Learn more about starting or moving a business to Blairsville-Union County here.
If you are a business owner, or a decision maker at any level of a business, you understand the need to set attainable goals for the year. In fact, you probably already set your 2018 goals before the end of last year. A great way to make lasting headway toward meeting your yearly goals is to make quarterly goals. Here are some tips for making measurable and realistic quarterly goals:
Take A Good Look Back
A great place to start is in the recent past, the last quarter. Examine both the highs and the lows your business experienced, since both success and failure can be great teachers, as a way of figuring out what to keep doing or do differently in the next quarter. Great questions to ask are “What made this go so well (or go so poorly)?”, “What can we do differently to prevent this outcome (or maintain this success) in the future?”, “How can our experiences this past quarter push us toward our annual goals?”
Get Your Priorities Straight
Figure out what goals are most important to achieving your larger-scale mission. Make a list of everything you would like for your business to achieve in the coming quarter. Then, go through the list and mark each item as a first, second, or third priority. After that, assign each of these priorities to a specific person (or people) on your team.
Keep Everyone Accountable
Establishing accountability for yourself and your team members is crucial to meeting your quarterly (and larger scale) mission(s). Make a weekly breakdown of who is supposed to achieve what and how. Hold meetings to measure the progress and create a visual (like a chart or graph) illustrating how much of each objective has been completed. This way, you and your team can see the progress being made and identify trouble spots while there’s still time to make corrections.
Lots of aspiring entrepreneurs come in pint size packages. Children have ideas about building a better mousetrap, and as adults, we have a tendency to pat them on the head and remark about the cleverness of their idea. What would happen if you explored that idea with your child?
Here’s what one family of four did as a summer project. Their 9 year old daughter had made a portable herb garden out of recycled materials for her end-of-year 4th grade Science project. Her Mom saw a good deal of potential in the project. She knew that kids are great at cut and paste, so with a little extra training, they could be taught to assemble. They began by recycling 16 ounce green tinted plastic soda bottles. They then purchased a $25 bottle cutting tool from a large online retailer.
Next, they invested in old barn boards that they purchased for a song from a local online yard sale. They purchased herb seeds and potting soil and took a box of Dixie cups and began their herb plantings. Dad did the cutting of the plastic bottles as well as cutting the barn wood in appropriate size pieces. The two youngsters were in charge of the planting, marking, and care of the herbs in the Dixie cups. Mom then sanded the backs of the boards, added a hanger, and attached the cut bottles in a decorative fashion onto the boards. When the plants were at a healthy size, Mom and the kids replanted them into the bottles on the boards. They went to their local Farmer’s Market on Saturday and sold out that day. They were now in the portable herb garden business. Customers went crazy for the idea of hanging this rustic barn wood on their back porch, and having an herb garden all ready to go.
Mom kept track of the time invested, as well as the material costs. The four of them had 68 hours into the project, including their day at the Farmers Market. Their material costs were $89, including the cutting tool. That day they sold the 50 portable herb planters that they brought to Market, at an average price of $18 each or a gross profit of $900. With a net profit of $811, it was as if each of them made $12 an hour for their efforts. Now imagine how the ideas started flowing as they headed home that evening. How could they expand this concept? They say the children had the best ideas, and were so invested in the project it was hard to get them to focus on their schoolwork again, come fall.
When considering what business you want to develop, don’t just consider how much time it will take away from your family, but more importantly consider how you can engage the family in the process. The learning experience will only be exceeded by the strengthening of family ties as you take on the new challenges together. Your children will also begin to develop the skills to be the leaders of tomorrow.
Our Chamber is proud to annually host the “Youth Leadership Union”, whose mission is to develop the knowledge and leadership skills of young people in our County so they may confidently become our leaders of tomorrow. For more information about this program, visit our website.
You’ve just finished reading a book of fiction that you were so engrossed in; you just couldn’t put it down. You later wonder how the author created all the characters, the twists and turns, identified the emotions with such depth, she made you weep and laugh, fight for the underdog and kept you guessing as to the ending with every single page.
Writers dream their stories, usually while they are writing them. Rarely do they know where the story will take them. What they do have is a theme. And then they begin to develop characters, sometimes over years of note taking, or maybe just on their way to taking and picking up their kids from school. Waiting in the car line, they can’t stop thinking about these characters; very much like you’ve been imagining the start of your business.
So, let’s take your business that you’ve been envisaging, and let’s write its story. It will be fiction, but based on how you imagine it. Your characters will be you, your family (because they will be impacted every day), your imaginary staff and or collaborators. There will be the people who help fund you (try not to look as the banker as the villain), possibly a landlord, as well. There will be sales people coming out of the woodwork, so write about the ones you want to deal with. Now, don’t forget to create the kind of customers you want to do business with, who you believe will want to purchase your product or hire your service.
You should have several pages of a legal pad or your word processor filled already with characters. Now try telling the story of how you begin, playing close attention to the details. If you haven’t designed a business plan for your dream, google “businesses plans” and use the outline for your trade type as a guideline to creating your story. What’s most important is that you continually use your dream, your business as you want it to be, as the basis for your story.
Take it through the startup, the first real triumphs, and the disappointments, as well. As an example, if you start a seasonal business where you and your team go into customers’ homes and take their boxes of Christmas decorations and set it all up, everything from outside lights to the ornaments on the tree, you may find yourself writing about how well received this service is, keeping you and your staff so busy that you realize that there won’t be time for you to set up your own Christmas tree, buy one gift or bake a batch of gingerbread cookies with your family. In business, there are always trade-offs.
You can take the story as far as you would like, but you probably will find yourself cutting from the fiction and heading to reality. You’ll start to fine tune the dream, laying concrete business plans, opening new avenues of possibilities to a line of services that can help your customer base many more times a year than just Christmas. You’ll begin to investigate the options you have for funding, you’ll research the answers to the questions that will arise as you go through this exercise, like the time you googled “pitfalls to a commercial lease”.
The likelihood is that your story will never be published as just that. Yet it very well could be the one important exercise that leads you into converting your dream business into reality. And don’t forget that here at the Chamber of Commerce, we’re a cast of characters just waiting to be an integral part of your success story.
Let’s play a little mind game, OK? I want you to close your eyes and imagine only the following. You have answered an ad for help wanted. The ad was intriguing, the pay they offered was very competitive, but they never said what the job entailed. When you arrive at the interview, the person you are introduced to escorts you into a room with just an overhead light, a desk and a desk chair. The top of the desk is covered with piles of papers and folders, just in stacks. Your instructions are simply to sort the piles. When you are done, you should have an idea what the job description should be. The person exits the room and closes the door.
As you look at the papers you realize that there are everything from recipes on cards, to accounts payable receipts, clipped newspaper articles and stuffed folders without labels. Here’s the one and only question I want you to answer. What is your instinctive methodology? In other words, do you start to make piles of all like items, a pile of recipes, a pile of folders, and a pile of newspaper clippings? Or do you start to look at each piece and begin to put the puzzle together as they seem to relate?
Know the answer? Good. Then please read on.
There is no correct answer, by the way. If it seemed natural to you that you begin putting the like items in separate piles to begin the first phase of the task, you are most likely what is referred to as a “Container”. If your initial impulse is to start piecing the puzzle together with investigating each piece of paper, you are referred to as an “Expander”. What’s important here is that you need both Expanders and Containers to run a business.
The Containers are your organized, task oriented employees. They implement the ideas and plans of the Expanders. If you just have idea people, but no one to implement the ideas, you have creative chaos. If you only have those implementers, but no new ideas and strategies to be developed, then the ship runs smoothly, but it goes nowhere.
If you are a one man operation, it is of utmost importance that you understand whether you are mostly a Container or an Expander. If you recognize that you are an Expander, then you should begin to look for sub-contractors that will be your creative force. They come up with you ad campaigns, design your t-shirts, and handle your social media. If you are the creative force, then sub-contract a bookkeeper, someone to come in once a month to do your filing, someone else to maintain the premises, so that your best energies are spent doing what you do best.
If you are now trying to expand your internal staff, this is even a more urgent exercise. Take the staff you currently have and put them through this same scenario. Let them tell you who they are, don’t just use your judgement of them from what you’ve seen so far. Once you’ve identified the number of Expanders and Containers you have on staff, you have a better idea what to look for when adding to the team. Maybe you have a position open that you recognize will need an Expander, but you already have too many Expanders on staff. It’s time to move your people around. Put the creative force behind the idea pool and the implementers in the “get it done” pool. Now what position do you have open?
It’s all about the balance. Consider it “Business Yin and Yang”.
We were nine adults, sitting around the backyard fire pit, drinking real hot cocoa topped with fluffy marshmallows. As the late autumn breeze became chillier, the hostess left us to rustle up blankets for each of her guests. We threw them around ourselves and instinctively wrapped up in them like they were our cocoons.
Someone sighed and said “Oh, this reminds me of summer camp in Ohio on the shores of Lake Erie over 50 years ago.” For the next two hours we exchanged memories of our childhood camp experiences. Though we had raised a dozen children between us, not one of us mentioned the recollections we had of their experiences. Our own camp memoirs were so rich and tangible, even a half century later, we couldn’t stop sharing. Eventually the fire burned to just ambers and we regretfully ended our journey down memory lane.
When deciding to open a business here in Union County, you will ask yourself a myriad of questions. Can I make a living out of what I’m most passionate about? Is this something I think I can be absorbed about for the next several years? Why would people choose to do business with me instead of who they’ve been doing business with in the past? Where can I open my business that is affordable and will draw the most traffic?
All of these are important considerations, yet one of the most important questions seldom gets asked. Will my business make memories for my customers? Because if their experience with you is memorable, they will continue to do business with you and they’ll share that experience with everyone. If your yarn shop is completely off the beaten path, but the alpaca, whose fleece are used to make your yarn, are available to your customers to pet and feed, they will drive miles for that experience. They’ll take pictures, post it on social media, most likely with a link to your FB page, and now they are using these memorable experiences as free marketing for your business.
I know, you are thinking, “I want to open a window washing business. How do I create a memorable experience for my customers?” All recollections don’t have to be pleasant. Taking before and after pictures of some of the worst windows, then sharing them in a “thank you for your business” card will be all they need. After the windows are clean, they might not remember what they looked like before. You can remind them how awful they were and now they can experience sunlight streaming freely through them, once again. They’ll also remember your effort to let them know how much you appreciate their business and will now have two extra business cards you taped on the back of the photos to use when referring you to their neighbors. If you are washing windows on the second or third floor, ask them to use your cell phone take a picture of you up on the ladder. Post this pic to their social media page and yours, thanking them for helping your business “reach new heights.”
The Blairsville-Union Chamber of Commerce offers great think tank sessions throughout the year, where local entrepreneurs, just like you, gather to discuss their ideas. Make us part of your journey to opening your business. Oh, and if your takeaway from this article has you dreaming about opening a camp just for adults here in the mountains, we bet you’d have great success.
For those who enjoy the occasional drink, the kind that’s a bit stronger than good ole’ sweet tea, there are a number of fantastic wineries and distilleries in the Blairsville-Union County area. Establishments like these are uniquely suited to thrive here, as our area was recently named an American Viticultural Area (AVA) – a distinction carried by regions like Napa Valley and Sonoma. Most of the vineyards frequently host fun events and live music, so there’s plenty to do while you visit. From whiskey with deep roots in the area’s history to luxury vineyards & resorts with European flare, there’s something to suit everyone’s tastes. Here are a few of the vineyards and distilleries close by:
You are just a few days away from opening your business, and the punch list seems to grow. It’s late at night, and you can’t sleep. You rise, grab a hot cup of tea, and open up your laptop. It just dawned on you that you need a Facebook page for your business.
Though it is never too late to take such action, you can certainly take steps to avoid this situation.
Let’s rewind the scenario.
The calendar indicates that your scheduled launch date is in three months. Your business plans are just starting to take shape. It’s 6am on Saturday morning, you’ve risen early and the kids are still in bed. The hour is peaceful and quiet, except in your head. The clattering of ideas for preparing for your business adventure is making such a racket. You decide to open your laptop and prepare to begin executing your marketing plan by taking the first bite of the social media elephant.
This morning you are going to focus on which platforms of social media you are going to use to market your business and create your brand. Let’s start by looking at local businesses and seeing where they are having the most success.
The little country store out near the state park has nearly 7500 followers on Facebook. How is that possible? They post something nearly every day, not necessarily about their business, but by their business. They typically post three videos a month, and they average 1500 views each.
You are not opening a country store, but you are launching a service business, one with several competitors in the tri state area. You now search them on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube. You look for the following:
- How many followers do they have?
- What are they posting about?
- Are their posts mostly internal (company-based) news, blog posts and articles; mostly external news, blog posts and articles; or a mix of both?
- What’s their brand voice?
- How often do they post?
- How many likes/comments/shares do they get per post?
- Do they run any polls, contests or fun games with their brand?
Today you’ve done your research, and you can now decide which social media platforms you want to set up on before your launch in 3 months.
Saturday morning, one month later.
Now it’s time to design your guidelines for your social media do’s and don’ts. As you grow, you won’t have time to be the only one posting for your business. This is the time to iron out what your plan is and how it is to be executed, so you are prepared to hand it off when the time comes. Your social media helper will be able to follow the method to secure your branding in the ways that you have intended.
Begin designing your guidelines by asking these questions.
- Does your brand refer to itself as “we” or “I”?
- Are any words off-limits?
- Does your brand have a political leaning? How comfortable is your company with offending followers of a different political leaning?
- Will you respond to comments and how often? We can’t impress on you enough how important this decision is when you begin the social media marketing journey. How do you respond to reviews, even negative ones? What tone will you use to address negative comments? (There will be haters. It’s a public forum after all.) Are you apologetic, is your policy to address or ignore? Just as importantly, how quickly will you pledge to respond to positive remarks and reviews?
- If your social media account were a person, what would he or she do for fun? How would he or she talk? What wisdom do they want to impart? Do they have a pet or another animate object that can be the business mascot?
Here at Blairsville-Union County Chamber of commerce, we analyze our social media impact every single day. We look forward to sharing your business with our followers. Stay tuned for Part #2 of our preparation list. Are you getting excited about making your dream come true?
A few months ago, as you were on your way into town, you noticed that your neighbors had two pickup trucks in their driveway with three workmen entering the house with boxes. You didn’t slow down to read the logo on the side of the trucks, lest they think you a nosey neighbor. By the time you came home that night, the trucks were gone. What you did notice that evening was a yard sign indicating that “A Walk on the Woods” was proud to announce they were installing new wood flooring in your neighbor’s home.
A couple evenings later, while walking Goliath, your 150 lb. mastiff (he being the main reason you even have to consider pulling up the carpeting and putting down wood floors), you happen upon your neighbors. He’s pruning his bushes, while his pregnant wife is sitting in the shade, supervising. You remark that you couldn’t help noticing the sign in their yard, and you wondered if they would recommend this business, and more importantly, would they use them again. The neighbor chuckles and tells you you’re the 5th neighbor who has stopped to ask him this same question. He indicated they were going to ask the flooring manager for a commission.
And why shouldn’t they get one? Their yard has been used to house a billboard for the flooring company’s business. That billboard, all 24×36 inches of it, cost the flooring company $25. Installation of the sign took 30 seconds. Seven days later, as they had promised to do when their client agreed they could post the sign, they came back and removed the sign. When they came to pick up the sign, no one answered their knock on the door. They left a “thank you” card and a bottle of wood floor cleaning liquid. The bottle of cleaner had a sticker on the back with the flooring company’s logo, their contact information and a quote that expresses how much they appreciate referrals.
About a month later, you are in the parking lot of your favorite fast food joint. You realize that the truck parked next to you has the “A Walk on the Woods” logo, along with their phone number. There’s also a little camera icon, and the words “shoot me with your cell phone, and call us when you need us”.
“Wow,” you think. “This is much easier than writing their number with my finger in the dirt on the trunk of my car.”
“A Walk on the Woods” has invested in their marketing wisely. First, they came up with a creative name that most people will not only remember, but will likely share the clever moniker with others. Secondly, they invested $25 in a yard sign for each of their installers to carry with them, installing them on the customer’s lawn. They secured permission to do this in writing at the time the customer signs the agreement to purchase. Then, they not only make sure that they are there to pick up the sign at the end of the seventh day, but they add a token of their appreciation, which of course, also has a sign on it. They’ve also invested wisely in moving billboards, having vehicles with their logo and contact info, and even ensuring that potential clients will take that information home with them via their cell phones.
Yesterday, you drove by that same neighbor’s house. This time there were pink balloons on the mailbox, signifying that there was a baby girl born to the lovely young couple. Standing in the yard was a large wooden cut out of a stork. Hanging from its beak was a basket of pink silk flowers. At his feet was a yard sign that read, “Amy’s Flower Pot just delivered this baby girl a welcoming bouquet”.
Sign, sign, everywhere a sign.
Looking for more great ideas to grow your business? Check out our schedule of workshops on our website at http://www.visitblairsvillega.com/blairsville-union-county-chamber/chamber-programs/