Friday, July 22, 2011

Five Franchise Tips

imageThis article was written by Betty Otte, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor

If you are thinking about purchasing a franchise, keep the following 5 tips in mind:

You are a customer to the franchisor. Many people believe that going into a franchise is like forming a partnership where you, the franchisee, will be protected from failure. This is not true. While franchisee companies have a much higher success rate than individual start-up companies, up to 20% of all franchises do not do well. However, this failure rate is far lower than that of individual start-ups.

You and the franchisor have different goals. Although both parties, franchisee and franchisor, have the common goal of building the brand, the franchisor’s goal is to sell franchises, and the franchisee’s goal is to service the consumer or end user.

You may not have an ongoing relationship with the franchisor sales representative. If you are dealing with an independent agent or with one of the brokerage houses which represent franchisors, chances are that although they are knowledgeable about the franchise, you will not see that person after the point of sale. If you are dealing with a sales person salaried by the franchisor, he or she will want to work with you in the future, and that may cause the sales process to take on a different perspective.

You have legal rights when dealing with the franchisor. Be careful if the franchisor tells you how much you can earn if you invest in their system. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires that franchisors that make such claims provide you with written substantiation. Be sure to ask for and receive this. If they don’t provide it, consider the claims to be suspect.

You are protected by the FDD. The franchise disclosure document (FDD) defines what the franchisor will do for you and expects of you. You must carefully review the UFOC before purchasing the franchise. The FTC protects franchisee prospects up until the point of sale, but after this, the UFOC becomes vitally important.

SCORE has over 10,500 volunteers ready to help mentor you, many of whom have franchise experience. Seek help from your nearest SCORE office or online counselor. SCORE counseling is always free and confidential.

1-on-1: Working from Home

Balancing Work and Family Life

John Assaraf ,Tony Jeary, Nancy Michaels - June 2, 2009

The Experts Up Close
Tony Jeary
is a life coach to top CEOs all over the world and the author of Strategic Acceleration, Succeed at the Speed of Life.

Nancy Michaels is a nationally known business-development coach, author, speaker, consultant to women and minority business owners, and author of Perfecting Your Pitch.

John Assaraf is one of the experts featured in the film and book The Secret, which he helped launch. He is a national expert on achieving financial freedom and living an extraordinary life. He co-authored his most recent book, The Answer.

Q. I run a business, and my spouse expects me to take care of most of the personal errands because my schedule is more flexible. How can I get my spouse to understand that I am working, too?

Tony Jeary: Clarifying expectations for both parties is a must. What’s the big picture in marriage and in all relationships? It’s winning together and winning separately and being clear on both. How each person wins individually and how you win together are vitally important and will have huge impacts on how situations like this are dealt with.

John Assaraf: The best way to do this is to have a set of agreed-upon expectations and goals and a way to value each other’s contribution to the family. Consider hiring a student to do the other lower-paying activities, giving you the freedom to continue doing what you really want. I also suggest a heart-to-heart with your spouse to get on the same playing field and to determine each other’s responsibilities.

Nancy Michaels: Gently try to explain to your spouse that, although you have flexibility in your work schedule, it’s important for you to be focused and productive during working hours so that you can spend your nights and weekends enjoying quality time with your family, instead of attempting to finish work-related projects because you were busy running personal errands during your office hours.

Perhaps make a task list of household chores and items that each of you could do during the week could be listed and distributed so they won’t interfere with your work schedule and productivity. Another option for dual-income families to consider is hiring someone to run these errands on a weekly or bimonthly basis. With a challenging economy, you’re likely to find someone in your area who is happy to run errands for you, helping you save your business and your marriage in good stead.

Q. I have to travel a lot to promote my business. How can I be on the road but stay connected to my spouse and kids?

Tony Jeary: I stay connected through photo sharing and text messaging. In fact, I’m flying back from Australia as I’m answering this question, and the whole time I was gone launching my new book, signing autographs and doing interviews abroad, I was sending e-pictures to my kids and wife (and even to my mom and dad). Today’s PDAs offer some great options. Also, connecting with my kids by text message before they go to bed or when they’re on their way to school just makes good sense. Determine what works for your family, and then keep communication a top priority.

Nancy Michaels: As much as possible, utilizing technology in order to stay connected while on the road is the short answer to your question; however, there are other ways to effectively promote your business while on the road as well. Digital cameras, video cameras with built-in ports to upload video easily, webcams, and Skype all have practical applications for those of us who need to travel due to the demands of our business. Nothing takes the place of face-to-face contact with prospects and clients, but the same is also true for those we are closest to—our family and friends. Think strategically about ways to communicate with prospects and clients through these methods as well. Much can be accomplished through technology at a fraction of the cost to your clients, which is always a welcome cutback. And after an initial contact or introduction is made and a solid track record of great performance established, many corporations and clients are happy to have virtual relationships with their key vendors.

Determine other ways to promote your business virtually—from your home office. After a long and unexpected illness and years of traveling, I decided to operate my business as virtually as possible. Of course, there are some occasions that will prevent you from utilizing technology alone to make the connection with a client, prospect or industry contact, but make the request initially to determine whether or not technology can bridge the gap or substitute for a face-to-face meeting. Often, a conference call where multiple parties can join in is often free and easy for everyone to use from a land line or online. Videoconferencing and webcasts also provide a viable way to reach out and touch someone without having to be physically present.

When you are on the road because of those unavoidable events where you absolutely have to be there (i.e., client pitch meetings, trade shows and conferences where high-level networking can take place, etc.), be mindful of the loved ones you’ve left behind, and be sure to pick up souvenirs and mementos from the respective cities you are visiting upon your return home. If your children know that they’ll receive a thoughtful gift that makes them aware that you miss them when you are away, the stress of traveling will have less of an effect on you as well as on your family.

John Assaraf: I also travel a lot, and I have a camera on my computer, one on my kids’ and one on my wife’s computer. We then use Skype or instant messenger to call and see each other. It’s the next best thing to being there. In addition, do some little projects built around where you are going with your kids so they are involved. This can be a fun experience so that they feel like you are connected to them. Take photos of your travels, send them postcards, and really make them feel like they are with you.

Q. I have always wanted to break away from the corporate grind to start my own business. How do I know if I am ready?

Nancy Michaels: If you’ve got a decent day job—albeit, one that you’d rather not be tied down to in order to start your own business—start to put away some extra income so the pressure will not be enormously great when you first venture out on your own. Ask yourself: Could my current employer possibly be a potential client for me? If so, what projects could they easily outsource that I would most qualify for? Are there other organizations or companies that I could work on a freelance or project basis for as well? Do I have the necessary skills to manage running a small business that go beyond what I do, such as project management, identifying the right resources to deliver the work I promise, etc.? If not, what do I need to work on in order to be most effective? Can I run my business from my home initially? Or do I need overhead expenses, such as rent, employees, etc., in order to get started?

Fortunately, my background was in public relations and marketing. If these are not your strongest areas, you need to get comfortable—or learn to be comfortable in your discomfort—in promoting yourself to your potential target markets and beyond. Be prepared to let everyone you have worked with in the past or currently work with know what your plans are, and ask for referrals. Be aware that you will be in the business of sales and marketing as a small-business owner—like it or not. Identify the key places where you would need to meet with potential buyers of your products or services (professional associations; conferences; trade shows; local networking organizations, such as the local chambers of commerce, etc.) and be sure to leverage your time and resources to grow your list of professional contacts and prospects.

Running your own business provides wonderful opportunities and potentials; however, I often say, “If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.” There’s often tremendous risk involved, and your individual or family resources can be substantial. It takes time, courage, and lots of determination and persistence in order to make a run of it. If you have the burning desire and fire in your belly to succeed and take some necessary and sound steps to lessen your risks, there’s no better way to make a living than by doing what you love.

Facebook Conversations Don't Achieve the Marketing Boost You Desire

imageBY Kit Eaton, in fastcompany.com, Tue Jul 5, 2011, reprinted by permission

Facebook Likes and comments are great, but they won't save your brand.

Researcher Dan Zarella (an expert in social media analysis) set out to prove they would at least help. He found the opposite results. Zarella has been looking into all sorts of aspects of social networking and branding, and as part of a study into "engaging in conversation" in social media venues, Zarella looked at Facebook's social interactions with a general expectation that a conversation on Facebook would actually boost subtle factors like brand reach and effective marketing, with customers more inclined to view and interact with more dynamic pages. He was wrong.

Zarella's study looked at the correlation between impressions per post (essentially the number of page views a post gets) and feedback per post (a tacit measure of how interested the public is in the post material, measured in comments and "likes"). Using Facebook Insights data, which is only accessible to page admins, he looked at 12 months of data and found merely a "weak negative correlation." In other words, the posts that get slightly more views actually have fewer likes and comments.

Furthermore, the same gently negative correlation was found when Dan tried to correlate feedback per post and the number of impressions the next post got (a measure of reader's keenness to return to the feed). Meaning: A highly viewed post isn't particularly going to attract readers.

Curious if the data was merely a glitch, Zarella tried to examine a similar relationship between post popularity and feedback using Facebook's own EdgeRank system (the back-room code that helps determine which friend's status/news appears in your feed) and found that "The amount of 'conversation' that happens on your Facebook posts has nothing to do with the number of people who will see it."

So, memo to PR folks busy prepping big-money Facebook promotional campaigns: If you're trying to push brand penetration with a Facebook post, don't worry too much about inciting a comment conversation or "likes" reaction, and don't applaud yourself too loudly on how many comments or "Likes" you do get. They don't, according to this study, translate to return visitors or increased brand penetration.

SUCCESS OR FAILURE -- your choice.

imageThis article was written by Barry McKinley, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor

We have all recently read about the raid on Osama Bin Laden. As the story unfolded we learned that the President and Government have been aware of where he was for many months. Our government planned the attack over months and even created a home and street exactly like where the attack would take place. When our highly trained soldiers finally had the opportunity to perform their duties everything went off perfectly. They knew what to do, where each solider would be and exactly what to do in the event of a need for a backup plan. They had a backup to a backup!

Interestingly enough, as business people many times we are very poorly prepared for going into business. We don’t know who our competition is, we don’t know who our customers are and we don’t know why customers should select us.

I recently counseled a client who was setting up a web based business. In our discussions I learned he knew nothing about the internet, web site design, order and payment process nor had he looked at any of his competitors sites. In further discussion the client said because he knew nothing about web sites he had turned it over to an ‘expert’ who he had hired – cheaply! Further dialogue revealed he knew nothing about the web designer and had based his entire business decision on a “cheap” hourly rate and that he was an Ex-Marine.

As we talked more the client revealed that he had not given the web designer any instructions, or provided him with any guidelines or expectations. As I further probed and pointed out all of the areas the client’s web site should address his only answer was “I don’t understand web sites, so I turned it over completely to the web designer!” Unfortunately the web designer has absolutely no experience or knowledge in the field and products that the client was going to feature on his site and the client provided no information. Chances of success are one in 100 million! (and that is probably low!!)

If you wanted to build a house would you hire a designer (you never met or knew anything about), and give them full rein to select the home site, determine costs, even the city that it would be located in, the size, style, etc. and base your entire decision on their hourly rate? I am sure you wouldn’t! Yet why do so many people in business not learn about what they are doing before they jump in and make decisions and in many cases risking their entire life savings?

The client that I described told me that he had some other businesses in the past and none of them were successful. Gee . . . . Surprise, Surprise!!!

At SCORE we see as many clients coming to us after the fact! The business is struggling or close to closing when they first come to us. We are here to help with expert advice and years of experience, but we are certainly not miracle workers!

There is certainly no substitute for good planning. The old saying is still very true today. “Plan Your Work… Work Your Plan!”

Think Like a Champion: In Addition to Business

Donald Trump Discusses What the Successful Person Needs to Know

December 15, 2009, reprinted by permission

I’ve recently encountered a situation that brought me back to something I had learned a long time ago—that it’s not just business acumen, but integrity, that carries you forward in the business world. It’s as simple as keeping your word or, in some cases, remembering what your words were. It seems that, for some people, simple isn’t always easy.

I came from the world of construction and real estate development, which is known for being demanding and difficult, but it also requires precision. There can’t be anything haphazard in construction or people could be injured. “Happenstance” is not acceptable. I’ve applied that approach to everything I do.

I can remember when a visitor to my offices commented on how many blueprints there were. He said, “Some people have skeletons in their closets, but I can see that Trump has blueprints in his.” Sometimes I think people forget that I’m a builder, a developer. That’s my core, and blueprints are important. It took me a while to realize how valuable that background was in forming my discipline as a businessman. It gave me a foundation from which to operate and expand and a tendency toward thoroughness.

There’s integrity to building that cannot be compromised. We’ve all seen the results of hastily constructed buildings in the earthquakes and in other disasters around the world. I will not jeopardize the safety and well-being of people, and if I’m known to be a stickler for details, that is one of the reasons.

Our actions and words will eventually point us toward having a reputation for having integrity or not having integrity. I’ve been around long enough to know how valuable a commodity candor can be. As a businessperson, it’s a strength that can see you through everything.

Another important skill is negotiation. I receive many requests asking me about my negotiation skills, and there’s a balance to successful negotiation that many people fail to see. The best negotiation is when both sides win. There’s a compromise involved, which means careful listening, and when that is achieved, you’ll see results that work. Business is an art in itself, and powerful negotiation skills are one of the techniques necessary to facilitate success.

I give a lot of speeches, and one thing I will always emphasize is the importance of passion. If you don’t love what you’re doing, your margin for success is significantly reduced, and tough times will be much tougher to get through. Passion gives a resiliency that is necessary to achieve great things. Michelangelo is remembered in our time more than any pope or politician of his time simply because he gave the world so much— and against great odds. That guy was intransigent. There is no doubt that he was passionate about what he was doing. When things seem difficult, it’s good to remind yourself of someone like that, someone who kept the integrity of his art first and foremost in his mind and actions.

"Intrinsic value is a value that has been overlooked in today's marketplace...Not everything is dollars and cents, although in many cases it has to be. Look for the gray areas; it will enhance your life as well as your business sense."

The second point I will bring up when it comes to success is that you cannot give up. You have to keep going and moving forward, no matter what is happening around you or to you. It’s a form of positive thinking that is very powerful. A word that comes to mind as a result of this approach is indomitable. I overcame some great setbacks just by being obstinate. I refused to give in or give up. To me, that’s an integrity of purpose that cannot be defeated or interfered with to any significant level. Being steadfast in your intentions can reap great results.

The other word I like to think of along with indomitable is tenacious. In a way, they are almost interchangeable when it comes to business. Being tenacious will make you indomitable in the long run. The old tortoise vs. the hare story still prevails.

With today’s globalization, I will emphasize the importance of paying attention to global events. The United States cannot be isolationist. We may be the superpower, but what that really means is that we have more responsibility. Our position requires us to be more alert, more careful and more empathetic than ever. Power is at its best when it’s used in the most compassionate way possible.

When it comes to business success, it is equally important to know that success carries the same sort of responsibility. Always know that you can be topped and that you can be toppled over. Keeping that in mind will guarantee that you are in your best form for competition. Even if you are currently the top gun, pretend that you are the underdog. I t will improve your insight as well as your vision.

Intrinsic value is a value that has been overlooked in today’s marketplace. Everything has a dollar value, and it becomes very black and white. That is necessary in business. We live in a tangible world with tangible needs. But I will say that I often look for the obscure, the gray area, that implies a mystery or a value that is more than money alone can carry. I think most people will know what this is—something that is beyond monetary value. I read a story about an art collector who had amassed a fortune in art, but his prized possession was a painting of his deceased son done by a friend of his son’s. This painting was hung next to works by Picasso, Matisse, Monet and MirĂ³. But it mattered most to the art collector. Its intrinsic value far surpassed the millions represented by the masters. When the collector died, he bequeathed his entire collection to the person who bought the painting of his son, which was sold for $10.

I mention intrinsic value because, as a businessman, it’s something that gives integrity and even mystery to everyday business. Not everything is dollars and cents, although in many cases it has to be. Look for the gray areas; it will enhance your life as well as your business sense.

As a businessman, I have realized that “to whom much is given, much is expected.” See yourself as having a lot already, and keep your integrity intact. It’s the best way to pave your way to a comprehensive success.

Is Micromanagement Hurting Your Business?

From success.com, reprinted by permission

Is micromanagement hurting your business? If you or another supervisor at your company is a micromanager, it could be causing more problems than you know. In a recent survey by FINS, 68 percent of employees said they’d turn down a dream job if their boss would second-guess everything they did.

Micromanagement affects the majority of the workplace. According to another survey cited by FINS, nearly 80 percent of people have been micromanaged at some point in their careers. Of those, 85 percent said micromanagement damaged their morale, nearly three-fourths said it hurt job performance and more than one-third had changed jobs to escape it.

Small business owners frequently micromanage because they feel that the business is their “baby” and no one can do things as well as they can. This attitude keeps your employees from developing their skills—which ultimately hurts your business. If employees feel you don’t trust them, they’ll become resentful and stop trying. Then, you’ll have even more burden on you, and your business won’t grow.

What can you do to nip micromanagement in the bud—whether it’s coming from you or another manager at your company? The first step is recognizing that a problem exists. That’s fairly easy if the problem is coming from someone else—but if you’re the micromanager, you may not realize it.

One way to learn how you’re really doing is to encourage an honest relationship with employees. You can institute 360 degree performance reviews, in which you get reviewed by everyone who reports to you. Or maybe you can ask a partner or key employee in the business you trust to give you some honest feedback. (Personally, one of the best things anyone ever did for me was the time one of my direct reports confessed my micromanaging was driving her crazy.)

Once you’ve identified the problem, the next step is determining how to handle it. Micromanagement often stems from a desire for information, says one expert cited by FINS. To help eliminate micromanagement, sit down with your employees to discuss what kind of information you need from them. Figure out a system in which they can provide you with the information so you don’t need to bug them about it.

Gaining information can be something as simple as holding weekly status meetings or having employees check items off a chart when a task is completed. A complex business with multiple deadlines may want to implement project management software such as Basecamp or Zoho. Using these tools, employees can update project status as they complete tasks. The micromanager can log in and get all the information he or she needs, without being a pest.

Of course, sometimes you have to recognize that you’re simply asking for too much information. This is where you and your team need to have an honest discussion. What aspects can you leave out of the equation? Find a middle ground that won’t drive your team crazy, but will still leave you feeling confident that nothing is falling through the cracks.

The more you let go and trust your team, the more they will grow and the faster your business will grow.