By Jane and Larry McGrath
The world of retail—from ordering to marketing—is changing. And every change presents a challenge. But how, when you are working 10 hours a day, can you discover ideas and strategies to help you meet the challenges?
“The old proverb ‘two heads are better than one’ supports the idea of collaboration,” said Hannah Morgan, of CareerSherpa.net. “Working with someone who has fresh insights, similar values and even different ideas can make anyone more energized.”
And those fresh insights, different ideas and renewed energy can make a huge difference in how successfully you tackle your business challenges.
Try one or more of these strategies to gather some good business advice.
Set Up an Advisory Board
“The best business advice I received when starting my company,” said Loyalty Factor’s Dianne Durkin, “was to create an advisory board…of experts in all aspects of business….”
Why? When you capitalize on other people’s experiences and expertise you strengthen your own and thus are more likely to avoid problems.
If you decide to gather a group of mentors, first, establish your board’s ground rules. For example, how long do you want an advisor to serve? Twelve months is common. How often and where do you want to meet? Perhaps quarterly, in the conference room of a local hotel. What do you want the board to do? Often mentors can help with strategies for meeting a series of short-term goals.
While there is no magic number of participants for a board, businesses with no more than 20 employees typically have three advisors, according to the National Federation of Independent Business.
Look for accomplished business owners and retired executives and managers who can bring a spread of perspectives and skills that complement your own. You might consider a technical expert like your accountant or attorney, but be aware that these professionals may tend to focus on business details rather than providing strategic advice on company building.
When you identify a potential candidate, arrange an informal meeting where you can go over your business plan, discuss your problems and aspirations, and outline your expectations. You want to select people you admire and can work with and who are capable of handling sensitive issues with discretion.
Your advisors’ suggestions and observations will be based on information you give them. So the more they know, the more help they can provide. Before each meeting send an agenda, relevant supporting/background data, and a list of the key questions you want them to address. Between meetings, call and email to keep them up to date on what’s happening.
And, small business trends writer John Warrillow advises that you let your mentors know they are having an “immediate and measurable impact by sending an email within 48 hours after a meeting indicating which ideas you plan to implement immediately and which you are tabling for another time.”
Most mentors will sit on an advisory board for no pay; however, people do like to feel appreciated. Always provide a thank you such as a nice lunch at the meeting, a logoed jacket, or suite tickets for an upcoming race.
Work the PRI Trade Show
The Performance Racing Industry (PRI) Trade Show in Orlando, November 29–December 1, 2012, will be a great place to get business solutions. But, you’ll need to do some good pre-show preparation to maximize your results.
Start by reviewing your business plan and budget. Ask yourself questions such as, “Where do I want the business to be this time next year?” and “What product lines do I need to add this year?”
Once you know what you need to accomplish, prepare a list of who and what you need to see, and develop a schedule. For example, if you’re looking for a solution to a technical problem, schedule time with the tech rep. If you want ideas on how to merchandise an item more effectively, get time with a top salesperson.
In addition to individual meetings, schedule in some of the Show’s events. For example, “The Racing Parts Business—2013” is the focus of this year’s Industry Roundtable, which is scheduled for Friday, November 30, beginning at 8 a.m.
“We’re just going to talk about the parts side of the racing industry, and what racing businesses are doing right now to move racing products,” said John Kilroy, publisher of Performance Racing Industry. “We’ll have several respected racing businesspeople on the panel, and we’ll work through what’s working and what’s not in 2012. We’ll find out where the opportunities are, and what strategies one can use to effectively tap into them.”
Another possibility: “Winning the eRace: Digital Marketing Conference for Racing Businesses” is a day-long seminar designed to get racing professionals up to speed on the advances in Internet marketing, search engine optimization, advertising on Google, eNewsletters, setting up a virtual store, best practices in digital advertising, managing forums and using social media. Participants can attend a portion of the seminar, or the entire day.
And don’t forget to schedule time for PRI management seminars, a key resource for proven, practical advice from respected racing industry figures. This year’s seminar listing is available at http://www.performanceracing.com/tradeshow/events/seminars.html.
In addition, events like the Grand Opening Breakfast, a live version of Dave Despain’s popular “Wind Tunnel” Speed Channel TV program, and the PRI Happy Hour are excellent opportunities to meet and exchange ideas with Show participants who have similar interests and good advice to share.
For complete show information go to http://www.performanceracing.com/tradeshow/.
Chamber of Commerce
In most areas, the local chamber of commerce offers a variety of tools, resources, and networking opportunities to help businesses grow. It can often be a one-stop shop for business advice. For example, a chamber’s monthly meetings and workshops can provide opportunities to learn new business approaches and techniques, and meet with fellow businesspeople to discuss mutual problems and share ideas.
For some members, the chamber’s advertising and exposure options are priceless. A national study by The Schapiro Group, an Atlanta-based market research firm, made one thing clear: Positive perception among consumers and business owners increases significantly when a business is identified as a member of the local chamber of commerce.
The chamber usually offers a tiered membership structure to allow you to choose the most appropriate level for your business based on the benefits you want to receive.
Participate in SEMA Webinars
If you’re looking for resources that are available on your schedule, the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) offers a webinar series. Offering a range of topics to help businesses succeed and prosper, you can tune in to the live one-hour broadcasts that include an interactive Q & A session with the featured industry presenter, or you can access a range of topics from the SEMA archived webinars on your own schedule.
Recent webinar topics include: “PR Primer: Promoting Your Brand in the Digital Age,” “Industry Trends—2012 Annual Market Study Overview,” and “How Fit Is Your Customer Service?”
To participate in a SEMA webinar or to download archived webinars, you must be a member of SEMA. SEMA membership dues are based on a company’s annual sales and business category.
For more information on SEMA webinars go to http://www.sema.org/webinars.
Trying to find time to attend a two-hour lecture on Friday night or talk with a consultant for an hour Monday morning is often impractical. However, if you pick up a book, you can access the ideas you need when you need them.
There are hundreds of very good, good, and not-so-good business books published every year, so be sure to read the customer reviews before you invest your money or your time.
In The One Thing You Need to Know…About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success, Marcus Buckingham’s considerable experience and extensive research make the book significant, and his entertaining, concise style make it readable. Clearly compelling is his distinction between how to manage and how to lead, and how to be successful at both.
But also of interest is his research into the question, “What would happen if men and women spent more than 75 percent of each day on the job using their strongest skills and engaged in their favorite tasks, basically doing exactly what they wanted to do?” His findings: Companies that focus on cultivating employees’ strengths rather than simply improving their weaknesses stand to dramatically increase efficiency while allowing for maximum personal growth and success.
SNAP Selling: Speed Up Sales and Win More Business with Today’s Frazzled Customers, is an easy-to-read, easy-to-use guide by internationally recognized sales strategist Jill Konrath, who draws on her years of selling experience, as well as the stories of other successful sellers.
The information is practical, including her SNAP Rules. Keep it Simple: When you make things easy and clear for your customers, they’ll change from the status quo. Be iNvaluable: You have to stand out by being the person your customers can’t live without. Always Align: To be relevant, make sure you’re in sync with your customers’ objectives, issues and needs. Raise Priorities: To maintain momentum, keep the most important decisions at the forefront of their mind.
While it’s easy to “publish” content online, creating and marketing “quality content” is a very different story, which is covered in Accelerate!: Move Your Business Forward Through the Convergence of Search, Social & Content Marketing by Arnie Kuenn.
Accelerate!, winner of the 2012 Small Business Book Award by Small Business Trends, not only provides a comprehensive understanding of what it takes to execute a successful content marketing strategy, it teaches how to do it. And, it gives you the ability to select from search and social media strategies that fit your time and budget. You can implement one or two recommendations, or completely overhaul your digital marketing approach.
As Harvey Mackay, one of our favorite business writers, says, “You don’t have to know everything, as long as you know people who know the things you don’t.”