Making Philanthropy the Family Business

Making Philanthropy the Family Business

If you ask the owners of many large, family-owned businesses what keeps everyone together, you may notice a trend: philanthropy. Helping others truly does run in the family, and multigenerational businesses are in a unique position to pass along not just the business perspective needed to be successful, but also how to have a positive impact on the community. Even if kids are too young to be involved in the family business, it’s never too early to begin coaching children about why it is important to help those who are less fortunate. It’s not just large organizations that benefit from giving back — family businesses of all sizes find that philanthropy offers a way for all ages to come together around a common goal. 

Teaching Financial Stewardship

While most parents strive to raise children that are strong and confident of their place in the world, the reality is that there will always be others who do not have the same opportunities for nutrition, good schools, and a loving family environment. It can be challenging for kids growing up in a family business environment to understand that not everyone has access to the same technology, toys and clothing — and that being a good steward of finances means finding ways to contribute to the health and well-being of others. This often starts early with a percentage of allowance going to support those in need and can continue to grow throughout their life.

Legacy of Values

Passing a company down through multiple generations is a powerful legacy,  and one that provides no small measure of pride when passed along. The values of hard work, thrift, and benevolence make for great leaders in the community and in the business — and are a good way of maintaining strong ties with customers and employees. Even family members who are not a part of the daily running of the business are often able to get involved in a philanthropic effort in some way.

Deliberate Goals

Being deliberate about creating goals for your family business around giving is yet another way of enforcing the importance of strategy within the organization. When multigenerational leaders work together to solve challenging problems for the greater good, that hard work often spills over into daily life. A key to selecting a good philanthropic effort is that it’s large enough to engage family members of all ages in some way. This allows you to tailor opportunities for service and giving to the specific preferences and strengths of an individual. For instance, some people are born to be fundraisers and are able to weave a compelling tale about the how monetary gifts will be utilized in a way that compels people to provide cash infusions. If others are more comfortable working behind the scenes, there is plenty to be done there as well.

Building family values, providing support to the community — where’s the downside? When you need printed materials for your next community project, contact us!

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3 Gems for Small Business Owners from Jack Ma

3 Gems for Small Business Owners from Jack Ma

At a recent business leader meeting put on by American Express, Jack Ma from the Alibaba Group was the guest celebrity speaker. The reason why was that Mr. Ma was invited to share a bit of his wisdom and advice, particularly to small businesses. American Express has been maintaining a campaign of supporting and driving sales to small businesses to help them grow nationwide. 

A Little Bit of History

Jack Ma did not come from well-established roots like, for example, President Trump. Ma was born and raised in mainland China, competed against thousands of others for a rare spot in the Chinese university system, and could not find regular employment many times. Then, with a spare moment of luck, he was exposed to the internet and realized nobody had catered websites to the Chinese. From there, his success took off, most notably with Alibaba.com.

Simple Gems of Advice

In his speech, Mr. Ma focused his advice to small businesses on three points:

  1. He advised business owners and those considering the venture to find out why businesses fail. Schools typically only teach success stories, but it’s critical to know what causes some people not to succeed to avoid the same mistakes.
  2. Business owners should listen carefully to their next-door neighbors. They are, literally, average consumers who can tell a business owner a library of secrets about what a consumer actually looks for when shopping. The problem is, people tend to avoid their neighbors thinking they’re too nosy. It’s an opportunity missed.
  3. Small businesses should “fix the roof when the sun is shining.” It’s an analogy that essentially means a business owner should be making changes and additions when things are going well. When things are rough, or there’s a major challenge, it’s not the time to be spending energy and money on fixes. Get to a good point again before thinking about changing operations or adding to costs.

Get Out of the Weeds

A lot of what Mr. Ma provided in his speech may seem like common sense for small business owners, but it’s hard to focus on thinking strategically when one’s head is buried deep in just trying to make it through the day. This is why his advice is so important; it reminds business owners to take a moment once in a while to get their head out of the weeds and think in terms of running a company again instead of momentary crisis management. In Ma’s opinion, smart and successful business owners are looking, learning, and timing their decisions with the best opportunities. And, they are not ignoring the best sources of business lessons when they become available.

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Applying Life Lessons to Small Business

Applying Life Lessons to Small Business

Parents to teenagers and young adults know that there are some lessons that only living life can bring us. Life lessons learned through living life are valuable, and they are hard to teach to teenagers because teens think they have the answers to everything. However, experience can offer up gems of information about what is truly important in life and how to enjoy each moment as it comes.

What are some of the lessons that life teaches us?

1. Life isn’t fair, but it is still good.

How many times have you heard your child or teenager say to you, “but that isn’t fair!” The truth is that life isn’t fair. Life happens as it happens, and you need to learn to roll with the ups and downs and continue on your journey. If you can take each moment as it comes, then you can appreciate the good, survive the bad, and continue on your way.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

Many of the big decisions in life can be broken down into small steps that are easy to accomplish. Each time you have a big project or decision in front of you, you can make it easier to understand by chopping it up into small tasks. Then, do each task one at a time until you complete the whole.

3. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

Humor makes life more tolerable both in good and bad times. If you can learn to live life with humor, including your own foibles, you will relax more and stay healthier. Laughter is a stress-reducer and can help keep your craziest days sane.

4. Overprepare, then go with the flow.

Since nothing ever goes exactly as we plan, it is important to prepare for contingencies. If you are ready for the worst, then you will be able to move in various directions when reality hits. You can plan to the Nth degree, but once your event or project is in motion, you cannot stop it. Going with the flow and learning to be flexible will keep you on top of the situation (as much as that is possible).

Applying Life’s Lessons to Business

Running a small business is fraught with surprises, changes, and learning curves. Many of the lessons that apply to life, in general, can be applied to running a business. Small business owners are responsible for everything that occurs in the whole of their business, and it is nearly impossible to predict what each day as a small business owner will bring.

If you can enjoy each part of your business, sharing what you know with your customers and employees, and reaching out to your community to connect with people through your business, you will enjoy life’s journey. Business isn’t always fair, but if you put your heart into it, it will be good. Your customers and employees will see how you run your business, and they will respond. When in doubt, just take the first small step, and you will be able to accomplish whatever goals you set for your business. Don’t take your business so seriously. No one else does. Run your business with a good sense of humor and your customers and staff will join in laughing with you. Overprepare, and then let your business take you where it will. You will discover new dimensions to your niche that you may never have known before and you will have an exciting, fulfilling journey.

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A Personal Touch Makes a Difference

A Personal Touch Makes a Difference

Marketing is becoming increasingly personalized with the technology available to create templates for customization. More companies are looking for ways to personalize schwag, brochures, and online communications. It is easy to understand why customers love personalization because it means that they are getting noticed, and they can see their name in print or graphics.

Why is Personalization Popular?

While online and digital personalization is easy to implement with current technology, it can also be used for face-to-face marketing. What is interesting is that people are willing to wait for items that are personalized for them. Personalizing communications are the first step in communicating and engaging with the customer. Companies such as Zazzle are making profits printing customized items using pre-configured templates that customers can fill in before they print. Personalization is the result of researching data and getting to know your customer. You can tailor projects and styles towards your customer after finding out what they want.

Often we like to think that items are personalized for us. Personalization reduces the appearance of information overload and helps us to think we are in control. We tend to focus our selective attention on items that are personalized for us from emails to clothing. When someone says your name, you focus attention on that person.

Personalization in the Non-Digital World

Beyond the electronic versions of personalization, you can see this trend on products in the marketplace. Snickers Bars have wrappers with tags such as confused and ornery; Coke cans are being printed with people’s names, and children’s clothing often has names imprinted. These products evoke an emotional reaction in buyers leading to repeat business and customer loyalty. Printers have a unique niche in this marketing avenue since they have been personalizing products for a long time.

Finding the Point of ROI

The point of personalization is to make a relevant connection with a customer. Then you can leverage the connection to drive more business.

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Managing Change Effectively

Managing Change Effectively

There is no question that people do not like change (https://hbr.org/2012/09/ten-reasons-people-resist-chang). Although some people can adjust more readily than others, it is inherent in our nature that managing change on any level is difficult.

When it comes to business, change is inevitable. As the world changes, so do our businesses in order to stay up-to-date and competitive. However, with each change, it becomes necessary to follow a transition process to acclimate both employees and customers. A transition can be the cause for issues to crop up in any area of your business. At a minimum, it can cause whining, grumbling and potential mistakes from your staff.

Changing Attitudes

When managing change in your business, keep this quote in mind.

“Without change, there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.” ~ William Pollard

The Need for Innovation

Innovation and creativity are two of the most important factors that make your business a premier vendor for your customers. How you and your staff interact with customers and how you provide the best products and services to them will nurture loyal customers and make their lives better. While your techniques and results may change, your values do not, and that is what your customers will come to expect from you.

Creativity is Evergreen

Your ability to create, or to help your customers create, is a valuable talent. Managing change offers you an opportunity to find new ways to develop and display your “wares.” Since change requires learning and developing new skills, people that go through any transition can stimulate their creative centers at the same time they are learning.

How to Manage Change Effectively

To help your employees, customers, and yourself manage change in a positive manner, look for ways to reward people who make the transition effectively.

1. Use change to retrain staff on necessary skills and review their knowledge.
2. Offer incentives for staff to display their new knowledge and expertise to customers.
3. Offer discounts to customers who try your newest innovation.
4. Take the change in stages that make sense for the involved participants.
5. Explain why you are making the change and how it will improve your product, your operations, or grow your business.
6. Give staff and customers a forum to voice their opinions and complaints.
7. Thank people for trusting you and making the effort to try something new.
8. Express your understanding of resistance to change.

As you ask your people to take the steps to change, remind them of how far your business and industry has come and where you would be if you never made any changes.

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Finding Your Position on the Field

Finding Your Position on the Field

The 2002 movie The Rookie focuses on Jim Morris, a high school science teacher who managed to play major league baseball long after what most athletes would consider their prime. It’s an entertaining feature and stays impressively close to the real-life story of Morris, who pitched in the major leagues from 1999 to 2000.

The audience learns at the opening of the movie that this father and high school science teacher had always loved the game of baseball. He had excelled at it during his youth, but due to various circumstances, he had to give it up before be was able to play in the big leagues.

While coaching his high school baseball team, Morris makes a bet with his team that if they can win their championship, he will try out once again for a professional team. During tryouts, he manages to amaze everyone with a fastball that falls just shy of 100 mph. This paves the way for his triumphs.

The Rookie is definitely a “feel good” movie. It’s the type of film that motivates viewers to go out and follow their own dreams, too. In addition to lifting the audience’s spirits, however, there’s a very poignant business lesson that every entrepreneur and growing business should pay attention to.

If you have the talent, there is a place for you at the table.

The digital era has made it possible for just about anyone to start a business. This has led to considerable saturation and heavy competition. It has also resulted in specialization and businesses that are able to target very specific niches.

For a new entrepreneur just beginning a new business, this can seem considerably intimidating. How does one succeed in business when there seem to be too many companies within the industry already? It’s entirely possible, provided you have the skills necessary and are ready to put in the work.

When Morris decided to pursue his dream of playing in the major leagues, he had enormous odds against him. For starters, he was significantly older than most of the other young men trying out. While they were coming to the game fresh out of high school or college, he had not played competitively himself in years. There were also numerous talented pitchers at the tryout and throughout the league. Despite these potential roadblocks, Morris had confidence that he deserved a position on the team, and he went out to earn that place. He was able to show the coaches that of all the talented pitchers available, he had something special to offer.

As a business professional, you must do the same thing. If you know you have the talent to run your business well, then focus on showing others what makes you so fantastic. There’s no industry so saturated that a talented and strategic business professional cannot become a leader. The key to success is working hard, showing determination, and having confidence in your ability. It might be hard to break into an industry that already has ample talent, but when you have the perseverance necessary, it is possible.

For those interested in starting their own business, the digital era has been a blessing. Unfortunately, the sheer volume of existing online companies can also seem intimidating. Take some inspiration from Jim Morris of The Rookie, and remember that talent and hard work can make it possible for anyone to become a leader in any industry. If you’re ready to start advertising your business, contact us today.

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How to Say No to a Client

How to Say No to a Client

The idea of saying ‘no’ to a client can seem counter-intuitive. You’re trying to grow your business, after all. But there are times when speaking up and turning down a request or deciding not to work on a particular project might be good for your company’s long-term growth. The key is learning how to gauge these situations so you can successfully focus on growing your business without worrying about problematic clients or requests. Here are three situations where you should definitely consider the benefits of saying no.

You know the client’s idea won’t work

Clients come to you because they know you’re an expert in your field. That means they trust you to know what you’re talking about when it comes to the industry. Sometimes, having that knowledge means you have to point out to a client that their grand idea isn’t as great as they thought.

Speaking up can be difficult, especially when dealing with a new client. You have to worry about feelings and trust. Consider the alternative, however. If you say nothing and complete the task precisely how the client requested it, and then the initiative falls flat on its face, who do you think the client will blame?

Protect everyone involved and carefully lay out your opinion and thoughts about a project before you even get started. Hopefully you and your client will be able to develop a plan that will be more likely to deliver results. In the process, you’ll protect your reputation while also sharing your industry wisdom, and any client worth working with will respect you more for it.

What the client’s asking for isn’t worth the money

These types of traps are easy to fall into for inexperienced newcomers to any industry. Thinking that some work is better than no work, it’s easy to get talked into taking projects that don’t pay nearly enough for the time and effort needed to complete them. But instead of accepting this type of project, try to negotiate a better rate, outlining exactly how much time and effort the project will take. If the client refuses to accept a more reasonable wage, let them go. Chances are, your time will be much better spent working on building a stronger portfolio, marketing, or any other task that can help you find new, well-paying clients. Have respect for your industry and for your own work, and refuse to work with people who don’t share that regard.

What they’re asking for is outside your expertise

There’s something to be said for expanding your skills and knowledge, but know when to say when. If a client asks for a job that’s too far outside your area of expertise, resist the temptation to try ‘winging it’ for the extra money. Otherwise, you’ll risk your professional reputation and the client’s trust. Instead, work with the client to find a trustworthy professional who can work with you to complete the project for the client. The client will appreciate your help and honesty. As an added bonus, the professional you referred the client to will appreciate the extra business and (hopefully) reciprocate down the line.

When struggling to grow a business, nothing is more tempting than finding as many clients as possible. Often this type of desperation can lead to accepting work you’d otherwise never do or agree with. To keep your business moving forward, it’s important to know how to correctly gauge and balance requests and be willing to sometimes say no. Use the above three instances as a starting guide to improve your client relationships and grow the business.

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Carpe Diem: An Important Business Mantra

Carpe Diem: An Important Business Mantra

Recognizing and grasping the right opportunities is important in nearly every aspect of business. Taking bold action at just the right time can take a company from decent to extraordinary, from paying the bills to thriving. In some cases, success itself can hinge on a single connection or contract that opens the floodgates.

If you’ve been around the business world very long, you know that success is not completely predictable. Some companies with very talented leadership and great ideas never seem to get out of the starting gate, while other companies with lesser talent manage to make it all the way to the top of their industry. The difference often boils down to knowing how to recognize opportunities and then having the courage to take them.

Recognizing opportunity

So how can you ensure you’re taking advantage of the right opportunities? The first priority is understanding your niche in the marketplace. Make sure you have a clear idea of how you’re serving customers and what you’re doing to stand out from the competition. This will help you recognize those unique chances when they come along.

Next, make sure you’re always on alert. That doesn’t mean you need to work perpetually and check email constantly, wherever you are. It does mean, however, that you must remain alert to opportunities in unexpected places. For example, if you’re out at a restaurant and strike up a conversation with another patron, recognize and take advantage of any opportunity you find for a business contact. Similarly, if you’re receiving goods or services from another company and notice some way that your company could help them improve, speak up and offer your suggestions. This is no time to be shy or second guess yourself. Strike while the iron’s hot, as the saying goes.

Don’t expect every opportunity to be perfect. Most won’t be. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth your time. Being right and being perfect aren’t one and the same. Those imperfect opportunities are often enough to help you grow your business.

Recognizing opportunities and having the courage to walk up and seize them can make an enormous difference in the success of your business. Playing it safe might allow you to pay the bills, but it will also limit your potential growth. Learn how to recognize the appropriate opportunities, take courage, and see just how high your company can go.

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Building the Main Street of the Past Into Your Modern Business

Building the Main Street of the Past Into Your Modern Business

For many of us, the idea of the small town is iconic. For some, it embodies the place where they grew up or currently live. For others, it represents more of an ideal than anything based on personal experience. In any case, quintessential small town life presents a business model we all can learn from.

Main Street

Every small town, it seems, has a Main Street — a place dotted with mom-and-pop shops, each with its own inviting display, encouraging people to stop in and check out their wares. The bakery or candy shop often has samples out front for people to stop by and taste as they walk down the street. The neighborhood grocer knows the patrons by name and has a variety of appealing fruits and vegetables right out front. The local cafe offers places for people to sit outside and engage with others as they pass by.

The ‘Main Street’ of the Internet

For many people, this real life type of Main Street is just a figment of their imagination or a distant memory of days gone by. Their reality is comprised more of national brands and busy shopping malls. What marketers have increasingly found, however, is that customers find it more appealing to shop on websites that contain many of the popular features of these once commonplace Main Streets than websites that don’t. Even though the world has become more interconnected and people are increasingly more accustomed to the hustle of city life, the desire to feel welcomed into a place of business and valued as a customer never goes away.

What businesses can learn from the mom-and-pop shops of the past

The secrets to success for the shops of Main Street continue to work today. The stores of Main Street made every customer feel welcome to stop and check out their place of business right from the street. These welcoming shops would also offer a variety of samples customers could try in order to see if a particular product would work for them.

As you think about your own company, take a close look at your website, physical place of business, and advertising materials. Are each of these designed to encourage customers to see what you have to offer? Do you offer customers incentives such as discounts, free samples, or rewards for using your business?

One of biggest lessons that modern companies can learn from the past, however, is personalization. Main Street business owners took the time to learn the names of their customers and greet them personally when they entered the shop. You should strive to accomplish a similar effect online and off.

Start by keeping careful records of how customers use your website. Responsive sites that can remember what a customer looked at the last time they visited or what they bought in the past tend to encourage more repeat business than those that don’t.

Train your in-store representatives to remember what customers say when they enter the shop to provide them with an individualized experience.

Such personalization can even extend to your marketing materials. For example, consider using variable data to personalize your direct mail campaigns and targeted mailings to reach niche buyers who may be interested in the products or services you sell.

While the ultimate Main Street might no longer exist for many people, the desire for finding welcoming shops that remember our names has not gone away. Incorporating as many of these values as possible into your marketing efforts can impress customers and help build relationships around trust and loyalty.

We can help you find ways to express these values in your marketing materials, so reach out to us today!

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Building a Strong Foundation

Building a Strong Foundation

If you sit down with nearly any preschooler, they can probably tell you the story of the three little pigs. According to the story, there once were three pigs. Each set out to build themselves a home. The first built his home out of straw. He was done very quickly because of the material he chose. The second little pig chose to build his home out of sticks. Building with sticks might have taken the pig a little longer than using straw, but he was still done rather quickly. The third pig, however, built his home out of bricks and mortar. This house took the longest time to build, and the pig was forced to keep working, even when the other pigs were already relaxing and enjoying themselves.

Not long after the three pigs had finished their homes, the big bad wolf came looking for something to eat. He was able to quickly blow over the houses made of sticks and straw, but no matter how hard he tried, he was not able to blow over the house of bricks.

Building a strong foundation

The third little pig didn’t take the easy way out. He saw the other two pigs finishing faster than him and having the time to laugh and play, but when the chips were down, his house was the only one to stand up. The strong foundation made all the difference.

In life, as in business, it’s tempting to take the easy way out; to use the easier material that takes significantly less time. The problem comes when we discover just how quickly a weak foundation can fail us. Those who are looking to grow their businesses must keep this idea in mind.

Growing a business the smart way

There are a variety of ‘tricks’ companies can use to try to grow their businesses quickly. So-called ‘black hat SEO,’ which refers to techniques such as artificial keyword stuffing and using link farms to grow backlinks, may help companies achieve their objective rather quickly. They may rise quickly in the Google search engine ranks and see the number of visitors to their site rise as well. But Google has been cracking down on sites that use artificial SEO. Some companies have found their sites severely penalized, which has deeply hurt their businesses.

In marketing, companies may be tempted to blast every known platform all at once, without taking the time to develop a company message and brand. In these cases, the effects of the campaign typically fall short. A group that tries to go nationwide with a campaign too quickly might find that the effort exhausts their resources, placing the entire company in jeopardy. Starting local and growing as a reputation spreads is the way to achieve success.

Growing a business correctly means taking the time to grow organically. It means working to develop a quality website that is naturally optimized through a quality blog and well-written content. Marketing campaigns and customer reach goals should be built on a firm foundation that leaves room to grow. We can help customers develop marketing plans to appropriately meet new customers.

There’s no easy way to be successful. It requires perseverance and hard work. Like the little pigs discovered, however, there’s also no replacement for doing things right the first time. Instead of looking for shortcuts, invest time in learning about techniques to maximize investments and tools for saving time. We can help. Building a solid business foundation means your company will have something to grow on, rather than a flimsy foundation that can blow over. And that’s irreplaceable.

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