Author: Jeff Haines

7 Ways Your Business Can Beat Walmart

Finding your competitive advantage A friend of mine recently relocated his retail business from one end of town to the other. Aside from relocating to street with more foot traffic, he explained that he wanted to get his store “as far away from Walmart as possible”. On the face of it, that seems like a smart move. But it doesn’t really matter if his shop is located across town or across the street from Walmart. While location is often an important factor in a retail business’ success, it’s the entrepreneur’s competitive advantage that will enable it to compete against big box stores with lots of choices and rock bottom prices. So even across town from the Most Massive Mass Market Retailer, my friend realized he needs to find more than several city blocks of distance to delight his customers and have them return r egularly to fill their shopping baskets, not just to grab one or two things and be on their way. If you’re a retailer, you have surely asked yourself how you might best compete against the big box competition. The trick is to be to your customers what Walmart is not. Walmart is the low price leader, offering an enormous breadth and depth of products, many of which are basic in design, mass produced, and often of low quality. Ok, great, what does that mean for...

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Entrepreneur: Are You a Planter or a Gardener?

After moving her family into their newly built home, Jane turns her attention to landscaping her yard. Her list is long: she needs trees, shrubs, a nice green lawn, the sprinkler system to keep it that way, uplighting, some decorative elements and a blueprint to tie it all together.  She finds a landscaping architect to do the “planting”; to grade the yard, put down topsoil, install lighting and irrigation and to plant the green stuff all in a way to make it look magical. Once installed, the work of the Planter company is done. To do the yard maintenance, the homeowner will need a different service- a Gardener. This company comes on a regular basis and does the difficult and tedious work of mowing, edging, pruning, sweeping and disposing of the green waste. So it is often the same with entrepreneurs. Many in the entrepreneurial community start with an idea infused with creativity and then structure it around a business plan. Once that business is up, running and growing, about three years in, the entrepreneur’s activities change dramatically. Instead of schmoozing investors, developing full product and service lines, designing the brand, web site and sales collateral, he fills his days with maintaining the web site, blog and social media, picking, packing and shipping orders, entering bookkeeping data, chasing customers for payment and even cleaning the company bathroom. It’s less...

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7 Steps To A Successful Project Post-Mortem

“That project was a debacle” The description of insanity as “Doing the same thing and expecting a different result” couldn’t be truer, especially when an organization fails to methodically assess the reasons for a failed project or failing processes. Did your trade show promotion fail to attract new customers? Are bottlenecks in Production are causing lost sales? Is Marketing chronically dissatisfied with artistic renderings from the Creative Department? Your next project is more likely to fail unless you take an hour or two to more thoroughly assess how and why a project didn’t fully meet expectations for success. Here are seven steps you can follow to conduct a successful post-mortem on a project or process in your company: Gather together all stakeholders to define what success is for the project. Is it increased sales? promotion of the brand? meeting deadlines? Create a “safe” environment to discuss your challenges. Make it clear you want to find solutions to the problem by brainstorming, not blamestorming. Challenge each participant during the meeting to come up with at least one action they can take to make a measurable improvement to the existing process. Map the process from start to finish, highlighting what works and what doesn’t. Identify errors, bottlenecks and delays, then outline how and why they occur. Caution the participants in assigning blame to any individual. If a specific person is causing...

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Don’t Let Passion Kill Your Startup

Few entrepreneurs start businesses to offer a product or service that they’re not passionate about. Many entrepreneurs have been enjoying a hobby for years and one day decide to make a business proposition out of that hobby. Passion is an essential part of starting and developing a successful business, but without applying business smarts, the venture is likely to fail. Applying sound business principles to any startup will channel all that energy in the right directions, kind of like a guard rail on a mountain road keeps a speeding car from soaring into a chasm. The high failure rate in new restaurants is not driven by poor quality food but more often because they are founded and managed by cooks with a passion for food but no formal business training. As an entrepreneur with a fantastic idea and enough funding to make a go of it, you need to be aware of the following ways your passion can sink your business: Lack of Preparedness: Under no circumstances should you start a business without a written plan. You need to establish what you are going to sell and what customer need will it satisfy? How are you better than your competition? Understand your costs and prices so that you know how much profit you can expect to make. When will you break even? Not Having Ready Customers: Put the movie...

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Divide Your Labor and Prosper

Published in 1776, British philosopher Adam Smith wrote in The Wealth of Nations that labor is most productive when it is divided into simple, discrete actions. Even in the manufacture of simple products, such as a wooden chair, the division of labor improves productivity dramatically. The simpler the task to be performed, the more productive the worker becomes. Smith provided three ways in which this division drives productivity. First, each worker becomes an expert in his or her activity, reducing error and increasing efficiency.  Second, by focusing on one, rather than several tasks, the worker does not waste time switching from one activity to another.  Third, innovation springs from workers focused throughout their work day on one task, making it both easier and more efficient. Entrepreneurs 237 years later, particularly those going into business by themselves, must be Chef, Cook and Bottle Washer. By having to undertake each task to keep the business running and growing, they learn all aspects of their business. However, this hands-on approach makes them the proverbial Jack Of All Trades, Master Of None and leaves the business much less productive than it could be. They drop everything to travel to a 4 day trade show where they take a few dozen orders and then return to pick, pack and ship those orders over the next couple of days. After the orders are shipped, the...

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