a possible Pinterest Board or Instagram upload.  Make those delivery notes for each item so that you have a guide for how you want to distribute the content – don’t worry you can always tweak it later.

Now comes the fun part – promise.

You have just created all the material you need for a successful content plan for the coming year. All you need to do now is plug it into the calendar and file it away for next year. Right?

Well – kind of.  Yes you do need to plug all of these wonderful ideas into a calendar but there are just a few more things to cover.

Timing is an important consideration. Do you want to do one blog post a week? Two maybe? Do you want to be sure to engage with your audience daily on Facebook? Do you want to grow your Instagram following this year? These are all important business and content delivery decisions that will affect your final editorial calendar layout.

Assuming you have these timing goals firmly decided upon and top of mind – go ahead and plug in your content ideas with notes on delivery into your editorial calendar. This can be a simple excel spreadsheet with a list of dates or a more fancy document with national and “novelty” holidays already notated.

You can use holidays as entry points for engagement. For example – a restaurant owner or food manufacturer might leverage novelty holidays such as National Pizza Day to offer discounts or free with purchase coupons. A clothing or gift store could offer a free ice cream cone on National Ice Cream day. You can also provide content like top ten lists for local or industry related items that will be useful to your audience. You can download a sample calendar idea for January 1 and a list of interesting “holidays” by clicking here.

A word on change

Remember that this is your plan – which means –you can change things when necessary. Is it going to be an extra month before that new program is ready? No problem- just shift your promotional content timeline out a bit and pull in some of the less time sensitive, but still useful, content to fill the gap. Read an awesome article during your morning blog review session that you just have to share with your tribe? No problem – shift your scheduled Facebook posting to a later date and drop in that great new content you just found.

The goal here is to have a plan – not necessarily to so rigidly stick to that plan that you miss out on great opportunities to share knowledge or promote your business. That’s just self-defeating in the end.

Get Going!

Armed with this new knowledge – go out and create your master content plan for next year’s engagement. While you are it – set some goals for leveraging social media; be it a new platform for your business or simply penetrating further to grow your tribe. And remember – we are here to help if you get stuck or need some help with implementing all of those great content ideas.

How about you?

What are your content goals for next year? Have you used an editorial calendar in the past? How do you plan for audience growth success?

 

Image Credits: Shutterstock

Multi Level Marketing

Multi-level Marketing as an onCOREventure

Lately, I have begun to work more closely with Multi-Level marketing (MLM) people through my membership in BNI. I have to admit, I have previously held a negative bias about MLM.  This perspective is rooted in an experience with one MLM in particular which directly affected a friendship. These friends unfortunately “drank the Kool Aide” and started pushing their conversion story to how they, and of course we by extension, could become wealthy beyond belief. At the time, I attributed this change in demeanor to the MLM scheme, but I’ve come to realize that it was my friend’s specific behavior to which I was reacting, not the MLM theory in general. Understanding this difference has removed the bad taste I once held for what can be a very profitable business tool.

For people in the second half of life, who are looking for an interesting way to spend their time and are passionate about something that could be woven into an MLM business, this type of structure is ideal. Many folks are often already set up for success in these types of ventures as they typically already have a network of friends and business associates from which to draw participation. Additionally, this network often shares similar core values and interests that play well with the MLM company marketing strategy for the products in which they are interested., If this sounds like you – then a company built around MLM is well worth considering.

Recently I watched a video in which the distributor of an MLM’s products discussed how people working for corporations are in fact working in a pyramid scheme. If that is true – why do so many people downplay the opportunities for success in the MLM world as nothing more than a pyramid scheme? I think the answer is simple. They have bought into the “American Dream” of working for forty hours a week for forty years in the hopes that this will allow them to retire comfortably at a reasonable age.  The unfortunate truth, which most of us who are well into the second half of life already know, is that the American Dream is really the American Nightmare. Retirement is simply no longer a safe bet for most people in their forties and fifties.

As indicated in my last blog, I have been working my way through a period of reflection and intense business delivery focus over the last six months, and now am operating in a more focused way on my original goals.  I strive to help people create the life that they were born to live, in the second half of life. My philosophy is counter-cultural to the American dream of retirement as being focused on recreation, travel, intrusion into adult children’s lives, and perhaps a part time retirement job befitting of the slow moving, overweight image of the typical American.

My view of retirement rather is one of moving away from the corporate world with its endless struggle to fit in to the mold of the company by keeping your head down and your mouth shut. I believe we need to “fit out” (be individuals-not drones) by keeping our heads up and truly listening to what other people need …and by trying to help them if we can.  I believe that our network of friends and family is the real measure of our net worth. We need the support of others, and the best way of getting to this is by investing in relationships before you need to cash them in.

So, if you are interested in promoting things like weight loss challenges and products that provide alternative paths to healing and beauty, such as natural cosmetics, or if you are drawn to nutrition products or handmade jewelry, etc., there are many MLM companies out there. If you are passionate about one, or more, of them, check them out. There is a list on Wikipedia that can get you started.

As a member in a BNI chapter and a professional coach, I work with many people in MLM. I’ve learned that there are different personas and core values that are very successful with the structure and processes for each company. If you wonder whether you have the core values and skills necessary to be successful in an MLM environment, we offer an assessment which will help you understand how you personally would do best in approaching a network marketing system in order to be successful. Check out your results here.

Leveraging these results, we will then have a short conversation which will give you either the confidence to go forward with a network marketing company, or perhaps the incentive to look at something else. I have found that the core energies you use to figure out if something is a good fit are often times the exact energies that stop you from implementing the processes that the MLM company wants you to pursue in order to be successful. This can be tricky to navigate and we are here to help you with this process.

Multi-Level Marketing is not for everyone, but many people earn thousands of dollars a month in this fashion. Many more, unfortunately, earn nothing. Understanding what you want, and at your core who you are, can make the all the difference.
How about you?  Are you interested in Multi-Level Marketing? Do you feel your interests, core values, and capabilities are in line with MLM principles? We’d love to hear your MLM story or work with you to take the next step in discovering your path to success in the second half of life.

Launching Your Second Career as the New Retirement

“You can do it alone. But it’s going to be so much harder.”

It sounds somewhat harsh, but author Jennifer Egan hits the nail on the head. Launching your second career venture is not a solo practice, even if you are a solopreuneur. It takes a village to launch your efforts. There is a side benefit to this village: people live longer when they have the support of others, and often the work relationships from corporate go away after you leave the corporate matrix. Creating a work-life balance after leaving your day job requires some creativity as you build your “new retirement” life.

In all probability, launching your venture will require skills that you do not have. When we work for large organizations, there are other people that can be influenced to do what is needed. When you go out on your own, you either have to buy that expertise, develop it yourself, or barter for it.

How do you decide what to do and what to buy? How much of your time are you willing to invest in learning new skills? How much enjoyment do you get from doing so?

When I started this practice, I had the luxury of not needing to live on the proceeds from the business. I am now cash flow-positive from the practice and am in the position to see a clear path towards where I want to go. As I have been mentioning in the last few blogs, it comes down to a question of balance.

I am the type of person that works well in the undefined state of startups. One of my quirks, though, is that I need to understand the framework for the environment, the questions, as well as the tools. Some of those tools are software, some are techniques, some are assessment in the practice area of our business.

In my youth, I rebelled against traditional education. I am, to a large degree, self-taught. Lately, I have been amazed that I have chosen the formal education path over self-teaching more and more frequently. I have taken two formal coach training programs – one in ICF Core Competency Coaching from iPEC, and one in nutrition theory and wellness coaching from IIN. When it came time to learning Quickbooks, I opted for a community college class. To learn how the subconscious can be reprogrammed I took two PSYCH-K training courses.

I have done this because I realized in my first PSYCH-K course that I am an experiential learner. Looking back at high school and college, I aced any class that I showed up at. Simply being exposed to the information allowed me to learn it and master it. So self-teaching for me was dependent on being in an environment where I could learn empirically.

In corporate America, I had ample opportunity to learn from those around me in this way. Self-teaching worked because I had a feedback mechanism where I could collaborate with and observe other people around me. When I left that environment, I no longer had that support or that energy.

There are a variety of ways to get support from others. Peer networking groups, like ICF-PIttsburgh for coaches, are a logical place to go for that. Community College courses, university certificate or advanced degree programs, seminars, distance learning courses are all ways for connecting in person or virtually. Meetup groups are another place to find support. In Pittsburgh, there is one for co-locators where people support one another in looking for a supportive fashion.

It is easier to make decisions on what to make, versus what to buy when you have others to bounce ideas off of. It is also easier to find them when you get out of your home office and talk to others. One of the best decisions that I made was to join a BNI chapter, because it forced me to show up once a week bright and early at seven in the morning,  and it forced me to look for people to refer to others, otherwise known as referral marketing. That got me to network in other places. I, like most people, will work harder for others than I will for myself.

That being said, in launching your effort, I have found that having some type of support system is best. I have also found that others often want to help you succeed, and that people will often help you. You simply have to show up and ask.

Inflammation – It’s the Environment, Stupid!

What do cancer, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s all have in common? Besides being words that we hope never come out of our doctors’ mouths, there’s something else; inflammation. Our bodies environment is hot, fat and crowded. Makes you cringe a little, doesn’t it? The standard American diet has been cited by the six doctors that we quoted three weeks ago. They all point to inflammation as a common cause of these diseases of the second half of life. When I think about the effects of inflammation, I am drawn to Death Valley.

I began looking at my own body’s environment when I read the book “Wheat Belly“.  Within this journey, I found that as I cut out my consumption of wheat, and then cheese, things dramatically got better. My thinking got clearer, my joint pain lessoned – in places like knees, and fingers, and the like.  Believe it or not, you can survive without those greasy grilled cheese sandwiches. In fact, you’ll thrive. As I completed my coursework for IIN, studied scores of diets, internalized all of the work on how our diet can improve our health and either prevent or reverse the diseases listed above, I started to become very smug.  I started to believe that I was eating really well.  Then, I contracted one of those pestering ear infections, and for the last three months have struggled to get back on track, from a health perspective at least.

In the afternoon (or late evening, as I sometimes think of it) of our lives, our toleration for mistakes is lessened over that of our earlier years.  I read the “Honeymoon Effect” and listened to the person that started this journey for me – Bruce Lipton – talk about the effects of stress and cortisol on the environment in our bodies.  I commented on this two weeks ago, and I thought, Fine, I just need to relax a bit, and simple awareness will make all of this angst go away.  To a point it did.  But not completely, and certainly not authentically.

I started to meditate more and slow down, but I was on deadline for a number of things.  I did not really focus on it.  I did not mediate as if my life depended on it.  For those of you that prefer the term “prayer” to “meditation” – feel free to substitute.  I remember when I used the “prayer” term – I would turn things over to God, but then take them back.

Here is the dirty little secret that I rediscovered over the last few months.  Encore Entrepreneur – or Entrepreneur – same thing.  One thing is in common to both.  In 1994, I had the pleasure of listenting to Michael Gerber (the author of the E-Myth) speak about the midset of the typical small business owner.  One day, you wake up and you realize you are working for a tyrant.

It does not matter if you are working fourteen hour days for “the man,” for your own thing, or for your cause.  If you are working fourteen hours and you are not having fun with at least half of it, you are probably building up cortisol, which is making your body hot, and not in the glamorous way. It is inflaming it, and it does not matter what food you are eating – you are going to feel bad, maybe even awful.  If you are working fourteen hours a day but living onCORE and in harmony with yourself, then spending the day in Death Valley might not be all bad.

Plein Aire

I can choose – I could be in the “death valley” of business – wandering around, bitching. My mindset: “Damn, I am in death valley, and life sucks.”

Or, I can grab a camera, since I cannot paint, and get up in the early morning light to enjoy the day, even if that camera is metaphorical.  If you have followed this blog, then you know that I identified this a few weeks ago, and here I am still writing about it. Well I did title that entry – Remedial.  And I guess that I am still remedial.  At the time that I wrote it I thought that I had the answer.  Maybe I did, but I left out a real daily centering every day.

One of my favorite spiritual teachers, Wayne Dwyer, has told the story that he would get frenetic – as I have gotten recently with the challenges of launching a business – being “in the world”, so to speak.  He would question another of my favorite teachers Deepak Chopra, and Deepak’s answer was simply one word – MEDITATE. Wayne would say some thing along the lines of, “But Deepak, don’t you think…” And he would simply say, “MEDITATE!”  For me, the food is one thing, and it is very important, but the real answer is to center myself daily, – so I can be IN the world and not OF it, in the famous words of St. Paul.

 

Time Management – Calendars for your ventures

Whether it’s for a business or our personal lives, we can hardly get through a day without checking our calendars. Time is money and time management is critical. We buy calendars with beautiful pictures representing each month, or we keep ourselves virtual with the use of calendar applications on our phones and computers. Calendars are so vital that Mac products are automatically equipped with this calendar app. The fact is, absolutely no one can run a business without a good calendar management system. As of late, we have been frustrated with synchronization between iOS and our Mac and Windows computers. Last week, we talked briefly about the use of back office, cloud-based tools, and how to set-up email and a quick website in the weeks before that.  We will return to the back office tools after we evaluate PayPals solutions entirely.  This week we are talking about calendars, and because there is a wealth of information on the Internet, we are not reinventing the wheel. Rather, we are pointing to a site that we found through a great resource for people launching an onCOREventure – Open Forum from American Express.

In fact, this resource is so cool that over the last twenty-four hours using very little effort, we moved our primary calendar to Google Calendar, and found an online sign-up mechanism for both clients and potential clients to sign up for sessions through our website that we have begun testing. We expect this tool to eliminate the use of coaches console for our practice and allow clients to manage their own calendars with our practice.  Note: In fact by the end of the next day we had the feature live on our website, fully integrated into our production calendar system.

Since we use iOS devices and not Android, we like the idea of apps that live on the device.  That being said, even tough the Apple-supplied apps for Calendar and Contacts are subpar, we were pleased to see that there are a variety of calendar apps available for iOS, and I had one up and running in five minutes. We use CalenMob and opted for the paid version for increased functionality. Since I already migrated my iCal information to Google, I did not grant the app access. Frankly, with this app and with Google calendar, there is fortunately no reason for me to use Apple’s calendar.

On a roll, we experimented with another app – Contacts Sync.  One of Apple’s dirty little secrets is that contacts disappear, are doubled, tripled and in once case multiplied by ten.  Phone numbers go away.  It was so easy to get my calendar into Google, I figured why not get my contacts into Google, and this little tool had them synchronized in five minutes.  Now the cool thing is that Google seems to be pretty good at not actually losing information on my contacts – and with this tool, I can always overwrite the Apple contacts with Google’s. I was also easily able to delete the duplicates in my Apple contacts using the tool, something that I can never seem to remember how to do on my Mac.

The more we use Google’s cloud services, the more we like them.  and with apps on iOS and things like open-source tools on cross platform PC’s Linux and Mac environments, life seems to be getting easier and more affordable for new ventures to get their technology in place.

 

Show me the money

I have found myself using another line from Jerry McGuire lately: “Help me help you; so why not show me the money this Tuesday morning?”

Tuesday is our day to look at infrastructure to support the launch efforts of your venture. We started speaking to the web environments for mail and a public face, and now we want to get focused on something that most people do not want to talk about – accounting.

The sooner that you put in the tracking system for expenses and income, the sooner you will look at your venture as a business and not a hobby. We have used Quicken for the last eighteen years to track our personal expenses, but for some reason resisted setting up Quickbooks for the business, putting it off for tomorrow.

Eventually, though, it became time to pay the piper, and the inevitable happened. We started becoming successful enough that manual and Excel tracking of the business became too cumbersome. Over the last three days, I have spent twelve hours a day entering history and balancing accounts for our small business in Quickbooks after taking a class in it last month. Not fun, but very doable.

Many second career ventures are self funded to start, and start as part-time gigs, so it is easy to bypass setting up the formal business plan and accounting systems. We follow the lean start up mentality of establishing the minimum viable product and testing and refining direction, which means that these are guidelines and not formal documents that have been used to get financing from the SBA or a bank.

But eventually, it is time to act. I do not regret following the approach that we have followed so far. However, we are far enough into our launch to be certain that this is a long term business, and to determine exactly what systems and processes we need to manage that business. The tweak that I would follow is to look at the online systems that are available to help you establish affordable systems for accounting and contact management even in the guideline phase of development.

Last week, in an American Express newsletter, we found the mention of a Paypal offering that allows new businesses to use cloud services for the items that every small business needs: invoice management and collection and forecasting, accounting, contact management and newsletter creation and distribution.

The services are free for thirty days and cost ninety dollars a month after that. It is possible to buy packages and run them on your PC that do the same thing, at a higher cost. Also, there are other cloud-based services that do these things together. However, if you are using or considering using Paypal for payment processing, these might make sense.

So while I do not regret the approach that we used, if these tools were available when we started this venture early last year, I would have considered it. In fact, even though we are down the path we have chosen, I am going to review this toolkit even if it just for my clients information going forward.

We will report on it after our review, but for now, you might want to check it out yourself.

 

Web Environment – your website

Last week, we talked about setting up email. Conventional wisdom in the Internet age is that you need a website to drive your business. What we have found is actually the contrary; a website can actually put a halt on your business’s growth. We’ve all Googled ourselves out of curiosity, but what about after you meet someone at a networking event, or exchange emails? You can guarantee your new acquaintance has Googled you as well. If you have no website, they will only find your LinkedIn profile and other references that you probably do not have any control over.

We work mostly with solopreuneurs in our practice, and most people that start businesses are in that category at least in the beginning. The first thing that solopreuneurs need to remember is that you are now “the brand” or “product”. Not what you sell, but you. When Tiger Woods turned pro, his father Earle told him that he was a product now, something that Tiger and folks like A-Rod have learned the hard way.  Keep that in mind when you are considering ranting on Facebook.

So before you even start to craft your website, it is useful to complete a personal branding exercise. We start our clients with this, and then follow that up with a core values index. Our image and our core values are both vital in setting our personal brand.

For example, green is a color that we have used initially for onCOREventures. Green is the color of the heart chakra, the fourth and most core of the chakras. It is the color of sustainability and the color of “start” or “go.” Thus, green is core to our business, because these items are core to us. We have used and will continue to use my photography as the promotion of our site, because vision is important to our clients, and my vision is often expressed in my imagery. I augment this however with viable stock photography that conveys the messages.

When I started my coaching practice, I did not have the name chosen so I simply set up frederickgeiger.com and put up a four-page site. Home, what I do, who I am, and a blog.  That way, anyone that looked for information about me would find that site.  I went into a 1:1 networking meeting only to find someone looking at my photography site at fredgeiger.com.

For my coaching practice, I had a colleague build a quick site in Dreamweaver, which was overkill, but I already had a hosting contract in place, and I knew how to setup a website myself. Since I already had set up a WordPress site for our church, adding the blog was trivial – for me.

If you have nothing of the sort in place, and if you already completed what we talked about last week, and used Google to set up your email, then it is a simple process to launch your website on Google as well..

From the sites section of Google, first choose “Create a Site.” You can then see that there are a variety of templates that can be used, and you can work on your site before it is published and made public. Once you are satisfied with it, you can then point your domain name to it. If that is your personal name, you can always redirect people to your new site, or not. Currently, I still have my old personal photography site active at fredgeiger.com, and I have redirected frederickgeiger.com to my current site.

There are many other ways of setting up a site, some very affordable and some very costly. But if you are hanging out your shingle and do not have a live website, do not be surprised if you are not always taken seriously.

You can also create other sites to experiment with different ideas – or use as a private intranet for your associates or contractors as you grow your company. Tools such as Google Drive make it easy to store files and access them online from any web browser.

The most difficult part of any process is setting yourself in motion. Do not let the fear of taking that first plunge stop you from having your own site. Setting up your own site that emits your core message to potential clients is a quick, very uncomplicated task. This also means that you don’t have to empty your wallet on creating a website for a business that does not have a definite direction yet. The one thing that I have learned in my many years of working with startups of all sizes is that the worst decision is actually the decision not made. Make decisions that complement your core values, and then take action. Ready, set, go.

Launching your web environment

I often find that many of my clients ask me for advice.  Coaching, in its purest sense, does not give advice; we are trained extensively NOT to give advice. In fact, in order to be accredited by the International Coaching Federation, we have to show through our coaching that we do not give advice. So what is the first thing all clients want? Advice, of course.

Since that is out of the question, we must take a different route. Instead, we become storytellers, narrating the success stories of others. But then, clients will want follow-up recaps. If you’re someone that is up late in the night, searching for the solutions to their most pestering thoughts, then I’m doing something for you: I am starting a weekly Tuesday blog series on tools, tips and techniques on how to authentically launch your onCOREventure. Once these are finished – all I need to do is send a link as a follow-up.

Most onCOREventures, whether they include the creation of a new business or just a new way of showing up in retirement activities, require web technology.  This usually starts with acquiring a domain name and setting up email and a website.  Setting up a domain name is very simple, and most people have no trouble taking this step.  Providers of web hosting and email services are usually more than happy to offer you low-cost domain name registration, which seems fantastic. But then, things take a turn. These providers then sell you a whole bunch of services that, for the average person just wanting to boost their web presence, are difficult to use and setup.

For our clients that are not tech-savvy and do not want to empty their wallets or spend all their time setting up their web environment, we usually suggest that they consider the use of Google Apps because of the great results that other clients have experienced. I say this owning stock in Microsoft and having wanted to use Microsoft Office365 for this, and I am still trying to get it to work.  But SkyDrive, SkyDrive Pro, Office, Office 365, Office for the Mac, Office 2010 for the PC, Office 2013 for the PC, the Hotmail to Outlook migration – seriously? – I have over thirty years of using Microsoft Office and operating systems and I am still struggling to get it to work using the cloud and my Mac-PC hybrid environment.

That being said, if you want the web to just work, use Google Apps.  Assuming that you have a Domain Name for your venture and simply a dream of it being done, you need to get a Google Apps account for your business.  You can get started here to find out more information.  If you are ready to get started right now, you can start out by paying five dollars a month for one user.

But, you can get started in less than an hour and kick the tires on the technology simply by going to this link.  You can set up your account free for thirty days without a credit card, and then direct your domain name for email to Google.  If you already use GMAIL for your email, you can add your own customer domain to your existing GMAIL account, and get all of your mail in one place.  Many people in corporate like to keep things separate, but I have found that in working with people embarking on their onCORE ventures, the line between business and pleasure dulls, and simplicity is key.

Here are some things to keep in mind when you plan your effort.  Let’s say that you are using onCORE.com for your domain name.  So far, all you have done is register your domain name with someone like Godaddy.com, or Network Solutions or Register.com.  You can set up an account for yourself with Google for Google Apps.  So in my case, I would setup a new Google apps account for frederick@oncore.co.  Once I did that I could then go to Godaddy, which is where I have registered oncore.co and change the MX records with them to point to Google.  About an hour or two later, I will be able to send and receive mail from frederick@oncore.com through my GMAIL user interface on my iPhone, iPad or through a web browser.  If you want to use your Mac Mail or Outlook client to get and send your mail, you can easily do that.  Because Google does a great job of proving wizards, videos, and documentation on how to set things up, I am not going to do that.  This is one of the reasons that I suggest to clients that consider this route because of its clarity and thoroughness.

Once you are done with this, and you want to set up a website with Google without paying someone to host it for you, you can use Google Sites. You can even play with the site and customize it to perfection before you put it on display for the public eye.  We will cover this use and other uses for the sites feature next Tuesday in our weekly blog series on how to take your onCOREventure to market.