Monthly Archives: December 2013

Giving the World a Gift

A recent article in  USA Today – – reported the results of a Stanford University study about opinions on global warming.  While we realize this is a departure from our usual blogs about marketing your business, protecting our planet is a subject near and dear to our hearts, and when we see news like the USA Today report, we like to share some thoughts.

At this time of year, Christmas, it was interesting to learn through an anonymous source that each acre of Christmas trees generates enough oxygen to support 18 human beings.  Adding to that is the knowledge that there are 350,000 acres of Christmas trees in the United States (they’re grown in every state).  If we do the math (350,000 x 18) we realize the Christmas trees grown in the United States alone produce enough oxygen to support 6.3 million (6,300,000) of us earthlings.

How much oxygen does an artificial Christmas tree produce?

Okay, you’ll probably ask:  “So why should we cut down a Christmas tree and stop it from creating oxygen?”  Because the tree growers plant three (3) trees for every one that’s cut.  Paper companies do the same, planting at least two trees for every one they cut down.  Yes, it’s their business.  If we stop buying “real” Christmas trees, the market collapses and tree growers stop planting more trees.

What’s the point of all this?  Each of us … everyone on this planet … can do something NOW to have an impact on global warming.  Plant a tree!

Do you have room in your yard for another tree?  Plant one!  Yes, you may have to rake a few more leaves and mow around it, but there are many other benefits to having more trees than simple lawn maintenance problems.

More than two billion acres of land on this planet lie fallow.  That means the land could be used to plant crops but is lying dormant because the government gives farmers incentives to keep the fields out of production.  Imagine if we could reverse that mindset and encourage our legislators to provide incentives for planting more trees.

Imagine if just 10% of those two billion acres (200,000,000 x .1 = 200 million acres) were planted with trees that could produce enough oxygen for 18 people.  That would generate enough of the element (oxygen) we humans need to exist for 3.6 billion of us earthlings.  Make sense?

We’ve been thinking about establishing a non-profit organization to save our planet and encourage the planting of more trees.  We avoid accepting comments, but we would like to know how you feel about this topic.

We bring it up at Christmas because what better gift to give than to save our world?

Let’s plant some more trees!  Merry Christmas.


Focus On Your Customers

One expert might advise that you focus your business on sales in 2014.  Another might suggest you focus on productivity.  Those may be good suggestions, but your focus should always – repeat, always – be on your customers.  You may be able to increase sales or production capabilities, but if you lose your customer base – your market share – what will you have?

Do you know who your customers are?  What do they look like?  What do they buy?

Do you know who your customers are? What do they look like? What do they buy?

Placing a consistent emphasis on your clients can be difficult, especially if you have to deal with an employee issue or inventory problems.  It is far too easy to become distracted by the inner workings of your business and lose sight of what’s most important – customers!  Good management maintains the company’s priority on the consumer.

What’s best for your customers?  Is it keeping the sidewalk clean and safe?  Maintaining a pleasant, inviting interior in the store?  Making sure your website is current and easy to navigate?  Offering rewards to loyal patrons?  Ensuring your pricing is reasonable and fair?  Providing a step beyond exceptional customer service?

You may disagree, but weigh whether a misplaced order for stock inventory is more important than making sure a customer’s problems are resolved to his/her satisfaction.  Solve the problem with inventory when the customers are taken care of, or find an employee with the ability to solve it and give them the authority to resolve it.

Put yourself in the consumer’s shoes for these examples:

The line is backed up in a convenience store.  One register is open for several consumers while four employees are behind the counter, joking about who’s going to the bank.  How likely would you be to return to that convenience store if you didn’t have to go there?

You’re parked at the drive-through window of a fast food restaurant.  Your order has been paid for and is sitting on the service table, ready to be handed to you.  Unfortunately for you, the drive-through attendant is talking on their cell phone to their best friend.  Feel like pulling over and having a chat with the manager?  That’s likely to only add to your frustration because the manager is allowing that behavior to happen in the first place.

What do those examples tell us about the company and how well it markets its brand?  It is an all-too-often occurrence in the fast food industry, and irritating to think those employees would do better work if they were paid more.  Company managers need to spend more time in the trenches, like Undercover Boss, and learn what’s happening on the front lines.  Or you can consider engaging Brand Irons as a secret shopper to do the investigating and report back on the findings … provided you’re ready for the truth.

Brand Irons has some rather simple solutions to remaining focused on your customers, and it starts at the top of any organization:

1) Take the time to think through what your customer service orientation is and should be;

2) Take the time to train your employees on what the expectations are for customer service … all the time, and hold your employees accountable; and,

3) Take the time – whatever it takes – to take care of your customers the way they want to be taken care of … remember and never lose sight of that objective.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand! 

Planning for 2014

Now that it’s less than a month away, it’s time to take a few minutes and think through your business strategies for 2014.  If you’ve already done this, take some time to review them and make sure you are going to be on the right track.2014 Ornament

First step – What is the right track?

Look at where your business is today and try to project out a year from now.  Where would you like to see your business in mid- to late-December 2014?  Have sales shown an increase or are they holding steady?  Will you be in a growth stage?  Transition phase?  Or will it be time to think about exit strategies?

The key area to consider is what your consumers want and need.  You need to know what the market is asking for, and then be prepared and able to deliver it on a consistent basis.  Be on top of industry changes.  Know your market.  Some communities are a year or two behind on trends, and you need to know where your consumers are in your marketplace.  You should be slightly ahead.

Second step – Where are your profit margins?

Remember, you’re in business to make money. Consumers understand that, yet still want a good value at a fair price.  They also want to know why you’re different from your competitors so they can rationalize buying form you and remain loyal to your brand.  If the margin you’ve been operating on has provided your company with good profitability, consider making changes to increase your margins.  Those changes could involve cost reductions, if appropriate.  They could mean price increases if the market will bear them, at the potential risk of pushing too far and losing market share.

Third step – How strong is your brand?

If yours is the only barbershop in town, you’ve got a good chance of securing 100% of the market share.  It doesn’t mean you have a strong brand if the way you treat customers is like you’re the only place in town where they can get their hair cut.  You have a strong brand when your customers love coming in, catching up on the latest gossip, enjoying the experience you provide in cutting their hair, and leaving with a satisfied expression because they know they’ve received a good value for the investment.

There are many variables that you need to think through when it comes to strategizing about your business for 2014:  Management, competition, pricing structures, overhead, growth, productivity, marketing (including sales, advertising, and public relations), and finances, among others.  Call Brand Irons at (920) 366-6334 if you’d like some help.

Take the time to think things through … then act!

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand.

Year End Review

December is a hectic month for most business owners.  The Thanksgiving holiday cut short the end of November and, in retail, started the huge push to put black on the bottom line for the year.  December adds holiday parties, end of the month, and end of year in the last week without mention of Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s, and football games.

December is also a good month to review your performance for the last year.  A year end review can be a lengthy process or a quick overview of how your business did.  It should be done in conjunction with laying out strategies for 2014 as well, which we’ll cover in next week’s blog.  Brand Irons can assist you with year end reviews and 2014 strategies.

10 things to think about as you take a look at 2013:

  1. How much of an improvement, if any, does the bottom line show over 2012?
  2. How does cash flow look at year’s end?
  3. How did sales do in comparison to expectations?
  4. How has productivity been improved during the last 12 months?
  5. What has been the trend in consumer demand throughout the year?
  6. What have been the significant changes or innovations in the industry?
  7. What percentage of customers have you been able to retain?
  8. What areas have been identified where staff or employees may need more training?
  9. What does your profit margin look like?
  10. How well are you doing, personally, on your retirement goals?

The complexity of a year end review depends, primarily, on the size of the company and the diversity of the management team.

Most of the check-points listed here pertain to financial information, so it may be wise to schedule a meeting with your accountant to go over performance indicators.  Other items, such as consumer demand, are related to market conditions and may require some research to identify existing trends as well as potential growth areas.  Others are management- and personnel-oriented.

What is critically important, either in reviewing a year’s performance or strategizing for the next business cycle, is to know what metrics you want to measure.  What is essential for the long-term sustainability of your business?  What do you need to know?  What else would you like to know?  Having this in hand makes it easy to compare one year’s results to the following year and put a pinch of realism into budget projections.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand.