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The Owners Play Academy is for business owners that feel like they don’t have any free time?
Years ago I was sitting with a client who said he had no time off. At the time I was still flying jets in the Air Force Reserves. He wanted to know how I found the time and ran TeleData Enterprises. I have to first share that TeleData was my first income producing business. Before that I owned Nedra Century Company. A very small auto parts business that specialized in 1965-1968 Ford Mustangs. I was so bad at that business that I still have parts in my garage and haven’t owned a Mustang in almost 20 years.
A Born Work-a-Holic
From a very young age my dad and both grandfathers taught me the value of work. If you finished your work, you could play. Get caught playing before finishing work and there were repercussions. Usually more work. Being the second son, but 10 years younger than my brother created what most shrinks would say is a “second first child”. My brother left for boot camp at 17. I did not know why he left when I just turned 8, but did the same thing my self just over 9 years later without finishing High School.
Before I enlisted I worked three jobs. The first one had terrible hours. The second was at a Pizza place where I was fired for not learning how to make a pizza. The third was selling cars, which ethically I hated. Each of these jobs had a huge influence on the work I chose and all are part of what brought me to where I am today. The pizza job haunted me. Pizza can’t be that hard I thought. The lesson was I was thinking too much about it. Today I have a pizza oven at home and am very confident you would enjoy one of my pies. The process is almost therapeutic now that I don’t think about it, I just do it.
Car sales taught me that I don’t want to sell anything to someone they don’t want or need. It is why we won’t own any website we manage like other companies that will rent you your own business name online. Selling real estate years later re-enforced that idea. My wife was forced to quit a major department store chain because she wouldn’t push credit cards on people who couldn’t afford it.
Work Pays and Costs
The work ethic that my Dad and Grand dads instilled in me paid off. Quickly I figured out the best way to goof off in the military is to get high scores and get your work done quickly. I considered the military experience to be a slightly socialist experiment. My bosses gave equal work to everyone at the same pay grade. Only three every pushed me to do more. If I was smarter about my work, got done quicker and finished my education classes, I was released to my own vices. Sometimes that wasn’t always good. Most of the time it gave me a level of responsibility and freedom few others in my group had. Most importantly, that freedom gave me a chance to get my GED and start some college classes off base.
Eventually, I left active duty to finish college. This was my first brush with being near homeless. I had no idea how to manage money, and didn’t know it was a problem. I was very fortunate to land a job at Stanfords Graduate School of Business installing computer networks. Something no one else was doing (yet). I was also lucky that I was able to find friends and family willing to give me a place to sleep or very very cheap rent.
I also had a skill in marksmanship that caught the eye of some very important people. While in college I remained on the National Guard Combat Marksmanship team. I earned a commission and later a pilot training slot because of the wins at major competitions. You would think I had it made.
Just six years after I enlisted, I finished pilot training at the tail end of Operation Desert Storm. The Air Force thanked me for my service and said they had no money to pay me. The job I got flying C-26’s in Fresno California let me fly two or three times a month. My pay was a whopping $400 a month. My truck payment was $395. I was right back in beggars mode without the excuse of being a “poor college student”.
When I became a “traditional guardsman” as a pilot, I needed a job and had to find a place to live. The airlines were not hiring and I had no money. A friend of mine worked for his dad, and they wouldn’t hire me as an employee, so I started a company and subcontracted to them. He also let me sleep on his couch for a month or so while I realized I didn’t know how to manage money.
The Right Place and Time
My little startup that was me, a bag of tools and a pickup truck was called TeleData Enterprises. TeleData started at a time when the internet had less than 500 registered domain names. A network in a home was un attainable and offices where just starting to network. I learned from the military and my pizza boss how to teach simple tasks quickly. This let me buy more trucks and hire techs to do what I considered almost mindless work.
When I was essentially homeless. One thing my parents were never good at was managing money. My Dad used our homes like an ATM and every five years we moved. He died nearly broke. I wasn’t good at managing money then either. The GI bill paid for most of my school, so all of my paycheck went into cars and beer. You can’t rent a house with no deposit money.
I “camped” for a couple of days before a friend took pity and let me crash on his couch. Thankfully I did have a new pickup which let me start my business. After the first couple of jobs were done, I called up my mom’s second husband. Someone I consider a great friend and mentor and asked to rent a room. Less than a year later I bought my first home.
The journey from the Air Force and Air National Guard saying “we don’t have flying money” to me getting married and owning three houses took just over 24 months. During that entire time I took exactly three days off. I was the owner that didn’t know how to play and it was starting to show in my physicals. I was still flying in the Air Force Reserves, and had landed a great job in a great squadron flying KC-10’s. My wife landed a teaching job at the same base.
Learning How Owners Play
As my business grew we moved out to the “country club” neighborhood. We had driven around it for almost two years dreaming of the day we could buy in. Then it happened. The worst house on the best lot was for sale, and in such poor shape that no one would look at it. This was a major learning event for me. I learned that real estate agents don’t care about the buyer or the seller. They just want the commission. I asked to meet the sellers and after listening to how they go to a point they were about to lose the house, I crafted a win-win offer. My agent said I was crazy, her agent said “no-way” and that evening she signed the contract.
Still working 80 hours a week between flying in the reserves and running TeleData, my wife made me attend a local chamber fundraising dinner. I reluctantly agreed. At that dinner we won a three night cruise. It was the first time my pager and cell phone would not work. As we pulled out of Long Beach Harbor, a level of angst and fear came over me I had never experienced, even in combat. This was quickly followed by the realization that it was done. I went to our stateroom and took a nap from 11 am to 7 pm. We had an 8 pm dinner at the captains table. I wore a full military dress uniform and was back in bed by 11 pm. My body was able to relax for the first time in years.
On that cruise I met a contractor. Like me he always was hustling for more work. He said “do the deal, get a check, take a vacation.”. While it sounded nice, it brought up the fear of having no work and losing everything like my Dad did twice. For the next two days I got a great lesson in money management for small business owners, and learned how to play. It was very much in line with what both of my grand dads taught me and except for the bad financial habits, my Dad.
Stepping off that cruise ship my life was very different.
When that conversation happened with the client a few years back, the idea for the Owners Play Academy started. If you are a business owner and need to find a way to get a little better balance in life, stop living to work, and start working to live. Sign up for the Owners Play Academy Today.
Naming a business or product can be tricky business.
It isn’t any secret that companies have secrets. They also have names. How to name a business can be a make or break decision. Names are something many companies work hard on and spend a lot of money to protect. Try and sell a soda called Cola-Coke. As soon as the folks in Atlanta get wind of it, the lawyers will run you out of business. This is why naming a business is so tricky.
Recently I was approached by a company to feature a product on COOLTOYS® TV. The person claimed to have complete rights to the name. A little research showed otherwise. Putting that product on our show might have led to a lawsuit. At the minimum the company that owns the name could make us pull the episode. That would be a very expensive way to not have a show for a week.
Business Products and names can be a very expensive creative process. Think about energy drinks and what comes to mind? Red Bull? Monster? Bang? If you just say those words, does “Energy Drink” pop into your head? With Red Bull yes, but Monster and Bang, probably not so much. Since Monster could be “Sully” from Monsters Inc, or Godzilla, the brand name is a little vague. But have you ever seen a red bull? I haven’t. The two words mean energy drink to me.
How To Name A Business
Automatically having a consumer connect a name to a product is a result of finding a great name and spending a lot of money marketing (building) that connection. I am sure the first time someone looked at a can of Red Bull and tasted it, the response wasn’t “Red Bull gives you wings”. That was a long creative process. My hat is off to the group that built that brand.
Many years ago I started a blog about all the cool stuff my wife didn’t want to talk about. Since I owned a medium sized home theater design and installation business, I had a lot of cool toys. Over time I started racing in the 24 Hours of Lemons and doing more “cool things”. Had I trademarked the name early on, I might have been in good shape but it was just a blog so I didn’t bother.
Years after I sold the home theater business, the blog turned into a vlog. I named the vlog Tech-Tach-Dough. Tech was obvious. Tach was all the fun toys that had an engine and dough simply being money. The three things I liked to learn about and talk about. The original blog name stayed with the blog.
Do Your Homework or Get a Lesson
At first the name Tech-Tach-Dough didn’t have traction, so I merged the blog and vlog under the blog name and found out that the name worked immediately. For legal reasons I can’t use the name here. The vlog took off and I turned it into a web series. As the show grew, an attorney suggested I trademark the name. That is where the problems began. Another company who I still believe still went way out of their trademark range, gave me a very expensive lesson in trademark law. Basically if they have money and you don’t, they win.
In 2007 when I started the Blog, they were a little company. In 2018 when the vlog became a web series and I was naming the show, they had grown. Over the course of the year that I spent fighting them, I didn’t pay attention to my other domain names. One of which I already had a trademark on. They were grabbed and the price to get them back is beyond their value to me.
Ironically, the Tech-Tach-Dough name was starting to get some traction because the early videos were starting get some fan recognition. Sort of the Red Bull type name thing. Once the connection is finally made it sticks. Unfortunately that is one of the domains I didn’t pay attention to and it was lost.
Moving forward I have an entirely different approach to naming my new ventures. Fan2Stage was an easy one to name, everyone in the test group got it, and we received the trade name with no contest. When you look at how to name a business, there are two ways to go. A name that makes sense and connects quickly, or a name that isn’t related and is unique. In the second one, the marketing is about the connection, so once made, it sticks.
What’s your business name doing for you?
If you need help naming your business or a new product, give us a call!
Owners Play harder because they work harder
For most of my life I have worked. At least I think I have worked. My friends call me the CoolToys guy because I get to play with all the Cool Toys. I stopped working for big companies so that I could fly jets in the Air Force Reserves and control my work schedule and income. That led to getting to fly some really cool private planes and driving some cool cars
For many years, I billed on an hourly rate, so when I wanted to make money, I simply hustled up some work. That made me nothing more than a part time employee for a lot of people.
Owner or Employee (or owner with a job)
Before we get too far there are two things that seperate owners from employees.
First is the ability to hustle. When you own the business you must be able to ask for money and do it without shame. If you left your old job to to the exact same work cheaper, you just made yourself a new job. Some call this a lifestyle owner. I call this stupid. If you can’t or don’t want to hustle for money don’t own a business.
Recently I was approached with a great idea for a new entertainment business. The problem was the guy didn’t have the money to execute. I said, “Go get it.” His response was “I have nothing to offer”. The sad part is that the business was a great opportunity to “bootstrap”. He could have started it with his laptop and printer.
Second is the ability to lead. If you can click that link there is more detail on my companies website in a blog post I wrote there. I won’t waste your time with it here and it will be included in a class or a video here.
Yes, I still run my regular business in addition to the Owners Play training programs. There are two leadership areas I see business owners fail in. First is the misinterpretation of Lead, Follow or Get Out Of the Way. No where in that mantra is “move let me do it.”. That is a lesson it took me years to accept.
The other area business owners fail in leadership is training. Well this is a combination of sales and training that loops back to the hustle.
When I started my home theater business, I went to the best classes and quickly moved to the top of the list as a designer and installer of high end home theater and automation gear. The problem was I would go out and sell those skills. Since no one else had those skills, I could not replace myself or grow the company.
Eventually I learned to sell the skills of my employees and grow them over time. Yes, many have gone on to start their own companies or moved into better jobs, but that is leadership. Some of my employees have been with me 15 years now. Some clients over 20. Clients don’t care what you can do if you are too busy to help them or deliver your personal “it” thing.
By learning to sell the skills of the employees, they stay engaged, like their job and come back to work. When you over sell, it stresses them out trying to keep their job when they know they can’t do it.
Can’t Afford Business School?
The Owners Play Coaching is all about learning to find that balance where employees are challenged but not beaten. This is the foundation in any business that allows an owner to step out and go play.
Some time ago the term “long tail marketing” got us all thinking if we wanted to market wide or deep.
Marketing wide is easy, and very expensive. Those coke signs on the freeway, an ad that just says Coke® is marketing wide. If you own a small pizza place in Fresno California, why would you put an ad on Facebook to everyone in the US? That is marketing very wide. If you are lucky you will spend $1000 and one person will see your ad in Fresno.
If you spent $50,000 you might find someone who visits Fresno, but they will have forgotten your pizza place by then. The whole point of hiring an agency like us for SEO or digital marketing is to find you your customer, not everyone else’s isn’t it?
Marketing deep for this little pizza shop would be an ad targeting people in a 5 mile radius between 4 and 6 pm and 10pm to midnight. Ads right when people start discussing dinner, and ads when they get a second wind or want a late night snack.
We don’t try and sell the early bum ski line in February as the snow is melting. We sell it in October as the cooler air gets people thinking about ski season. Why do you think the big stores all sell shorts when there is still snow on the ground? We buy shorts in February and March because we hope for sun. When the sun arrives we are less likely to return them for a refund.
You don’t get this with computer generated ads. While the computer programmers are getting better, only humans can understand human psychology. Great marketers are great at understanding people and knowing their limitations. I recently had a discussion with a man in a similar field. He wrote billboards.
In fifteen minutes I learned more about billboards that stick and billboards you know but have no idea what they are. He is one of the most expensive billboard designers in Los Angeles. If you had asked me about billboards a year ago I would have said, “digital is the only way”. Now I know differently. In fact, he changed a little about how I thought about digital.
The human element is critical if you want to market wide or deep. It costs more per ad, but it makes ads that really connect with people. Even the robot generated “audience” needs an ad created by humans. We use other services too like ASR to insure there is a human interaction on our digital side. It forces us to make human updates to our clients websites. If we click “done” and didn’t do it, it keeps bugging us.
Go deep, be human and call today for a free consultation.
Do you need to be passionate about your business to succeed.
I have been through dozens of business courses where the host or teacher talks about the importance of passion in business. I say phooey. Passion is a fleeting thing. When we men are passionate about a woman, it lasts until some truth makes it inconvenient and we find something else to focus our passion on. That is exactly what happens to many business owners.
I used to be passionate about making beer. I genuinely enjoyed doing it and got pretty good at it. And then I got bored. This is a common theme in my life. I get one step away from the big leagues, and step back. Maybe it is a little fear of success, or realizing that once I have the work figured out it is boring. I no longer need to be curious about what I do. The loss of curiosity and exploration for me ends the passion.
We all have different reasons for losing passion I am sure. Recently I was talking with a business owner. She had a people business and said “I hate people”. After many discussions, I realized she once was passionate about what the business did. Running the business side of the business killed her passion for it. She kept pressing forward for reasons I can not explain.
As I think back to the truly successful business people that I know, a few really stand out. They are the long runners, each having been in the same business over 50 years. One recently sold out in the ten digit range, the other says he will keep going until he dies at his desk.
Two Tales Of Big Success – both true btw
The first is a winemaker, Gary. Many people say Gary is passionate about making wine. I disagree. He loves making wine. His love is so infectious that I not only buy his wines, I started learning how to do it myself. Before making wine, he was already successful in another field and was being groomed for a tenured position in academia. He said the event that pushed him over the edge was two professors arguing over a parking space. Chuck Lorre must have heard the story. It is a great Big Bang episode.
Just like meeting my wife. There was something more than passion. I never found any inconvenient truths that killed the passion. After 25 years we are still married. Ironically the long term business owners both are divorced. Maybe that is why I keep starting new companies. Instead of getting a divorce from my wife, I divorce my company. The good news is most of the time I get paid for divorcing my companies. Once it did feel like a painful divorce with children, but only once.
A Business Without Passion or Love
The second business owner Ray, built a company out of his job. He didn’t have any passion for it, he didn’t love it. It was just his business. He treated it as such. Because he didn’t go in with a passion, there was none to lose. Ray simply looked at the business as a means to an end. He could make a healthy profit in a market with little competition. That profit allowed him to hire great managers, tour the world, buy homes around the country and live a life most are scared to dream of.
When Ray was remodeling one of his homes he asked to park a Maserati in my garage. His wife picked him up in a Bentley. Those were the cars at the “weekend” house they were remodeling. When I asked why he didn’t rent a space at a warehouse, he said, “I have three warehouses of cars, they are full and I don’t want to waste money going somewhere else”. Business was work and nothing more. He put in the hours, and built the company to become the leader in the industry and sold out. He was 72 when he sold the company.
Three Reasons To Fail
There are three reasons I have seen businesses fail. The first is the worst and the one that cost me the expensive divorce. I thought my boss was charging too much for the work, so I started my own company. Being the “low cost leader” rarely works. When it does it is in a “needs” based market. Wal-Mart started out selling only what you needed, cheaper. That doesn’t work in the Home Theater industry.
The second reason businesses fail is that they are undercapitalized. Well not really. What this means is that the business is in a market space that doesn’t have enough value to sustain it. Glass is one of the highest profit businesses there is. If you go into the glass business with no money, you can still succeed. If customers give you 50% up front, you are guaranteed to make money even if they don’t pay the rest. When a business is “under capitalized” it usually means they don’t make enough profit to sustain operations.
The third reason businesses fail is that the passion wears off and the owner checks out. In a few rare cases the business had all of the requirements to hire a good manager so the owner could go do other things. The business became an investment at that point. It is very hard for an owner that starts out with passion to transition into a “means to an end” type of business like Ray built. Passionate people are passionate people, changing them is tough. Owners that don’t find a business they love, they will eventually find that truth that causes them to lose interest.
When you are starting a business that you are passionate about, you hope to fall in love with it and it you. If not it becomes a quick and expensive divorce.
After using several platforms to try and help clients build a virtual event, we found limitations with all of them. So we built our own. Fan2Stage.
The one thing that is missing from any live stream is fan feedback. If you have an online meeting with fifty guests, all those little screens and the noise don’t make sense. You can try to use the “chat” box, but quite frankly it just doesn’t work. While we were creating season three of COOLTOYS® TV the hosts needed to hear from the audience in a way that improved the show. The chat box and online typed in Q&A just don’t work for a small live streamed production.
The Covid-19 Pandemic has likely changed how we perceive and participate in live entertainment forever. Some of that is good, some is bad. The Virtual Audience Server we created for COOLTOYS was such a hit that we decided to make two versions. One for big studios that could host their own server and a cloud based version that anyone can afford.
Using a simple app that is free on the app store, fans can applaud, cheer, and even boo if they want. That feedback makes the show better in every way. If you are at home and want to connect with your fans get Fan2Stage or try the cloud version F2S.
Creating a great press release is key to getting it published.
This morning my inbox had an email from my brother. It said this:
“A little story about Larry Ellison. Be safe. On my way home from [town]. I plugged my iPhone into AUX and Apple converted my own purchase to U2 – full album – no thanks.
There was a thing called curfew. Larry Ellison didn’t seem to have that. “
All I could think was “Say what?”. Maybe some of you get that. I read it at 5 am as I was sorting through press releases looking for articles. I try and post two or three great press releases each week to Beach Street News and Bay Bridge News. We own both of them as tools to help our clients. All part of the SEO game I guess.
Finding the Great Ones
The sad part is I have to go through fifty or a hundred press releases to find a great press release that I would publish. As an authorized publisher for several press release management companies, I can sometimes see the numbers of how many outlets published a press release. Ours are consistently on top.
Some sound like a robot wrote them, others sound like an angry person selling snake oil. Others are stuffed with keywords so badly the Google Rankings of my e-zines would drop.
Every once in a while I will run across one that has a compelling story and rewrite the entire thing. If you read the article about Ukes for Kids. That was one of them. The original press release was painfully boring. One tool I use, Flesch Reading, looks at how difficult a document is to read. The original version scored a 20 out of 100. That means most people won’t finish the first paragraph.
Since I thought the story was worth sharing, I did a complete re-write except for a quote and the history at the end. Even then I could only raise the score to 76 which like school is barely a pass.
The Big Secret
Crafting a great press release usually goes one of two ways. First, I take a major story with very difficult technical details and compress it into a simple to understand story with a metaphor or adapt it to basic knowledge. This is what I do for all of the Easy Guide Books I write. Sometimes we just think too hard and the answer is to turn the modem off and back on.
The second method is a little harder, and what I would like to have seen my brother do with that gibberish he sent earlier. The trick is to create a short story of 300-2000 words that the reader can live in and feel like they are a part of. We have all read articles like this. You walk away with everything you need to know and feel like you are a part of the story. Honestly I still can’t connect the dots on my brothers little story, but I was never good at Haiku either.
Get an Advantage
One advantage I have as a writer is my training as an actor. One of the things we have to learn is how to tell a story with our eyes. There is an exercise where the teacher hands you a card with a question on it. Your partner has to say what the card says. Asking someone to dinner with your eyes is harder than it sounds, but it can be done. Great salesmen can get you to ask to buy the product with this technique. They never have to close verbally, you do it for them.
When you are looking for a company to manage your complete online presence, remember that you don’t always get what you pay for. Yes our press releases are higher priced than many, but still lower than others who can’t produce the numbers we can.
The only thing that matters at the end of the day is that customers show up after reading your story. If you are a great communicator, you will succeed. If you aren’t, hire one. You read this far didn’t you? Give us a call, let’s re-write your story.
“At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
The Business Challenge of Covid-19 affects everyone, owner and employee alike.
Many American business models are built on razor thin margins and low costs. That model was destroyed by Covid-19. Well sort of. For a big company like Wal-Mart, the model is exactly the same. To cover the new costs associated with Covid-19, the consumer will pay more, get less, even at Wal-Mart.
Inflation is just one of the ugly challenges facing businesses moving forward into the second round of the “roaring 20’s”. The 1920’s followed the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918-1919. Here we are 100 years later in a similar predicament. Who knew? James Dale Davidson apparently did in his two books, The Great Reckoning and The Sovereign Individual.james dale davidson
Covid-19 Damage Assessment
One industry I almost dove into just a year ago is the restaurant industry. Restaurants are going to be one of the industries hit the hardest by the Covid pandemic. Most US based restaurants use a volume model. Tables are “turned” every 30 to 90 minutes depending on the restaurant. In Europe many restaurants only have two seatings. But we eat out a lot more than most countries.
In addition to the “turn times” many restaurants cram tables right to the limits of tolerance for local fire marshals. Both of these factors in running a restaurant have changed. Some say it will go back to normal. I don’t believe it. If more people are working from home, that means a few things. To begin with the desire to remain distant will cause people to eat at home more. Supermarkets are getting smarter with pre-planned meals that can be delivered.
Pizza may be the exception since most pizza restaurants are already heavy in the delivery mode. Pizza is also interesting because no one needs to touch it once it is cooked. Unless you eat it with your hands and then you already had those germs. Wash your hands problem solved.
Creating a Virtual Business
Many other businesses from factories to law firms are learning how they can become “virtual”. Our offices have been virtual since 2010. If you came buy you would find a pile of mail and an empty space. I, like all of my team work from home. I say team, because I am the only employee of the company. Everyone else is subcontracted out. It keeps costs down and if I have no work, I have no payroll. Vacation planning is way easier now.
Lately I have spent more time consulting with schools and small business owners on how to become virtual. We even produced a virtual graduation for a local college because their AV team didn’t know how.
It is very possible to get your business back up to full speed now. You can do this without your staff in the office every day. Last year I was the only person who truly worked from home. One neighbor is a traveling salesman so he was home one or two days each week. Now, most of my block is working from home. There are doctors, lawyers, accountants and secretaries all working from home.
Change Your Business
One aspect of the business challenge of covid is how to change your business. A big part of what we do is video production. We even created a production company for one project. If you didn’t now it, video is nearly 50% of all search. If you don’t do video, you are losing 50% of your potential internet customer base. When the covid shelter in place happened, a big chunk of my work stopped.
Not to be beat, I started a Live show from my garage. It was really an experiment generated out of boredom. The point of the show was to demonstrate our capability. Suddenly it became fun and had fans. Now there is a COOLTOYS TV channel on Roku, Apple TV and Amazon. In order to adapt we changed our business. Now we have a platform to create videos for clients that we didn’t have before.
We also landed a job from the Livestream experiment. Because we had to learn how to shoot without a crew, we could do things no one else could. We livestreamed a university graduation. We had to set up cameras and laptops in remote locations. Sanitize the locations and make it so that we could turn the camera on remotely and add it to the livestream. Each grad entered, gave a speech and left.
In another location the faculty was set up the same way. I was about 20 feet away directing the faculty in a mask. There was no contact or even breach of social distancing. I set up everything at the locations early in the day and broke it down that night and the following morning.
Now we have a standard “package” so other companies can do the same thing. We can even set them up so they can manage it all on their own. I would say this isn’t “Black Magic” but the Black Magic ATEM is a key piece of hardware to make this happen.
Location doesn’t matter
For the past ten years I haven’t been in the same country as my secretary. She lives in the Philippines. Some call her my “VA” or virtual assistant. Our best graphics person lives in Italy. She started with us when she lived in the Ukraine nearly 15 years ago. I have “virtually” watched her life change and her daughter grow up. The business challenge of Covid hasn’t changed any of this because we were already working “in place”.
One of the keys to virtualization is understanding your cost of productivity. Most law firms have this nailed. Everyone accounts for every minute they work. That time is reflected on a clients bill. $500 per hour for a partner, $300 an hour for a research specialist, $175 per hour for a legal secretary. In fifteen minute increments of course.
The Bourquin Group follows the same model for consulting work, but the rest is flat rates. If you need a basic website, it is $2500 or so. I give you one price, you get a website. On an hourly basis a website can quickly go to $25 or $30 thousand. Be setting a standard and a fixed price. Both sides know what to expect.
The same is true of virtual work. If I need a logo for a client, I have a fixed price that I will quote. I then reach out to a dozen or so designers and pay them each a small fee to submit ideas based on my input. Once I have three or four logos, I’ll present them to the client and do some market testing. Then I go back to the artist and pay them a fixed rate to create a standard marketing package. There are about 15 different versions of the logo in this package.
Knowing The Job Is Key
Only because we have standardized the logo formats, can we operate this way. All of our artists know the standards for the social media platforms, our T-shirt Vendor, video production etc. These are all standard sizes and output formats. One of our artists in Australia has all of these as templates so when he wins, he is done way faster than the others. He gets paid the same.
If we didn’t know exactly what our clients needed how could we bid the job? All we could do is quote rates and give a ball park figure or a range of possible costs. Do you like bids like that? They scare me.
With hourly employees, it’s very hard to gauge productivity. It can be very vague if the employee is training another employee, or helping clean up the office. When you pay by the job, expectations are clear on both sides.
If you need help getting your virtual business going. Call us or join one of our training programs.
A few bad backlinks can hurt your organic search results and you may not know it.
Yesterday I was having a conversation with a competitor. Due to a rules change in California and the Covid mess our costs went up and so I had to make the decision to raise prices. Our competitor had done the same thing and we were discussing the possibility of working together to reduce costs.
Admittedly they have a solid SEO automation system. The problem with automation systems is they don’t understand context. Backlinking to websites with articles or focus that are out of context doesn’t work. Google has been fine tuning the search algorithm for many years. They run supercomputers that now understand context.
What does that mean and isn’t all backlinking good?
Backlinking is the practice of putting content on another website and linking it to your website. If you click on the hyperlinked word “backlinking” you went to our SEO website. That is a proper backlink because it connected to a site selling backlinking services and came from an article about backlinking. The source and linked site are in the same context.
There is a lot of discussion about what makes a bad backlink. The most popular is the DA ranking of the source website. If your website already has a higher DA, then many say the post and link on a lower DA site can lower your score. Only engineers at Google know this for sure, but I disagree.
If you post thousands of backlinks to very low DA websites, I don’t think it really hurts. It is just a waste of money and doesn’t help. The bigger problem is that most of those websites are also completely out of context.
From time to time we experiment with subcontractors and our competition on our own projects. This helps us understand what is working and what isn’t. It also makes sure we don’t miss out on a new SEO technique somehow. While rare it has happened.
We Experiment On Our Own Websites So You Don’t Have Too
COOLTOYS® TV is one of those sites. We hired different subcontractors for “high DA” backlinking campaigns. What we got was hilarious, sad and outright wrong. Yes some of the websites had higher DA that CoolToys.TV did, but the CoolToys organic placement dropped.
The reason was the “expert” subcontractor posted articles which had nothing to do with CoolToys or what the series is about. The articles were out of context. The next one we hired did watch the show and write articles that were in context but placed them on websites that were not.
The web series is all about the cool toys that guys find and wives hate. It started with a set of LED headlights for my Jeep® that my wife thought were stupid. 150,000 views later, maybe not so much. Posting an article about the new roof rack on the Jeep on a cooking website is totally out of context. My bet is that Google ignores the article and so the link gets zero credit or worse, you get dinged for article stuffing. Something like getting hit for keyword stuffing.
The discussion came up with my competitor because we had each picked up a small business challenge. The challenge is that many small business owners go to websites like Fiverr or UpWork to hire out jobs they don’t do regularly. SEO is one of them. Without knowing how to hire, they buy a “backlinking campaign” from an “expert” in a foreign country for a few dollars.
The Small Business Challenge
The small business challenge that came my was was a local business that actually disappeared from google search. If you put their name in the search bar they wouldn’t show up. You needed to know the url and type it in correctly. It turned out that an automated backlinking program posted irrelevant content on thousands of low da websites that were out of context.
The small business owner showed me the “report” of all the “great backlinks” he had. When I ran the report in our software and showed it to her, all 2500 backlinks came up red. Bad location, out of context. Google had “sandboxed” her website. It didn’t take long to fix it, but it was no easy task. First we had to remove as many of the bad backlinks as possible. Next we needed to create 40 or 50 really high quality links.
To do that we needed a dozen well written articles about her business. Those were then cut, edited and tweaked to insure they were all different. Finally we had to find websites within the range of context and get the content posted with the proper links. We threw in a couple of good press releases for good measure.
Don’t pay for bad backlinks. It can cost two or three times as much to fix than it would to just do it right the first time.
For many years I have heard people say “Lead, Follow or Get Out of The Way!”.
Running a business requires leadership. If you don’t want to “lead” your business, hire someone that does and follow them. In either case get out of the way of your employees that need to get the work done. Don’t have employees? If you don’t have employees, then you have legally created a “business” that is nothing more than your job.
If there is one commonality to the failures of small business owners, it is this. Many have not figured out how so stop selling their skills and sell the skills of their employees. I was once one of those owners. When I had the Home Theater and Automation stores, customers would request me by name. Instead of charging double, I just did the work.
My crews were pretty good, and with one exception that lead to my “aha” moment, I was better. Way better. I had been to the best training in the country, investing over $25,000 to become one of the top A/V guys in the country. I would then sell those systems and expect people who had bee installers for satellite companies and big box stores to be able to build them.
When they could not, I would simply say, “Get out of the way” and do it myself. It was the downfall of the business.
Let’s Add A Thought
I’d like to add one more thought to the idea of “Lead, follow or get out of the way.” You will never hear the true leaders say “let me do it.” This is where most small business owners get it wrong.
The “aha” moment I spoke of earlier came from one installer who hated doing my work. He couldn’t understand the complex wiring diagrams and didn’t want to. Instead he would go out and sell a small but high margin system. He sold the same thing over and over. I never got calls from his customers, only checks. He runs his own company now and making the same mistake I made. That’s what prompted me to write about this.
When you as the owner jump in and do the work, you have doubled your costs and likely eliminated your profits. Why do that? Isn’t the reason you started your business to make more money and have more time off? Did you read the “Four Hour Workweek” and think, “hey, I can do that!”?
The Biggest Mistake A Small Business Owner Makes
I call this idea of doing the work yourself, the biggest mistake. The most successful and profitable legal, dental and medical offices I work with have a staff that do as much as possible. The high cost lawyer, doctor or dentist do as little as possible with each patient or client to maximize their productivity.
As the owner of the A/V business, every time I got in a truck or touched a customers equipment, my business went into a holding pattern. Personally I was at the peak of my game. Legally, I didn’t need to be there for anything. A lawyer, doctor and dentist all have some tasks that they must do. In the Audio Video world, as long as my company had the right contractors license in each state, almost zero supervision was required.
One former client of mine that has grown so fast he has internal marketing people now broke this code early. He is a plumber, and as soon as the first truck was paid for, he hired a journeyman plumber and a helper for the journeyman.
The master plumber figured out what they knew and sold those jobs 90% of the time and stuff that challenged them 10% of the time. This way they kept learning and eventually could do 90% of what he could do. Within one year he was up to 15 trucks. He now has four locations and 45 trucks. He doesn’t want to get any bigger so he raised prices to reduce demand just enough.
One of the key challenges we used to talk about was ranking the different trucks based on skills. When he was the only sales person and he had five trucks it was easy. With there people answering the phones and scheduling 15 trucks, all with slightly different skill sets, it was a bigger challenge.
Be The Boss
Now you might be thinking to yourself, “But Scott, I like fixing cars.” or whatever you do. In that case, hire someone else to run your business or go work for someone else. Fixing cars or whatever you do, is not “running a business”. I used to like designing and installing cool home theater and home automation gear. Now my house is done, I don’t ever want to do it again. It was hard to change my mindset, but once I did, I did not look back.
Today we have a full video production business, I host a regular one hour series about Cool Toys, and we now have a clothing business starting up. There is no way to do that if I keep stepping in and doing the work. My job is to run the place and guide everyone in the direction of my ideas. Nothing more. Without them I can’t execute 90% of what I do. With them, amazing things happen.
As an employee, I have felt like the boss wasn’t doing anything. It took me years to understand what it really meant that the boss had to “run the business”. Being the boss is probably the most stressful job in any company. That is why it pays pretty close to what sales people make. Sales is the most important to the bottom line so the sales and marketing people usually make the most or are the highest expense.
In a larger company the boss can make a lot more than sales people. Once upon a time when cars had a lot of margin in them, sales people could easily out earn the owners. In real estate there are more millionaire sales people then there are millionaire brokers. The millionaire brokers either have several locations with hundreds of agents under them or they go out and list property too.
So when you go into work tomorrow, lead, follow when you have to or an employee has a better plan, get out of the way and let them work. You took the risk of going it on your own, so be the boss.