Monthly Archives: March 2014

Starting With The End In Mind

In many aspects of business today, it is good advice to plan with the end in mind.  That also applies to starting your business, and why a professional feasibility study can identify if the end you have in mind is realistic … and viable.


A basic example:  Let’s say you have an idea for a product that fills a niche currently under-served or non-existent in the consumer world.  Your goal is to start the business, establish the product in the market, grow sales volume, and eventually sell the business off to a major company at a $500 million dollar or higher price point.

Seems like a great idea until you’ve invested thousands of your own money, borrowed as much as you can, and guaranteed thousands more, only to discover that some other company beat you to market, sold “your” invention to the corporation you were thinking might buy yours, and already has the lion’s share of the consumer market locked up.

You’re forced to find alternative markets, retool a different product (if you can), changing your “end result” objective, or filing for bankruptcy.  You may have wasted your life’s savings and possibly those of other family members as well.

A feasibility study can provide you with the research and the perspective, along with the financial data to avoid such disasters.  When you engage a professional firm such as Brand Irons to conduct a feasibility study, it is important to share your end result up front.

Knowing that your objective is to serve a need is critical to establishing a viable business model.  However, knowing what you want as the end result is the element that provides you with the driving motivation to build your business.

One of the most vital, and often discouraging, revelations identified in a feasibility study is the learning that the business concept has only a marginal commercial viability.  This is discouraging because it often crushes the dream of someone’s idea.  It is also vital in that it dissects and reveals the inherent flaws in the concept.

An example:  A client wanted to create and build an elite level indoor skateboard park in a large city’s suburbs.  The rent for the space requirements, the cost to build the custom-designed facility, and the operational expenses were all upper end.  What the feasibility study revealed was the inherent flaw:  Skateboarding enthusiasts prefer to be outdoors when they can and they don’t like to spend money to skate!

More on this later, but consider a feasibility study for your business idea.  Whether it’s for starting up a new venture or expanding an existing one, take the time to think things through.  If it’s a good, viable idea today, it should still be feasible in a month or two.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand

The Little Things

Imagine driving a luxury car that gets outstanding gas mileage, handles like a hot knife through soft butter, has the speed of a cheetah, and looks like a museum tribute to automobiles.  You admire it parked in your garage, love how it drives, but then realize it’s uncomfortable to sit behind the wheel.  The seat somehow feels awkward and whatever you do, you are unable to adjust it to be comfortable.  Do you keep the vehicle, or trade it in for a ride that’s more comfortable?


Little things can make a big difference when it comes to vehicles.  In business, little things can also make a big difference when taking care of your customers.

You may have the best product on the market.  Your management, production, and sales could be the smartest, fastest, and highest caliber teams on the planet.  Yet a simple thing like how your company is perceived on a social media website could be devastating to your bottom line.  Some might say your social media presence is far from a “little” thing and we might agree … but in the grand scheme of a product’s life cycle … it could be argued that it is relatively minor if a comment quickly fades, but a deeper crisis or impression that persists can wreak havoc.

Consider the example of a large, globally recognized company that offers a variety of products and, in most circles, is highly respected and trusted by consumers.  Mix in the company’s choice to make itself virtually impossible to contact for problem resolution and where does the consumer’s trust level go?  To the bottom!  Is it a little thing?  Other corporate giants might feel the strategy is a stroke of genius, minimizing consumer contact and reducing staffing requirements.  With a consumer-centered mindset, however, that little thing looms large in the long-term success equation for the company.

Little things matter.  Minor details can be crucial to the success of a business and its products or services.  Is setting a table with a dirty spoon all that bad in a restaurant operation?  Yes!  A health inspection could close the restaurant.  A consumer might overlook the “little” thing, but they’ll surely ask for a replacement, inspect that replacement piece of silverware closely, and be suspicious the next time they visit that establishment, if they ever come back.

Dirty silverware

From your perspective as the business owner, how much extra time does it take to make sure the silverware is clean, in light of the impact it may have on your long-term survival?  There’s a familiar saying:  If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?

Another real life example:  We checked a candy bar’s expiration date on a recent visit to a convenience store and found it was a month beyond its “Sell By” date.  Checking the entire box, we found the same date throughout.  Even though we did purchase a different candy bar, we took one of the expired items to the check-out counter and pointed out the expiration date to the clerk.  While the clerk was grateful, she was also astonished and admitted that the candy vendor had just been in the store!

It’s the little things.  Was the vendor negligent, or simply trying to move expired product to unsuspecting consumers?  How much would that unsuspecting, yet trusting, consumer have had to pay if he’d broken a tooth eating a hardened, out-of-date candy bar?  Potential for a lawsuit?

Think about your business and your products and/or services.  What are the little things you overlook that may be huge in your customer’s eyes?  Take care of them by making them “big” things.  When it comes to marketing, everything matters!

Contact us if you would like assistance with evaluating the little things that could have a big impact on your business.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand 

Back to the Beginning

There are times when it is wise for you, as a business owner, to take a few minutes, hours, or perhaps days to stop and re-visit the reason you got into your business.  As we plow through the months and years, it is easy to forget why we do what we are doing.   A consultant can help if you need assistance to come up with strategies.

Here are some questions to consider in reflecting on your business:

Are you happy?  You should be excited about getting up and going to work every day.  My bad.  You shouldn’t even think of it as “work” if you enjoy what you’re doing.  If you like/love what you do, that attitude infects the rest of your team … and your customers.  If you are on the other side of the happiness coin, that also is conveyed to your employees, your customers, and your prospective customers.  You obviously want to be on the happy side.

Are you fulfilled?  Your business should be challenging and rewarding.  Your responsibilities should push you to the edge of your comfort zone, and maybe over that edge if you learn and gain confidence in your ability to solve the problems or manage the crises.  Walking in the same rut day after day can be mentally challenging and emotionally draining.  You want to finish your day feeling you’ve accomplished great things.

Have you made an impact?  Each of us wants to make a difference in the world, whether through our business, our volunteer work, or in the lives of others.  Take a few minutes and think about the impact your business has on your customers?  Is it able to fulfill their needs, wants, and desires effectively?  Has your company served them at the level they expect to be served?  Are your employees satisfied with what they do and feel fulfilled, as though they are also making an impact?

These are three questions to reflect on, whether you stop and do it once a month, every six months, or once a year.  The impact this time has on your business can be measured in profits, and comes down to what you do about any low areas you may discover.  If your business experiences peaks and valleys, it’s logical to fill in the valleys.

There’s only person who can change your attitude about going to work and managing your business.  Likewise, there’s only one person who can decide whether you will be happy or sad as you go through your day.  Leave work at work when you go home and enjoy the time with your family.  Let your loved ones know you love them, in words, a hug, a kiss.

If you think about what you do for a living and it fulfills you, you’ve answered the second question.  If not, think about what you can change that will make it fulfilling.  If it becomes more fulfilling for you, it will do the same for your employees and your customers.  If in doubt, ask your customers what would make what you offer be more satisfying for them.  Then figure out how you can provide that to them.

By and large, if you have the answers to the first two questions, the answers to the third will fall in place.  Take some time to think about it.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand

Have You Reached The Top?

How do you know if your business has reached the pinnacle?  Is it when you own the niche for your product or service and the accompanying majority share of the market?  Is it when consumers come back and sing your praises throughout the land?

A lot depends on how you define the top.  When a mountain climber reaches the top, there’s only one way to go, down.  A business, on the other hand, can reach the top and remain there for quite some time.  You might even compare it to the children’s game, King of the Hill.  The stronger and smarter you are, the longer you stay on top but you can always be knocked off by a surprise move.

When you define what the peak is for your business, you may discover you have already reached it.  If, for instance, the acme is achieving five million in sales for your product or service, your financials may show you’re already there.  What was the goal in your original business plan?  Have you looked at that lately?  What do you do if you’ve achieved the goal you originally established?

The obvious answer would be to diversify and find another mountain to climb, or to re-define the peak you seek to achieve.  If you achieved five million, can you do 15 or 20?

From a marketing perspective, the journey to the top involves taking the right steps, having a support system behind (and with) you along the way, and bringing others with you.  There’s a story somewhere about the person who wants to climb the mountain and struggles to do so, but when she helps others reach the peak turns around and realizes that in the process of helping another get to the top, she has done so herself.

Back to marketing, though.  When you do the right things and achieve the objectives you set out to reach, your continued success – the ability to remain at the top – depends on building brand loyalty.  If your customers love being on top, #1, with you and you foster that admiration with them and your prospective customers, your place on top of the mountain can remain strong for a long time.

Last week’s blog referred to Ford and Chevrolet.  Both remain strong on the automobile mountain because they have taken care of their customers, but also because they have not been afraid to take risks and innovate with new designs and different vehicles.  They’ve made mistakes along the way, no doubt.  Ford with the Edsel debacle and Chevrolet with the recent government assistance program.

The lessons to be learned are that if you remain focused on your customers and what they want, you can weather set-backs and still reach the pinnacle.  Mountain climbers have challenges along their path to the peak; it’s not a flight of steps up to the heights.

If you are King of the Hill, enjoy it while you’re there!

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand