Friday, February 22, 2008

What's Your Company's "5 O'Clock Shadow"?

Not even a Gillette Fusion can prevent it....

This is a two part entry. First, I need you all to take a couple days and think about your business. Hopefully, you know what you do well and what your SCA (sustainable competitive advantage) is and you are taking full advantage of it. As a result, your reaping the benefits of doing something better than your competitors, but how long do you think your SCA will last? Think about it?

Is it with your people?

Your software?

Your location?

First Mover Advantage?

Market Niche? Etc etc.

However, the businesses that truly know what they excel at spend more time focusing on what they need to work on / could do better or, as some say, fix "the hole in the bucket." Where are you efforts not holding water or not doing as well as you hope?

Business practices seem to be great early, but as the days/months go on, the shadow starts to emerge and your business is not as smooth anymore... What begins to itch? While the rugged look may look great on mountain men, they are not your business.

Please take a couple days and think about it. Be honest with yourself. This will help identify your next steps... Stay tuned.


Monday, February 18, 2008

What We All Should Learn From AOL

An Example of Accepting 'Status Quo'

As I have mentioned a few times, I abhor hearing the words 'status quo' or 'nothing is changing" when speaking with business men and women and even more-so when my clients utter these words. These are the people who are not driving their businesses forward and in the end will not reach their full potential.

I was reading this article about the passing of an era, and that era is AOL. I remember the day I created my first screen name. I was so excited. I set it up on my dad's laptop and was new to the internet. I had no idea what world awaited my finger-tips. The ease of use of AOL was amazing, even a 7th grader could understand it. To this day I still have that screenname. Too bad AOL did not know what it hand at its own finger tips..

AOL was great for dial-up. The internet was still young. There were not many internet heavy applications for both residential and commercial users. However, recently,

The company's revenues fell 33 percent to $5.2 billion from $7.8 billion a year ago, Time Warner said yesterday. The company attributed the loss to a 52 percent drop in revenues from dial-up subscriptions. AOL, which once boasted more than 20 million subscribers, lost 3.8 million subscribers last year and now has 9.3 million in the United States.

However, there have been increases in ad revenue, an 18% increase, but as internet ads themselves begin to require more bandwith, 56k users are only going to continue to suffer and be in decline.

Of course, the individuals who simply check email and nothing more on the internet do not really care, but as shopping/customer service/everything under the sun migrates to the internet, 56k users are going to need to realize, they need more bandwidth.

Hopefully, you've noticed already I've mentioned 56k users twice already because that is what AOL has given its name to.

They are hand-in-hand. If someone says, "AOL" and "High Speed" in the same
sentence, people chuckle and think you are joking.
Yes, AOL does offer broadband, but their image is fixed, in my opinion as a dial-up / low end ISP.

Now, if AOL wants to the dial-up market leader, then by all means, go-ahead, but how is that going to work down the road? Like I alluded to earlier, bandwidth needs are only increasing. "There are people who probably will want something less than a $42 cable bill to get e-mail," but he noted it's "not a market they want to be in."

All I am really trying to say here is that your business is never fully sound unless you are continually progressing forward. AOL struck gold, got too comfortable, and then soon began to decline...

Nothing much else to say, I'm still recovering from my first bike race of the season. It was tough!


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Dangers of the "Walk-In"

Their first goal is to sell you something, the sooner you accept that, the sooner you save yourself trouble down the road.

Well, the posts have been scarce and for that I apologize. Still realing from the Patriots loss I guess... Whatever, the Tour of California awaits to cheer me up.

You're in your office, store, place of business and someone walks in, looking to "speak" with a employee about your business. This individual uses some trendy buzz words, acts like they know your business, you sign something, and they are gone. A few months later your bills have sky-rocketed, you cannot track down the person who said they could give you the world, and basically, you are S.O.L.... Ladies and gentlemen, you've just been hosed.

This happens all too much and it is sickening. A sound business owner should always be very skeptical if a salesperson comes in and requests that you sign something THAT DAY! Why would you want to alter your business and take the advice of a person you just meant and does not know diddly-squat about your business? Thus, the importance of building relationships with your suppliers, clients, vendors is one of the most crucial aspects of business. So, here are the Small Biz. Guru's First Line of Defense Tips to avoid being "hosed":

Issue 1: "They Don't Know Your Business, But They Want You to Buy Their Product!!"

  • An individual walking in for a "cold visit" has the intentions of selling you something that day. They want to make money, regardless of the benefit to you, because most likely, you will not track them down later.


  • If this person raises your awareness on something, tell him/her thank-you and to leave some contact information to reach them later (most likley not). Do not sign anything from a person who just introduced themselves for the first time.
    Why are they all of a sudden qualified to consult you on your business?
    After you see the salesperson off, you contact your vendor. We'll use the example of telecommunications. Vendors come in / call all the time saying they can reduce your bill. If you think there is some truth to that, pick up the phone and speak with your representative. They know your account. They know you. Most importantly, if you have the relationship, they will tell it to you straight and not try to dupe you.

Issue 2: "It's a Free Upgrade.."

  • This unfamiliar face states there is a deal for a free upgrade on your service. Big no-no. Nothing in life is ever-free. These people sucker you in with promotions that last for three months then your bill kicks up 50%.... YIKES!


  • Once again, take their information, and call your vendors and see what they say.

Issue 3: "They laugh at your bill"

  • They look at your bill and laugh. "You're paying too much. Sign this and we'll fix you right up"


  • This person does not know your set-up. For what your business is trying to do, it could be the ideal set-up. The lowest cost is not always the best way to do business. Remember, you get what you pay for. However, you could be paying too much, but it could be your fault. How often are you in contact with your vendors? While they monitor your account, your business could be evolving and your current business model is not adapting properly. Also, there could be new alternatives. Having a relationship with people involved with your business is the only way you will be successful long-term.

Overall, be smart about cold-sellers walking into your building. Build the relationships with your providers / vendors so when you have questions you can contact them and not the sleazy salesperson that walks into your place of business recommending solutions to you without knowing your business. Remember, they walk in trying to sell you something that day.