Archive for the ‘Flexibility’ Category
In December, I had a chance to spend the afternoon talking about the news and social media with the staff at WEYI, NBC 25. After I left the meeting I spent a lot of time thinking about the point where Social Media and Traditional Media intersect and how to integrate new techniques into a successful format.
My Top 6 Tips:
- Create a hierarchy/Flow Chart of news importance and Direction.
TV news is one of the most limited formats since a broadcast may have as little as 20 minutes of air time per 30 minute show. Not every tip, press release or AP story can be covered in this amount of time. However, news that doesn’t make a the broadcast should be directed elsewhere. Creating a flow-cart or other formula for deciding, before hand, what information should be shared, and where, gives reporters an opportunity to engage the audience more often.
- Twitter has the highest volume but the fewest characters allowed, and should be used for snips, teasers or as a directional service getting followers to visit videos, on-scene cell-phone pictures captured by reporters or other websites where they can interact with the news you’re reporting.
- Facebook & Google Plus don’t have the tight character limits that Twitter does but since your fan’s home page feed doesn’t move as quickly, posting too often can be overwhelming. Weather maps, Follow-ups and viewer-to-viewer based communities can boost station loyalty.
- YouTube. Posting segments after they’ve aired is a great way to keep people talking and gives you a way to gauge response. People also like seeing themselves in the news and Youtube offers a way for broadcasts to be shared or included in blogs. Youtube can even generate revenue for the station.
- You have to give to get.
Traditional media tends to push out information, but Social Media demands interaction. The easiest way to interact is by Following-Back and replying… within reason.Take time to look at your followers and a few of their posts. There are a lot of useless and undesirable accounts that will only bog down your efforts. A DNFTT (do not feed the trolls) policy wouldn’t hurt either.
- Cover more Local businesses and Not-for-Profits.
Being neighborly and engaged locally is a great way to increase station loyalty across all media outlets. This can be as simple as following and sharing or re-tweeting informational posts. Showing people who are working hard to better the community also counters negative news and illuminates bright spots. Directing fluff pieces to social networks also saves air time for more serious news.
- Create custom Twitter and Google Plus Hash Tags.
Information overload is the side effect of social media success. At a certain point it’s just not possible for a human to consume every post your followers, prominent citizens and organizations create. Creating the Hash Tag is as simple as choosing a word or phrase (without spaces or other special charters) and adding the pound sign to the front. For Example – #MINewsTip. Just be sure to search using your potential tag first to be sure it’s unique enough to lay claim to it. Then search for the tag to gather your tips, comments and relevant information.
- Create a Social Loop
All of the social networks you’re using should feed into one another. Tweets that send people to YouTube, Facebook, your website and then back again are part of a interaction loop you should strive to create. Creating content across the various formats also allows you to interact with people who use Facebook, but not Twitter, etc.
- Use Feedback on the air.
Don’t forget to include air time in the social loop because it’s the one thing you have that Social Media doesn’t. Viewers who are empowered to comment and rewarded with air time are more likely to develop a deep loyalty to the station.
When I was little, I use to tag along with my mom as she would pick up things for her garden. My favorite stop was Agway, because, in the spring they had brooders full of baby chickens. Although my mother never, ever, indulged my childhood need to snuggle an arm full of chicks, now that I’m the Mom it’s a different story.
In the spring of 2009, we took the plunge and purchased 8 chicks from a local farmer. Like any other venture, we needed more than a box of peeps, but, while the birds were only slightly larger than the egg they hatched out of, they didn’t need many of the things a fully grown hen would.
So, instead of rushing out and buying loads of stuff that would just sit in storage until the gals were big enough to use it, we adapted to their needs and only invested more into their care when it was the right time to do it. While they were small and still needed the heat lamp to regulate their body temperature, they lived in a large cardboard box in the family room. When they got large enough to jump/fly out of their box and poop on the carpet, we built a coop and moved them to the back yard.
This spread the expenditures of time and money out, over time, so that we could better absorb the costs.
We also learned as we went along. I got a great book, Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, and picked up a few tips and tricks from the internet and even learned a few things the hard way, but now we have all the eggs we can eat and a self-sustaining supply of new laying hens. When we had hens go broody after their first year, we were given some fertile eggs for the ladies to hatch. From those fertile eggs, we kept a Rooster. This year we just welcomed our first batch of home-grown babies.
I could keep the process going, if I wanted, and allow my hobby of back yard chickens grow to the point I could start selling eggs to my neighbors. Then grow to enough hens I could get a stall at the farmers market. I could then let the dream grow to certifying as organic and winning a contract with Whole Foods… Or not.
The formal term for this process is bootstrapping, but the process works equally well in small business as it does with back yard chickens. When considering how you want your next business to unfold, consider the slow build as a way to gain both resources and knowledge you need to ensure a successful venture.
Our scheduled moving day is less than 3 weeks away but were not ready, and barring a miracle, there’s no way we’ll be ready. Even with the blog and non-essential business activities on hold since April, we’re just not going to make the deadline and it’s one of the most unpleasant feelings in the world. I made a goal, set a date, and the process isn’t going to plan.
I knew moving to Michigan would be a major undertaking but I hadn’t considered coming down with two significant colds in May and June. I think we’ve been picking up exotic cold viruses while making the 350 mile trek between houses since both colds struck within days of the trips. (There will be a bottle of hand sanitizer in the car before the next jaunt!)
Most people, when faced with a deadline that can’t be met and an overwhelming number of OTC medications, would simply give up on the whole process. Admittedly, the easiest thing for me to do right now would be to crawl back in bed with a box of tissues and my cocktail of decongestants, and expectorants but there might be one or two things I can do today. Things that, in some small way, would bring us a little closer to completing the move.
The point is I’m trying desperately to avoid stagnation or worse, loosing ground on progress. So while I’ve been laid up for more than a week and won’t make my goal of July 1 to move, I have still taped boxes together and even packed a few things.
Progress may be slow at times here and in your own ventures, but as long as we find a small ways to move forward on our most unproductive days, we create the success we want to have in our lives.
Not all entrepreneurial ventures need to be grandiose, million dollar money makers. In fact, many of the successful entrepreneurs I’ve worked with over the years are moonlighting in small businesses to help fill gaps in their family budgets. A part-time business might be just the thing you need to bring in a few extra dollars for your family too.
Starting a business for your spare time also has some major advantages. For one, you don’t have to quit your day job so your regular paycheck and other benefits aren’t going anywhere.
Second, starting a small business in your spare time allows you to bootstrap the business. If your goal is to earn extra money, starting with a small amount of seed money, allows the business to grow at a pace that is equivalent to the money you earn so you invest in the business instead of making loan payments. Plus any money you don’t pay the bank for interest on a line of credit is money you get to keep.
When thinking about what kind of business you might be able to bootstrap in your spare time, I would suggest you start by evaluating your current hobbies. My guess is that you probably already have a basic kit of tools and know a little about the industry which will make the jump from hobby to business easier. For example;
- Festivals – If you love going to festivals in the summer time, consider becoming a vendor. Since you know what events are planned and what is usually offered, you could find a niche novelty food or product and set up a table. (Like the Kettle Corn tent in this articles masthead)
- Second-hand items – If you simply can’t pass a good pile of junk without picking up a few treasures, consider re-selling. Options include selling vintage items on Etsy, eBay and other sites online or getting space at your local flea market.
- Teach a class – Maybe you’re a world class knitter or have another special talent you can share with the world. Sites like Betterfly and the lessons section on Craig’s List can help you find customers.
- Hunting and Fishing – Since you already know all the best spots in the area, why not let someone tag along?
- Repair services – take all those pleas for help you get from your family and friends and set up shop repairing computers, small engines or anything else you know you can fix.
Of course the list is only limited by your imagination.
One pitfall of turning a hobby into a business is to change your mindset about what you’re trying to do. One common mistake most part-time business owners make is treating the business like it’s still a hobby.
Learning business basics isn’t limited to those who want to quit their job and start a new career. If you want to keep what you earn, and grow the business you’ll still need a plan, know how to keep your books and keep your fledgling business from faltering along the way. You might also have to get insurance, permits and collect sales taxes.
The good news is that most of this can be learned in the Hard Knocks Business Academy. I’m also here to help you along, so don’t hesitate to contact me or schedule an appointment (the first appointment is always free)
Every break my children have from school, we make the trek from Rochester NY to Clio Michigan and spend our vacations working on projects that will bring us closer to our eventual move. This week, we finally brought the first load of our belongings and in between wind and snow storms, we managed to get our internet connection installed.
While talking to Mike, the Comcast installer, about our need for bandwidth so we could keep up with business tasks in between trips to Goodwill and cleaning the gutters, he mentioned that he liked working for a big company because he had benefits like Health Care.
While it might seem like a casual comment, it speaks volumes about the state of our economy.
Small Businesses account for more employees and a larger portion of the US GDP than all large companies put together. When it’s hard for people like Mike to leave health insurance behind, health care becomes a barrier to economic growth.
Now I’m not saying that Universal Healthcare is a silver bullet for the economy, because losing a steady paycheck and is also an important consideration, but what if health care wasn’t one of the barriers to entry into small business ownership?
In my adult life and with my small business, I’ve had to constantly worry that I might miss an important anniversary like a birthday or a contract renewal because I had no frame of reference for the last time said event occurred.
If you ask me about an event, I can tell you who was there, the topic and even small details that usually go unnoticed, but I won’t be able to tell you when it happened and in most cases I’ll probably have the order of events out of sequence too. In fact, it use to get me in a lot of trouble as a child because I was “telling stories” if I didn’t quite have my details in a nice neat package.
Since it’s obvious that my brain just doesn’t work when it comes to dates, I’ve worked to find ways that my other odd traits could pick up the slack. Since that’s a cumbersome way to put it, I like to think about it as tools.
Whenever I’m faced with tasks that are naturally difficult for me, I put in a little extra effort so that I can create a work-around for the next time the problem comes up.
It’s safe to assume a Calendar is a tool I use a lot. I use it to remind me of upcoming events, and as a journal so I can look back and refresh my memory. I also leave myself little clues so that I can deduce the dates of important events. You might even think my collection of conference badges as a bit odd, but the ones I have hanging on the wall in front of my desk all have dates on them.
These little routines and trails of bread crumbs may seem like the failings of weak mind, but the reality is that it allows me to focus on the things I can do well. I don’t panic because I don’t remember, instead I’m confident that I can find the answer quickly.
As a small business owner, you should also be thinking about the tools that will help you be more efficient and reduce your stress. Do you need tools for time management, Email management or something else? No matter what it is, putting in the time now to create a tool you can use again and again is well worth the effort.
I’d love to know about the tools you use to keep on track or solve problems in your small business. Please leave your suggestions or questions below.
The first issue is that software is a cost center, and ROI to shoot for is some sort of increased efficiency. Regardless of how efficient it brings in customers, tracks inventory or creates slide decks for presentations, you have to have it to compete, so it all comes down to how well the system works.
The good news is that publicly licensed software allows businesses to think about starting their software roll out with the finishing touches. Carrying a General Public License or other Open Source License is the most important part because, it’s usually available at no cost.
If getting it for free isn’t enough of a cost savings, then stick with me for another moment.
Custom software is usually the best way to get a system that works exactly like your business model dictates, but the costs grow exponentially. The more complex the system, the more it’s going to cost to build. But it doesn’t end there, I usually recommend my clients assume an extra 30-50% above and beyond the initial construction phase for tweaks, bug tracking and resolution. If you start with a lower cost, then your 30-50% is also going to be a much smaller number.
In some cases fixing a bug in the system could also be free if it’s submitted to the software’s development team. It might take a little longer for resolution, but it’s hard to argue with free if your budget is tight.
With a little research it’s usually possible to find finished software suites that are close enough to meet the business’ requirements and development can begin where a custom solution would just be finishing up. A good software developer can even combine functions that may not have been designed together to create a truly custom solution.
The library of software that’s publicly licensed these days is vast and a business that wants to go this route should start the research process by outlining what functions the software must have. I also advise they look at what might happen in phase two of the roll-out and to consider what flexibility they’ll have to modify the system to adapt to changes in the business environment. A good plan and a shopping list of features goes a long way to making this process successful.
Of the hundreds of small businesses that I’ve counseled, each case is confidential, but when I know there are at least a dozen businesses with the exact same issue, I think a little transparency would go a long way.
For example, I’d like to take posts such as “Ego’s Role in Business Websites” and “Beginning with the Finishing Touches” and make them less vague. The idea being that if I could give specifics then the cases would become real-world, working solutions rather than theory. especially if someone would like to go long-term and report back on what’s been working or not.
So, if you, or someone you know is wondering why a website and other online presence practices might be coming up short, please let me know in the comments field below or the contact form. Please include anything you have specific questions about so that I can include the answer when I reply.
Don’t worry, I will email you before I begin my critique and if I don’t get a response, I’ll pick another site and try yours again for a later article. If you change your mind about the critique or have any reservations just let me know. I’ll be happy to take you out of the queue.
I’ve been advising one of my fellow SCORE counselors about the role of websites in business as we attempt to help one of his clients boost her sales. In his latest email he said, “a web site must have a business purpose, not an ego purpose.”
I couldn’t agree more!
In this case, the issue is not that the client is a braggart, but that she’s unwilling to accept that she might have taken a wrong turn with her website. I’m pretty sure I know where she’s coming from because I struggled for years thinking my websites, business cards and other materials were just fine because that’s what family and friends will say to spare feelings. I can tell she doesn’t understand why, with all the positive feedback, the business is struggling to get off the ground.
I also assume she’s reeling from the sting of my reality check because I didn’t have many positive things to say in the website critique I was asked to give. No item was safe as I did my best to explain why the color scheme right on through to the composition of her professionally shot photos could be contributing to the sites performance issues.
In her response to my critique she asked for a second opinion, and, I’m worried that she’ll keep looking until she gets an opinion she likes.
Hopefully she won’t have to learn the hard way that business is no place for the faint of heart. If you’re not willing to accept the opinion of an “expert,” no matter what the field of endeavor, who has no stake in your success or failure, then you’re subconsciously choosing to wait for the competition to mop the floor with you. Again, harsh, I know, but tough love is always a downer at first.
Shopping for complements isn’t going to save a business, but being your own harshest critic might. If you intend to make a living by owning a small business, you need to check your feelings at the door and allow logic and honest feedback sort out the path to success.
Those of you who’ve known me for a while know that I’m a fan of beginning with the finishing touches whenever I can. While the idea sounds easy enough, it’s not a fool-proof method of building business applications especially when you consider the prep that is involved.
To begin a website with the finishing touches, we need to start with the idea that any computer can become a server. All you need are the appropriate applications to announce your presence to the world.
The thing is, the “appropriate software” is a list of things such as
- an operating system – Microsoft, Apple, Linux, or another.
- server software – Apache, LAMP, MAMP, etc.
- the database – MySQL, PostgreSQL, MongoDB, etc.
- software for any languages your applications will be using – PHP, Ruby, Perl, etc.
After all those are up and running you’re ready to install your Content Management System, eLearning, Photo Gallery, or whatever else you might need to conquer the internet.
While this may not sound like too many steps, for those without a lot of experience, the process may not be as straightforward as it sounds. The term “Dependency Hell” comes to mind when I think about how the process could turn sour.
This morning, however, I stumbled upon BitNami. While I haven’t had the chance to use it yet, the idea has me fluttering with the first blush of puppy love.
I’d suggest you take a look at their site for complete information, but, in short, the beauty of BitNami comes through in the steps that follow the operating system in my list above.
Rather than downloading and installing all of the other components separately, the BitNami stack does it for you. The server software, programming language support, database, and application come together in one tidy install.
Now I’m not saying that there won’t be tweaks left to perform, but when you’re jumping ahead to the spit-polish phase, BitNami can make it easier for you to get there.
Now I’m not all raves at this point. One major shortcoming is that they’re lacking any sort of shopping cart system like OSCommerce or Magento. But like most projects, a quick trip to their forums show me that you could request an application. I even saw that OSCommerce will come down the pipe if there are enough votes for it.
I’ll be keeping my eye on BitNami because I think it holds a lot of potential to help small businesses get up and running faster. Faster also means less money out-of-pocket. Especially if/when the offerings grow and more of my favorite FOSS Internet suites are available.