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

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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

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

marketing, budget, cutting

Don’t cut your marketing budget

2015 is nearly upon us, and you don’t have a budget to market your fantastic product or service. Too bad, 2015 is going to be a terrible year for you, and I don’t need a crystal ball to forecast that. “But, I have social media, and it’s free,” you say “But, I know a VP of Marketing at this HUGE company, and they’re going to help me out,” you say. I wish I had a big WRONG button.

#1) Social Media isn’t free – you already missed the train where social media was actually a social media. It’s now overrun by marketing people who puke messages out constantly that don’t resonate whatsoever with consumers (Have you seen my updates?). Social media used to be a two-way conversation. Now it’s not (although some brands are way better at the two-way conversation than others). Plus, think about the time you need to put in in order for Social Media to work for you. How much money is your time worth?

#2) Your VP of Marketing friend is useless to you as a small business owner. The VP is used to having HUGE budgets, relying on ad agencies, and having a team of well-trained “Yes!” donkeys on their side. How do I know? I used to be one of those donkeys. Not to mention your VP is probably too swamped to actively focus on you, and YOUR needs. Plus, they’re probably old (45+ or getting there), and are SOOOOO out of touch with consumers, especially the younger generations.

So, what do you do?

First – find a damn budget. I elaborate more on this here (it’s one of my most popular posts from this past year, so the majority of you probably read it, right?). Once you find a budget, find something you can own whether it’s a street, apartment complex, community or city. Just find it, and OWN it repeatedly. Ever notice the same Realtors on bus benches in certain communities? In the Real Estate world this is known as ‘farming’ a neighbourhood. Figure out your neighbourhood, and farm it. You need to make money in 2015, don’t forget that.

Second – after you found your budget, start cultivating your existing clientèle. Ensure the people who are coming through your doors, continue to do so, and they bring friends. I HATE incentives for new customers. Eff that. You should have incentives for REPEAT customers, and I don’t mean a loyalty card. Once you start seeing the same people repeatedly, encourage them to come back for private functions, and “Hey, bring a couple friends with you.” Or even have an event for your repeat customers or give them stuff for free or give them a hug. Whatever you do, ensure these people keep on coming back or at least refer people to you. Make these people your FANS! Fans = a continuous flow of money, and you need to make money in 2015.

Third – market your product or service. And stick to one thing in your marketing message, and steer clear of mentioning your ‘great customer service.’ So many people mention this, and trust me…you are not exceptional. As a consumer, I expect great customer service every time I walk through your door or come into contact with you. Don’t tell me how you have it. PROVE IT!

Fourth – understand that you need to market your product or service. I don’t care if you are too busy or your product is sooo good that you can rely on referrals. My dad fell into the same trap, and now he’s hurting a bit. Every time I hear that people are too busy or they don’t need to market I think about starting a competing business in their category because I know I can crush them (funny enough, I’ve already started).

How do I know?

Marketing trumps a better product or service. Even if you do have a better product or service, the guys who market their inferior product or service more than you will always win. They will make more money, they will have more fans, and they will gladly give you a few hundred bucks to wipe your tears while you mope in the corner in denial still relying on the fact that you have the BEST product or service. I don’t care about your product or service, if I don’t know it exists. I’m going to spend my money with the people who I know exist whether or not their product or service is inferior to yours. You need to market.

To my last point – please keep in mind you can’t market a shitty product or service. All the marketing in the world will only help you for so long until consumers catch on and realize you’re an idiot, and shouldn’t be in business.

Next up – I’ll relay a few points on authenticity. In this day, and age your company needs to be authentic, and relatable. If it’s not, the interwebs, and word-of-mouth will crush you into a little pulp.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

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

$20, Canadian money, dollar bills, bills, cash

Dollar bills ya’ll

2015 here we come!

In the lead up to the New Year I’m going to put together a few items to keep in mind as we head into 2015. This could act as a resource for those who don’t have marketing departments. The little engines that could. The solopreneurs. The business owner who does everything. Even the most recent MBA grad who learned a bunch of useless information in University. This is real life, this is real dollars, and this is how we do it.

The first thing I want you to focus on in the New Year is PROFIT! It’s the most important thing for any / all businesses. You need to have some sort of cash flow to keep your business alive, and food on your table. If you’re launching a business, startup, whatever in 2015 every decision you make should be focused on profit aka how will this decision make me money? And you need to think about it in the short-term, and the long-term. Business is a marathon my friends, but it doesn’t hurt to get off to a quick start.

1) Don’t wait until your product / service is perfect. Pushing back your launch could bury you in debt. Too many people wait for everything to be perfect. Open your doors, test things out, and see which items, services, etc… are pulling in the highest margin. Those are your winners. Dump the losers, and see how you can milk the winners while keeping your standards, and values in line. Don’t cut costs for the sake of cutting costs, but ensure you know your margins.

For me – I’ve figured out a formula for what I need to do to make a profit for my service:

40 – 50 calls, emails, social media connections, asking for referrals, business drop ins, etc… per day = 3 face-to-face meetings booked every day = 1 sale per week.

Not the greatest of close ratios at this point, but I’m improving on that. I understand what it takes for me to make a profit, and I’m tweaking it from there. I’m trying different approaches, different emails, different phone calls, different ways I present myself…and you should do the same. Never stop testing what’s working, and what’s not working (if that makes any sense).

2) When you start making more, and more profits, you can start funnelling that back into the business aka MARKETING! Please have a marketing budget for 2015, please have a marketing budget for 2015, please have a marketing budget for 2015.

If you don’t, you will fail. Okay, maybe you won’t, but the odds are stacked against you.

This week – you’ll receive more info from me on how to market in 2015. The first step is to focus on PROFIT. Print off a sheet of paper with the word, “PROFIT” in bold letters, and tack it somewhere or set a reminder in your phone every single day to see where you’re at when it comes to your bottom line. Is everything you’re doing focused on that number? It should be, and when I say profit, I don’t mean cutting costs. In most cases, one way to ensure your profits go down is to cut costs. I’ll explain more later on this week. Till then…

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

Happy Holidays and all that jazz

Christmas, sales, holidays

Hooray for discounts!

Tis’ the season for discounts, one day sales, and all that other garbage to get you to BUY, BUY, BUY! As a small business owner, you may get caught in the trap of drastically reducing your prices to compete with the big guys. Or worse – stray away from your values, and start wishing everyone ‘Happy Holidays’ when you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah. Don’t be afraid of who you are, and don’t be afraid to stand for something.

As an owner myself, I used to be worried about how I was perceived by others. I was being a vanilla version of myself, when I’m actually quite salty, fiery, and sarcastic (imagine that as an ice cream flavour). I was trying to be too much to too many people. After awhile it became exhausting, and the real me started to show. Funny enough, when I started to become my authentic self – I started making more sales, and stronger connections. Yes, I turned off some people, but I found out that’s okay. You’re not going to please everyone. It’s better to lose a sale in the short term for longer term gain.

I recently was speaking with a Realtor, and he REGULARLY turns people down who are looking for his services. He has an initial meeting with them, he asks a few qualifying questions (hammers down their values, expectations, etc…) to see if he’d be a good fit. If he doesn’t feel there’s a connection, he says he’s not interested in working with them. While it could be easy money for him, he has come to realize the people he doesn’t connect with right-off-the-bat are generally a pain in the ass for him down the road. He passes on the short term gain to keep HIS values in check.

So how does this relate to the holidays?

Everyone is having sales, everyone is devaluing their product, and everyone is focusing on short term gain during the holidays. However, you’re a constant reader of my blog, and you’re different right, RIGHT? Here are some quick holiday tips for your small business:

1) Don’t have a sale. Everyone else is, but you’re not because you believe in your product or service, and you believe in the value of it. Even worse, don’t mark up your product, just so you can say you’re having a sale while keeping your margins in line.

2) Say, Merry Christmas if that’s your thing or Happy Hanukkah if that’s your thing or Happy Kwanzaa if that’s your thing. Don’t be afraid of who you are, especially during the holidays. I happen to observe both Hanukkah, and Christmas. Why? Because my wife likes gifts, and I have a very large nose.

3) Throw people out of your store who ask you if you have a sale on. I recently picked up a few shifts at a large retailer because I LOVE retail this time of year. Plus, it helps me gauge where the retail industry is at seeing as I coach a few retailers. I can’t tell you how many people approach me asking about sales. These people are not loyal to you or your business, they’re only looking for the cheapest deal. I would rather have 10 people pay full price for my product / service than 100 people who are interested in getting a deal on my product / service. Those 10 people are fans of mine, while the other 100 will come and go. I’m more concerned about my fans.

Funny anecdote (well, I think it’s funny) – I had tea (yes, tea as I don’t drink coffee) with a renovator just over a week ago, and he was telling me about a recent client of his. Like the Realtor above he asked a few qualifying questions to see if this guy would be a good fit for him, and his business. He picked up on a few things (the area where he lived, his car, and his meticulously organized home), so he knew this guy was going to be quite demanding. My reno friend didn’t mind as he actually enjoys working with demanding clients, as he expects the best from his team, and he knows he’ll be able to deliver a quality product / service. So knowing this soon to be client was going to be extra demanding he flat our said, “Having heard what you’ve said – I know you’re going to be a bit of a pain in the ass to work with, but that’s okay. I’ve handled, and exceeded the expectations of clients like you in the past. Knowing you’re going to be a pain, I’m going to charge you $5000 more for my teams time.”

$5000 MORE FOR BEING A PAIN IN THE ASS!

Guess what, the guy agreed he was going to be a pain, and was happy to pay the extra $5000. Turns out the client was a bit of a pain, and very meticulous when it came to the renovation, but the client appreciated the upfront honesty, and now he’s happy to refer people to my reno friend.

All in all, here’s my Santa-ly advice to you this holiday season: DON’T discount your product, BELIEVE in your product or service, and BELIEVE in yourself, and your values. You may lose some customers in the short term, but you will create LOYAL fans in the long run. Trust me, I’ve done it, I’ve seen other people do it, and I know you can too.

Love you (and Merry Christmas, and Happy Hanukkah!)

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

Ps. If you throw someone out of your store who is asking for a discount – please send me a picture of you doing it. And don’t forget to post it where ever you can, to prove you, and your product are as valuable as the price tag.