The Search and the Solution

For any small business it is always wise to know what your competition’s pricing is in comparison to yours.  You are competing in the same marketplace and with the same potential customers, so you need to know how you stack up.

Where your product is also online, you have another challenge as today’s consumer usually checks out the product and pricing before coming to your establishment.  This means you need to know your product well as they are knowledgeable customers and they know what price they can get it for online.

Over that past year I had a problem with a sealant, which would not adhere to acrylic that was subject to flexing.  I read countless articles, many of which pointed to a product that did not work and there were lots of comments that confirmed my experience.  I did find a comment from a master plumber who talked about a product he used with great success.  I had not heard of the product, so I set out to find it.

None of the local hardware or builders supply businesses had even heard of it.  On the internet I found wholesalers who were willing to sell me a dozen tubes, but not a single.  I resorted to Amazon.ca and found a tube for $35 and it would ship for free.  I stored the information and tried another work-around to my problem, but after 3 months it too was a failure, so back to Amazon.

Now it did not exist on Amazon!  In frustration I went onto e-bay.ca and there it was, $45 a tube plus $29 shipping to Canada, plus customs duties!  They did not list one Canadian supplier.  In desperation I did another search on Google and to my surprise it listed Industrial Plastics as a supplier and there was one in town.  I must say that after all I had gone through to find this product I was skeptical that I would find it at the store.  The clerk led me right to the display and I got my tube for $17!

So, why this long story?  Sometimes we, as consumers, don’t look for a product or service in the right place.  I went to where they sell the problem and they could not help me.  I should have gone to where they sell the material that my problem was made from.

The internet, bless its heart, is a rabbit warren of information.  Some is put on by those who, although their intention is to help, only add to the problem and take up volumes of your time.  Major builder supply outlets posted that they carried the product, when in reality, they did not have it in their stores or online and had no knowledge of the product.

If you are in business, engage your customers.  Know their wants, needs and expectations.  If they have a problem with your product or service, try to solve it.  Even if in the end you can’t solve it they will respect that you tried.

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”  Bill Gates

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Posted in Business Coaching, Customers, Elephant in the Room, Elephants, Entrepreneurs, Internet, Listening, self-employment, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Good, Bad, and the Ugly

There is no doubt that the internet has changed the way we live work and play.

Growing up, the reference walls in the school or public libraries were lined with encyclopedias and other reference materials.  Encyclopedias were sold door-to-door and adorned the bookshelves in many homes.  Some had Encyclopedia Britannica, World Book Encyclopedia, and others Grolier.  These books were carefully researched, and update books were available annually.

The good is that we have more information at our fingertips than at any other time in history.  If you need to know how to do anything, it is on the internet somewhere.  It provides a venue for the arts and events worldwide.

The bad is that the information is not necessarily correct, or the best information.  Case in point; I needed to change the headlight in my truck.  I had tried to figure it out on my own but could not see a reasonable way to get at it.  The Youtube video was very good giving step-by-step instructions on removing the grill and other parts of the front end to gain access to the burned-out bulb.

This seemed a tad extreme to replace a headlight.  I could not believe that the Detroit engineers could have designed something so inconvenient, but then again, they could have been the same ones who thought it convenient to put the fuel pump into the gas tank.

Fortunately, I read to the bottom of the comments on the video and the last comment was, “I used these”, and it was a picture of a pair of slip-joint pliers.  I got mine out of the toolbox and replaced the bulb from the back in a couple of minutes.

The ugly is there are those with too much time on their hands who deliberately put false or dangerous information on the web for unsuspecting users.  Malware, viruses and phishing are all too common.

The bottom line is use caution.  When looking for something on the web, use more than one source of information and compare so that you can make an educated decision.  Remember that nothing comes without a price and if it seems too good to be true, it probably isn’t.

Be careful out there in cyberland!

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Posted in Communication, Elephant in the Room, Elephants, Empowering people, Internet, Lifestyle | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Reason to Change

Doing self-employment training and support, I often hear, “I only want to be small”, or “I don’t use technology in the business, so it won’t impact my business”, or “I don’t need to put in training money because I’m experienced”.

It really doesn’t matter whether you are a little or big business, you need to be prepared for change.  No matter how prepared you are or think you are, it will happen.  It might be your competition bringing in a new product or service, which may draw your customers away.  It may be an online supplier in another location, halfway around the world, that can provide your products cheaper. So much for technology not impacting your business!

There are constant changes in how things are done, whether you are in the trades, make widgets, or roast coffee. Marketing changes the trends, and as a result, the needs and wants of customers and clients.

These changes have influenced change in many businesses.  The fitness industry which relied on long-term contracts, now finds itself competing with the $5 a week, 24 hour, fitness centres.  Many of the larger retailers have found themselves the ‘display room’ for those who, once they see and feel the product, buy it for less online.  This has affected technology stores, and department stores.  The survivors are the ones who have adapted and developed their own online presence.

The beauty of small business is that they can usually react quicker to change.  The object is to be proactive and ahead of the curve.  Being reactive means you are following the curve and may lose out as a result.  You need to be the one who is ahead of the curve.

Being current with trends and technology will help in the struggle to remain ‘in charge’.

“Even if you‘re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there”. – Will Rogers

Make sure you keep moving in a positive direction and prepare for change!

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Posted in Believe and Succeed Life Coaching, Business Coaching, Business Planning, Communication, Economy, Elephant in the Room, Elephants, Entrepreneurs, Marketing, self-employment | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Appreciation for the Story

I was reminded last night of the importance of listening to someone’s story before making up one of your own.  Over my lifetime I have developed a deep appreciation for music, music of all genres.  That is, except for rap.  Last night I watched an interview with Jay-z, and, while I still won’t rush out and buy rap, the genre makes more sense to me now.  His background gives reason for his huge popularity and I applaud his success and giving back to the community.

Everyone has a story and many times it is what defines who they are and what they do with their lives.  It can drive their passion for what they are doing, or it can suck it out of them.  Circumstance and their ability to make good choices and rise above the situation determines where they arrive in life.

An example of this are the homeless in our communities.  I hear the comments about drugs being the reason they are on the street now.  That for many is why they are there now, but was it drugs that took them there?  However, some are persons with a learning or physical disability that has made it difficult to get and keep employment, others have mental illness.  There are also the working poor, who, because of circumstance, can find minimum wage work but cannot find housing.

There is a fine line between helping and enabling.  Currently we are assisting with food, temporary cold weather accommodation, showers, clothing, and spare change.  But, what are we doing to change their circumstance?

Desmond Tutu said, “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”

We need to listen to the stories, appreciate where they have been, find the real need, before we can move them forward.  Anything else will not change the circumstances and only create a hole for others to fall into.

Listen to the story.

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Posted in Believe and Succeed Life Coaching, Clients, Coaching, Communication, Diversity, Elephant in the Room, Elephants, Empowering people, Environment, Lifestyle, Listening, Volunteering | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Culture of Learning

What have your employees learned today?

What nugget will they take away today that will make them more effective tomorrow, or better equipped to handle the pace?

Will it be technical, giving them new skill to add to their storehouse, or will it be soft skills to better apply and communicate those technical skills?

Whatever, your employees are front and centre when it comes to your bottom line.  Give them the competitive advantage and create a culture of learning in your business or organization.

Too often I hear of employers trying to hire for all the skills they need rather than hiring employees with a desire to learn and grow.  Employees who know everything there is to know about the job when they are hired won’t stick around as we all need to be challenged to do our best work.

Employees also need to learn that everyone is ‘self-employed’.  By that I mean that the only person in charge of their learning and career development is themselves.  Yes, some employers will pay for courses and while that is a bonus, the courses they pay for are ones they think you need for the tasks you do, not necessarily the ones that will develop your career for the future.

Over the years I have also heard employers say, “What if I spend money training them and then they leave?”  They really should be considering, “What if I don’t train them and they stay?”

Building the learning culture will attract employees to your business or organization.  Most people will contribute more and thrive in a learning environment.

What does your organization’s culture look like?

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Posted in Believe and Succeed Life Coaching, Business Coaching, Career development, Coaching, Communication, Elephant in the Room, Elephants, Employees, Empowering people, Environment, Life coaching, self-employment, Training | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Puzzling World

We live in a world of contradictions.  We are repeatedly told that stress is a killer, but we fall victim to it in all of our interactions.

I was at a forum today where it was mostly managers or executives.  They were there because they wanted to learn, or their boss said to attend.  What was ever present were smartphones.  They were evident because they were constantly being referred to and either texts sent, or the person left the room, presumably to make or receive a call.

As someone who is a trainer and worked in Human Resources for many years, there are a couple of things very wrong about this.  The first is obvious.  Why would you spend money to attend an event if you really are not there?  Either come to the event with the intent to be present or stay away.  Your mind cannot be in two places at once and trying to do so involves stress.

The second, and more disturbing observation, is the fact that you appear to be the only person in the organization that can make a decision or answer a question and that is dangerous for any organization.  If it is a family emergency, then fair ball, but unless the organization is on fire, someone else should know what is going on and be able to answer the questions for a day.

When I do training for an organization I ask that it be held off-site and that cell phones are turned off.  There is nothing more annoying to a facilitator than to see the participants glued to their electronics.

I watched quite a few participants at the forum who would not be taking back full value of the event and likely were a little stressed in the process.

Attending an event?  Go with the intent of being present.

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Posted in Business Coaching, Business Planning, Coaching, Communication, Elephant in the Room, Elephants, Empowering people, Facilitator, Human resources, Listening, Managing stress | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Damn Millennials!

“The children now love luxury.  They have bad manners, contempt of authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.”  This quote was from Socrates’ writings more than 2000 years ago.

The more things change the more perception remains the same.  I hear the same things today about our young generation, and I am tired of it.  Yes, they respond differently, they have had different experiences shaping their lives; technology, 9/11, inflated housing market.

They are also a product of the boomers who wanted the children to have the things many of them didn’t have growing up; cars, college education, current toys.  Most millennials did not lack for what they wanted.  They were expected to go to college or university and as a result wound up with an education, but a huge student debt load as well with low paying jobs as a reward for the education.

Millennials tended to be raised to be independent and this carries forward to their view of work.  They like to think for themselves and not do something because that is the way it has always been done.  They are problem solvers looking for quicker more-efficient ways of doing things.  If employers take advantage of this quality, it can be a benefit to the workplace.  Sadly, many employers just look at them as lazy, not wanting to fit the position when really, they are not being valued for their potential.

The millennials were not raised to see hierarchy and see everyone as equals.  They want to interact with everyone.  To some, this translates as having no respect for their elders.  ‘Respect’ in many ways has changed over the years and is more something that is earned, and not a ‘right’.

My observation from interviewing students over the past 10 years or so for Rotary programs has left me with the opinion that we are in good hands.  In our community we have Rotaract, Interact, and the Young Professionals of Nanaimo (YPN).  These are the young adults who are Millennials and their accomplishments are amazing.

These are the forward thinkers of tomorrow and our leaders.  Learn to engage them wisely, we will all benefit!

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Posted in Business Coaching, Coaching, Communication, Diversity, Elephant in the Room, Elephants, Employment, Empowering people, Entrepreneurs, Life coaching, Older Worker, Relationships, Retirement, Team development, Young Professionals | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment