Business Opportunity

The Cannonball Business Plan

The Cannonball Business Plan

Remember that old Burt Reynold’s movie Cannonball Run? It was probably just my age but at the time I thought it was pretty cool--an illegal race across the country in some very nice cars. It turns out the Cannonball Run is not just fictional. Wired Magazine recently ran a story about a guy named Alex Roy whose passion has been to break the 32 hour and 7 minute record for a coast to coast drive.

This is of course completely illegal and let me clearly state that I am not encouraging participation in this kind of activity—though it sounds kinda fun. Having said that, I think we can learn something from their experience.

Their challenge was not unlike that of every small business owner—they needed to accomplish something complex with limited resources (Their limited resource was time. Most of us are limited by funds which of course limit our time). The "Driveplan" they created impressed me. On it they listed every key milestone, targeted time of arrival, potential hazards, weather forecasts etc. Because they had this plan and knew where they were supposed to be every moment, they could immediately tell if they were in trouble and if they needed to make adjustments—including backing out.

Now compare that to your business plan. When was the last time you took it out and checked where you are against it? If you are anything like me, your business plan was something you forced yourself to put together to raise funds. Once that task was done the document went in the drawer to gather dust. Maybe that is due to the way we write the things—all that useless wordiness (kind of like this post). What if we created business plans that looked more like Alex Roy’s driveplan? Imagine clear milestones, expected results, time required, potential hazards each step of the way. Seems like if we created something like that we'd be much more likely to use it and reach our destination.

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Have You Tried Turning it Upside Down?

Have You Tried Turning it Upside Down?

Do a search on innovation over at Amazon.com. 11,859 results! Innovation is good. Unfortunately in that search you won't find (at least not in the first 100 results) what I think is one of the best "how to" books on innovation. It's called "The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" by Betty Edwards. Betty does a great job of explaining how the brain works with regards to creativity and includes exercises that can help anyone tap the right side of the brain to come up with creative solutions to business problems.

Here is a quick one to try. Get out a piece of paper and a pencil and draw the upside down picture above. Now print out the picture, turn it right side up and try drawing again. Which of your efforts look more like the original?

If you are like most people, the upside down version will look the best. Why is that?

It is because the left side of our brain is very good at what it does and is in charge most of the time. One of the things the left side is good at is assigning symbols to common objects which makes them quick and easy to reference. For example, a wheel is always round, an eye is almond shaped, etc. The left side is also very good at being abstract--taking a small bit of information and using it to represent the whole. Both are very powerful and useful skills for quickly dealing with most obstacles we face. Here is an example. The following letters in the following paragraph are all mixed up but I doubt you have any problem understanding it:

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and youcan sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed erveylteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe.

Let's hear it for the left side of the brain! It quickly solves thousands of puzzles a day without us even thinking about it. So why do we need the right side?

The very things that make the left side of the brain such a powerful problem solver, limit our ability to see creative solutions. Because it is quick to make assumptions and jump to conclusions, we are not even aware of the assumptions that are limiting us. In addition, symbols and names that it assigns have meanings attached that we don’t question.

Back to the upside down drawing exercise. When most of us draw, the left side of our brain uses its common symbols to help speed the process. If we're drawing an eye, it is almond shaped with a little circle in the middle. If we're drawing a wheel it is always round. Two arms are always the same length etc. Trouble is, once perspective gets involved (which it always does), rarely is a wheel in a picture round nor are eyes almond shaped. I know, I know--your left brain is telling you that is a lie. But it's not. Look at these pictures.

The men are all the same height, the tables both have the same size tops. Go ahead, get out your ruler and measure. In fact, measuring is one great way to shift from your left brain over to your right when you are looking for creative solutions. If you can invalidate assumptions that your left brain is operating on, new possibilities open up. That is one of the reasons real customer feedback is so important--leave nothing to assumption when it comes to the happiness of your customers.

Other ways to shift over to the right side? When you are trying to describe or solve a problem avoid using name references. Instead of saying draw a fingernail, say draw the hard thing on the end of your finger. Or instead of saying, "we need a new advertising campaign" say "how can we attract more new customers?" Anything you can do to avoid using terms that your left brain has assigned symbols to will help you avoid making assumptions and missing possible opportunities.

Turning things upside down is another way to get the right side of your brain involved. For some reason, the left side of the brain doesn't do upside down symbols. That is why most people are able to draw better when looking at an upside down picture--no left brain symbols involved.

Here is a final business example. When you hear the word restaurant what do you think of? Chances are you think of a building or facility where they serve food and you pay money. True enough. But what if you turn it upside down, or least take a different perspective. The symbol or definition that most of us have for restaurant includes a physical facility, but does it have to be that way? Historically it had to be because that was the only way people would know how to find you, but with today's communication devices that is no longer a requirement. What if the restaurant wasn't food in one specific place but great food in any number of many great places? Join their email list and you would be notified when and where they are serving food this week. The local zoo, middle of a football field, top of building--the possibilities are limitless. Talk about delivering unique dining experiences! At least a few entrepreneurs are already doing it.

Hpapy Iianonvntg !

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Will Your Customers Carry a Cello?

Will Your Customers Carry a Cello?

I read recently about a musician--a cello player to be exact--that moved to New York City. She didn't know anyone in the city and was looking for opportunities to play her cello. Her solution? She carried her cello around the streets of New York with her wherever she went--whether she needed it or not. It didn't take long before other musicians introduced themselves and she was given opportunities to play.

That got me to thinking, what could I carry around to let people know what I do? Even more powerful, what would my promoting customers be willing to carry around to let others know how they feel about my business?

Do you remember your customers on their birthday? On their anniversary? Do you give special notice to recently acquired customers? Promoterz does. Learn more

Come to the Carnival this summer and win 12 free months of PromoterZ™!

Come to the Carnival this summer and win 12 free months of PromoterZ™!

What says summer more than traveling carnivals? Cotton candy, hot dogs, rides that go around and around until you puke! Does life get any better than that? I submit that it cannot!

The blog world has a few traveling carnivals of their own and over the next few months we've been asked to host several. We haven't figured out how to deliver cotton candy online yet, but to make it interesting we're going to include a chance to win--remember the baseball throw, the ring toss, and the shooting gallery? So step right up Ladies and Gentleman! A winner at every carnival!

Here's how it works. Each time we host a carnival (see schedule below) we will choose a visitor to win 12 free months of PromoterZ™ service ($600 value). To participate, click on this link and then come to the carnival. We'll announce the PromoterZ™ winner along with the posts chosen to be in the carnival.

Don't know what a blog carnival is? It's like a traveling roadshow. The host chooses what they consider to be the best posts of the week from the blogs that submit posts and include a few editorial remarks. For the reader it is a great way to see the latest and greatest without having to hit every blog. For bloggers, it is a good way to increase exposure. Here are the Carnivals we've been asked to host:

Carnival of Entrepreneurship July 6th
Carnival of Business July 24th
Carnival of Marketing August 6th and 13th

Don't forget to sign up and submit your posts. Bring your friends and remember it is BYOCF.

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The Power of Staying in Touch

The Power of Staying in Touch

In the cluttered marketplace we compete in, I don't think the power (and necessity) of staying in touch can be overemphasized. I learned the lesson again last week--thankfully in a good way. It had been a while since I had heard from one of our clients at PromoterZ and so I sent him an email and invited him to go to lunch. We had a nice chat, I asked for feedback on our service and he had a few suggestions (I'm happy to note that we followed through on them). I ran a new idea we're working on past him. He liked the idea and agreed to let us test it with his customers. Then he mentioned that their franchising operation is taking off (looking for a good franchise opportunity? Check out Entrees Made Easy) and there might be an opportunity for me to tell some of their new franchisees about PromoterZ. Turns out the timing was perfect, and I'm scheduled to present to some of their new franchisees next week on how to turn customers into promoters.

So what did I get for my $30? Our product, PromoterZ, is now better thanks to his feedback, we have a place to test our new concept (more on that in future posts), and I have the opportunity to tell new franchise owners how much PromoterZ has helped Entrees Made Easy. Where else could I have got that kind of return on my money? Thanks Brandon!

They say it costs 5 to 10 times more to sell to new customers than it does to sell more to current customers, and yet what percent of our effort is spent looking for new customers vs. pleasing and staying in touch with our current customers? I was able to take Brandon to lunch, but that is not always geographically possible. A phone call works great. It can be as simple as, "how are things going?" Use technology where you can. Without exception, each time we send out our newsletter we get one or two phone calls from customers--they had been meaning to call but never got around to it until the newsletter arrived in their inbox. Here are a few other ideas:

• Send 1st timer customers a special thank you
• Send birthday greetings
• Send a newsletter
• Send Holiday greetings (Did you know today is Chocolate Eclair Day?)
• Send thank you notes

Finding new customers is tough and expensive. Once you've got a customer, hold on to them by staying in touch. I can guarantee you if you don't, somebody else will.

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Seeds from the blogworld
We search the business blog world looking for posts that illustrate principles, or "Seeds", that if followed, or "planted", will help small businesses grow. We list them here for your convenience. Enjoy.

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