Monday, November 26, 2012

Does An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away?

If it were true that eating an apple a day would keep the Doctor away, would you do it?  If you knew that you would be healthy by just eating an apple each day, would you take up that habit?

Everyone might say "yes" to that.  But very few people would eat 365 apples in a year.  Days would go by and they would forget or they would run out at home.  Excuses would be made.  You might even try to catch up by eating two the next day.

It is all about habits.

I would like to talk about a habit that will pretty much guarantee your success in business over the next 5 years.

The best habit that you could develop is HARD WORK!  If you want to get ahead at work, you are NOT going to do it working 40 hours per week.  The people that get ahead are going to be those that don't wear a watch.  They are not checking to see if 5 PM has come.  They are going to do whatever it takes to accomplish the tasks at hand.  Yes, they are going to be checking emails at home.  They are going to be thinking about projects on the weekends.

But what is NOT hard work at work?

  • Checking your Facebook
  • Doing e-shopping
  • Scanning Pinterest
  • Keeping up on your Fantasy Teams
  • Being up on your Twitter Feed
All of these things are available to us 24 hours a day.  While you are at work, DON'T!  While at work, WORK!  Develop the habit to do these activities at home.  (If you say, you don't have time at home.  I would say, you don't have time at work!)

As a Christian businessman, I am saddened by the lack of work ethic amongst some of my Christian brethren.  I have had many Christians work for me that did not follow this habit of hard work.  They were nice, honest people.  But they didn't make an impression on me because they seemed to try to work as little as possible.  I think the excuse is that they would rather do the Lord's work.  Guess what?  The Lord has you at this job right now.  So do THIS JOB to the best of your ability!  That is the BEST testimony you can have to others.

My dad used to tell me, if young people would devote themselves fully to their work for the first 5 years, they would be set up for life!  The reason this is true is that over those 5 years, you learn that the harder you worked, the more opportunities came your way.  Therefore this habit you developed in the first 5 years becomes a part of you.

***ALERT***  I know what many of you are thinking, John, you are a work-aholic.  Yes, I have been classified that over the years.  But I don't say that you need to forsake your family and friends for work.  I just mean that most people are unbalanced the wrong way.  If they put in a 40 hour week... the company only really gets a 30 hour week from people due to all the distractions.  When at work, work. 

Then also, think of it like this:

Available hours: 24 X 7= 168
    Sleep:                 8 X 7= 56
    Work:                             55

Time left over for family = 57 HOURS! 

That is 8 hours per day! 

If you work hard and don't have time for family and friends, that is YOUR fault... not your work schedule!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

How to grow a e-commerce business... from a little guy!

Amazon dominates e-commerce.  Recently they added 400,000 more items to sell industrial supplies!  So how does a little guy like Mirabella Beauty capture a place on the web?

First, there are a few things to know:
Typed in Mirabella in search bar in Google.
  • Make sure you watch your google analytics!  You might be only getting 50 people a month coming to your site.  But with google analytics, you can know who these people are.  You can know how many of them buy.  You can determine how much time they spend on your site.  And it will tell you HOW they got to your site.  There are so much information available it is scary!
  • Make sure your site is utilizing the correct key search terms.  This is called SEO, or search engine optimization.  For example, Mirabella owns its products.  That is, when you type in Colour Luxe, our product is the first thing that comes up on google.  However, when you type in mineral makeup, we don't show up on the first 5 pages.  That means our website needs to maximize this word.  It is a key search term for our category of products.  There are companies that can help you with this for a reasonable price.  It is very important.  If you were a hair salon, you might want "best haircut" or "best salon" to be search terms in your town.  With our SEO, we are the first position you can get when you type in our name.  It wasn't like this when our site went up.  But that is important!  In fact, a strategy to naming your business might be if you can easily be first on web searches.
  • Then there is pay per click, PPC.  Do you see the yellowed box on the top of the search?  You will notice it is from a company called  They have bought the search term, Mirabella.  So that anytime anyone types that in the browser, there name comes up first.  Depending upon how popular the search term is depends on how expensive it is to buy the term.  For example, we could buy mineral makeup, but it might cost $2 for each person who clicks on it.  Then you would have to determine if it is worth the price based upon your google analytics.  If 1,000 people click on your site, how many buy?  This is called conversion.  If you have a high conversion rate, you might think that price is cheap!  Generally, PPC can be as inexpensive as ten cents to VERY expensive.  
  • This is something I just learned.  We are redesigning our site.  As we did, a consultant looked at our site and gave us some very insightful feedback.  Currently on our site,
    Mirabella's home page
    we have our logo, free shipping, new products, social media tags, and our videos.  The consultant said, those are things that YOU want your clients to see.  These are not things that our CLIENTS want to see.  They come to our site to see our products, obviously.  We have one tiny word under our logo that says "products".  He said all this has to come off and we have to have EVERYTHING on the home page be about what the CLIENT wants, products.  They can FIND all the rest in they are interested.  Huge learning for our new redesign.  
Currently, we feel our website is out-of-date, and it is only 2 years old!  Because we are not confident with our current site, we don't do any PPC (pay per click).  We feel if clients check us out now, they will not stay and buy.

Our web developers used a platform called Magento.  This platform is easy to develop sites on, but it also gives the company lots of flexibility!  Magento has a free version for small companies.  It makes it easy to make changes yourself to your site, even if your not a programmer.

I wish you luck!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Planning or Die!

It is that time of year for business people.  You should have 10 months of your year's financial statements.  Therefore you have a pretty good idea of how this year is going to fare.

You should be asking yourself questions like:

  • How did we do compared to last year?
  • How did we do compared to budget?
  • How did we do compared to our industry?
  • How did we do compared to the best in my industry?
  • What am I going to do differently in 2013?
  • What do I have to do more of in 2013?
These first 4 questions are similar.  First, you always want to compare to last year.  There might be some things you did differently in either year, but if you are not making progress against last year, you should take a look at how you are doing the 2 most important activities in business; selling to new clients and selling more to existing clients.  Being in business over time can feel methodical, stagnant.  But if you have a great process for getting new clients and selling more to existing clients, looking back to last year should always be a positive!

For the second question, I mentioned the budget word!  So sorry, I know it is not our favorite.  But I want to convince you of its benefits!  Having a budget is a great way to empower your people.  Have each person assigned to the part that they control.  Have them give you a goal for how much they want to sell or how much they expect to spend or both.  Accumulate all these into your companies budget.  Then you will have an idea prior to the year beginning how much you will make the following year if you follow the plan.

At first, this usually ends up to be not a very good exercise because people don't predict well.  But if you keep at it over a couple of years, this can be very valuable to your business.  I have to give you the big responsibility though!  If you don't give the people feedback on a monthly basis on how they are doing compared to budget, they won't learn.

The third question is sometimes hard to ascertain in some small businesses.  So I recommend being a part of your industry association or a buying group.  These organizations have this information for your industry.  It is a good guide.

But I don't like to compare myself to an industry number, because this involves HUGE companies.  I am a small company.  I had BETTER do better than the big companies.  They have market share, our company doesn't have market share.  So there is no reason if we have a good plan with good people and a good product that we cannot have huge growth year after year.  So I like to compare myself to another company that is on the move!  These comparisons are harder to do, but inspiring.  This company just opened this large chain.  This company introduced a new line.  For me, I like to watch great competitors closely.  I don't want to copy them, I want to be inspired by all their innovations.

After I do all these comparisons with my business, then I need to look more deeply into my company.  If I am not growing like I would like, I have to improve my companies ability to attract new customers or I have to figure out better ways to sell my existing clients more products.

All of those ideas are about sales.  I should be looking just as hard at the costs of my business.  Where can I spend my money more wisely?

And the final question I ask is what is working that I should repeat!  And perhaps repeat more often!

So I take all this information, and I develop my plan for 2013.  Then from that plan and my people's feedback I develop my budget!

Fail to plan... plan to fail! 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Leading By Example

I was listening to this Pastor on the radio talking about character.  If you want to instill values into your kids, look at YOUR values.  How do you react when something bad happens?  That is how you are teaching them to react.  Are you generous with your time and money?  That is how you are teaching them to react.

For me, I was lucky.  I had a dad that was a great business leader.  He created an incredible company and culture.  When he sent me out to California to run a company that he had purchased, I ran the company very similar to the way that he ran the company.  I loved my people and tried to provide opportunities to those who showed initiative.  I tried to talk straight to my people about my expectations for them and the company.  I tried to treat the manufacturers we represented as partners.

This past weekend Mirabella Beauty had our show at the SalonCentric show in Counsel Bluffs, IA.  We do 14 of these shows a year.  We take 40' X 10' booth space and we try to make a BIG impression!  These shows are our biggest branding events for the company.  But we are a small company so we have to do a great job with limited resources.

Mirabella Beauty makeup artist team!
That means we do it all!  We don't hire a team of people to set it up.  Our team of makeup artists do all the work.  They are amazing.

And I attend half of these events each year as well.  Our people are always happy to see me.  And I think our people are always surprised that I do all the grunt work too.

In that I have been in the business for a long time, I have lots of friends at these shows.  And they are always surprised that I do all the grunt work too.

But to me, that is what it means to lead by example.  You cannot expect your people to do things that you are not willing to do on your own.  I know there is nothing special about this advise.  However, based upon the reaction from people, they don't think the boss should actually work.

The big winner is not my employees because they get help. I am the big winner by all that I learn from clients, our team, other vendors, and sales people.   Another huge side benefit is that your people are more loyal to you.  They know you understand how hard it is to be at a trade show to set up, work it, and then take it all down again.

I don't actually do this though!  We tried it on one client, but we still have to settle that lawsuit... malpractice insurance for makeup application?!  Yes, that is NOT my strong suit...

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Art of Negotiationing!

A few weeks ago my son and I went out to buy him a new car.  He is going off to college and I like to get them a car that can last them 10 years.  If they can take care of it, by then they should be able to pay cash for their next car as well.  Therefore, they will never have a car payment. 

So before we went out, he looked up the Kelly Blue Book information.  Knowledge is power.  He had narrowed it down to either the Kia Optima or the Nissan Ultima.  After test driving both cars, it was obvious that we would get more car for the money with the Kia. 

Quick note... I generally suggest buying a used car.  New cars lose significant value when you drive them off the lot.  Buy the same car from the previous model year with 10-25,000 miles and save 10-30%!  That is a lot of money!

We asked the salesman for the price.  Here is the first negotiation.  Typically they will begin by asking you how much can you afford in a monthly payment.  Bad start!  Unless you have a Hewlett Packard Calculator, you are not going to be able to calculate/negotiate off of that number.  Start with the full price of the car, out the door.

So that is where we started.  Our sales guy sat down and asked us what we wanted to pay.

First rule of negotiation... the first one to speak loses.

So we said, "Can you please get us your lowest price in that we want to make sure we can really compare to our other choice, the Nissan."  He went out and came back with $32,000. 

We figured that would be his opening offer based upon the price of the car.  My son said, "I cannot afford that, I'm sorry."  The salesman said, "How much can you afford?"  And my son said, "$27,000."  After some discussion, we walked out.

My son received a bunch of emails and calls.

Then we went back in and bought the car for $29,900. 

But of course we had to go through the finance desk to complete the paperwork.  This is the MOST profitable desk at a dealership.  They make a lot of money here.

More negotiations.  Though we did not finance, usually there is a negotiation over the interest rate.  My suggestion, go to your local bank prior to buying the car and get a letter from them quoting the interest rate THEY would give you.  Bring that letter with you to help with the negotiations.

But again, that is not all.  They then want to sell you an extended warranty.  Though they just told you how amazing the car was and how durable.  Now they are telling you all that could go wrong.  Again very profitable.  If you like insurance, buy it.  But negotiate the price of the warranty, the seat protection and all the other things they may want to sell you here.

Then you buy the car. 

I like talking about negotiations around the purchase of a car because it is SUCH a big purchase.  For most of us, buying a car is one of the largest purchases we will make in our lifetimes!  But often we act like we are buying a pair of new shoes!

Three things to consider...

Be friendly--  People like to help nice people.  If you are a jerk the salesman tends to not want to fight for you. 

Be patient-- You have the money.  They desperately want the money.  Don't be desperate for the car.   In fact the longer you wait, usually the better the deal you will make.  There is also a whole science around when to buy.  The dealership is more likely to give you a good deal when things are slow.  Weekends are not the best time.  They get desperate to sell cars at the end of the month, end of the quarter, and end of the year.  That all is in your favor.

And finally, be firm-- Do not be talked out of your opinion.  You likely based that on facts.  They will tell you and in fact show you the invoice of the car.  They have rebates etc that make them whole.  Dealerships don't survive losing money on cars.  Be firm on your price and what you are willing to accept. 

Oh yeah, how about that trade in?  You will get significantly more money from your car if you sell it yourself, obviously.  But that takes time.  How much is your time worth?  The difference in our case was $2,000!  Yeah, I think we have the time!

Most people HATE negotiating.  Those people break every rule and don't buy well.  Good luck!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Do events build a brand?

Last week we did two events at The London Hotel in West Hollywood.  In the morning we did a Bridal Event.  In the evening we did a Mirabella Launch Event.  They were beautiful.  They were well attended.

Mirabella Bride's Sentimental Bride

Mingling after the Fashion Show
But do events like this build a brand?  Last year, we were in NYC doing a similar thing, launching ourselves to the beauty press.  And it felt GREAT!  However, after a few months and very few notable mentions, we realized that we had to create something more meaningful.

So in the Spring we decided to capture some of the hype from Hunger Games.  We shot a video on how to create the "Girl on Fire" look from the movie.  We had two contests; one for consumers and one for makeup artists and beauty professionals. 

At one point, we have 4,000,000 people see this in a week on Facebook!  We increase our Facebook followers by 50%.  It was a great event for us.

Renee Strauss and friends!
Twin makeup artists with their new Mirabella Bride Kits
But this event was different... we had to get REAL people to attend!  We had to have something interesting enough to make that happen.  Amber found a event planning company, Fresh Events to assist us (and they were GREAT).  Then with Renee Strauss' help, we conducting an amazing Bridal Fashion Show at an amazing venue.  We have these amazing new Bridal Kits and website that really got everyone excited.

Based upon this, I think the morning will have lasting value to our brand.  But if nothing else, I saw the potential of selling Bridal Kits!

Blogger Nikoleta Panteva; Live Love LA
Then the evening event!  We had 100 editors, bloggers, YouTube Guru's, and salons have a chance to have beauty services by one of our Celebrity Makeup Artists!

After they got to sample our services, each person got to sample the product for home use!  We had our Open Sell Units stocked with products!

Then we launched our new short film; think Chanel...  Our film showed how Mirabella is the makeup for life!  It was so beautiful and well done.  It made me proud!

So beautiful a top the London!
But again, did it build the brand?  We had some very important people there that saw Mirabella for the first time.  And we showed off our BEST self.  So hopefully these people will share... and if they did it will make this money well spent!  I will let you know in a few months!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Can exposure hurt your brand?

This past month, the high end hair care brand Alterna was spotlighted on QVC.  The product probably sold well.  Millions of new consumer became familiar with the line for the first time.

The next week, the popular salon professional website received many comments about how unprofessional Alterna was for exposing these products, at a discount.  The people who commented were upset that this salon only brand was selling around them.

I used to think that too!  When Murad went on TV with an infomercial, we thought the good Doctor had sold out!  We figured that salons would throw his products out.

But each salon owner I spoke to at the time was HAPPY!  They were worried at first because they had undercut the price.

Two things happened with the consumer.  Either the consumer bought on TV at a discount, then they repurchased the product at the salon.  Or the consumer watched the program and didn't buy.  But the next time they were in the salon, they saw Murad.  And since it was on TV, it must be good!

The salons reported substantial sales increases every time Murad was on TV!

The big department stores had the same experience.  At first they did not want Bare Essencuals, as it was discounted on TV.  But soon, enough consumers asked for it... so it became a department store brand!

Mirabella was on Hautelook earlier this year.  Hautelook is a flash sale site, that is they sell steeply discounted merchandise from high end companies.  Generally, the products are discontinued or old promotions, but the consumer doesn't care.  They get to try a brand inexpensively that they generally would not have tried.

For Mirabella, we get exposed to their 4,000,000 members during the sale.  Only a small portion of those customers buy.  But the rest still see it!

In the book Guerilla Marketing, it says you need to make 17 impressions before someone buys.

All of these alternate ways to expose your product to the consumer is another impression.

Hopefully, all of those impressions will finally get the consumer to try that salon for Alterna... and Mirabella! 

Today there are so many different ways to build your brand... and frankly, they all seem to work together for the good of everyone!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

You will LOVE this, I didn't write it!!!

A good friend of mine passed this on to me.  I couldn't agree more and certainly couldn't say it better!

 From John Maxwell-- a fantastic author and speaker!


Qualities of a Good Guide

In 1804, Lewis and Clark faced the daunting task of finding their way across the vast wilderness of the American continent to reach its Pacific Coast. Their 33-member expedition included some of the most experienced navigators, scouts, woodsmen, and hunters in the United States. Yet despite their collective talents, the explorers would have died of starvation or from disorientation if they had relied solely on their own ingenuity. They were simply overmatched by the challenges of surviving in such unfamiliar terrain.
Realizing the perils of their situation, Lewis and Clark established relationships with indigenous Native American communities along their route to the Pacific. These local groups provided the expedition with guidance, supplies, and invaluable information about the surrounding environment. Benefiting from their help, Lewis and Clark were able to successfully complete their journey.

Five Qualities of a Leadership Guide
Regardless of your level of natural talent, you will not reach your potential in life without the guidance of others. It’s hard to grow with no one else to follow but yourself. To raise your level of influence, you need to link up with mentors and coaches who can model effective leadership. How do you identify these guides? I’d suggest looking for leaders with the following qualities.

1) A Passion for Personal Growth
When searching for a mentor or leadership model, ask yourself: Is he/she purposefully pursuing personal growth? People committed to a life of learning always have something to share. In perpetually seeking to develop themselves, they come across lessons that can be passed on to others. What are the telltale signs that someone is dedicated to personal growth?
(1) They ask questions.
(2) They read books or study the experts in their field.
(3) They’re unafraid to experiment (and fail).

2) A Trustworthy Example
Teaching is easy, but modeling is difficult. Anyone can spout out theories, but only a select few can consistently apply knowledge to deliver results. Likewise, anyone can write out an impressive list of personal values, but rare is the person who embodies them day after day amid the pressures of leading an organization. As industrialist Andrew Carnegie remarked, “As I grow older I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.”

3) Proven Experience
A Chinese proverb says, “To know the road ahead, ask those coming back.” Like a deep well holds nourishing water, a leader with proven experience houses a wealth of wisdom. Questions are the buckets from which we draw upon the experiences of others. When I meet someone who has clearly demonstrated the ability to lead at a high level, I ask the following questions in order to learn from him/her:
(1) What are the great lessons you have learned?
(2) How has failure shaped your life?
(3) What are your strengths?
(4) What is your passion?
(5) Who do you know that I should know?
(6) What have you read that I should read?
(7) What have you done that I should do?

4) Friendship & Support
The best guides listen and learn before they lead. They care about results, but more fundamentally, they care about people. In sharing his remembrances of management expert Peter Drucker, author Jim Collins spoke not of his theories but of his humanity.
“For me, Drucker’s most important lessons cannot be found in any text or lecture but in the complete example of his life. I made a personal pilgrimage to Claremont, California, in 1994 seeking wisdom from the greatest management thinker of our age, and I came away feeling that I’d met a compassionate and generous human being who, almost as a side benefit, was a prolific genius…Peter F. Drucker was driven not by the desire to say something but the desire to learn something from every student he met—and that is why he became one of the most influential teachers most of us have ever known.”
Perhaps the best question you can ask yourself about a potential guide is: “do they genuinely care about me?”

5. Competence
Leaders make things better for others; they add value in their relationships. As a leader or guide, I desire to help people…
(1) Prioritize their life
(2) See their value
(3) Develop their potential
Great guides leave a trail of positive influence wherever they have been. Even after the departing an organization, their legacy remains.

Hope you enjoyed!!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Small business, hard but fun!

Reading through HAPPI, a trade magazines this morning, they listed the top 50 US Personal Care companies.  Giants like Proctor and Gamble and Estee Lauder are on the top of the list.  In each large company, they talk about the new initiatives they are launching.

These large companies have LARGE initiatives.  They mention things like taking market share in BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) countries.  OK, that is billions of dollars of sales with investments of billions of dollars.

Little guys like Mirabella are hoping to grow!

These large companies have so much going for them; size, money, people, contacts, huge marketing budgets, large research and development budgets.  Just by their sheer size it feels they could crush any small company like a bug.

But they don't!  Amazingly, tons of small companies not only survive, but thrive in the climate of big business.  How do they/we do it?

First, as a small company you need to pick your bets.  You cannot bet on BRIC countries.  You need to bet on one country at best!  You need to take small measured risks that you watch like a hawk.  As a small company, if the bet is not paying off quickly, small companies know.  They adjust quickly.  Or they stop altogether.

Second, you have to be fast.  Mirabella sits in on the same presentation about raw ingredients and new technology as everyone else.  Yes, that includes all the big boys.  Sure they have their own R & D, but they would be foolish to not listen to what these companies are bringing to the market.  And since we can be quick to market, we can have new technology out to the salons before MAC or L'Oreal can!

Third, to beat the big guys you have to know your business.  Big companies do not know when they lose customers.  They don't pay attention to small buyers.  But for small companies, small buyers are your bread and butter.  If we lose one it matters!  So small companies have to stay closer to their clients.  They have to notice if they stop buying or even slow down.  A small company can fix problems and keep clients longer.  But we can only do this if we pay attention!

And finally, to beat the big guys, you cannot worry about them.  They are going to do what they are going to do.  If they want to crush you, they will!  The thing is, they don't know you exist!  Don't try to be like them.  Don't try to copy them.  Do your own thing.  Do what YOU feel is best for your clients and for your business.

We small businesses have the chance to be the big businesses of the future... if we want to be.  But hey, I am having fun being a little speed boat running circles around the huge aircraft carriers. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I will take execution over knowledge all day!

I am sure you have heard the saying, "Want to get something done?  Give it to a busy person!"

Some people just get stuff done.

What separates those that actually get projects to the finish line and those that take forever to move projects along?

A quick side note; when I ran a larger company, I had an assistant to schedule my appointments, handle routine tasks, and keep me more productive.  Now that I run Mirabella Beauty with 23 employees, I have to do all of that, plus running the actual business.  At a small company, everybody has to be executors.  Each week we have a staff meeting in which we go over everyone's projects.  If you cannot execute, those meetings are pretty intimidating.
Mirabella's Region Manager team

People that execute well are organized.  They know what they have to get done each day, each week, each month and each year.  They have a system to remember each project.  They have a system to assure that things don't slip through the cracks.

In some case, people write lists.  In some case, they use project software.  Others use an appointment book to keep it all straight.  But no one that is an executor does it from memory.  In today's busy world there is just too much going on.  Each of us have too many projects in the air.

Those people that are not organized get overwhelmed by all that they have in front of them.  They get paralyzed by the details of actually getting to the finish line of a project.  For people like this my recommendation is to take out a blank piece of paper and write down each thing that they need to accomplish.  Simply putting the tasks to paper will give amazing clarity to most people.

Once you get organized you still need to accomplish your goals.  There are plenty of organized people that don't execute well.

To be a ninja execution person, they need to be fearless!  Yes, fearless!  People that execute well don't let obstacles slow them from the prize.  To accomplish your task, you might need to talk to the Chief Finance Officer or someone from a competitor.  You might need to go out to a trade show and talk to new people.

There will be obstacles that are in your way of completing your tasks!  Those that are fearless run through those walls.  They make the tough phone call.  They have a hard conversation with one of their team members.

Besides being fearless, you need to be relentless.  The task is due tomorrow at 8 AM.  It is 5 PM and you are not complete.  What do you do?  If you are relentless, you will continue working until it is done.  You will figure out a way to get it done.  You might have to break the rules.  You may have to ruffle feathers.  But those that are great executors will not let ANYTHING stand in their way.

The last thing that separates those that always get things done and those who cannot be counted on is creativity.

There is a truck traveling into NYC.  As it goes into the tunnel to get into the city, it stops suddenly.  The truck is too tall.  The police stop to help.  The fire department is called.  A tow truck is called in. But the truck is REALLY stuck.  A little kid in the car behind the truck has been watching the scene the whole time.  He jumps out of his families car and tells them, "Let the air out of the tires!"

Simple solution but it took some creativity to come to that answer.  To be a great executor, you need to think beyond your circumstances.  Find examples from other industries.  Look at the problem from a completely different angle.  If execution was easy, every employee at every company would be fantastic.  Every company would be great because everything would get done every day. 

To be a great executor, you don't need to have a degree.  You don't need to come from the right family. 

Those that consistently get stuff done are:
  • Organized
  • Fearless
  • Relentless
  • Creative
There are a lot of good employees.  But there are few great ones.  The difference is execution!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Am I better sticking with what I know or trying something new?

For the past 20 plus years I have been selling shampoo for a living.  It has been a great career.  So when I sold my business, I got involved in several other businesses in several different industries.

My general business knowledge has helped me with these businesses. 

But I will NEVER be an expert in any other business, unless I commit to spending the next 5 years full time involved in that industry.  I believe what Malcolm Gladwell said in Outliers that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something.

Over the years, I have met so many people that change careers.  I can understand the desire to explore something you have not tried before.  I can understand trying to get OUT of an industry that has poor growth opportunities.  I can even understand people getting out of an industry because they don't enjoy it.

Too often people don't stay in an industry long enough to become an expert.  So they float for 2-3 years at this company, then change careers and onto the next industry for 2-3 years.  They basically start over each time.

PLEASE, be patient.  Let yourself get to 5 years at least.  When you do this you will become valuable.  You will know more people.  You will become a veteran.  And you will become an expert.

If you are an expert...AND are hard working, dedicated, committed to continuous learning; you will get paid accordingly! 

More importantly, if you stay you will become more successful.  And that is more fun! 

Read industry trade publications.  Interact with people are different companies to learn even more about the industry from another perspective.  Go to industry trade shows.  Read blogs from people within your industry.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The 3rd leg of a Stool

I was having breakfast with a friend with morning.  We were talking about the success factors for a distributorship.  I told him for me it started with a great team.  With a great team, I could execute whatever great ideas came or acquisitions or events outside of our control.  Those people allowed us to do some amazing things. 

But it wasn't just a great team... we also had a great vision.  I was thankful to be raised in a family business.  My dad really believed that the only way he could be successful was if he helped his clients be successful.  He would not just sell a product to a salon if he didn't believe in the product, the company, and its support.  This was the vision he passed onto all of our family.  This is the vision that the second generation used to take the business to the next level.

However, the third leg of the stool was our industry contacts.  We were in a small industry when we started.  But over time the industry exploded.  The Salon industry had 20% growth from 1980 to 1994. 

Because we started when it was small, we knew all the key people.  So a big part of our success was learning from our other distributor partners around the country.  Even small distributors had great input.  One of my best contacts for great ideas was a smaller distributor in Idaho.  He did some very interesting things that I try to implement in our business.  With great communication to these people you can make sure your company is always implementing the best practices.

An example of this was profitability.  Most of our competitors were not very profitable.  But by implementing some of the best ideas, we ended up to be one of the most profitable distributors.

We didn't just talk to distributors that were outside our territory.  I reached out to all of my competitors.  I would meet to develop a relationship.  I would tell them that my goal in business was to make money.  If you hear that we are doing something stupid with a client like discounting or giving away free stuff, call me.  It probably is not authorized by me. 

If at some point one of their people came to interview with our company, I would pick up the phone and ask them the story.  Usually they were leaving their company because of bad circumstances.  Therefore, I would avoid hiring a problem.

A great side benefit to meeting all of my competitors was that it gave me a healthy respect for them.  So often our people would tell me all kinds of horrible stories about the competitor.  But if I actually knew that person, I would know the real truth. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Being the kind of leader your people would want to be!

Do you believe that being the boss means being first to work and last to leave?  Does the phrase "If you want it done right, do it yourself." ring true to you?

If these are true about you, your people will NOT want to be you.  They want to work for someone who realizes that you are only as good as your least productive employee.  They want to work for someone who empowers their people to do great things, make decisions. 

There was an article about the CEO of Verifore.  This large multinational organization was run by a man that believed that he made better decisions than his people because he had better information.  So each time that he read something that was valuable, he passed it on to EVERYONE in the company.  Therefore, every employee in the organization possessed Executive Level information.  Armed with all the information, they made better decisions.

12th Image
This same CEO had 11 photos on his wall of the same image.  The image was a man telling his dog to sit.  The dog standing, not obeying.  And the 12th image was the man telling his dog to sit, and the dog sitting.  The reporter asked him why he had that collection of photos on his wall. 

The CEO said it reminded him that most employees are NOT going to get it the first time.  He needs to cast the vision EVERY day.  And slowly over time, his people will GET it.

And for me, the thing that I realized is that people often got it.  But over time if I did not continue to speak our vision and values, my people would slowly forget. 

All this to say that your people would like to succeed.  They would like to be empowered.  They would like it if you shared the challenging projects.

As the boss, we feel we need to be the person that makes all the hard decisions.  We need to be the one that comes up with all the best ideas.

You are fooling yourself.

Your people are closer to the action.  They are so willing to be committed to helping you create great success for your department or company.  They just need to be given the information to make great decisions.  They need to be allowed to give input about what they think might work best.  Your people want to be challenged with hard projects. 

Give them a chance.  Share the load.  Make your job look less stressful because they are doing all the more interesting, more stressful projects.  Trust them to be engaged.  They will put in the extra time if they know you care about what they are working on.

And you will be rewarded with fantastic, engaged cheerleaders for the company!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How to launch a product...

Salon Owner, Manufacturer Garrett Markenson
At Mirabella Beauty, we are shooting a new video.  We are using a local salon, Garrett Markenson Coiffure.  The owner, Garrett is launching his own product, Milk.  As we got to chatting, it was so amazing to think of how hard it is to actually launch something right.

I assume by now you have priced the product so that you can make money.  That reminds me of an episode from The Office where Michael is talking to the kids of the employees on "Bring your kids to work" day.  He tells them that Dunder Mifflin buys the paper for a $1 and sells it for $2.  All the kids said, you are ripping people off! 

Don't worry about what the kids think, that is how business works.  You have to determine your cost of goods.  This must include everything; packaging, filling, literature, labor.  Then determine how much you want to sell it for.

If there is not enough room, then you won't have a business.  The only additional thing I would say is that often while you are small you have to live on a small profit margin until you can buy enough to lower your per unit costs.

The other obvious thing you need to consider with pricing your product is the market you are going after.  If you want to be premium, check out what the most expensive product is.  Are you going to be above that price?  At that price?  Or below that price?  And that depends on the quality of the product and the market you are trying to capture.

OK, so you have priced your product.

The first thing that someone has to do is determine distribution.  Who will sell your great new product?  Are they a distributor?  Do they sell competitive products?  Are they large and demanding?  Or are they small, focused but likely have less resources?

Perhaps you don't want to go through distribution, rather you want to sell directly to the retailer or consumer.  Again, do you want large national retailers or small local retailers?  It probably is easier to get into smaller local retailers, but how do you get to enough of them to be large enough to compete?  Large retailers can be great, but as a new manufacturer do you have the money and resources to service a National chain?

Once you determine your path, you need to set your distributor or retailers up to succeed.  That means you need to do something to help your product stand out.  With National retailers this can be difficult and potentially expensive, but you might instantly have shelf space in 500-1,000 retailers!  Pretty good trade off.

If you are going through distribution or if you are selling to small retailers, the process for standing out is probably the same.  You need to package your product in such a way to make it easy for your retailer to succeed.  Get one box.  Put your tester and retail in the box.  Put the signage in the box.  If you have a display, put that in the box.  Don't forget to give the retailer a price list!  They need to know how much to sell your product for.

Make it so the $8 receptionist or stock clerk can open the box and make it look EXACTLY the way you want the product to look on shelf.  The easiest way to assure this is to put pictures of exactly how it should look.

And then there is the whole aspect of building a brand but we will save that for another day!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Lead like The Avengers!

I brought my family to The Avengers this weekend as did most of America!  What a fun and exciting movie.  But as always, I cannot keep my business hat off!

How did Loki (the bad guy if you didn't see it) almost beat The Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man, and the rest of the team?

He got them thinking about themselves only.  He got them concerned about Loki and his strengths.  He pushed them so that each was trying to "win" by beating him by themselves.  So ultimately the most powerful fighting force imaginable was being beaten by the weaker brother of Thor!

And THAT is a great leadership lesson!
If you are trying to create a great team, which is exactly what Nick Fury (the leader of The Avengers) was trying to do.  Nick should have spent time trying to get them to realize:
  1. Who the team was, 
  2. Who they were trying to beat, 
  3. And then The Avengers could figure out HOW to beat Loki.

Dr. Banner and Tony Stark were sitting in a room just below the enemy getting mad at him, instead of thinking proactively about a strategy to win.

When I think of most companies that lose, that is exactly what is happening.  The team focuses on their enemy.  They worry about what that enemy is doing.  They concern themselves with fear; fear of getting beat, fear of what losing will mean to them personally.

In leadership, we need to first always address who we are.  What makes us special?  Why are we great?  Once we have a great idea of our value.  Only then can we begin to address actually attacking the problem. 

And the problem is NEVER the competitor. 

Don't focus on your "enemy", but focus on what you are trying to accomplish. 

Too many people study their competitor, obsess over their competitor.  They end up following instead of leading.  You can never win with the strategy of following. 

In sports, coaches tell their teams "we need to play our game."  In business it is having a conviction about your company and its products and services!  Then passionately capturing the opportunity with that conviction.

I won't spoil the movie if you haven't seen it, but let's just say they do begin focusing on their strengths and working as a team!  And how can you lose with that philosophy?

Monday, April 30, 2012

Best leadership advice came from a parenting class!

No rules at first, lots of rules later!

It is a Sunday night.  I am sitting in a parenting class at church.  Suddenly, I understand what I had been doing wrong leading my people!
The instructor in the class was talking about raising well adjusted kids.  He said most parents take their baby home from the hospital.  They love this child.  They want all positive interactions with their kids.  They don't want to use that ugly word "No"!

So the parents "kid-proof" the house by locking down all the cabinets, taking anything nice off the tables, and letting the house be the playpen.  They let the kid sleep when they want, eat when they want.  Basically they try to avoid rules, allowing lots of freedom and creativity to nurture the child.

Inevitably, rules will be put in place.  School.  So the funnel begins to tighten.  Then someday this child enters the workforce and more rules.  And at some point, the boss actually says NO!

In this class, they were recommending something quite contrary!  They wanted the funnel closed from the beginning.  The parent feeds the kid when the parent wants.  The parent has the kid sleep when the parent wants the kid to sleep.

The kid receives a lot of "no's" while it starts to explore the house.  You cannot touch that.  You cannot play in there.  
There are lots of rules at home.
Lots of rules at first, fewer later!
Then when the kid goes to school, the rules actually relax (because a teacher cannot keep the same rules that you have for 25 students in class).  And over time, rules relax more and more because the kid knows following the rules is best!
I would let employees join the company.  I would give them general guidelines on performance.  But generally I would let them get used to the environment, use their own creativity.  Then at some point, I would initiate rules.
It was a failure.

At that class I realized that new employees had to be treated like new kids.  They had to be given lots of structure.  They had to follow tight rules.  Anything outside the rules was punished.  Please NEVER show up late to work, that will be your LAST day!
Then after the employee has begun to see the reason for the structure, they would have gained a lot of knowledge about the company and the industry.  At some point, they would have enough experience to begin using their own judgement.
The rules will start to disappear for the better people.  Funny though, they will follow the rules anyway because for the most part, the rules in place actually helped them be more successful.
But I would give these people a lot more freedom.  The funnel loosens over time! 
It is so obvious!  But I am a little slow!
Then you read Steve Jobs book and you hear about him ruling the roost at home.  I would still follow this advice!  

Monday, April 23, 2012

Worst line at High School Reunion...

Have you ever been to your high school reunion?  It is so tough to go to those if you are living far away from your school.  For the majority of the people at the reunion, I had not seen them since my graduation... in 1981!

So you see these people and reconnect with them.  Then the fateful parting when you both say "Let's stay in touch."  So we went through the past 31 years without seeing one another and now we are going to stay in touch?!

But that is exactly what you need to do with your existing customers and potential new clients! 

Do you know who your existing clients are?  Do you know those that haven't purchased in 4-6 months?  For me, that is a part of the cycle.  If they haven't repurchased from me by now, you have probably moved onto some other products.  Therefore, we consider that a minus, a lost customer.  Obviously, a new customer is a plus.  Every month, we track our plus/minus to see how our sales people are doing with their clients.

At Mirabella, we try to help that by staying in touch.  We send out an email every couple of months to keep our salons up-to-date with all of our news.  We track this through constant contact, therefore we can track if they opened the email, read it, forwarded it, clicked through to our website, etc.  We realized less than 40% of the emails were getting read, so we put out a physical mailing as well. 

And that is how we stay in touch with existing clients.  But how about new clients?  It is said in the guerrilla marketing book by Jay Conrad Levinson that you need to touch people 17 times before they will buy!  Talk about staying in touch! 

We have make up artists touching customers at trade shows!
Oftentimes you might send out a mailer to a new client.  Or perhaps you will call a new client.  But they need to have 17 impressions about and from your company to buy.  You have to be VERY patient and have a thick skin to keep calling on a client that many times to get your first order. 

And obviously it will have more of an impact if you touch them 17 different ways with 17 unique and interesting approaches. 

We try to brand ourselves big at trade shows.
Again, for Mirabella we are selling through distributors.  We advertise in their magazine monthly.  We have sales people calling on the salons talking about us.  We have a prominent social presence with YouTube and Facebook.  We make a huge impression at each distributor show.  Hopefully, over time, all those impressions will pay off!

I think it is working.  For the first quarter we opened 200 new salons.  Last year we opened 300 all year!

Be creative, be patient, and keep making impressions!  Your business will thank you for "staying in touch".

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Listen and learn!

Are you like my wife?  The phone rings and she waits to use the caller ID to see if she wants to answer.  If its friends or family, she picks up.  If not, hello voicemail.

I think in business we are often this same way.  We talk to the people we know in the industry; our vendors, our clients, our employees.  The closest we get to learning outside our network is trade shows and industry publications.

I understand why we get stuck in this rut.  We are all so busy, it takes a lot to just stay on top of what we got in front of us.

But the breakout ideas are going to likely come from people outside the industry.  Think of Moroccan Oil, they are the hottest company in the professional beauty industry.  They were the first company to hit $100 MM within its first 4 years.  Amazing success story in a slow growing industry in a horrible economy. 

They were not from the beauty industry! 

I always made a point of saying yes to meetings.  It clogged my schedule sometimes, but truly I got exposed to things that really helped me. 

You kiss a lot of frogs that way, but occasionally, you get that prince of an idea that makes all those frogs worthwhile.

In January, I was walking a trade show and met a new person.  We went to lunch shortly after.  At that meeting, we discussed a bunch of different ideas.  Frankly, I hadn't even thought of some of them.  Since then, I have followed up with those ideas.  New people ask different questions, provide different insight, and have different resources!

So the next time that phone rings... it could be opportunities to learn!

Monday, April 9, 2012

In business? Must read...

When I got out of business school, the magazine I loved was Inc.  It told amazing stories about young up and coming companies.  I stole so many great ideas from those articles.  One of my favorites was PSS, Physician Service and Supply.  The company was fast growing.  The President knew the only way he could be successful was if he had leaders under him who "got" his vision.  So he developed a 3 day new leader retreat that he would conduct on his own boat in Florida. 

So as I was growing Maly's I did the same thing.  Not on a boat, but somewhere that I could be with my people, get to know them, and get to share my vision.  Looking back, this was the most powerful things I did at our company.

Fast forward to today, the magazine that I love now is Fast Company.  It has been on my desk for years.  In fact, I remember I got the first edition that came out!  Anyhow, I am still stealing good ideas.

The most recent article that I loved was about the most innovative companies from February.  If you read the news or listen to the politicians, you would think we were about to experience the fall of the United States.  After reading this article, you will be hopeful that we have a great future!

One of my last posts was about using all your connections.  I got thinking about this from an article about LinkedIn.  Click on this to read it, it's great!

Where are you getting your great ideas?   Where are you getting inspired?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Focus on the positive, dah!

Have you ever done a SWOT analysis?  Basically, you and your team write down your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. 

When looking at your strengths you get to think of why people work for you, why clients do business with you, why do vendors pick your company to do business.

Weaknesses are hard to consider sometimes as a business owner.  We feel like King Kong!  No one is better than us, especially after considering your strengths!  When you go through your weaknesses, this oftentimes helps focus your company.  At Maly's we did this years ago.  We were doing printing for our salons, we were trying to be a marketing company.  What we realized was that our strength was launching new product lines.  We were great a making new lines big in our marketplace.  Doing these other activities were actually taking away from our strengths. 

Have you read Steve Jobs yet?  What a great book!  When he comes back to Apple in the mid 90's, he realizes that Apple has confused the client.  It was confused itself.  It had several different computers that were basically doing the same thing.  They were trying to promote them all with different spins.  He said, let's have 3 computers; laptop, desktop, and professional desktop.  Simple, yeah?  Revolutionary to the company! 

After weaknesses, you determine what are the opportunities out there.  This part of the exercise can get very theoretical.  You have to continue to come back to, what can WE do, what opportunities can WE capture.  You might be a small business is a limited geographic region.  Yes China is growing and an opportunity.  That doesn't mean its an opportunity for YOU!

And finally, you have to get paranoid!  What are the possible threats that could befall your business?  What can your competitors do to put you out of business?  What could a company from China do if it came into your market?  What happens if Walmart or Amazon decide to get into your line of business?

We don't like to think of threats, but they are real.  This exercise is great to make sure that you have put a hedge around your business that would be hard for a competitor to jump over easily.  Salons are easy and relatively cheap to open.  That is why it is so competitive.  So you see salons that open schools, perhaps with a vendor like Paul Mitchell.  That is a making a larger hedge to jump over.

This is your competitor!

This exercise can be theoretical.  Something that you put on the shelf and never think about.  Or you can use it to make significant direction changes to your business.  The great thing about small business is that you can make a turn tomorrow!  You are not a huge corporation that turns more like an aircraft carrier.  Be a speed boat!!!
This is you!