This is it…Don’t get scared now (2015)

Yup, I even wore a bow tie when I was a kid.

Yup, I even wore a bow tie as a kid.

Tis’ the season for reflection, and looking forward to 2015. I’m not really into that kind of stuff, but I figured I’d write a bit about 2014, my experiences, and what’s on tap for 2015 in hopes of inspiring one of you…my devoted, and all loving fans.

2014 was a wild year. One of my businesses squeaked its head into the cash-flow positive realm, and I recently started another (set to be cash-flow positive in January). I left my decent paying 9-5 job to start a new venture, and instantly went from making a solid income every month to basically nothing, relying on my wife, and my quick stint in retail to keep things afloat. I also nearly died, but we won’t get into that.

If the past year has taught me anything it’s this – money isn’t everything. I used to compare myself to others based on income statements. I thought money was everything, and I was building a pretty decent life for myself around those income statements, but I didn’t feel right. That’s when I jumped, and went from something to nothing (at least when it came to cash). I’m lucky enough to have a supportive wife, who’s able to keep a roof over our heads, and food on the table (hello, ramen!) while I dabble, and try to make a difference in my community, and get the sense of fulfillment I wasn’t getting elsewhere.

It’s unbelievable how my priorities have changed. I’m more focused on the difference I’m making in the world aka my community then I am about my income statements. I no longer am a key in someone else’s money making cog. I’m getting back what I put in, I’m building something like you as an entrepreneur or small business owner. I’m working 10 – 15 hour days, 7 days a week, but it doesn’t really feel like work. At the same time, I’m making time for family & friends as I’ve realized how important they are.

When I started my now multiple ventures, no one ever said it was going to be this much work. No one ever said every single day was going to breed a new challenge. And no one ever said, I was going to feel this at ease. I’ve learned more in the past year, than I have in my entire life combined. Although I don’t regret my past as it’s helped build me into who I am today.

I’m closer with my wife, my family, and my friends. I realized they are THE most important thing. To some of you it may be different, and that’s fine. Ride your beliefs, and you’ll see the fruits of your labour. I’ve shifted my focus away from being an almighty, power-suit wearing, whip-cracking CEO to a bow tie wearing goofball who doesn’t take too many things personally. Keep those who believe in your close, and those who don’t…forget about them.

I’m no longer afraid to ask for help. I no longer believe I have all the answers. I find time for family, and friends every day, and I try to do something new in the community every couple weeks (whether it’s chatting with a small business owner, or having a board game night with a few friends). How do I find the time? I MAKE time. I also have a rigours schedule that I stick to, but I can build, and shape however I want. My schedule is not dictated by someone else (hello, 9-5). I make my own schedule, and stick to it.

I used to say to my wife, “I don’t have time!” Now, I make time, and we schedule certain events in advance, while having the leniency to change things on the fly.

I’m not saying to model your life after mine as some of these things may sound to regimented or boring, but you may find something. Or you may find a friend to console in knowing I’m going through the same things as you.

What you, and I are doing is not easy. Building a business or two or three (or more in my case) takes effort, motivation, believers, failures, tears, loved ones, and so much more, but you already know that. I’m not a millionaire, and I don’t plan to be. 2015 is going to be a year of triumphs, failures, tears, loved ones, and so on, and I can’t wait. Never before have I been more excited about a year.

I look forward to growing along with each and every one of you who reads this blog every single week. You’re not alone in your adventures in 2015. If you’re in need of help or you just want someone to share your triumphs, failures, whatever with in 2015 feel free to shoot me an email at effUmarketing@gmail.com. I will respond to every single one.

I believe in you.

All the best in 2015!

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

2015 Marketers Guide For Those Who Don’t Have Marketing Departments – Retail

Holiday, shopping, woman, bags, retail

Over the past 2-months I’ve ventured into the field of retail, and by venture I mean actually working on the floor in one of the largest retailers in Canada. I love the rush of the holiday season, and being able to help people find a gift or two for a loved one.

I’ve also come to realize how retail is killing itself. In short (at least as short as I can put it) here’s the state of ‘big box’ retail:

1) Pay your floor employees (the ones who are your frontline, and main touch points for customers) shit.
2) Spend a boat load on marketing to get people in the store for a deep discount sale, and do this repeatedly (once again cutting into your margins), and de-valuing your product in the process.
3) Don’t educate your floor employees on the sale, what’s included, what’s not included, and what the product is that you’re selling.
4) Provide zero incentives for the floor employees to do much of anything (other than the fear of being fired).
5) Poor communication between management, and employees (this happens just about everywhere, so I can’t solely point the finger at ‘big box’ retail).

Let’s elaborate shall we.

The most important asset you have is your front line employee. They are your politician. They are shaking hands, kissing babies, and dealing with everything related to your customers / fans. I can’t tell you how important (and decently paid) my front line employees  were in a past life. If they put on a poor performance, my brand suffered. And that’s a BIG deal, so pay them what they’re worth.

Retail has your typical business profile. Pay the most important employees the least, give them the least education, and hope that your marketing, and solid brand covers everything up. Unfortunately, big brands are eroding, customer service is an after-thought, and front line employees don’t give a shit. And why should they? The money’s not there, the lifestyle’s not there, the incentives aren’t there, the management support isn’t there, and on and on. So, you walk into a ‘big box’ store now, and all you see are employees who are overwhelmed, and under-educated on the products they’re supposed to be selling.

In my department, I was the only white guy. There was one English speaking woman, but on a team of 10, that’s not much. And don’t think I’m some bigot here. I can’t tell you how many times people would flock to me and say, “Thank God you speak English.” This happened daily.

I now have a new found respect for these employees. They’re not put in a position to succeed, but ‘big box’ retail has become this fly trap for these type of workers. Here’s the catch – people like to do business with people who they know, and trust. It’s tough trusting an uneducated (management’s fault here) person who doesn’t speak your language on a purchase of a thousand dollars or more. Hell, it’s tough trusting them for anything. But, this is what ‘big box’ retailers are doing, and they think they can throw marketing dollars at it, and win.

As you know, it’s very tough, and expensive to throw money at a shitty product / service. So, let’s stack it up. Sears is pretty much a dead horse, no need to beat it. Target Canada is a joke, the BIG electronic stores are struggling, and companies like Hudson’s Bay have to resort to buying up big American names to keep shareholders happy.

This is where you can win as a small business.

Take on these ‘big box’ stores, and tell a story about how much the ‘big box’ retailers are paying their employees compared to the living wage you provide yours (hopefully you provide them this). Also, fill your customers / fans in on how you educate your employees compared to the ‘big box’ stores. This will be HUGE to your customers / fans.

Also, don’t have sales unless you have to. The price is the price is the price. That way, the employees know what’s going on, you don’t have to market every two seconds about some new “Save the tax” sale, and you don’t have to worry about spending dollars on signs in store, memos to staff, etc… Don’t be a sheep and follow ‘big box’ retail into their own doom.

Be different, by paying your employees a living wage, hell take the living hourly wage and add $5 to it. If you have to mark up your prices a bit more to keep your margins in line then do it, but pay your damn employees! When other’s have sales – do an ‘anti-sale’ and jack up the prices (Cards Against Humanity is known for doing this on Boxing Day or doing something funny around Black Friday). It’s smart, and it gets you press because you’re doing something unexpected, and you’re standing for something other than mass consumerism. It’s down-to-earth, it’s honest, and what make small business so special.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

2015 Marketers Guide For Those Who Don’t Have Marketing Departments – Authenticity

authenticity, effUmarketing, be yourself

You hear it, I hear it, we all hear it…BE YOURSELF! And it’s so true when it comes to business. When I was starting out, I was trying to be something I wasn’t. I thought I knew it all. I thought the world was at my finger-tips, and I was humbled quickly…very quickly.

Now, I’m me. People either like me or they don’t, and that’s fine. Good thing for me is I can connect with most people, so the majority of people like me, and like doing business with me.

The one thing I really want to point out is that you don’t have to be an outgoing, always ‘on’ personality. I’ve seen very successful people who at first I thought were a bit weird, but came to find they’re introverts. That’s who they are. I’ve also seen the opposite side of the coin too.

If you own a business it’s inevitable your business will kind of be like you. It will stand for your values, and your beliefs. You are your business, and your business is you. And that’s okay. It’s when you or your business starts to be something it’s not that you start to lose. There are so many options available to consumers to poke holes in your BS. If you claim to be the world’s best chef, but a quick Google search discovers you’ve only worked at Boston Pizza, well BS meters are going to start going off. Just be yourself, and someone somewhere will have a connection with who you are, and what you stand for.

If you think your boring, then tell people about it. Say, you’re really boring, but damn do you ever make a good pizza or build a great garage. The more genuine, and open you are, the more genuine, and open people will be back to you. I can’t tell you how many strong connections I’ve made by showing people who I truly am. I even let people in to tell them about my childhood, and my biological father who I never, and still don’t know. You won’t find that in a sales or business book anywhere, but it’s who I am, and it’s what allowed me to make the connections I have.

One exception to the rule

If you’re cheap, and you’ve always been cheap, please don’t cut costs to save money for your business. I hate saving money. I’d rather make more money, and reinvest it in things that will make me more money (aka Marketing aka community involvement). The biggest, and easiest way to cut costs is by getting rid of people. It’s lame, it doesn’t do you any good as you have to take on more work, thus pushing down your hourly wage, and so on. I understand there are some times when people need to go, but don’t do it to save money. That should be the last reason to let someone go.  If you’re a solopreneur, and you occasionally hire contract workers on the side when times get really busy, then let them know. If you’re busy September – April, then the summer is really slow, ensure you let your workers know that. “Hey, this is only going to be contract work between this time, and this time because it really slows down in the summer.”

Be upfront, and honest with people. It will pay dividends down the road.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft