Archive for April 2011
Many of us who work in the small business sector never give much thought about our brand. We assume that type of thing is for the large companies with advertising budgets and advertising agencies on retainer. That is not correct. We need to focus on how we present ourselves, especially now that even the smallest company can be actively involved in media through Facebook, Twitter and blogs such as this one.
The small company should always be thinking about their brand. What does it stand for and how do you maintain or increase its value? Don’t think in terms of a sophisticated Madison Avenue ad campaign costing millions of dollars, think of it in terms of your favorite local shop that has been around for generations serving their customers. Is it a bakery, restaurant, auto repair shop or something else? What makes them so successful? I watch the television program Diners, Drive Ins and Dives on the Food Network regularly and enjoy the food that is showcased but I also consciously look for what makes them successful. In the years I have been watching, I cannot ever remember them interviewing the marketing department to discuss the catchy ad they ran to attract and maintain business.
Generally what makes the company successful are the following attributes:
- A high quality product, also applies to a service
- Consistency of the product/service (McDonald’s rates this very high throughout its franchise)
- Developing a niche
- Passion for their product
- Extreme customer focus
- Good QPR – quality/price ratio (Bang for the buck but not necessarily “cheap”)
When I look at the list above I don’t think there is anything on it that can’t be achieved by any business. Nothing on it requires a huge capital investment or other barrier that would preclude a small business from meeting all the attributes. A small business that achieves the items on the list above will have a great brand. Another thing for the small business to keep in mind is that you are injecting yourself into all of those in one way or another. YOU are the brand. Assess yourself honestly by asking; “Am I doing anything that is destroying my brand?” If you are, cease and desist, you are only hurting yourself.
Let’s take this week and focus on maximizing our brand value by knocking the socks off of our customers. If you are lacking any of the attributes above, work on it until you can say you do them all well. Have a great week.
We recently purchased a convection oven and have just started to use that feature instead of standard baking. We were aware that the convection process cooks the food faster but we did not know how to adjust the time accordingly. Of course we did not consult the owner’s manual which probably has many useful tips. Instead, we decided to “wing it” and keep our eye on the food and call it done with a visual inspection of the food product. What we found through a few trial and error attempts was that the food cooked was ready about 20% sooner while using the same temperature. Our 2 trial and error attempts were a rising crust frozen pizza (Supreme) and frozen French fries. While doing a little research on the topic for this blog, I learned via the internet that many times the cooking temperature can also be reduced in addition to the time.
An 8 pound bone-in turkey breast usually takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes at 350 in a conventional oven but only 1 hour 41 minutes at 330 degrees with a convection unit. How do I know that you may ask? Well, this is where the power of the internet kicks in. I simply googled “convection oven cooking times” and the web site below was listed – try it out for yourself :
Not only am I saving energy in two ways by having shorter cook times and lower temperatures, I am saving on my electric bill and most important of all delivering the fresh, steaming hot pizza to my pie-hole six minutes faster. I may actually use the extra six minutes saved in cooking time to get out the owner’s manual and read up on the manufacturer’s suggestion on the proper use of this thing.
If you want to see a more dramatic result, consider the recommendations found in the box of Reynolds Oven Bags for beef brisket. Using their bags for an 8 pound brisket they recommend 325 degrees for 3 hours and 15 minutes. Using the convection converter on the web site above they recommend 305 degrees for 2 hours and 26 minutes. That is almost an hour faster – color me impressed. Of course if you were a barbecue aficionado you would cook it at 170 degrees for 16 hours over an open fire.
Have a savory week.
Goal setting, whether done formally through documentation or informally with mental notes is done by most businesses. I cannot imagine a single successful business that does not prepare goals in one form or another. If not done, the business would be drifting aimlessly without a strategic direction. At some point, a company without goals will fail unless they have a goal to chase.
My approach to goal setting is simple. To start I always set a goal that is beyond what has been previously been achieved – that is the easy part. The hard part comes in deciding how far I want to push myself. Do I go for 10% improvement or 15%? I also believe that your goal must be set high enough that if not reached you can be sure that you were pushed to do better than you would have done without a target.
Whatever you do, the goal must be realistic so that those on your team will approach the challenge with a hunger in their belly and not with eyes rolling at a pipe dream. Over the years, I have been involved in goals that have been a challenge but were attainable and in goals that I felt were in need of a magic wand to succeed. When I was involved in a goal that was set too high, it challenged my professionalism to stick with it and inevitably I only continued by half-heartedly going through the motions. Again, I stress that the goal setting must have all involved taking ownership of their piece of the plan. If one person does not buy in 100% to the plan, then they will be the weak link in your chain and very likely will be where you will fail. As is the case throughout business, goal setting is all about people truly working as a team. At the start, if you have your team fired up and behind the goal then your chance for success is greatly improved.
Finally, remember that if the business environment has changed, perhaps reaching a goal of previous attainment is the most that you can do. If the economy is extremely sluggish and other companies are down sizing, holding the line and remaining at last year sales volume is a great accomplishment. In some cases, even a goal that is below previous levels of success may be the most realistic goal.
Have a great week achieving results by using the proper goal setting process.
We all look forward to going out to our favorite restaurant for a nice meal. Every once in a while we hit a home run with our choice for food, beverage, dining companions and similar frame of mind. When we do, it is usually a night to remember. I will recount one such experience from several years ago that still ranks as a fond memory.
I don’t recall the exact occasion and I believe there was no special purpose for dining out that night. No anniversary, birthday or other milestone to mark – just a night out with good friends. We went to an Italian restaurant that night. It began with an appetizer of warm crusty bread and seasoned olive oil. The conversation and laughs flowed easily as the salad arrived right on time.
While we were finishing our salads and bread, the main course arrived. I remember the aroma floating in my direction and confirming my choice. I ordered a simply prepared dish of pasta with sausage. I nodded with anticipation as the waiter shaved some cheese over my plate. Earlier we had ordered a bottle of wine to share with the meal and it seemed to be in everyone’s sweet spot, matching nicely for what we were all eating.
The evening gently wore on as we talked between bites of food, sips of wine and more soft laughter. Even as it was unfolding, I knew this night was special. Individually, the food, wine and atmosphere were all good that night but not the best I’ve ever experienced. It was just the right combination of all factors that made the totality of the experience sublime. As we waited at the table to pay for our meal, we quietly sat as a glow was enveloping us in a warm blanket. As I sat, I felt the same deep, calm that washes over you right before you have your last conscious thought before falling asleep. You can’t buy that anywhere and it can’t be re-created. All you can do if you are lucky is recognize the moment and ride the wave for all it is worth.
Have a great week. Bon appétit my friends.