Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Are you using all your assets?

For the past 25 years, I have been associated with the professional salon industry.  In that time, I have made a bunch of friendships.  When I go to any shows or events within this industry I know people.

So fast forward to last week... I am in my office thinking about how I can get a connection for Gene Juarez and Dermstore.com.  I had attempted to call them directly, but never got phone calls back.  I don't know anyone personally within either of these wonderful companies.

So I went on linkedin.com and typed in the name of the companies.  I love this tool!  The company comes up with each of its employees names, titles, and connections that I share with them.  Yes, there are people who already know the people that I want to meet!  I quickly email my connections who know them and ask for invitations.  Bingo, I am one step closer.

Then I realize that these companies already represent brands.  I know people at those brands.  So, I contact my friends that are at those brands to see who can help me make some more connections inside the company.

Then I realize that Gene Juarez is in Seattle and so is one of my good friends!  He happens to know a key person.

So tomorrow I meet with Dermstore.com and next week I speak with Gene Juarez!  It's not what you know, though that helps.  It is truly who you know.  But it is one step further... it is who you know that you ask to help you!!!

Thanks to all those people that helped me last week to share the beauty of Mirabella!

I told all my people here at Mirabella, I might not know color cosmetics as well as some.  But I do know this wonderful industry and I need to use all the friends I have made to share the love of this great brand!

It is obviously working... we are up 45% so far this year!!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Your mind is too powerful to waste!

We use 10% of our brain.  So what about the other 90%, what are we doing with the rest of that? 

That is called our subconscious.  How about putting that bad boy to work, the lazy bum?

Here is how we do it already.  You are talking to a friend.  You say "Have you seen that movie with.... that actor that I cannot remember his name?" 

You are brushing your teeth that night before bed, and suddenly you remember it is... Tom Cruise!  That is an example of our subconscious mind working. 

Outwardly, we go on living our life, completely oblivious to that actor's name.  But not your incredible subconscious.  He says, OK, while he is going about his business, I am going to churn.  I will continue to churn until I come up with the answer. 

Recently I wrote about business plans.  You consciously develop a plan.  Then you put it on the shelf and never look at it again.

But not your super computer!  God gave you this incredible processing power!  You begin thinking about it, subconsciously.  Suddenly, in the shower tomorrow you come up with this incredible idea related to that business plan.

You think, I am so lucky, I just came up with a new idea!  But what really happened is that your subconscious is desperately trying to help you solve this problem.  It wants to help you.  And if you give it something to think about, it will really work for you.

The problem for most of us is that we never right the plan down.  We keep it in our heads, kind of.  Because we never go through the mental process of actually putting our thought to paper, we don't allow our super computer to go to work.

Try it!  Tonight before you go home, take out a blank piece of paper (or new document on word).  Write a goal that you would like to accomplish this week, this month or this year. 

I would like to sell an additional $1,000,000 in Mirabella this year.  (Remember to be a goal it has to be S.M.A.R.T; S-specific, M-measurable, A-achievable, R-realistic, T-time frame defined)

Put the paper in my desk.  Then let my mind work overtime.  It will start thinking how I can accomplish this even while I sleep!


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Want to accomplish great things?

This summer we are opening a tasting room for our company, Wolf Creek Brewing Company. Craft beer is growing at 20% per year while the big boys like Coors, Miller and Bud are barely staying flat.  Our partner, Rob McFerrin is a beer geek.  He has been making beer for 20 years.  He and his wife Laina started Wolf Creek 15 years ago when micro brew pubs were just taking off.  Since that time, his beers (he has made over 100 different kinds) have won awards all over the country.

When we partnered with them, this was an obvious strength of the business.  But before you can start something new, you need to count the costs.  You need to develop a plan.  You need to set goals.

This is the essence of a business plan.  Think of it like a good speech.  Tell them what your going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them. 

A good business plan starts with an Executive Summary.  This is first, but will be written last.  The Executive Summary is one page long.  It explains basically what is going to be explained throughout the rest of the plan.  The business is in this industry, which is this large, and has this niche.  We are going to start this business at this date.  It will cost this much.  And over the next 5 years, we will have sales and profits of this much.

Of course, you can write a plan for anything of significance that you are trying to accomplish.  I could say that I am planting a church is this community.  It has this many residence.  It has this many other churches.  There are not any churches focused on this demographic.  It will cost this much.  Over the next 5 years (God willing) we will have accomplished these goals.

After the Executive Summary would be Current State.  In this section you would write about the industry.  You would write about the background of the team.  You would write about the niche that is available and why.

Then comes the hard part, and by far, the most important part.  You write the actual Plan.  In the Plan, you will actually write it like a story that is going to take place.  In the first month we are going to buy all the equipment and sign a lease.  In the second month we are going to hire a branding company to identify what the business will look like.  Then in the 3rd month we will begin operations.  We will hire 3 people to do these tasks.  We will sell our product to 20 new businesses.  And each of the businesses will buy $500 per month. 

This Plan will be written like this in detail.  After the first year, you will likely only talk about each year and the specific goals and activities that will happen. 

This part will be very long.  This part will be very specific.  Keep asking yourself, how am I going to do this?  If you have not written exactly how you are going to do what you are going to do, then keep at it.  With our plan we went back and forth 10 times until we had gotten most questions answered.

From the Plan, you can do Financial Projections.  You will have income statements for each year.  This will show you when you will begin to make money.  And the Plan should add up to those numbers exactly.  If it doesn't, go back to the Plan and spell it out clearer. 

Have other people read the Plan to make sure you are explaining yourself clearly.

At the end, you should be able to give this plan to an investor to raise money. 

You might not need money, but you certainly need a good plan in advance.   As they say about war, you write a good plan, then when the battle begins, you usually throw it out.  Things will change once you actually start, but having thought through everything in advance, you are so much further ahead. 

When I came to Los Angeles in 1989 to run Maly's, I wrote a business plan.  It was amazing looking at it years later how close I was to actually following it.  The process of writing the plan is very powerful!

What to accomplish great things, write a plan.  Winging it is for failures!



Tuesday, March 13, 2012

You cannot have someone else's monkey on your back and win

Have you ever had a conversation with an employee that goes like this?

Employee: I cannot get the project you wanted me to get done.

Boss: Why?

Employee:  Our vendor won't give me the information that I need.

Boss:  That vendor is always doing this.  Let me give them a call.

The employee just effectively delegated the problem to their boss!  The employee walks out of the office lighter and carefree.  The boss suddenly has just added to his own work load.

Employee                                                     Boss
     1                                                                 0

The challenge for most bosses is that they keep losing the game with their employees.  You need to keep the pressure on the employee.  It is their issue.  It is their project.  Yes, you assigned it to them.  But that means it is theirs!

I read this great book, The One Minute Manager meets the Monkey.  In the book, the monkey is the problem that the employee has.  The challenge that managers face is that employees continue to put the problem/monkey back on the back of the boss.  At the end of the day, the employees go home light and airy.  All their monkeys have been successfully transferred to the back of their boss.

Bosses!  Don't take the monkey.  When the employee says that something is stopping them.  Ask them "How can you solve this?"  And SHUT UP.  Our job is to get things done through other people.  If we keep getting stuff put back on us, we are getting things done... by doing them our self. 

We need to properly delegate.  Explain why a project needs to get done.  Explain what needs to get done.  Explain to them when it needs to be done. 

Then ask them to explain to you how they are going to get it done. 
  • How are they going to start?
  • How are they doing to pass through challenges?
  • How you can help them to understand the project better?
They understand the why and what.  It is their job to figure out how.  And it is your job to hold them accountable.  As they ask questions, always turn them back to them.  Be happy to discuss the progress.  Be happy to get updates.

But if they don't accomplish the task, discuss your disappointment.  Tell them how an organization cannot function if everyone is not accountable to pull the weight that is assigned to them.  Let them know it is OK when we have progress meetings to be specific if more time is needed.  But it is completely unacceptable to NOT do a project.

If you can create this environment of accountability, your team will accomplish much.  Your department will accomplish much.  And you will have the opportunity to more!

Keep that monkey where it belongs, on the backs of our people!!!



Thursday, March 8, 2012

If your not good at CODA, can you really be successful?

You have someone who works for you and you're not quite sure how to coach them.  Why are they not more successful?  Why are they not hitting their goals?  It can usually be summed up in one of 4 general areas.

To evaluate our people we use the simple CODA.  That stands for Communication, Organization, Decision making, and Analysis.

Communication

  • Can they communicate clearly to you?  Are they keeping you informed of what is happening or not happening?  Are they able to sum up their activities succinctly?  Or do they make a short conversation last for an hour?
  • Are they able to communicate to the clients effectively, positively?  Do they make the interaction a good one for the company, making the client more loyal with each conversation?
  •  Can they communicate to their peers in a humble, cooperative manner?  Do peers see them as a organizational leader or a cancer?
  • Communication is also both verbal and written.  Are they good presenters?  Can they inspire and train well?  When they write, can they communicate without a long email exchange?  Can they put together a persuasive powerpoint presentation?  Is their grammar and spelling a negative or positive?
If they cannot communicate well, they will likely not be graded on the other skills.

Organization Skills

  • Is this employee able to get to work on time?  Can they keep their work area clean and orderly?
  • Does this person have a plan for the day?  Does this person forget assignments?
  • Can this person put together a plan that includes all the necessary steps?
Organization skills make a person more productive.  A more productive employee will get more done in less time.  I find that an organized person is the busiest person.  But they also churn out more work than anyone else.

Communication and  organization are primarily personal skills.  They are both the skills needed to go to the next level in any organization.  

Decision making

This involves taking your analysis and doing something with it.  You don't want to be one who just thinks about things, you need to take thought to action.

A good decision maker takes all the things at their fingertips and points the direction.  Those that use this skill well are risk takers.  By choosing a direction, you are naturally NOT choosing another group of directions.

A problem well stated is a problem half solved.  That is the difference between analysis and decision making.  Great analysis involves getting data and doing something about it.  My most hated phrase is, "I don't like numbers."  Worst excuse ever!  Numbers are the language of business.

Famous basketball coach Bobby Knight used numbers to tell him who would be in his starting line up, who would come off the bench, who would guard whom.  He took the data, that is shooting percentage or plus minus or some other statistic, and would determine what it was saying to him.  Then he would make a decision.

If you don't gather data.  If you don't evaluate data.  You cannot make good decisions.

So, when I am sitting with someone, I ask them to evaluate themselves on these 4 criteria.  Which of these areas do they need the most help?  Can I offer them training in communication?  Can I help them determine which data to gather to make an analysis?  When they have all the analysis and yet they still make no decision or poor decisions, I know that is where I need to coach them.

Experience helps with decision making.  But you cannot get better at making decisions until you have the chance to actually make some decisions.

I remember the IBM executive who made a $20,000,000 mistake.  Someone asked if the executive was fired.  The executive's boss said "That was a VERY expensive training exercise!"


Monday, March 5, 2012

Learning retailing tips from the LA Clippers!

Blake Griffin shooting a free throw
In the morning, I read that the Clippers are playing the Timberwolves.  I haven't been to see them, so I get some tickets and my son Austin and I go.  Fortunately we had great seats!

Incredible game, lots of lob city for both Jordan and Griffin.  By halftime, I want to walk around.  So we go into the LA store where they sell all the team jerseys at the Staples Center.

I like the Clippers.  I have liked the Clippers for many years.  So during the bad years, you would go into the store and they would have very little Clipper gear and a ton of Laker wear, even at Clipper games!

In fact it was so bad last year that I wanted to buy a Clipper t-shirt and they didn't sell one except in 2XL!  Not exactly my size.

So now we have CP3, Blake Griffin, and a great cast of fantastic players.  And the store is filled with many of their jerseys and t-shirts.  But to get Chris Paul they had to give up some other players, namely Eric Gordon and Chris Kamen.
My son Austin with old Jerseys
I loved those guys.  In fact Chris is from Grand Rapids, MI my home town!  Eric went to Indiana University, my alma mater.

But they don't play for the Clippers anymore.  They aren't stars like Kobe or LeBron.  So when I saw the new worthless jerseys I thought, I wouldn't want that problem as a retailer.  Suddenly you have a bunch of jerseys no one wants.

What would you do?

Yes, that is what I would do as well.  I would mark the jerseys down, put them on a sale or clearance rack.

Not the clippers, they are still full priced items, $90!

Inventory is like raw chicken.  If you leave it out too long, it will go bad.  Fast.

As a retailer, you need to take items like this and discount it.  We recommend that the first cut is the deepest.  Remember, you have already tried to sell the item at full price for a long time.  So the consumer is only going to react if the discount is steep.  Blow it out.  Hope to get your money out of it, not a profit.

In retailing, we are always introducing new items.  Consumers expect it.  Some of those new items are going to be popular.  Some are going to be dogs.  Dogs just take up space and money.

And as a retailer, you ALWAYS have dogs.  So you are always blowing out items.

Put that bad money against good inventory!  

Clippers, I hope you read this.  I certainly would not buy those jerseys at full price.  But hey, I am consumer.  Get the price low enough, even cheap John Maly might be tempted!!!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Why being social is important

Last January, I hired someone to be our Social Media Manager.  This person didn't know what that even was, but was hard working, smart, and willing to learn.  I wasn't worried that the person didn't have 5 years of experience in Social Media, because it didn't EXIST 5 years ago!

Our world is moving fast.  To stay relevant, you need to keep learning.

Why did I have our little makeup company add an employee to work in the Social arena?  Because it's the future.  Not just for Mirabella, but for our world.   It's how people make decisions today.  It is the Zero Moment of Truth for every decision that we make today.  Should I go to this movie or buy this product?  Let me first check on line to see what people are saying about it.  Three years ago, people did this less than 30% of the time.  Today it's just less than 60%.  Within another year, it will be more than 80%!

People don't make decisions alone anymore.

If you are in business, you need to be aware of this.  OK, here are my Social thoughts.

First, if you are looking for a job, go to LinkedIn.  It's the best site today for finding jobs.  I say today, because somewhere, someone is dreaming up something else much better that we will be using in 3 years (think Monster).  Before you try getting a job, make sure you have a profile.  Make sure you have at least 50 connections.  If you have 2 connections, I'm going to assume you aren't current.  If you're not on the #1 business social website, you're probably NOT very relevant in the rest of your life either.  I'm saying this as a 48 year-old .  What do you think the 28 year-old hiring you is thinking?

Make sure that you have some quality recommendations from people on your LinkedIn profile.

Second, are you on Facebook?  OK, so are about a billion other people.  When I write this, that number is WAY too high.  But by the time you read this, it's probably closer!

Facebook was friends talking and connecting on college campuses.  Oh yeah, that was a LONG time ago, like 6 years.  Now if you are in business, you need a webpage... and a Facebook page.  Both of them need to stay current.  But your Facebook page MUST have fans.   Depending on your type of business, you need to have a lot.  Last January Mirabella had 300 fans.  A year later, we have 18,000.  We track how often people come back.  Our average fan checks in weekly.

Every day, I am building the Mirabella brand with those 18,000 people... and hopefully their friends.

But Facebook is not a website that you post to.  It's a conversation.  We have clients ask questions of us all the time.  We need to respond.  We need to be active in the conversation, not dominant, just active.  We need to be relevant to the conversation.  The Academy Awards happened last night.  Our conversation is going to be about that relevant event this next week.

We tweeted while watching the show.  Again, we were a part of the conversation.  This is what Mirabella thinks... but what do you think?

Blogs are a part of the social fabric that is being built.  What are other people saying about this topic, product or service?  YouTube is a part of the fabric as well, it's just video based.  We have done those things as well.  The fun thing about both of them, is that people see you are doing it and want to join.  We did a party for bloggers about some of our upcoming launches.  It was so successful.  Twenty of them wrote about our line on their blogs.  All were unpaid.  And, thankfully, all were positive.  But that is the tough thing about social.  People can write whatever they want!

As bloggers have been writing about us, more bloggers want to write about us!  It is an easy way to join their conversation.

The final thing I will say about being social is that you must remember that everyone sees everything you write.   You may be able to keep your profile restricted to a private audience, but once you comment on someone else's post, you're not private anymore. 

I have seen some things that should NOT be social.  People writing bad things about their current employer, etc.  I would really avoid this.  Keep it positive.  Write as if your mom is watching each post! 

The world has changed so much.  As a small business, consider stopping your advertising and turning those resources loose on making yourself more popular socially!  That may sound like buying votes in a 3rd World Country, but you are better off focusing your money on people that are, or very likely will be, interested in you.  You can BUY fans on Facebook or views on YouTube, but people won't click if they don't have some interest already.