Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Price Is Right.. Come on Down! North Carolina

Tax credits, 3.7 billion dollars in incentives over the past three years, beautiful weather/landscapes, great people, and great business opportunities, and so much more. What's not to like?

North Carolina is continuing to progress itself forward in bringing more business to its cities. As Senator David Hoyle says, "That's a lot of money." While the findings/results of the studies are still somewhat unclear about the success of the programs and cost-benefits, we need to realize that if Dell and Google have taken advantage of it, it probably means its good for businesses.

While Sen. Hoyle and others are doubting the great benefits and trying to quantify everything to the T, let's not waste anytime and move or open-up your business in good 'ole North Carolina.

There is "no value unless a company acts."

Here is the North Carolina Department of Commerce Website
Here is the Charlotte, NC Chamber of Commerce Website

Tell them I sent you.

Then, call me.

Link: http://www.charlotte.com/business/story/403306.html
article written by Jonathan B. Cox


Monday, December 17, 2007

Blackberry vs. Vacation: Zapping All That is Pure

Do you check your waistline every morning and every 5 seconds thereafter? Do you yearn to hear the little email chime? Do you crave to feel like you are involved at all times? Do you start scratching your neck when you have not had a “fix” in a few minutes? Well, my friends, you have a Blackberry addiction. While there will be a plethora of topic discussions on wireless devices (usually very positive), this little soap-box is quite the contrary. And, in light of the Holiday Season, we need to re-align our priorities.

Honestly, this should not even be a topic, but times are a changin’ and I’m a man current of the times. So, what is the point of vacation? The dictionary says:

· a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually used for rest, recreation, or travel; recess or holiday: Schoolchildren are on vacation now.
· a part of the year, regularly set aside, when normal activities of law courts, legislatures, etc., are suspended.
· freedom or release from duty, business, or activity.


When we were children, we loved vacation. No homework! Lounge around, see friends, watch TV, and not a care in the world. Now look at us, some of us are even penalized if we take a vacation (not officially, but you know what I’m talking about). It is like the ‘optional football conditioning practices’ coaches hold before the season. It’s not mandatory, but if you are not there, you will not be playing.

But here is a newsflash. This is not football practice, our jobs are what we do everyday of our lives for 8-14hrs a day. Do not sell yourself short for the ‘approval’ of someone else.
Why are we all so willing to risk our health? Family? Fun? Care-free spirit? And, most importantly, our SANITY?!! to get the latest office ‘spam’ update.

So let us go back to the definition: “a period of suspension of work, study… used for rest, recreation…” Where is the suspension from work if you have your Blackberry chiming every 5 seconds? Just get away for a couple days. Give your neck and ears a break from the constant checking.

I am not going on record saying Blackberries are evil; all I am articulating is that vacation is to be refreshing and re-connecting with your bicycle you’ve left in the garage, or your family, or whatever you do to re-charge your mind, body, and spirit.

So, I close this entry imploring you, for the sake of your family, health, and sanity, shut the blackberry down and enjoy some eggnog and *cough* rum *cough* and welcome your vacation/couple days off away from the office, and if you need to, check back here and re-read the three vacation definitions.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

This Isn't Stephen King's "IT"

This post was inspired by this article by Ramon Ray from Entrepreneur.com

IT… An abbreviation that, in this day and age, has fashioned and is fashioning three distinct clusters of biz owners. The first yields, for a minute few business owners, hordes of financial capital. These people are IT GUNG HO!! The second is a collection of people reluctantly embracing IT. They are like people in the movie theater watching the scary movie shielding their eyes, hoping the scene changes. They went to the theater to see the show but did not want to become fully involved with what is happening. And, the final tier may be the majority of small and medium sized business owners, and they view IT as just two letters compounded into a useless abbreviation.

Well, guess what!? It’s here to stay. Whether you want to realize it or not, IT or "Information Technology" is here to stay. You cannot be afraid of it. You need to embrace and snuggle up with it. If you treat it right, it will return the favor with great returns on investment (ROI) and make you a leader in your business / industry.

However, you cannot simply throw capital at it. That would be foolish! The four main issues Mr. Ramon Ray touched upon were: “1) Lack of Education 2) Inability to Prioritize 3) Integrating Information, and 4) Data Protection & Security.” (1/10/2007). I will touch briefly upon them and begin to raise awareness of Information System benefits.

1) Lack of Education
“Ignorance is bliss.” You believe that and your biz. will come to an end. One of the reasons a major telecom. company had problems a few years ago was that we refused to change and accept that we needed to amend how we go about providing services to our clients. We were just the “phone company.” We did not fully embrace IT benefits. Now look at us, we are a mean, lean, telecommunications machine providing amazing solutions for real life business demands. I can say that my clients will not suffer this fate, ever. I always make sure you are constantly evolving and innovating.

You need to keep in regular touch with me. While I do speak with you at least once a month, by keeping me (your IT guru) involved, you will never miss a beat. Staying ahead of the game is what it is always about. Educate yourself.
Do not be afraid to say, to either me or even yourself, “I don’t know.”

Personally, the more I mature, the more I realize, I am not afraid to say, “I don’t know” (obviously within reason). If there is a new product, trend, or process I am unsure about, I’ll ask. That way, I learn it right the first time and I show my peers I want to learn. That is the biggest step you can take. Admitting you are not the best enables you to go out, learn, absorb information, and then become the best. Keep in contact with your IT team, ‘nough said.

2) Inability to Prioritize
“You don’t tie your shoes THEN put them on.” Sure, your shoes look cleaner tied, but if your foot is not in the shoe, it is going to be, well, complicated…. Before we even see what is out there in regards to IT, you need to have your short, mid, and long-term goals figured out. Deciding that you want your team to have continuous access to company data in order to be competitive may be the first step in determining that going with a completely wireless mobile network is better than keeping everything under one roof in an office building. The options are endless.

3) Integrating Information
“All systems go, you are cleared for launch” When NASA (pretty cool site, http://www.nasa.gov/home/index.html) launches a shuttle worth over a billion dollars, they are more than careful when it comes to its release. The weather, time, engineers, medics, mission control, and the hundreds of other teams that are in involved in the completed product and success of this launch are all on the same page in the count-down sequence. If even one thing is off, the entire mission is delayed. Now that is communication. Your business cannot have the silo effect. IT allows for all departments to be integrated.

“This is more than just Microsoft Excel”

I love it too, but business is not just numbers. Going by numbers strictly may hurt you long term. Your numbers guy needs to speak with the marketing guy who needs to meet with HR who needs to meet with the receptionist, who all meet with the CEO frequently. Everyone needs to fuse together and create one efficient organism. Everyone has good ideas. Even the bad ones give insight. By opening the floor to everyone, ideas will flourish. There are IT applications that allow this too. Whether it is ERP, Blackberries, inventory management, etc (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enterprise_resource_planning)

4) Data Protection and Security
“Don’t get caught with your pants down” Wear your boxers, wear quality pants, and wear a belt. You skimp on this aspect of IT and be prepared to lose all sustainable competitive advantage, face a couple of law suits because your employees are suing you over their personal information being stolen, and those pictures you scanned from the photocopier of your lovely backside will be available for all to see. Always be prepared. Data back-ups and firewalls are mandatory. You never know what can occur and you want to be pro-active and on the blitzing defensive. That is how the ball game is won.

In closing, meet with your IT employees. Talk to them. Let them know what you are trying to do. If you do not have one, you need to call me. I am your IT contact and consultant. I understand the technologies that I can provide my clients, which may be used for your business advantage. Together we can determine what IT services can be best used to grow your business.

So, you’re in the movie theater, you eyes are covered hoping the scene passes. Do me a favor, uncover your eyes and look at all aspects of the IT scene. Clench and realize, it is not just random gore or suspense too intense to handle. IT is not a scary abbreviation. It’s part of the big picture and it is only getting bigger. You’ll be amazed at how many different pieces comprise an intense scene. Let’s make your business intense and progress it forward.


Friday, November 30, 2007

Exciting Events Are Happening...

Are you working with the Guru?

I have unveiled the beginnings of the YouTube section of Guru's World. Here is the link:

I am here to stay....


Monday, November 26, 2007

Top Carolina Companies... [YOUR NAME HERE] continued..

Well, I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. It is amazing how the holidays always take up more time than expected. Thus, my posts have been slow. This entry will close up the general takings a small business owner should follow/the mindset to begin to forge a successful business.

So, the last post touched upon the passion, goals, ability to look forward, and creativity all required to move the business in the right direction. Here are some other traits and practices to embrace:

1) Focus and Discipline
A driven small business owner who yearns to be successful has to have the focus and discipline to remain on course. There are thousands of distractions that we face everyday and you have to have your filters on. Stop checking your email every 10 seconds, turn off your blackberry, or your "crackberry", stop taking the 2 hour lunch. While these mediums do help remain in touch, they are distractions. When you are designing the newest product, drawing up budgets, reflecting on the business, or trying to devise the newest strategy, having distractions ruin the thought process. Know when to say enough is enough. Stay on course.

2) Write It Down
Our minds are beautiful mechanisms. We can remember experiences, information, and a plethora of other things, but always seem to forget that hot idea we had a few minutes ago or that we had last week. Do what I do, the moment something pops in my head, I write it down. You may think it is silly what you jot down, but upon reflecting on it or seeing how it fits in with other aspects of the business, you may be surprised. Even if it is absolutely nuts, write it down. Where do you think creativity comes from? You may think its nuts solely because it has never been done before.... how about you bring it to life?!!

3) Hire an Employee or Employees
After the business gains a little momentum, hire someone. Yes, it can be a financial undertaking, but do a cost-benefit analysis. A small business owner needs to focus his/her efforts on the bigger tasks, stop manning the phones or filing papers away. By having another body to help with the workload work can be done much faster and one can continue to drive the business to new heights. Why waste time sorting through junk mail when you could be reacting to the newest trends?

4) Put in the Effort
I cannot stress this enough. You reap what you sow. If you do not put in the time, you will not see the benefits. Be willing to try something new. Be willing to ask for help. Never let pride get in the way of trying to learn something new. There are times when I have been reluctant to ask a question because I thought everyone else knew it and I would look stupid and uneducated. But, I quickly learned, other people had the same questions, and I benefited from either clarifying the subject matter or learning something new. You do not know everything. As soon as you know that, and

learn to ask questions, and lots of them, you will learn a lot.

Talk to your associates who have business sense. Where have they faltered? Where have they found success? Read literature about starting businesses and how people before you have been successful. Immerse yourself and become a Guru in what you do!

Now, the most important advice I can bestow upon you....

Think about it... You are creating something no one has ever created before. Yes, there are businesses similar to yours, but not run the exact same way you run things. This business is your baby. It has your genes. You raise it the way you want to. But, never lose sight of why started it. Whether it is to make millions of dollars, make a name for yourself, or simply help provide a service to better consumers, have fun with it. Life is too short to make the business a drag and downer. Here is what you are apart of:

Small Business Effects on the Economy
-The estimated 25.8 million small businesses in the United States:
-Have generated 60 to 80 percent of net new jobs annually over the last decade
-Employ 50.6 percent of the country’s private sector workforce
-Represent 97 percent of all the exporters of goods
-Represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms
-Generate a majority of the innovations that come from United States companies
Source: U.S. Small Business Administration, June 2006.

In closing, a perfect analogy is the following commercial:

Replace the word "body" with "business" and it comes full circle. Listen to this commercial. Every word means something. Make your business a finely tuned machine. You can do whatever you want with your business. But, I already know you have the passion and drive to continue to grow and nurture your business even more because you kept reading my words to this point. Now, let's you and I act...


Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Cable's Been Cut..... Finally, A Level Playing Field?

Head of Cable Lobby Condemns FCC Report
(link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/14/AR2007111402377.html)

Oh, how shall I say this... what goes around comes around. While it is not exactly the same situation, hints of the 1974 Ma Bell divestiture which was enacted by Judge Harold H. Greene of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. in order to prevent a monopoly on telephone service is coming, finally, to the cable industry as well.

Phone companies have been fighting tooth and nail for business for over twenty years with so many services being regulated. Before the break-up, customers had the luxury of having one bill for all their services. Notice how I say 'luxury'. In this day and age, if you have all your services on one bill, you are one of the few. But, you are one of the smartest consumers out there. For my clients that have all their services with one provider, rates are much more feasible and economical. Why go through the torment of having your long distance with one provider? Internet with another? And, local with someone else? I would certainly 'love' all the bills. Let's kill some more trees!

But, going back to the article. "Kyle McSlarrow, president and chief executive of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association" seems to think this is unfair and that numbers have been "manipulated". Mr. McSlarrow is also accusing FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin of pressuring cable companies to offer 'a la carte' service. Telephone services do, why not cable?

Do they think they are above the strict regulations so many other industries face? Small business love the opportunity to compete, cable is trying to keep that from happening. Mr. McSlarrow then goes onto say how business models will be ruined. Well, it's your job to overcome the obstacles you face and make them into opportunities.

My last point is this:

"Last month, the FCC struck down the ability of cable companies to form exclusive contracts to serve apartment buildings."

If that does not scream monopoly at you, what will? The ability for companies to make proposals for service allows our free markets to work so the best possible rates are given to the consumer. Cable is using apartment buildings as fall backs.

In closing, we as consumers should welcome this. The saying "I have over 150 channels and nothing is ever on" should stop. We want to pay for the channels that we watch, not pay for a whole bunch of channels we have never even heard of... I love Hallmark cards, but I don't want to pay for the 35 cheesy movie channels they have..

My next entry will finish up my previous post about the top Carolina companies.

~The Guru

Friday, November 9, 2007

Report on Carolina's Top 100 Companies....... [Your Name HERE..]

The Carolinas 100:Manufacturing still matters
Key sector has shed tons of jobs in N.C., but the industry is transforming into a lean, skilled force
(link: http://www.charlotte.com/carolinas100/story/145623.html)

As I spend my Friday evening reflecting on the past week's occurrences, this article strikes a chord with me. Even though the article speaks heavily about manufacturing, you and I can change that demographic. It won't happen overnight, but we can. Therefore, I ask you three simple questions:

1) Are you on this list?
2) Why / Why not?
3) Do you desire to?

All these top businesses most likely were created in the musty basement of a dreamer. Someone who wanted to bring their ideas to life and create an entity that made a difference in the world. Whether you have been in business for a couple months or for a couple decades and have not seen the gains you yearn for, read on and see how you can begin to achieve what you wanted when you first stubbed your toe on the table corner or slipped in the shower and the business idea popped into your mind.

Repeat these words over and over again, "NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE", "NOTHING IS FAR-FETCHED".

At first, everything may seem overwhelming, but you need to take it a step at a time. Don't worry about all the financially details. Those will come.

Getting Off the Ground
1) Passion
You first have to zero-in on your passion. It is your passion that drives your success. Your passion shows through when you are in the meeting with investors. By simply being excited about your dream and having sound models and plans, you can rope in the capital soon enough, but it all starts first with an idea. It is not going to spring up over night. These are NOT weeds, but delicate flowers that, if properly and finely raised blossom into some of the most beautiful and extravagant things.

2) Goals
You have to set them for yourself. It cannot simply be: "I want to sell a few of my products/ services. You need to have QUANTIFIABLE and MEASURABLE check points. Write them down. Hold them close.

3) Looking Forward
There will be steps backwards and falters, but take them as learning experiences. Ask yourself, "How can I transform this set back into an opportunity?" If you can do that, you will NEVER suffer any loss.

Ask yourself, "How can I make this set back into an opportunity?"

You never, ever, EVER, know when an idea will strike. The idea to start making a blog for my customers popped into my head one night and I didn't sleep for the next week because my mind was overflowing with ideas and I had to write them all down.

I didn't sleep for the next week...my mind was overflowing with ideas"

Thus far we have started to uncover the initial processes one should begin to consider. If you noticed, a lot of what I spoke about deals with mental strength and fortitude. Know in your mind that you can do whatever you want and have so many resources at your finger tips. Your greatest limiter is most likely yourself, but your greater success tool is yourself.

Go out, dream it, and let's you and me start to make it a reality!

In efforts to keep this entry from being screen after screen, I will end it here and continue it in a couple days. In the next entry, we will discuss customers, target markets, and understand the grand scheme of small business dreams.


Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Bitter Reality of Trusting Small Providers..

Taken from a Boston Globe article today, titled, "Thousands cut off from Web as firm consolidates" (link: http://www.boston.com/business/technology/articles/2007/11/08/thousands_cut_off_from_web_as_firm_consolidates/)

In summary, "Navisite Inc. has cut off Internet service to thousands of individuals and small businesses across the country for nearly a week." "It's mind-boggling that a company can be so ill-prepared about such a huge undertaking," said Donald Brichta, a partner in Anadon Communications, a small website provider in Sharon (MA), whose half-dozen customers finally got back online yesterday. "If I ran my business that way, I'd be out of business tomorrow."

To ask you straight up, what would happen if this happened to your business? E-commerce is a major strategic strategy in business success in this day and age and is only becoming more prominent. Not simply reaching customers in another medium, but also in trying to reduce costs and develop new infrastructures.

My company's robust network designs, technicians, and overall strategic decisions never put the small business owners in harm's way. We understand that even a couple hours of missed business can result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in sale losses.

For example, a client that relies almost entirely on internet orders and access; the internet is their life line. If they were to lose service, they would be dead in the water.

A numeric example, let us say that each order received is worth $100. Let's be extremely conservative and say you miss 7 orders. That is $700 a day. Multiply that by 7 days a week - $4900. The cost benefit of investing in the non-bargain basement pricing of my company far outweighs itself.

We proactively monitors our networks 24/7/365. We see problems and rectify them most of the time without the customer even knowing about it and if we do suffer apparent set-backs, we have industry leading service level agreements. Even if we encounter a major issue, our redundant networks allow our customers to have traffic re-routed most of the time in minutes, if not seconds. We are here for you. I have the mentality, you get what you pay for. Nothing cheap comes with great quality.

I, for one, would never trust my baby (ie my business) with a provider that cannot handle the work load and plans so poorly for such huge undertakings.

So, the next time you think your telecommunications is costing you too high of a price, remember, you INVEST in the service that keeps you up 99.99% of the time. And, if you have a problem, you call me directly and I get our service technicians working on the problems immediately.

~ The GURU

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Welcome to the First Post!

Hello all,

My overall mission is to help my clients overcome challenges they face ranging from the daily set-backs to the big picture threats. I understand that there is always a gap that small business owners face, which is where they currently are and where they want to be. I help identify where the gap is and develop customized telecommunication solutions to help bring about change!

My Main Goal For This Blog:
I want my clients to know they have a consultant who does whatever it takes to keep you ahead of the industry trends and problems you face. While I do speak with you on a frequent basis, I cannot always be in touch with you, but through this blog , you can learn about the newest products and news. Then just call me and see where we can help your business grow!

So buckle your seat-belts, the GURU is loose and ready to elevate small business to a whole new level!

~ The Guru