Monthly Archives: March 2013

Unknown Facts About Consultants

Business owners avoid hiring consultants for a number of reasons:

  1. They believe they can’t afford one;
  2. They aren’t sure how they could use one; and,
  3. They are clueless about what a consultant brings to the table.

Granted, there are consultants in the business world who are more concerned about how much they’re getting paid than the level of service they’re providing.  Know they are the exception rather than the rule.  A professional consultant will add more money to the company’s coffers than it costs to engage their services.

Business Star 3-13

Think of professional consultants as your external team.  You have your internal team, such as your vice presidents, sales managers, bookkeepers, operations manager, and other personnel.  The consultant’s role is to augment those internal players with an independent, third party perspective.

So, here are the reasons why you should hire professional consultants:

  • Their job is to add value to your business endeavor.
  • They can help you enhance your bottom line.
  • They can fill gaps and serve your needs.
  • They have a strong relationship with you and your team.
  • They communicate with you on a consistent, open, and honest basis.
  • They complement and advocate for what you are trying to do.
  • Their task is to put more money on your corporate bottom line.
  • They are a great sounding board for helping you make smart decisions.

Here’s another way to think about it:  Imagine your business and how it can be compared to a professional sports team.  You pick the sport.  Now, to win the championship in that sport – to be the best in your business or industry – you obviously need to have good or great players and a top notch team.  You may be the greatest owner, but how would your team fare without a coach?  Or an equipment manager?  Or someplace to play?  Or an opponent?

Your external business team includes a host of professionals, as illustrated on the star diagram.  One to add would be an investment representative to handle your retirement, or exit plan, and that of your employees.

One member of the team is your accountant.  Their job is to review your financial statements on a monthly basis and counsel you on cash flow, profit-and-loss, or other concerns they see in your income statement and balance sheet.  They are also there to assist with payroll concerns and other issues that concern you, so use your accountant to address sales, expenses, and other aspects of your business … instead of letting things merely happen to you.

Your legal counsel is another professional available to you.  Unfortunately, most business owners wait until a claim or lawsuit is filed before they contact their attorney.  Your lawyer should review contracts, especially employment, confidentiality, non-compete agreements, and sales agreements to protect your assets.  Few business owners realize that legal counsel can amend contracts written by a vendor or client to ensure that your rights and property are protected in a fair and equitable manner.

While you would like to avoid the costs associated with an accountant or lawyer, they are legitimate and valuable expenses to make on behalf of your company and the bottom line.  Consider the loss you could incur if your accountant was incompetent and failed to discover discrepancies in your reported revenues.  Or what damage might occur if you avoided having your legal counsel review a multi-million dollar contract that later resulted in an expensive trial.

Your business and/or marketing consultant can also be a valuable asset for your business.  A company such as Brand Irons can augment skills that your company needs, either on a permanent basis or until such time as you hire a qualified and competent employee to fill the specific role.  Putting together a financing package that is attractive to an investor is often best completed by an independent, third party such as a business planner.  If they incorporate a sound marketing strategy as part of the plan, the odds of receiving funding increase significantly.  They can also prove valuable in ensuring your advertising expenditures are done in such a way as to garner results.

Your insurance agent, and banker or private investor are also part of your external team and provide you with valuable insight to tactics that can save on the expense side while increasing revenue on the income side.

Your consultants bring additional resources and relationships to the engagement that you may ordinarily be excluded from even knowing about.  They become an advocate for your business and your products and/or services; in essence, going to bat for you against the competition.  They can answer questions and explain concerns you may have from a different perspective, and we have found that one of the best perspectives we can offer clients is that of their customers.  You must always look at whatever you do in terms of your customers, for without them you are out of business.

Take the time to talk to your consultants and think things through:  They exist to help you improve the bottom line and not to take away from it.






5 P’s of Business Success

Your definition of success is different than mine.  Is the wino who scores a cheap bottle every day less successful than the sales representative whose achieves the goal of 10 sales in a week?  It comes down to how you define success.

Success KeyWhen it comes to owning and operating a business, defining success is still a personal choice, although there are certain keys that can clarify the definition.  Here are five “P”s:

  1. Passion.  One of the first elements Brand Irons considers when taking on a new client is how passionate you are about your business.  The passion gets you up in the morning with eager anticipation for what you can accomplish during the day.  It motivates you to bring enthusiasm to every decision you make about the business.  It energizes your employees and that passion for your vision goes right through to your customers.  That passion for your enterprise sends you home at night encouraged by the results and excited about bringing it back tomorrow.
  2. Plan.  Various research projects have illustrated that people, especially business owners, who set goals and write down their plans are far more likely to succeed than those who feel goals and plans have little value.  Take some time to think for a few minutes:  Are you working in your business or are you taking the time to work on your business?  Working on your business means you do some research, study your competition, talk to your customers and personnel, and develop strategies to enhance your bottom line.  Try a different tactic and measure the results of how it worked.  Consult with professionals and others in your field who have been successful in their endeavors.  Think about things.
  3. Perform.  Your passion conveys a sense of urgency that follows the path you’ve laid out in your plan.  Another critical element is to execute the strategy, which means you and your people have to perform.  Your customers have expectations.  They believe in and trust you.  They know what to expect from your products and/or services.  It’s up to you and your team to make it happen and fulfill those customer expectations.  That’s why it is essential you stay in touch with your customers.  Get to know them and their needs.  What are they looking for, and is your company meeting those needs?  How can you enhance service?  Are there other products you could provide to help them solve their problems?  Do what is expected of you … and then do a little more than that.
  4. People.  Whatever your business, whatever you market, and whether you have employees or it’s only you, everything you do involves people.  Your customers are people; human beings with needs, wants, and wishes.  Your employees are people with a need to feel appreciated, who want to have value and make a contribution, and wish to be treatly fairly and honestly.  Your success in business is therefore wrapped up with people.  That means you need to establish and sustain relationships with these people, especially your customers.  Always remember that without customers – who are people – you have no business.
  5. Place.  The adage that it’s all about location is true, to a degree.  If you operate a restaurant or a retail establishment, your place in the community can be a critical element in your long-term success.  The same holds true if the primary place where your business is located is on the Internet.  If your web presence is old, stagnant, and hard to find, even the most elaborate website is a poor location.  Keep your place looking sharp.  Your parking lot should be as safe, clean, and comfortable as your place of business.  Your website should be up-to-date and your social media current and professional.  Remember, marketing is about perception.  If your customers think your place looks sloppy, that perception could reflect on your products and services as clearly as crystal.

Brand Enthusiasm

Creating enthusiasm for your brand begins with you.  The consciousness you want consumers to have about and for your product or service flows through you and your company into the marketplace.

The energy and creative power of your actions are essential for your business, products, and services to permeate and imbue the culture you want to build around your brand.

A basic energy level is one of acceptance.  Acceptance as it relates to marketing your brand means you are content with the position you have and get by with doing what you need to do to establish and maintain market share.  You may have an audience that is aware of your brand and supports your products and services, but the energy level is low.  Unfortunately, a majority of businesses generate this basic level of energy about their products and services.  It is due more to a lack of understanding of how to take it up a level than it is the desire or willingness to add to the bottom line.

If you ramp things up a notch, the energy level turns to excitement about your products and/or services.  The energy you generate because you are enjoying what you are doing makes every aspect of your business come alive.  Your joy shines through in the activities of the day and, as a result, flow through you to the people and customers around you.  People enjoy being around you and your glow reaches out through a deep sense of being alive and finding great value in every moment.  That feeling of excitement is contagious and when people are excited about you, your products and services, the cash register rings.

The acceptance energy level is a basic requirement for being in business, while the level of excitement is the minimum requirement for developing your brand.  They are unlikely to guarantee great success or broad brand acceptance, but without them the chances of failure certainly increase.

enthusiasmWhere the energy level for your brand needs to, and must, be to grow and sustain your brand is the level of outright enthusiasm!  This is where you have taken your excitement for your brand and developed goals you want to achieve that are measurable, smart, and within reach.  These goals convey your vision for the brand and your enthusiasm.  Dedication to achieving those goals adds intensity and super-powered energy to their pursuit.  You bring the creative power of the universe to bear and generate a tsunami effect for your products or services.

Your enthusiasm engulfs others; your employees, your vendors, your customers, your prospective customers, and the general public.  When you meet obstacles with enthusiasm, like a massive wave you either go around them, encompass them and they move with you, or they are washed away.  You become unstoppable as long as you have that enthusiasm, remain motivated, and are one with the universe.

Creating the enthusiasm for your brand begins with your goals for the brand, which should be dynamic and connected to your market.  Then the energy you transmit must flow in such a way as to inspire and enrich people’s lives so they, in turn, are swept up in the enthusiasm for your brand.

An exceptional resource is Eckhart Tolle’s book, A New Earth:  Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, that has proven valuable in determining successful approaches to marketing your business when you read it from that perspective.  Tolle also wrote The Power of Now!

The Bible also has a great viewpoint to consider, from Mark 11:24:  “Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

If you need help on how to build your brand, contact Brand Irons at (920) 366-6334.

A Brand Budget

How much should you, or must you, spend to brand your business?

The most common answer:  It depends!

The cost of marketing your products and/or services, through advertising, sales, promotions, or other avenues is related to your goals and objectives.  If your goals are indistinct or your objectives lack focus, the odds are that you will be wasting marketing dollars on ineffective vehicles.

For purposes of discussion, let’s assume you’ve built a convenience store off a high volume interchange on an interstate highway.  It should be apparent who your target market is, so why would you advertise in a phone directory in a community 50 miles away without easy access to your place of business?  While you may be able to justify the expense, in the mind of most business owners that would be wasted money.

If, on the other hand, you were able to invest that money in billboard advertising on the approaches to your exit, you are more likely to meet your objectives for sales.

What you spend to build your brand should be measurable and tied to the bottom line.  If your goal is to have your brand identified with the market segment comprised of men between 24 and 35 years of age, you can quantify how many of the male species lives in your targeted area.  You can also identify which media is most likely to garner a positive response from those men, and build brand loyalty.

It might take six months or six years to reach the level of penetration you desire for your brand, with many variables playing a role.  If you gain acceptance through a social media community, the time span can be shortened considerably.  A heftier advertising budget and well-placed commercials can also push up the acceptance.

An important consideration is to take the time to do some planning.  Think about what you want to accomplish and the best method to achieve it.  Allocate some funds to test the waters and measure the results.  If the campaign works, build on it.  If it doesn’t perform as expected, stop and think about what went wrong or could have been better.  Tweak it and try again, within budget constraints.  Measure the results.

If you operate blindly in spending your advertising dollars, you may wind up joining the thousands of other business owners who assert that advertising doesn’t work.  It does, if done correctly.  That’s what there are professionals for; to help you make the right decisions and use your marketing budget effectively.