Is Customer Service Dead?

You can get your groceries delivered to your door with the click of a button. You can shop hundreds of styles of clothes in less than a minute. You can connect with your friend visiting a town on the other side of the globe in an instant. All of this is possible behind a screen. With that, actual physical interaction with someone is slipping away. With the limited physical touches and conversations going on – has customer service taken a hit? When’s the last time a company went above and beyond for you?

The art of customer service

“Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.”
– Walt Disney

Funny how one of the most valued commodities – if not the most – nowadays is time. You do whatever you can to save nanoseconds. You’d think businesses would see this and increase employees or response times to potential customers. However, it’s increasingly difficult to find someone with enough knowledge to actually answer the questions you need to be answered – whether it’s in-store or online.

In order to make your business stand out – try doing one step more. If you can answer one question – see if you can elaborate and suggest something more. My dad is amazing at this. He’s an upholsterer and every time he’s on a sales call – he always gets asked about the type / colour of the fabric his potential client should use. He answers the question by giving a few options and then BANG! He mentions pillows, and how a contrasting colour will make everything pop. It’s the classic up-sell, but it’s so much more than that. It’s providing value, suggesting something the potential client didn’t even think about, and increasing his profits at the same time.

Customer service quote

What can you do to add that extra touch?

My wife and I’s online shop – EverRose.com is similar. We try to add personal touches everywhere to ensure our fans know we care about them. After all, without them we wouldn’t be in business. My wife writes personal notes to each and every fan who orders. We also take it one step further than most online clothing stores by measuring each piece of clothing. This gives a comprehensive outline on whether or not it’s going to fit you. It’s all about taking it one-step further. It’s a pain in the ass on our end, but the end result is SALES. Plus, our fans love it. How do we know – they tell us in reviews and in personal emails they send us.

This is what makes your business a brand. It makes the person on the other end (customer) feel something for you, and your product / service.

“Courteous treatment will make a customer a walking ad.”
– James C. Penney, Founder, J.C. Penney

You want to know how to limit your advertising spend? Make your experience so memorable to a customer they’ll have no choice, but to recommend you to their friends and family. If that’s not enough – encourage them to do so by following up with requests for reviews (my wife and I do this for every sale by sending a personalized email to each fan). Word-of-mouth is the best form of advertising, and nothing creates more word-of-mouth than outstanding customer service.

It’s not that hard

With the majority of corporations pulling back on their customer service channels, and personnel it’s very easy to stand out. Even being present and engaging in conversation with your potential customer can put you over the top. At the very least give the customer what you’d expect to receive from a company. Then try and out do yourself. Make a suggestion above and beyond the question asked of you. Personalize everything. Respond as quickly as you can, and as honestly as you can.

A few of these will go along way in your customers mind, and will ensure success down the road.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

Working 9 – 5 while having a business on the side

It’s an elusive balancing act that takes some time to master. You want / have to give 100% to your 9 to 5 employer, and you want to build something on your own on the side. I’m living proof that it’s very much possible, however it takes a serious amount of commitment. It’s a game of give-and-take. Do you watch Netflix or do you buckle down and do some bookkeeping? These are just a few of the questions you’ll ask yourself.

Here are some tips on how you can find time to build your business on the side while continuing to commit yourself to a 9 to 5:

 1) Build something online

It’s going to be extremely difficult to build something on the side that you have to attend to like a 9 to 5. That’s why e-commerce is so amazing. You can work on your site whenever you want – and the income rolls in 24-hours a day with little to no work on your behalf. Yes, there is a HUGE amount you have to put in before hand, but when it’s built – it’s a recurring income generator. If you don’t have an idea of what you can do on the side – here’s a quick guide to finding a product to sell online.

 2) Evenings and Weekends

This is your bread and butter. When your 9 to 5 stops – you put on your entrepreneur hat. This can be exhausting, so if you’ve had a tough day at your 9 to 5 – you may need to take an evening off. You don’t want your side biz to interfere and hurt your ability to work your day job. However, it can be done. You’ll have to work for it, and maybe miss out on things in your social life, but if you’re devoted to building something, and providing value to your future customers – you’ll succeed.

My wife and I both have 9 to 5 commitments, which we excel at. Then we come home, and get to our online fashion store – Ever Rose. I usually take 30 minutes to an hour in the morning to work through our social media channels – then I put my 9 to 5 hat on. In the evenings, my wife and I will fulfill orders, take product shots, edit photos, and do website maintenance. We also do our own bookkeeping using Wave.

It’s not easy knowing you won’t have a ‘day off’, but I’ve never done something that is so rewarding. Getting glowing customer reviews and having random strangers purchasing items is pretty cool.

Seth Godin, Seth Godin quote

 3) Have a Calendar

This is uber important. You need to keep track of what you’re going to do. The best way to do this is to have your 9 to 5 calendar as well as your side business calendar. I literally put everything into calendars. My wife makes fun of me because I always say, “If it’s not in my calendar, it doesn’t exist.” This helps me use my 9 to 5 brain power for what needs to be done, and helps automate the side biz for when I come home. It’s nearly impossible for me to forget what I need to do when I come home because an alert pops up every 30 minutes.

This also helps you focus on what needs to be done. You will be worn down, you will be tired, but those little alerts will go a long way in helping building your side biz. They’ll keep you on track, and keep your focus on what needs to be done.

4) Don’t worry about perfection

When it comes to your side business – just do it. Don’t worry about it being perfect or you’re never going to sleep. My wife is big on perfection – I’m big on getting things done and off my plate. What you see as perfect, may not be perfect in your customers eyes. Never waste time on being perfect. You never will be. Just get it done to the best of your abilities and move on.

At the same time, if one of your skills isn’t solid – than you may have to outsource. For example – if your English sucks and your trying to write product descriptions – get someone to proof your work. Whether it be a family member or friend – play to your strengths. You can also look at outsourcing work by using UpWork.

Finally, I know the struggle. I live it everyday, but I also know it can be done. You can be a 9 to 5 superstar and crack the whip on yourself everyday to ensure your side business is a success. Even a few hundred bucks on the side can make a HUGE difference. Whether you’re selling a product or service – you can be a 9 to 5er and an entrepreneur.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

It’s Time To Get Real

Remember the CEO from Seattle who decided everyone at his company was going to get paid $70,000? Well, he won Entrepreneur of the Year in 2014, and received global accolades. The story was just about everywhere. Unfortunately – it hasn’t worked out so well for him, but of course the negative story hasn’t appeared nearly as much as the positive one. To find out more – click here. Don’t get too jaded by all the success stories you see online. You never know how it is, until you’re in it.

This is where reality has to kick in. It’s extremely tough in the business world. Competition is everywhere, and if you’ve been following my blog for awhile you know I like to get real. And this entry is no different.

get real, it's time to get real

Let’s get real

The biggest challenge I’ve seen / heard from startups – aside from cash – is how to get more of it. I’m astounded at how many people think they can build something, and just let it sit there, and hope 1,000,000 people buy from them. That’s not how it works. Even though you might not know it – you probably have hundreds of competitors doing what you’re doing in the online space.

My wife and I’s business – Ever Rose – is no different. Although we’re playing to a smaller market – there’s still competition from all over the world. Having said that – I’ve recently seen / heard from a few businesses, who started up around the same time my wife and I did, about their struggles. These businesses are in the fashion category, they launched around the same time my wife and I’s online shop did, but they’ve only had 1 or 2 sales. Their sites look great, and professional, and they’re on all of the social media channels you can think of. Sounds like a slam dunk – unfortunately you can have a website, have social media accounts, pump your SEO, but no one will know you exist. If people don’t know you exist – you’ll never have sales no matter how fancy your site looks. And money is what all businesses need to survive.

The marketing

Here’s how my wife and I have achieved close to 40 sales in 4-months (it’s not a huge number, but it’s on a path to becoming profitable):

  • market our site using Facebook, Google AdWords and Bing Ads (typically $10 – $20 a day)
  • Post and share a product from our page once a day on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram
  • Work with influential bloggers (aka those with lots of activity on their accounts – not just followers, but actual people commenting and interacting) in the fashion sphere. We sometimes give bloggers a clothing item in lieu of a post on their account
  • Pay to be showcased on Instagram accounts (Instagram is HUGE for fashion or any other product in the ‘visual’ realm)
  • Promoted our email list on our website through a contest where we gave away free items (more than doubled the amount of people on our mailing list)
  • Give those on our email list exclusive deals on our products (we typically get one sale per e-blast)

We spend quite a bit of money on marketing, whether it be cash or in the form of clothing to bloggers. And guess what – it works. If you don’t have money set aside to market your product – you’re most likely going to die a quick death. Before you jump in to any business – you should have marketing dollars allocated or at least have a plan of how you’re going to get the word out.

The numbers

Typically – my wife and I spend about 10 – 15% of our sales budget (total revenue) on marketing. Depending on how much our product costs, we understand we’re going to have to dump more money into it, because we need to market it. So, if a dress costs us $20, we add a markup of 2.2 (20 x 2.2), and then ensure we have at least 10% more to spend on marketing. It looks small to begin with, but when you’re spending $20,000 on product and you’re expecting to generate at least $30,000 in revenue (sales budget), then your marketing budget should be at least $3000 (10% of 30,000).

Don’t expect to make a profit right away. You won’t be sipping champagne for awhile – if ever. My wife and I have accumulated some debt due to the purchase of the resale product we carry. However, our assets drastically outweigh our debt, so we’re not too worried. We know if we ever need to get out – we can easily sell off our product, and pay back our debt. I’m not saying its easy, but it helps us rest easier at night. Besides, what’s business without debt?

If you’re burning through cash, not marketing your product, and have limited sales – you should probably stop what you’re doing, and adjust. Either you’re in the wrong line of work or you need some outside help. Don’t be afraid to ask. Feel free to connect with me, and we can discuss, and improve what you’re doing. Or continue to do what you’re doing. Your choice.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

5 Things Your Business Can Learn From Millionaires

First off – never get too excited about money. If you’re hungry for more money, go after it, but it’s a long grind. You also have to forget about other parts of your life in the pursuit of dollars. Having said that, they’re are many things you can learn from those who have made many dollar bills through their business(es).

Canadian Money, Money

Whether you’re content with grinding it out in a large corporation or if you want to hustle day-in and day-out as a scrappy startup – here are some things to consider:

1) You are in charge of what you want

Fate or coincidence or hard work. You may believe things happen for a reason, but you also have to understand you have a choice in the matter. The rest is left up to chance, but you can sway things in your favour by how much you’re willing to put in. You don’t have to accept the circumstances as they’re presented to you. You can choose what you want to do with your life, business, family, love life, etc… YOU HAVE A CHOICE!

2) You probably know a millionaire, but don’t know it

If money is what you’re after – you’d probably be surprised to see who has money and who doesn’t. Quite a few ‘flashy’ people I know are in HUGE amounts of debt. From the outside – they look like billionaires, but they’re living pay cheque to pay cheque. Don’t be fooled by looks. In fact, in the book The Millionaire Next Door they lay out some interesting stats about millionaires:

  • 20% of the affluent households in America are headed by retirees
  • Of the remaining 80%, more than ⅔ are headed by self-employed owners of a business
  • In America, fewer than ⅕ households is headed by a self-employed business owner. However, these self-employed are 4 times more likely to be millionaires

No flash, just gaining the fruits of their labour. No need to shove it down your throat. It pisses me off to see the amounts of money being thrown around by those ‘successful’ entrepreneurs. I’m assuming here, but 99% of those who have money, don’t flaunt it. Unfortunately, the social world has made it cool to show off your dough. You don’t have to be one of these people.

3) If you want to make it big – you’ll have to work for it

Nothing is given to you – unless you come from an extremely well-off household. Even then, you may not know it, and you’ll have to work for it. When you see successful businesses or ventures you mustn’t forget those are many years in the making. The best athletes and business people in the world didn’t get to where they are by luck. Yes, a bit of that helps, but so does hitting the gym every day, so does not being afraid to take a risk and get out of your comfort zone. Hustle will always win.

4) Passion is BS – most of the time 

There are so many la-la stories about finding your passion. For the most part – your passion doesn’t pay. I’d like to golf 100% of the time. That’s my passion. Unfortunately it doesn’t pay the bills. Here’s something to keep in mind from Illusions of Entrepreneurship:

  • 63% of new business owners admit their ventures don’t have a competitive advantage.
  • There’s no evidence that entrepreneurs select industries where profits, profit margins and revenues are higher.
  • Only a third of those surveyed say they really did a search for a good business idea.

Aka – if you don’t have an idea, think you’re special or don’t know what you’re passionate – that’s okay. If you currently like what you’re doing, and it pays the bills, then maybe there’s something in that line of work that can help you. My wife loves to write fiction. Unfortunately it doesn’t pay the bills. However, she freelances on the side as a writer doing odd jobs from writing descriptions of bird cages, to being a word-smith for one of the largest branding companies in North America. THAT PAYS!

She had to hustle on sites like ODesk (now UpWork) for a few months until she landed a big fish. Hustle always wins.

5) Understanding delayed gratification

Everyone is a victim of this including me. You and I always want that instant gratification. We instantly want a return. We put in – we get out. That’s it. Unfortunately, when starting your own business, or working for YOU INC (aka yourself at your 9-5) you have to put in the hours. I started working at the age of 12 filling out scorecards for Men’s Club Championship at the golf course I was a member of. I also cleaned clubs. I did this for 2-years until I worked my way up to handling the junior program, scheduling other staff members, and selling items in the pro-shop. I didn’t go from 0 – 100 overnight. It took years of hustle, and me being as reliable as they come.

The same can be said in business. If you have the ‘build it and they will come’ mentality – you will die a slow, bank breaking death. You have to keep in mind there’s someone else out there who’s just as hungry for success as you are…if not hungrier. It sucks, but you have to put in the work.

Since we started our online fashion business (Ever Rose) back in January – my wife and I haven’t had a single day off. We work 7-days a week. We work 9-5 jobs then come home and work on the store. We just had our best month of the year in one of the slowest months for fashion. We’re also ranked in the Top 5% of store traffic on Shopify out of all the stores that were created around the same time ours was. Why? We hustle. We’re exhausted, but we hustle. And the money is starting to follow.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

Entrepreneurial Expectation vs. Reality

You have this amazing idea, that’s going to change the world forever. Or you don’t have an idea yet, but you know you’re going to be an entrepreneur and make buckets of money. Funny how the mind plays trick, and lets ambition and hope take over to make it appear as though you’re destined for greatness. While this may be true – it’s not going to happen immediately. Expectation and Reality are very different things.

expectation vs reality, expectation

Expectation

You’re going to solve all the worlds problems with your new app or idea. And / or you’re going to be an instant billionaire. All of these thoughts will pass through your mind if you have the entrepreneurial spirit that seems to be going around these days. We’re all entrepreneurs in some way, shape or form. We’re all owners of Me Inc.

With any new venture you will always see the end of the road – whether it’s an awesome house, fancy cars or whatever you’re dream future may be. You rarely look around the corner, and she the other side – bankruptcy, lay-offs, creditors, etc… It’s always good to have the positive in mind, but you cannot forget about the bumpy road to get you there. Plus, if you have the blinders on and all you’re doing it for are things that can be purchased with money – stop doing what you’re doing. I know of countless people who make upwards of 400k a year. A rough estimate would put about 80% of those people living what they would call a miserable life.

Your mind has been altered to show you all of the positive entrepreneurial experiences. You think Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and so on, while forgetting about the long road it took them to get to where they were / are. Not to mention – not everyone receives the accolades or the successes of those two. For every Zuck – there are 1,000,000 middle class entrepreneur’s duking it out in the trenches.

It’s like when you meet THAT girl or guy, and you have all these dreams of love, and happiness, only to have reality kick you in the ass…HARD! This is one of my favourite scenes showcasing Expectation vs. Reality in the real world. It’s great to visualize success, but you must not forget about the Reality lurking around the corner.

Reality

The stats are floating around everywhere. Only 20% of new businesses will make it past year 2. One out of 10 startups will eventually turn into something. Every time your entrepreneurial spirit kicks in, please keep this in mind. It’s going to be an extremely tough road ahead, and there’s a good chance you won’t make it. However, you MUST try.

My wife and I had these HUGE ideas of how successful our online dress shop Ever Rose was / is going to be. It’s getting there, but not as quickly as her or I wanted. When we started – expectation took over. And we’ve been hit with a firm dose of reality time-and-time again. You learn from this, and carry on. We understand it’s a marathon, and success isn’t going to be given just because we built something. We appreciate all the little moments of success, like a positive review, a new order or getting the chance to make someone’s day.

We celebrate the small wins, knowing the BIG wins will come. We keep working at it every day. Yes, our social lives have taken a hit, and we’ve taken on some debt, but we’re trying. Trying to create jobs, and create what we feel is the right and honest way to go about business in the very crazy world of e-commerce. Win or Lose we’re trying.

You have to take the positive with the negative. You’re a fool to think you can get into a boxing ring with the expectation of not getting hit or hurt by your opponent. The lumps and bruises will come. It’s surviving these ups-and-downs that make you an entrepreneur. It’s getting up every morning, on little to no sleep to do what you want to do. Not what someone else expects you to do. It’s building, creating, and providing value to those around you.

Set your expectations high, but never forget that reality will always kick you in the ass.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

4 Tools Essential To Your Online Business

When starting out you can be swarmed with the endless possibilities of starting, promoting, and ensuring the longevity of your online business. The mass amounts of information at your fingertips is astounding, and you can end up drowning in that info. Here are some of the tools essential to your online business. These tools can also be translated into brick & mortar locations as well. The bonus with online is you don’t have to get into a 5-year lease on a physical location at $20 – $40 (or more) per square foot. You can invest that money elsewhere – like marketing your biz seeing as you won’t have any foot traffic.

apps, iphone, iphone apps

Shopify

Any e-commerce tool like Shopify or Bigcommerce is absolutely essential if you don’t want to develop, and pay big $$$ for your own website. Simplified templates, amazing apps, fantastic support, and a low monthly rate give you the opportunity to test, and develop your offering without diving head first, and pumping tens-of-thousands of dollars into something you’re not 100% certain will work.

I prefer Shopify as it’s Canadian although you still have to pay in USD for their services. Do your homework on the other e-commerce platforms out there, but Shopify or Bigcommerce are great places to start. There are free options, but even the paid options are affordable. I pay $30 a month.

Wave Apps

Another Canadian app essential to your online business – or any startup for that matter. Wave is your online portal to accounting. You can send invoices, pay bills, track payments and do day-to-day bookkeeping. Come tax season – Wave is your friend. Instead of using a bookkeeper Wave will produce all the essential reports you need to file your taxes, on top of being able to keep your finger on the pulse of your business. Plus, they offer professional bookkeepers to help you out when you’re in need.

You’ll still need an outstanding accountant who can help you out with the bigger picture stuff like tax breaks, filing, etc…, but Wave is a free tool you can use when starting out (some options like invoicing and paying bills require an affordable monthly fee).

Social / Search

While I dislike having to pay Silicon Valley for my marketing / advertising dollars they are an essential piece to your complex online puzzle. Unless you have an amazing product / service that people already know about, and a following of devoted followers – you’re going to have to invest some $$$ into social / search. If you’re a product based business – you should dabble in Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to use these tools, just start and you’ll figure it out as you go. Here’s a quick starting point. If you’re more service based – think consulting – use Twitter and possibly Instagram and YouTube. Video is a HUGE differentiator in the market right now. If you can provide weekly or even daily videos about your product / service – you’re going to excel. Cost per day is anywhere from $5 per day to $20 per day.

As for search – you have to fight the Google and Microsoft battle. My biggest thing is to own your name. Using Google Adwords and Bing Ads ensure you’re the top ad that shows up when someone searches for your name. For example – when you search Ever Rose on any platform – my wife and I’s online dress shop is the first thing you’ll see. Cost is $5 per day on both Google and Bing.

From there – you can start pulling back your dollars and invest it more in the people who have visited your page or have purchased from you. You can do this through your weekly e-marketing campaign from Mail Chimp or Klaviyo (a cool Shopify app). Don’t inundate your fans with e-blasts. A weekly update will do with new products / services. Even a special deal exclusive to them is always something to keep in mind.

Spreadsheets

It’s a bit old school, but having a few trustworthy spreadsheets will help you in being able to breakdown a few key items. One of my favourites is the profit workbook. When starting out it’s essential to know you’re making a healthy profit, so you can invest back into the business to help it grow. I have a sheet that calculates to the percentage point – how much Ever Rose is profiting from the sale of our goods.

If you’re interested in diving deeper into any of the tools above – a quick online search will help you out or connect with me by leaving a comment below or finding me on Twitter.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

Summer Marketing Checklist

Kids are out, it’s hot…damn hot, and people are spending money more frivolously. What are you doing to stay in front of your potential and existing clients? Are you speaking to them in their language, about what they care about at your point of contact with them? If you can or can’t answer these questions – here’s a quick summer check up:

Your customers / fans:
What’s their mindset for summer?
Where are they going? Beach? Lake?
Where are their kids going? Camp?
Do they have kids?
Are they using their vehicles?
Are they on their mobile devices more or less? If so, what programs / apps are they using?
Are they going to weddings? Or having babies?

You as a marketer:
Is your marketing touching on these points? Is it related to summer?
What colours are you using in your messages? Do they reflect summer?
Do your social media sites reflect the summer? Does it reflect what your potential customers are doing?
Is there something topical (event or otherwise) you can piggy back on to get your message across? For example – it’s the Calgary Stampede and we ran targeted marketing to those in and around Calgary with a message that would resonate with the market.
Is there something you can sponsor or fundraise for?

The Top 3

1) What’s going on in your potential customers head? Lock yourself away for 5 minutes and think like your customer. Or think about what you do in summer. Most likely, a sum of your market will be doing or consider doing the same thing. Is it the beach? Family vacation? R&R while the kids are away at camp?
2) Based on the above – where can you place your message? The goal is to hit as many people as possible within your budget. Whether it’s a community board at your local beach or a national mass media marketing campaign. Figure out where your potential customers are going to be and hit them with your message.
3) The ‘summery’ message: Once you have the first two down, how will you relay your message. Don’t use a generic message or branding. Target it specifically to what your potential customers are doing or may be doing this summer.

Here’s a hard example from a campaign my wife and I ran for Ever Rose leading up to and during Calgary Stampede:

Stampede, Calgary Stampede, Facebook Ad, Stampede Facebook Ad

Hyper-targeted, hyper local, and the message resonates. What are your marketing plans for summer? Come fall everyone is gearing up for the holidays, so now’s a great time to get your message out, and avoid all the noise that will follow.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft