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November 2014

Intellectual Property 101 (patents, copyrights and trademarks... Oh my!)

Matt McKinney is an attorney at BrownWinick Attorneys at Law

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Intellectual property is a term that is commonly and loosely thrown around in the business world, but what does it mean?  The Meriam-Webster dictionary defines intellectual property as "something (such as an idea, invention, or process) that comes from a person's mind."

In a court of law, intellectual property often refers to patents, copyrights, and trademarks.  In addition to the "Big 3," intellectual property also encompasses trade-secrets (discussed here) and publicity rights.

Patents, Copyrights, and Trademarks

Generally speaking, patent rights protect new, unique, and non-obvious product and process inventions.  Copyrights on the other hand can protect original works of authorship, such as literary, musical, and artistic work (e.g. sound recordings, photographs, motion pictures, and architectural works).  Finally, trademark rights can protect words, names, and symbols used to identify a business' goods or services and distinguish them from those of another.

Businesses frequently create and protect their intellectual property rights in many ways.  For instance, businesses often seek a registered trademark through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), triggering and/or enhancing protection for the mark.  Similarly, a business can seek patent rights in qualifying products or processes through the USPTO.

If you or your business is seeking to create and/or enhance protection in intellectual property that you own, control, or are developing, you should consider consulting a licensed attorney.

Beyond technical competence

Rowena (Ro) Crosbie is the president of Tero International Inc.

The pilot just announced that we have arrived at our cruising altitude of 31,000 feet.  It occurs to me, at this moment, that I have few options but to trust that the pilot possesses an adequate level of technical skill to handle whatever situation we may encounter.  As I reflect on this, I confess that I find it interesting that I have placed complete trust in someone I have never seen, never met, probably will never meet, and have only heard speak about two sentences.

Yes, I trust that the leaders and staff working for this airline are technically capable.  Confident in this, I return to my laptop and think only briefly about the important responsibilities I may be called upon to perform from my assigned exit row seat.

Airplane 3Is it my good fortune to be flying the friendly skies on the airline that employs the most technically capable people? I doubt it. I assume the crews of all major airlines possess similar technical skill.

I do have a choice of airlines to fly as the flight attendant will remind me in the next hour when she repeats the phrase that I am certain she must say in her sleep by now. “We know you have a choice of airlines and we thank you for choosing to fly with us.  When your plans call for air travel in the future, we hope to see you again on one of our flights.”

Yes, I do have a choice.  How do I choose?

Like many of you, I look first to my immediate short-term interests – the flight schedules and cost.  This usually narrows my choices to two or three possibilities.  How do I choose from the short list?  I choose based on who I think will treat me the best.

That’s how most of us make the decision about who we will flatter with our business.  Across almost every industry—air travel, hospitality, financial services, retail, and so on—process and technical abilities are fairly easy to copy. The competitive advantage goes to those who treat the people they serve the best. Even when transactions are conducted business-to-business rather than business-to-consumer, it is important to realize that people are always at the center of decision-making.  Businesses don’t do business with businesses, people do business with people.  And people want to be treated well.

Research supports this. According to Harvard University, Stanford Institute and the Carnegie Foundation, only 15 percent of success is due to technical skills. In most industries, the people we serve assume a level of technical capability. It is the people skills that are the differentiator, to the tune of 85 percent.

My experience today has been satisfactory. It appears the employees I interacted with have been schooled by their leaders in the culture of their organization and expectations for customer service. I will include this airline in my future travel plans—unless and until another airline figures out how to leverage the 85percent of their success that relies on people skills and takes my experience to a new level.

Let's get sticky!

StickyBulb2

Dr. Anthony Paustian is the provost for Des Moines Area Community College in West Des Moines and the author of "Beware the Purple People Eaters: A personal look at leadership."

What do bank checks, package shipping, church bells, water, ballpoint pens, deodorant, computers, fashion, steering wheels, and a revolver have in common? Nothing…or perhaps everything. True discoveries seldom happen today by finding something new. Most often they are the result of “sticky thinking,” which occurs when people connect or stick things together in new ways for different or improved outcomes.

Born in 1944 with a bone socket hip disorder called Calve-Perthes disease, young Fredrick Smith had to walk with the aid of braces and crutches for most of his childhood.  But through a high level of dedication and hard work, he was able to overcome the disease. In the early-1960s, Fredrick attended Yale University majoring in economics. For one of his classes, he wrote a paper detailing an idea he had after realizing that a future “automated society” required a completely different system of logistics. His professor didn’t like the idea since, at the time, it wasn’t economically feasible, but that didn’t stop him from thinking about its future possibilities.1

After graduation, Fredrick went on to serve two tours in Vietnam as a platoon leader and narrowly survived a Viet Cong ambush. Upon returning from war, he wanted “to do something productive after blowing so many things up.” Fredrick took an inheritance from his father, raised an additional $91 million in venture capital, and used the idea from his paper at Yale to create what is today known as “FedEx.”

Fred Smith’s story is arguably one of the greatest entrepreneurial successes of the last century. He’s currently worth over $2.3 billion, and FedEx now ships more than 10.2 million packages daily in 220 countries.2 But for me, the most amazing part of his story isn’t the outcome or even the incredible company he founded. It’s how he got to the idea in the first place.

I believe that Fred Smith’s idea represents the definition of creativity: the act of “sticking” one thing with another in new ways. By sticking how the Federal Reserve processed checks in the late 1960s (a clearing process for an enormous quantity of checks drawn on a large multitude of banks) to the logistics necessary to “automate society,” he created an entirely new way of shipping packages overnight that didn’t previously exist.

This process of sticky thinking has occurred throughout history. Sam Colt stuck the design of a ship’s wheel to the invention of the revolver; Helen Barnett Diserens stuck the concept of the ballpoint pen to a new method of applying deodorant (the Ban Roll-On); and Steve Jobs stuck fashion design to the boring world of personal computing.

Creativity (or sticky thinking) is like a sport, in that it requires hard work to perform at a high level. Mastering the necessary skills requires a dedication to practice, practice, and more practice. Becoming a creative thinker requires the same level of dedication.

In future articles, I will provide a number of tips, tricks, methods, and ideas about how to improve our creative thinking skills. Like anything, a person’s success is often tied to their level of commitment and effort.

So, are you ready to get sticky?

Practice Challenge:  Over the next few weeks (whenever you have a “free” moment), select two completely random objects around you and attempt to force connections between them (like trying to jam a square peg in a round hole). Don’t judge the quality of the ideas; just have fun with it and bring out your inner “MacGyver.”

©2014  Anthony D. Paustian 

 

1(2008, October 9)  Fred Smith: An Overnight Success.  Retrieved November 9, 2014, from the Entrepreneur website: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/197542

2Brown, Abram (2014, January 23)  10 Things You Might Not Know About FedEx Billionaire Fred Smith.  Retrieved November 9, 2014, from the Forbes website: http://www.forbes.com/sites/abrambrown/2014/01/23/10-things-you-might-not-know-about-fedex-billionaire-fred-smith


PaustianLargeHeadDr. Anthony Paustian is the provost for Des Moines Area Community College in West Des Moines and the author of Beware the Purple People Eaters: A personal look at leadership. For more information, please visit his website at www.adpaustian.com

 

Google reviews are just one piece of the puzzle

Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals, a startup company focused on helping businesses gain referrals from customers.

I meet with a growing number of clients that inquire about finding ways to boost their online presence. Regardless of their industry, most believe that Google is the Holy Grail of leads and - consequently - new business. Although I don’t necessarily disagree, I strongly believe that Google is just one piece, albeit a big one, of the puzzle.

Sure; I continually harp on the importance of a solid referral strategy for most businesses - especially those in service-related industries. So, I figured I would do a little more harping, but this time talk about how Google - more specifically online reviews - can be effectively used in tandem with referrals.

Only moments ago, during my brief trip to Denver, I was sitting in a coffee shop scribbling on a paper napkin thinking of an easy way to explain the following. What I came up with was what you see here.

PaperNap

Not exactly crystal clear. So, I asked my brother - who is more graphically inclined - to give it a whirl. His is below which will help explain my concept.

Taking a step back, I am going retro for a moment to referencing the Buying Decision Process, which any seasoned business professional likely learned years past. Still applicable today, in my opinion it outlines the important points in time that any marketer should consider. I also believe that social influences greatly impact the decisions people make to purchase products and services. I would argue this is true even more today than ever before - as the internet reduces barriers created by distance and time - effectively allowing recommendations and referrals to glimmer brighter than traditional marketing, both locally, and beyond.

Oh boy, that was a lofty statement - which I am mildly proud of - but I will gladly explain. I believe that the Buying Decision Process is closely tied to Social Impact Theory, which (duh) explains how people are affected by social influence.

Social Impact Theory breaks down the effectiveness of social influence into three categories: strength, immediacy, and number.

Strength - a group (or individual) has more of an impact of influencing a decision the more important they are to the individual.

Immediacy - the amount of time and space between a group and the individual determines its potency - and how quickly a decision must be made.

Number - the more people (or reviews), the greater the influence.

This theory explains how companies that have active referral strategies combined with a local-centric online presence are among the most successful. The search for products and services is greatly influenced by when and where a prospect is when they need your services. A prospect searching for a pizza joint in a new city will almost always yield a Google search. The search for a reputable insurance agent in your local community, however, leans toward referrals from your trusted friends.

For most searches, Google has recently improved their search engine algorithms in favor of local businesses. They called the update “Pigeon” of all things. This is great news for local companies - but it only impacts about half of all new prospects - as indicated above. The other half is courtesy of word-of-mouth (referrals from your active promoters).

The bottom line: concentrating on ways to boost local SEO and encouraging reviews for your business is effective at targeting a specific group of prospects. Yet in order to cover all bases, and increase your conversion, combine your online presence with a strong referral strategy aimed at encouraging your promoters to share you with their friends and family.

Motivating retail employees at crunch time

Kelly Sharp is the owner of Heart of Iowa Market Place.

I know a few employers who believe it's their employees' responsibility to come to work motivated to do a great job every day. "Isn't that what I pay them to do?" they say.

That would be true in a perfect world, but we sure don't live in one. That's why it's the employer's duty to make sure employees are motivated. For retailers, that is especially important during the holiday season, which can make or break an entire sales year.

Step one, any time of the year, is to show your employees you respect them. You also have a responsibility to clearly define your expectations so they can meet them. But when it comes to winter in general and the holidays in particular, you need to go that extra mile.

Like everybody else, retail employees are as affected by winter's cold, dreary days as the rest of us and they're also gearing up for the holidays themselves. Some good general seasonal advice offered up by the smart folks at -- where else? -- Smart Resources, Inc., a Chicago staffing company includes:

  • Create a comfortable workplace. ("Just because winter chills you to the bone doesn’t mean the office has to. Stingy bosses are notorious for leaving the thermostat just above the level at which hypothermia sets in. Don’t play that game.") That sometimes can be difficult in a retail business, but do be sensitive to those concerns.
  • Set seasonal goals. ("A good manager will constantly be setting goals for staff to work toward. But in the winter, even good managers stop pushing. … Fight wintertime complacency by setting seasonal goals for yourself and your staff.")

When it comes to retail folks, it's important to remember a few other points. First, there's plenty of holiday cheer on the sales side of a retail business; make sure to create some real holiday cheer for your employees through your entire business. Buy lunch or bring in special treats and hold lighthearted, small competitions just in fun.

A few years ago, the folks at Business News Daily had a few tips of their own to motivate retail employees. Two biggies: Keeping people in the loop and giving them the right tools for success.

By keeping employees in the loop, it shows that you value them -- a vital connection in keeping their spirits and motivation up when the pressure is on. Giving them the right tools and training prevents motivation-killing frustration.

I'd add that you should take the time to reward your employees for their hard work. Recognition of their efforts and incentives make a big difference in their motivation and your bottom-line revenues. And make sure that you, as the owner or manager, are in the trenches with them. That may mean you're helping to stock merchandise hoping to make gift baskets or just bringing things when your staff need them. Employees want to know that you're working as hard as they are.

And don't forget to celebrate. After all, the holidays aren't just for customers.

Why the bully pulpit is important - and it's not what you think

Lately, our political leaders are talking past each other - straight into the ravenous, relentless, non-forgiving cable news cycle. Their soundbites are increasingly lost on the people they're intended for. It's actually quite painful to watch, especially when you compare it to some of the best communicators of times past. 

Bully!"

The term "bully pulpit" is widely misunderstood because of the commonly used definition of bully in modern America. The "bully" in bully pulpit does not mean imposing or forcing your opinion on someone. "Bully" in this sense means "jolly good" or beneficial. President Theodore Roosevelt first coined the term when describing one the advantages of the presidency - lots of people are inclined to pay attention to your speeches, so you'd better take advantage of the opportunity and make them worth listening to. His philosophy was to remove the fluff and grandstanding - and take the opportunity to inform, encourage and educate in a positive manner.

How are you using your bully pulpit? Everyone influences someone. Are you using that influence for "bully" things or bad things? Let's compare two modern speakers who are using their bully pulpit in contrasting ways.

Bill Gates has transformed himself from technology innovator to world health expert over the past ten years. He's climbed to the top of the technology world, but instead of staying around and being a critic or commentator on that subject, he's using his bully pulpit to change the world. Using his money and his influence through the Gates Foundation, he's decided to tackle some of the world's largest public health problems, such as eradicating malaria. Every speech he gives seems to make the headlines. Gates has mastered the use of the bully pulpit.

Rush Limbaugh is an influential man in some circles. But when compared to Gates, his public remarks and radio show have taken a remarkably different turn. Instead of using his bully pulpit to elevate the dialog, he's made the decision to be incendiary, derogatory, and just plain mean. I'd even argue that his pulpit has not been "bully" in the sense that Teddy Roosevelt meant - but bully in the worst sense of the word.

You don't have to be famous to have a bully pulpit. Here are five things you can do to use your bully pulpit in a positive way:

  1. Write a blog post or Facebook message about your favorite charity and why you choose to donate
  2. Send an email to twenty friends and challenge them to take an action that will benefit the community
  3. Turn your dinnertime conversation into an educational time for your children. Share your values with them and encourage them to take positive actions.
  4. Contact your political leaders and tell them what's on your mind. You'd be surprised how few people actually do this.
  5. When you're giving a presentation or speech, can the fluff and talk about something beyond yourself or your organization. Get people thinking about their influence and the positive things happening all around them.

Who are your favorite "bully" speakers or leaders? Please feel free to leave a comment here or connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Claire Celsi is a public relations professional in West Des Moines, Iowa.

 

3 steps to building a purpose-driven organization

Max Farrell is the Co-Founder of Create Reason, a firm that inspires entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship inside companies. 

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 2.09.33 AM

Building an organization is hard. Really, really, hard. 

We often focus solely on the bottom line,which is usually revenue, profit or some other monetary metric to demonstrate success.

However to be a great organization, this monetary metric won’t fill up the many other aspects that drive you and the others involved in your operation. Purpose will.

Recently, I attended the Social Venture Network Conference outside New York City with a group of business leaders who are mission and purpose driven. They strive to create groundbreaking solutions to social, economic and environmental problems. They contribute to the well-being of their employees, customers, investors, communities and the environment. The overlying theme: they build with purpose.

After a thought provoking conference, I thought through a few ways as to how we as leaders in this community can gauge just how purpose-driven our organizations are.

Here are three steps to measure if you are building a purpose-driven organization:

  1. Your teams discuss the “why” in what they do, not just the “what”.

Why do your employees rally under your mission? Organizations that have a powerful purpose have employees that will share not only their role with the organization, but the value that role serves for the greater cause. Dwolla is great at capturing this within their culture. In my time working there, I was always proud to share the mission of “building the ideal way to move money” in addition to the tactical work I was doing. Many companies get stuck on solely making money, but talent will stay when they have more to work for than a paycheck.

  1. Customers, supporters, and your employees rally around your vision just as much as your product.

The same way that sports teams have legions of loyal fans, companies that build the right way will have people, regardless of whether they are customers rallying in their corner. This is done by serving a purpose greater than the bottom line. One company that comes to mind that does a great job of this is Greyston Bakery in New York.

Greyston has a compelling tagline to drive their focus: “We don’t hire people to bake brownies, we bake brownies to hire people.”  Their focus of community development through hiring and training while growing their business has led them to work with groups like Ben & Jerry’s and Whole Foods. On the Greyston website you can find a “Join the movement” page. It’s a big step from business as usual.

  1. Your audacious company vision can be condensed to a mantra.

This. Is. Really. Tough. Our companies, our products, our services - they add tremendous value to the world. But can we condense them enough to leave others desiring more from us and themselves in the process?

Take Google’s “Don’t be evil” and Apple’s: “Think Different” as examples. They drive their company and their employees to be larger than just a role. This attracts the right kinds of employees to build with and customers that become a natural fit for their products.

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Purpose can be driven from all different directions. Whether you are selective in the clients/customers you choose to work with, the additional initiatives outside your core offerings or the extra drive you instill in your customers and employees, ask yourself: what purpose are you serving that will drive your organization to the next level?

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*For more on company mantras, read this great article from Entrepreneur.

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Let's keep the conversation going: 

Email: max@createreason.com

Twitter: @MaxOnTheTrack / @CreateReason

Web: CreateReason.com

FB: facebook.com/createreason

The sun will come out tomorrow


Little Orphan Annie was right “Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there’ll be sun”. And that sun is being used more and more to produce electricity on the roofs of our homes.

Technological breakthroughs are making it easier. What has changed?

  • Ever increasing watts per solar panel
  • Longer life panels

So where does one start? Randy Skeie of Ecowise Power in Des Moines says “Take advantage of energy audits offered by your utility company to see if any energy efficiency upgrades can be made before installing a solar system.  There is a saying in the industry …“The cheapest energy is the energy that you do not use in the first place.”

Once you have established your electrical need, you decide how much you want to produce. Typically a home uses about 11,000 kilowatts of energy per year. Rates in Des Moines are at 11¢ per kilowatt or a yearly cost of $1,300. 

Randy says about 525 square feet of panels are required to produce 11,000 kilowatts. The cost is $31,200 but several tax credits lower the cost. Federal and state credits reduce the investment to about $17,000.

The payback is about 11 to 12 years when increases in electrical energy costs are assumed (and I am sure they will go up). Therefore, if the life of the system is 25 years the savings is approximately $75,000!!!

After the 12th year there is no electrical bill for your home.

The incredible news is for commercial projects there is an additional tax credit that in this case would have reduced the cost from $17,000 to $7,500.

If you want more details I would be happy to share.  Contact me at rsmith@smithmetzger.com

Getting your business ready for a sale

Steve Sink is the founder and managing partner of Phoenix Affiliates Ltd.

Selling a business can be one of the most important events in a business owner’s career.  Selling a business can also be a complex and mentally draining proposition with the potential to yield great rewards or financial disaster. Business owners often find themselves unprepared and unequipped to successfully manage the process. Preparing your business can mean the difference between a successful transaction or a costly transaction.

Preparing for the sale

Before your business goes on the market, here are some items to add to your bucket list:

Normalize your financials.

To present your financials in the most favorable light to potential buyers, you may want to consider switching from a cash method of accounting to an accrual method. Converting to this method can present buyers with a more appropriate financial image of your company.

Shift from an accelerated system of depreciation to one that shows depreciation spread over a longer period of time. Eliminate any expenses from your financial statements that could be deemed excessive by a potential buyer i.e. owner perks – expensive club memberships, relatives on payroll, etc.   

Clean, professionally audited statements suggest to buyers that your business is professionally and ethically run.

Ensure contracts and leases are up to date.

The terms and conditions of your customer and vendor contracts and equipment leases should be current. If your company assets include real estate, you might want to separate or sell the property (1031 exchange) before your business goes on the market because it has more favorable tax and liability implications. Also, normalize all lease and rents to fair market rates.

Reduce the risk for the potential loss of customers   

Survey your customers to determine issues which would cause them to leave you for a competitor, as well, as understanding why they do business with you. This report card will go a long way to address any perceived issues that the buyer may have and/or allow time to address any actual risks.  

Get the A/R line.

Get your receivables under control. Potential buyers will discount the sale price for late accounts.  

Clean your house- important guests are coming!

A neat, well-maintained appearance tells potential buyers that yours is a successful company. Now is also the time to give internal systems a tune-up and invest in technology and other upgrades.

Document your company’s policies and procedures.

Create policy and procedure manuals which detail the guidelines for managing your business.

Employees.

The loss of employees is a deal killer.

Sale strategies

Meet with your professional advisors to insure that your sale process utilizes the most current tax strategies.  It is never what you sell it for-it is always what do I get to keep!

Start now

Ancient Secret:  It is always better to sell you business when you do not have to sell.

Good Selling

Steve Sink CBI, M&AMI

ss@phxaffiliates.com

Social media advertising

Katie is the owner of Happy Medium LLC.

Brands are increasingly spending more and more money on social media advertising than ever before. In fact, according to Social Media Today, social marketing budgets will double over the next five years. That is a strong statistic that brands cannot continue to ignore.

At Happy Medium, we are dedicated to helping our clients not only use their marketing/advertising budgets efficiently but effectively. We do this by encouraging clients to always have a social strategy. Keep in mind that in order to have a social advertising strategy, you first have to have a social media strategy. While we have used many different social sites to advertise for clients, I am going to focus solely on a Facebook advertising strategy and why every business should have one (small or large budgets alike).

According to Shareaholic, “Facebook is the social network to end all social networks.” While I’m not sure it will end all social networks, Facebook does have an unmatchable ability to reach your target audience. A few facts from our friends at Facebook.

1 billion total monthly active users

58% of people on Facebook visit the site daily

600 million monthly active users on mobile

3.2 billion likes and comments everyday

8x engagements for page posts in news feed

In an analysis of over 60 campaigns on Facebook: 49% had a 5x or greater return on ad spend; 70% had a 3x or greater return on ad spend

On top of that, their targeting capabilities are hard to match. Facebook can target users based on any of the data you put into your profile, instead of using cookies to build a profile around your interests like every other platform on the web. This first hand data is like gold for targeting -- you almost always know you are always going to be hitting your target market.

In a short comparison, Shareaholic put together a chart detailing social media traffic referrals year-over-year from data collected on more than 200,000+ sites. You can see in the below example that Facebook dominates this category with Pinterest and Stumbleupon following pretty far behind in 2nd and 3rd place.  

Shareholic Social Media Traffic Referrals

With all that said, I wanted to be able to share some results from a social media advertising client campaign at Happy Medium. The marketing objective was to highlight the value of some of their in-store offerings and to promote downloads of a new app release. The campaign ran for four months over the summer and all the advertising was done on both Facebook and Twitter (with the majority of the budget on Facebook). Below is the outcome of the campaign:

  • App downloads: After the first month, we hit 148 percent of their entire summer goal

  • Instant win game to promote in-store offerings: After the first month, we hit 105 percent of their entire summer goal for in-store redemptions, and 135 percent of their entire summer goal for people who played the game

During the campaign, we constantly revised the goals and increased the numbers we wanted to hit. These results were powerful, that not only we were proud of, but the client was as well. When implemented correctly, social media platforms can reach your target audience effectively and efficiently within budget to accomplish your marketing goals.

Make them run away, screaming

IdontwanttoeatthatDrew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

We each have one.  That one food that even if we just get a whiff of it, it turns your stomach.  

We can't help ourselves -- if we see it, smell it or even hear someone talking about it -- we make that scrunched up face.

You know the face I'm talking about.

Hold that thought for a minute.  Now... I want you to think of the client/customer that you could never make happy.  They were always complaining about something, disrespecting your team or having you do it over.  Again.

Those are the kinds of clients who suck the life out of us.  Who make us regret our career decision and wish we'd opted for something less stressful, like bull fighting.  

Those are the kinds of clients we need to repel in 2015.  We want them to make that run from us.  Why?  Besides their general unpleasantness, a bad fit customer costs you:

  • Time (They require so much hand holding, do over time, etc.)
  • Money (We are probably paying for the privilege of working for them, because they're such a pain)
  • Employees (our best ones will leave, not being willing to tolerate that sort of behavior/attitude)
  • Sleep/Peace of mind (W're always waiting for the other shoe to drop)
  • Our good customers (because we're so busy with the bad ones, we neglect the good ones)

So what can you do to repel them in 2015? 

I want you to think of the most effective marketing tool that you have.  Your website? An ad in a trade pub? A radio spot?  It doesn't matter what it is -- just that you have one.

Now, I want you to modify that marketing tool by writing and designing it in a way that would totally turn off that bad client.  Make every word and visual emphasize something they would hate. Now - actually use it.

Why?  You're going to kill two birds with one stone.  First, it will repel those bad fit customers who drain your organization of all your mojo.  Second, it will help you attact the absolute opposite of your worst customer -- your best fit customer.

Marketing materials are often too generic, too "all things are possible" because the creator doesn't want to offend or turn off anyone.  I think that's crazy. You want your marketing to offend those who aren't a great fit.  You want your marketing to clearly spell out what value you deliver and what matters to you. And you want your marketing to push away those prospects that you could never make happy to begin with.

Go on, give it a try.  Write an absoltutely repulsive ad and see what it attracts!

 

~ Drew, Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

Social media is useless...

Danny Beyer, a sales executive at Kabel Business Services, is a serial networker and often speaks about networking to groups.

...without relationships or the opportunity to build relationships.  I’ve given multiple talks on Social-media-cube the benefits of being active on social media to audiences ranging from college students to seasoned professionals.  I can talk about personal branding, crafting the perfect tweet, or how many times to post to Facebook based on your audience.  I have had both personal and professional success on multiple platforms.  However, none of this would have been possible without the relationships I developed with the people on the other side of the computer screen. 

People want to do business with people.  They want to work with people they know, like, and trust.  The power of social media is the ability to connect with people in a new, and very personal, way.  The information shared on platforms like Facebook allows me to see who people really are.  It gives me, and anyone else connected to that individual, a glimpse into who that person is and what he or she enjoys.  It allows me to pass over the small talk and have a meaningful conversation centered on what that person is sharing.

I keep in touch with friends all over the country through social media.  It is so easy to communicate and keep up to date through the various platforms.  There have been times when a friend will come to town whom I haven’t seen in years but we still know everything the other is doing thanks to Facebook or Twitter.  We pick up right where we left off because we know how each other’s families are, how the job is going, and what exciting things are going on in each other’s lives.  This happens with professional relationships as well, thanks to the openness and personal side of a lot of the different platforms. 

Social media is not the answer or the end-all to building long-lasting and viable relationships.  It is a great tool to share ideas, meet new people, and connect with long lost friends.  Each platform is different and allows the user to customize his or her experience.  It also gives your followers the opportunity to see what you care about and who you are outside of regular business hours.  To most people, this person is just as important as the business person they usually see. 

 

How to be a go-giver

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a Certified Executive & Leadership Coach and the President of MAP Professional Development Inc.

 

“I hate selling.”

Go-Giver booksHow many times have you heard that frustration from an employee, or even said it yourself?

It’s especially common among entrepreneurs: You start a business because you’re passionate about your product or service and want to make a difference. But you’d prefer clients just find you, because selling, in its traditional sense, can feel cheesy, manipulative, and inauthentic.

But what if you didn’t worry about the sale? What if you focused solely on adding value instead?

Such is the premise of Bob Burg & John David Mann’s bestselling book, The Go-Giver, and its follow-up, Go-Givers Sell More. In the first book, the authors share a story about a true go-getter: Joe works crazy hours and holds a “whatever it takes” attitude to make the sale. He hits a wall, however, and – with ulterior motives in mind – schedules a meeting with a hugely successful bigwig, Pindar.

Pindar volunteers to share his sales secrets with Joe over the course of a week. Instead of focusing on topics like how to close a deal, however, Pindar offers five Laws of Stratospheric Success:

  1. The Law of Value: Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment.
  2. The Law of Compensation: Your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them.
  3. The Law of Influence: Your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interests first.
  4. The Law of Authenticity: The most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself.
  5. The Law of Receptivity: The key to effective giving is to stay open to receiving.

In a nutshell: Focus on giving.

The follow-up book takes these five laws and provides real-life examples, best practices, and solid ways to implement them into your own work.

Most of us know that success in life comes when we serve graciously, give generously, and focus on making the world a better place. The authors have done a great job reminding us that these same principles lead to success in business, too – in terms of satisfaction, morale, and revenue.

So how does one become a go-giver?

Listen more than speak.

Add value more than promote your product – which sometimes means saying, “I know someone else who can better help you.”

Above all, remember: It’s not about you. It’s not even about your product or service. When you make it about you, you’ll struggle.

Then what is it about? According to Burg & Mann:

"It’s about adding value to the other person’s life. Your product may be one vehicle for doing that, one among dozens. Yet a person may never actually buy your product and still have his life changed by meeting you and getting to know you. And that person – even though he never actually becomes a 'customer' – will refer many others to you."

I first read The Go-Giver several years ago and implemented a practice that I encourage you to adopt: Do a go-giver activity first thing each morning. Send a card to someone, just to let her know you’re thinking of her. Leave a voicemail for a colleague wishing him a great day. Mail a newspaper clipping to a local businessperson recently highlighted. Write an unexpected testimonial.

There are so many meaningful ways to become a go-giver, and it’s a great opportunity for each of us to change the world for the better. Read these two books for additional inspiration, then put your go-giver actions to work!

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotDr. Christi Hegstad develops strong, confident leaders who make a meaningful difference. Learn more about her coaching work at www.meaning-and-purpose.com, on Facebook  at www.facebook.com/MAPIncFan, and via Twitter at www.twitter.com/DrChristiCoach.

The Go-Giver (2007) and Go-Givers Sell More (2010) were published by The Penguin Group.

In addition to those that I offered, what other simple actions might make someone’s day? Share your ideas below!

 

Innovation bias and the myth of vacuuming

Joe Benesh is a Senior Architect with Shive-Hattery and President + CEO of the Ingenuity Company, a strategic planning, diagramming, framework development, and design thinking consulting firm.

Flipping a very simple concept around sometimes leads to the best conclusions. Sometimes taking a key piece out of something allows you to look at something in a completely different way. I submit the following to you for your consideration - you may not be able to innovate in a vacuum, but I believe you can innovate while vacuuming.

I read an essay in high school written by Igor Stravinsky on his attitudes about conductors. Stravinsky was not complimentary on the role of the conductor in the orchestra, and many rhetorical devices were conveyed to try and persuade the reader that the conductor of an orchestra served no critical purpose.

I disagree with Stravinsky, for a number of reasons. These reasons tie back to my feelings on innovation. I can follow the argument that the musicians in an orchestra follow their sheet music, and that those musicians are able to take cues from each other and stay in time. However, there needs to be a unifying element that draws everything together, acts as a foundation, and is there to prevent disaster from ensuing.

Music is one of the most innovative mediums in existence. Sounds are woven together in infinite forms and contain complexities that almost no other form of communication is capable of producing. But, unchecked, these sounds can detach from structure, move away from the symbiosis of an orchestra, and become noise. The conductor is there to keep innovation from running amok – the musicians must innovate within the framework of their leadership and the boundaries set forth by the music itself.

The conductor is facilitating “innovation bias” or structuring an environment in which participants can move freely within certain bounds, ultimately leading to a pleasing and productive solution. To attempt to innovate in a vacuum, in this case without the conductor, may yield positive short term results, but a more likely outcome is true – as more and more musicians “innovate”, the greater the chance of the music drifting toward noise.

When I vacuum, it makes a lot of noise, and I argue that there is a lot of innovation happening there. There are all sorts of hard to reach places that I have constructed any number and configuration of apparatus to reach, all with the end goal of leaving a spot just a little cleaner than I found it. These mini engineering projects take on a life of their own and my OCD is supremely satisfied with the outcomes of these little experiments. As ridiculous as this probably sounds, the unifying element is there, and I’m the one making sure the house gets clean; I’ve structured the innovation within the confines of baseline parameters and kept it on task.

Enacting parameters, setting specific frameworks, and generating a productive innovation bias is a sound (pun intended) strategy for keeping teams on task while allowing them to be creative within productive boundaries, and prevents discussions from becoming “noise”. Stravinsky was wrong; a conductor is a critical component of creating an ecosystem where music can flourish. What he was missing is the other part of the analysis – flipping something simple around to see how what is missing changes what is there.

 

Take the time it takes

Rowena (Ro) Crosbie is the president of Tero International Inc.

As many of you know, I live on a farm with 28 cats, a dog, 3 horses and a mule (and husband, Ted).    

Interacting with cats is a strength for me.  I have even, on occasion, mastered that unmasterable skill of herding cats (Monster.com may have a job posting for that). Horses

Horses are another matter.  Interacting effectively with horses has never been a strength of mine.  So I went to school.  My horse trainer politely explained as I wrestled with the complex skills, “If you take the time it takes, it takes less time”.

Those words are certainly unpopular in our fast-paced world of multitasking, instant solutions, and Mc-everything.  Nevertheless, some things take time.  Sometimes we need our leaders to remind us of this reality and sometimes leaders need to pause and remind themselves of the same thing.

The popular business press advocates the importance of maximizing strengths of people and that, for the most part, overcoming weaknesses is a waste of precious time.  That it takes far more time and energy to move from incompetence to mediocrity than to move from competence to excellence.

Sadly, many people, especially those with great strengths in specific areas, adapt this insight into an excuse for not knowing anything (or knowing very little) about other areas.  This is intellectual arrogance and is quite different than having no strength.

Consider highly technically-skilled individuals like engineers, accountants, scientists and technicians who report “I am not a people person” and defiantly oppose any situation that requires them to work effectively with people unlike themselves.  Similarly are the professionals in areas like marketing, sales, and human resources who pride themselves on their ignorance of basic process methodology or elementary accounting.

Although our goal should always be to build on our strengths, almost everyone can acquire enough of any skill or knowledge not to be completely incompetent about it.

No one can escape the fact—defects and weaknesses matter.  Success depends not only on moving steadily forward but on preventing derailment.  Preventing derailment means going beyond nourishing strengths and attending to flaws.

I invested the time it took (sometimes painstakingly) to learn to interact effectively with the horses.  Although I’m not off to any equestrian competitions, I now enjoy my horse interactions.

Showing shareholders the money in Iowa corporations

Matt McKinney is an attorney at BrownWinick Law Firm.

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As a shareholder in a small business, family business, or other Iowa corporation, you may ask yourself: what kind of financial information is my corporation required to provide me?  Thankfully, Iowa law on this topic is relatively straightforward.  Iowa law requires Iowa corporations to provide certain financial information to their shareholders.

In particular, Iowa Code Section 490.1620 mandates that Iowa corporations provide their shareholders with “annual financial statements.”  As you may suspect, “annual financial statements” should include a balance sheet, an income statement, and a statement of changes in shareholder equity, if any. Further, if financial statements are prepared for the corporation on the basis of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), the annual financial statements provided to shareholders must also be prepared on that basis.

If you have questions about your corporation's compliance with these requirements, you should consider contacting a licensed attorney.  

Story songs create a memorable narrative

Want to use more storytelling for your brand or company? Claire Celsi suggests using the storytelling techniques used in famous story songs as a way to begin.

As a public relations professional, I'm responsible for coming up with ways to tell my clients' stories. When great companies need to talk to their customers about what makes them special, I recommend using the same storytelling techniques that are employed in the best and most beloved story-songs. Here are a few of the songs that have always gripped me with their powerful lyrics, haunting imagery and sometimes memorable music. But the STORY is Storytellingwhat pulls you in and keeps you listening.

Cat's in the Cradle - Harry Chapin: It never fails to evoke memorable life stages of childhood and becoming a parent. Connecting with familial emotions and the everyday life of a made-up family causes us to listen and compare the story to our own lives. And it's memorable. And it sometimes teaches a lesson.

Hotel California - The Eagles: This haunting tune is effective because it taps into the powerful emotions associated with the unknown. And since so many Americans believe in some sort of spirit world, it's not hard to imagine a haunted hotel with a friendly (but ghostly) staff. Mix that with powerful descriptions of the scent, the decor and an attractive stranger, you have the ingredients for a seductive story. Besides that, it's got one of the most memorable guitar solos of all time.

Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald - Gordon Lightfoot: Based on a real story, this song is immediately compelling because it is true. The telling of a true story, either literally or metaphorically, lends credibility and people tend to pay attention to see what happens next. What really gets you about this song is the descriptions of the time

Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown - Jim Croce: Written in an age before the politically correct crowd sucked all the fun out of the world, Croce manages to write a playful, if not biographical tune. This type of story transports the listener into a world that may be slightly different than theirs, but then comes back and grabs you with a classic tale that is very common: Guy wants girl, other guy gets jealous, a fight ensues, and somebody loses. 

They Dance Alone  - Sting (read the background of this song)Using historical fact to tell obscure cultural stories is a time-honored tradition in American folk music, going back centuries. Who says history is boring? Using the story-telling technique, old stories and lessons from history can be dusted off for a new generation.

Getting someone's attention in a media saturated world is difficult at best. Using storytelling is about connecting on an emotional level. Stories are remembered better when they're told in a memorable way. So the next time you're telling a compelling story, remember to use the techniques used in your favorite story-song. 

Claire Celsi is a public relations practitioner in West Des Moines, Iowa.

Lowering the value of your business

Steve Sink is the founder and managing partner of Phoenix Affiliates Ltd.

Logo only for phoenix

Generally, when businesses are valued, the owner likes to see the highest value possible for the business. After all, it is human nature to desire the most wealth possible. Many times, valuations will be prepared to determine the price potential if the business is sold. Even when trying to obtain an amount for a spouse’s business during a divorce proceeding, a valuation will be completed with a view toward the highest value possible. Other situations exist where the client desires a low value; such situations include estate planning, divorce when the client will be paying out a sum, and when a potential buyer desires to purchase a business.

Legitimate avenues do exist however, to reduce the value of any given business when appropriate.  Discounts determined for lack of control and lack of marketability are legitimate and even common in valuations. In addition, as of late, discounts taken for a built-in gains tax potential are becoming increasingly common as more case support develops for the use of them.

Three Key Discounts    

(1) People generally prefer to have controlling power as opposed to being controlled. The lack of control discount or minority ownership discount in closely-held and small companies is given to reflect the detrimental effect of not having control of a business.  While a minority interest in a publicly traded company is not subject to a lack of control discount, in small companies, lack of control means the minority owner is subject to the whim of majority shareholders. Such detrimental decisions to minority shareholders can include: determination of management compensation, declaration of dividends and disbursements, setting the course of the business, and decisions to liquidate or sell business interests. Lack of control discounts can range from 35 to 50 percent, and even higher in some cases when compared to publicly traded stocks. Readers should be aware that the state of Florida has recently passed a law making the minority discount illegal whenever a company that has ten or fewer owners is valued.

(2) The lack of marketability discount applies to many small businesses as well.  Owners prefer to have assets that are more liquid as opposed to less liquid. It is with this preference that those businesses that can be bought and sold quickly are worth more.  Businesses that are hard to liquidate or are generally unmarketable are worth less than publicly traded companies. Because of this lack of marketability, certain businesses are given a discount to reflect the detriment of the ability to sell the company. Lack of marketability discounts can range in the area of 20 to 50 percent when compared to their publicly traded counterparts.

(3) Discounts for built-in gains tax are gaining more and more support. When C corporations are converted from taxable entities into flow-through entities, such as S corporations, LLC’s and the like, the potential for a tax liability known as “built-in gains” appears. Because of this potential, the company must plan and maneuver carefully around built-in gains issues. Nonetheless, from time to time, decisions are made on business bases that demand that built-in gains be recognized and taxes become due to the government. Many businesses, including businesses with deceased owners, run the risk of paying built-in gains tax. As such, taxpayers have successfully argued that such potential liability can be deducted from the value of a business under the theory that an investor, similarly situated, could purchase similar securities in a business without the built-in gains tax potential. It is because investors can invest elsewhere in order to avoid tax losses, theoretically, that the company with the built-in gain tax event potential is worth less than a company that does not have potential for a huge tax loss.

Conclusion

Some confusion results between the two types of discounts noted above when analysts arrive at discounts for control and marketability. Minority ownership interest discounts relate to the control the subject has in relation to the business. Marketability, on the other hand, deals with the potential to liquidate the company and how quickly and easily the company can be reduced to cash.

Discounts based on control and marketability have been around since the beginning of valuations. The built-in gains tax liability discount is new, and it has more estate tax implications, as well as gift tax consequences than other discounts.   

Good Selling,

Steve Sink  CBI, M&AMI

ss@phxaffiliates.com

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