Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Small Business Failure - What did we learn?

We believe that you plan to succeed but must be prepared to fail. When business failure happens, however, you are never truly and completely prepared for it.

What keeps most of us from becoming our own boss to begin with, and the thing we obviously work the hardest at to avoid as a small business owner, is failure. Having to close a business for financial reasons. 

We recently made the painful decision to close one of our restaurant locations. This particular location never achieved the success we enjoyed with the first location of this business concept. And after five years, we decided not to re-new the lease and closed the location permanently.

In this episode of the How of Business podcast, we share this experience and highlight the challenges and lessons we learned through the process.

[Listen on iTunes[Listen on Stitcher]


Monday, August 29, 2016

Husband & Wife Entrepreneurs

They say you should never go into business with friends or family. Well, we have done both (successfully and not so successful), and so have the Cohens (very successfully!). 

In this episode of The How of Business podcast, Barry and Catherine Cohen share their entrepreneurial story and advice for married couples working together in a small business.

As they explain, "You gotta know your strengths, you gotta know your weaknesses.”

[Listen on iTunes[Listen on Stitcher]


Monday, August 22, 2016

iTopIt Customer Experience Manifesto


A Manifesto is a public declaration of policy and aims. It's a policy statement or a mission statement. It's also a declaration, proclamation, pronouncement, or announcement. A Customer Service Manifesto serves as the standard and guidelines by which we operate our business in order to deliver consistently remarkable customer experiences. It's what we believe in, and what we stand for as it relates to how we will run our business.

iTopIt Self-Serve Frozen Desserts Restaurant

At one of our small businesses, iTopIt (a self-serve frozen desserts restaurant), we have established and nurtured a cultures based in part on our Customer Experience Manifesto:

iTopIt is dedicated to helping families create lasting happy memories. One of our guiding documents is this Manifesto.

Delivering a consistently remarkable customer experience will be our unique competitive advantage, and will ensure the long-term success of our business. We will strive to provide our customers with a remarkable overall experience, not just great yogurt and toppings. Our competitors may easily copy our yogurt and toppings, but it will be difficult for them to match the fun experience and service we will provide our customers.

How do we achieve this? It must be part of our culture. It must be ingrained in every employee. And it must start at the top. We will lead and manage this business to be customer-focused.

  • We will hire the right type of employee. We will hire personality and character above experience.
  • We will invest in training, both up front and on-going. Training will include the required duties of the job, but will be primarily focused on delivering a remarkable customer experience.
  • We will pay and treat our employees well and motivate them to deliver on our customer experience promise.
  • We will develop, document and evolve systems that allow our employees to execute their duties efficiently and consistently. Doing so will give them more time to serve the customer.
  • We will focus on the next customer visit, not just the current visit. We will always ask ourselves: what can I do to get this customer to come again?
  • Our employees will be empowered to deliver a remarkable experience. They will have the authority to resolve most customer issues. They will be trained to view these situations as opportunities to create loyal customers.
  • Our customers are not an inconvenience. They are the reason we exist.
  • Our customers do not need to come to our store, so we must make them love to do so.
  • We will always use good manners. We will say please, thank you and you are welcome.
  • We will greet all of our customers. We will thank them for coming in, and we will always genuinely thank them for their business.
  • If our customers ask for something, we will try our best to give it to them. One of our mottos will be “Yes.”
  • If a customer wants to sample every flavor of yogurt and topping in our store, we will encourage them to do so.
  • If a customer fills their cup and does not like it for whatever reason, we will gladly invite them to replace it with another one. If that does not satisfy them, we will immediately offer to refund their money.
  • We will always try our best to give the customer what they want. We will try to avoid being taken advantage of by unscrupulous people, but we will always remember that the vast majority of customers are honest.
  • Our employees are our most important asset in delivering a remarkable customer experience. They will do everything reasonably possible, and then some, to wow the customer. But they will not have to take unnecessary abuse. There will be some customers that we can never satisfy, and they need to go elsewhere for their frozen desserts.
  • We will be involved in our community by supporting and engaging civic, school and charitable organizations.
  • We will engage our customers through various methods, including social media. We will encourage and welcome their direction of the iTopIt experience.
  • We will reward our loyal and repeat customers. We will make it easy for them to spread the word.
  • There will never be a “Tip Jar” at iTopIt. Our customers will “tip” us by returning for another visit and telling their friends and family about us.
  • iTopIt will always be clean and organized. There will never be a valid excuse for a lack of cleanliness and organization throughout the store.
  • The food part of the customer experience is just as important as the service. Our frozen desserts must be delicious, our toppings fresh and plentiful, and everything should always be clean and tidy.
  • Our employees must also always be clean, tidy, professional and in uniform.
  • Phone calls are never more important than the customers in our store. Except for a true emergency, personal phone calls or texts at work are never acceptable.
  • When a customer is ready to pay, we will do everything possible to complete the transaction quickly and efficiently. This always includes thanking them for their business.
  • There is no such thing as taking too much time with a customer because every customer is an exception.
  • Our customers will always be able to contact the owners easily, whether to complain or compliment.
  • We will empower and encourage our employees to create (help to create a remarkable experience, help to create better ways of serving our customers), connect (with our customers and fellow employee) and surprise (our customers with the little extra things, not just the expected).
  • Smile! It sets the positive tone for everything we do.
If you want to learn more about this topic, we encourage you to listen to Episode 34: Customer Service Manifesto of The How of Business Podcast - the podcast to help you start, run and grow your small business.

Online Marketing with Kellen Kautzman

In this episode of The How of Business podcast we interview Kellen Kautzman, a small business owner, and internet marketing expert

Kellen started out as a teacher, and then transitioned to becoming his own boss. In this episode Kellen shares stories from his entrepreneurial journey and the lessons her learned along the way. 

[Listen on iTunes
[Listen on Stitcher]

Kellen Kautzman is the founder of Send It Rising, an internet marketing company, and a regular speaker on a variety of topics including blogging, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and internet marketing in general.

Kellen holds a master's degree in education and taught for 5 years before transitioning into his career as a professional blogger and internet marketer and then becoming his own boss full time.

Send It Rising is committed to high-level, measurable and honest SEO (Search Engine Optimization), Social Media, Pay Per Click and Wordpress Web Development. We believe that clients deserve a strong return on investment and we honestly assess each potential client's internet profile to determine which steps will lead to the highest chance of positive ROI.

You can find out more about this episode at the Show Notes Page.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Hiring Remarkable Employees

One of the biggest challenges small business owners face is hiring and retaining remarkable employees

If you have a business with employees, then your ability to execute and grow is dependent on the quality and motivation of your staff.

The hiring and on-boarding process is often time consuming and frustrating. While it's arguably part art and part science (or process), there are definitely steps you can take to improve the overall outcome. Which in turn, greatly improves the likelihood of success for your small business. 

As busy small business owners, we often rush the hiring process, wanting to get it done quickly so we can get back to operating our business. We also consider the task completed once we have hired a new employee. The process of hiring employees, after all, is probably not why we wanted to become our own boss!

It's impossible to operate a remarkable business - a successful business that delivers consistently great service - without employees who are properly trained and motivated and the right fit for your organization. To accomplish this you need a comprehensive system that supports the entire employee life cycle - from recruiting through the exit interview. And the first concept to adopt as a small business owner is that the process does not end at the hire!

We recently released a couple of episodes of The How of Business Podcast on the topic of hiring for a small business. Episode 29 [listen here] introduces the topic of hiring remarkable employees, and focuses on job descriptions, job postings, candidate screening, and the interview process. In episode 31 [listen here], we continue the discussion and focus on assessment tools and the 2-step interview process we use at our small businesses. 

The How of Business Podcast
Helping you start, run and grow your small business.
Henry Lopez & David Begin discuss small business topics, and offer advice and tips based on their experience with owning various small businesses over the past 25 years. They also interview other successful entrepreneurs and professionals, who share their stories and advice for other small business owners. This podcast is currently available on iTunes, Stitcher and The How of Business website.
[Listen Here]

Monday, August 8, 2016

Using LinkedIn to Grow Your Business

LinkedIn expert Mike Shelah joins us on the latest episode of The How of Business podcast. He share valuable advice and tips for small business owners on how to use networking to start and grow your business.

Mike is a LinkedIn evangelist! He started his corporate career in technology sales. During his successful career, he develop his skills in sales strategy, leadership, networking and public speaking.

In 2011, he began to share those experiences as a consultant and in 2015 he launched his website (MikeShelah.com).

Mike started using LinkedIn in 2006. Since then he averages one new connection per day! He drove success in his sales career, and now in building his consulting business, by leveraging LinkedIn.

In this episode, Mike also shares his story of he went from a successful sales career to starting a small business and becoming his own boss.

Read more about Mike and this episode at the show notes page

The How of Business Podcast
Helping your start, run and grow your small business.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Customer Service & Direct Response Marketing Expert - Vance Morris

In this episode of The How of Business podcast we interview Vance Morris, a small business owner, customer service expert, and direct response marketing expert.

He is the owner of Deliver Service Now Institute, providing consulting, training and workshops to help their clients create magical and profitable service cultures in their businesses.

[Listen on iTunes
[Listen on Stitcher]

From the moment we were contacted about having Vance on our show we were excited. We are huge Disney fans and have always been inspired to model our small businesses after the standard set by Walt Disney. Vance shares tremendous value for all small business owners, and for those who are planning to become their own boss.

Vance spent 10 years working at Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida. He started his career at Disney on the Opening Team of the Yacht & Beach Club Resorts, and progressed through the management ranks as a Night Club Manager at Pleasure Island, Service Trainer aboard the Empress Lily (restaurant), and on the revitalization team of the Contemporary Resort in the mid-90’s. It was at the Contemporary that Vance got his crowning achievement, Designing, Opening and Operating Chef Mickey’s, Disney’s flagship
Character Dining Experience.

You can find out more about this episode at the Show Notes Page.