Yeah. It’s software again.

Once again, I’ve somehow managed to find myself lured back into the software business.

More on that in the future, as I’ll likely use what happens there as fodder for “This is how/why I always advised that this should be done” (and perhaps, “should not be done”) posts.

As such, here’s a little treat for any of you who are in startup mode in the software biz: http://www.microsoft.com/bizspark

In addition to tech support and marketing resources (some of which are actually pretty good), BizSpark gives your geeks access to MSDN, which the pocket protector crowd is aware of as the place where you can get development copies of pretty much any software Microsoft makes – including operating systems and programming tools.

Unlike the Empower program, which has varied from $250-350 a year (or free, if you join at the right time in the right way), the BizSpark program is free (hmm, where did you hear that word before?) for 3 years, then has a $100 one time charge after 3 years is up.

$100? Heck, it probably costs Microsoft more than $100 to process a check.

The program is intended for startups with less than $1MM (as Austin Powers would say, “One Meeeylon dolllarrrrrrs“) in revenue who are creating internet-enabled Microsoft-based software.

Approval typically takes no more than 72 hours and is often faster. Access to MSDN typically takes another couple of days after that.

Bring your 2 paragraph elevator pitch and a new URL. Enjoy.

I am a slacker. Are you?

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Creative Commons License photo credit: striatic

Yes, me.  I am a slacker. I admit it.

A year ago, I was planning to release my first book, “Business is Personal”.

You probably don’t remember me doing a launch promotion on it. That’s cuz I didn’t launch it.

As you might suspect, stuff happened and pushed it out of my immediate view and soon enough, a year went by.

Bet that never happened to you.

It’s still sitting in my authoring software, laughing at me: “You can’t finish me today, bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-haaaaaa” (yeah, that’s supposed to sound like an insane creepy laugh).

Enterrrrrr theeee excuuuuuuuuusee zoooooooonnnnnne (you can figure out how that is supposed to sound).

The Excuse Zone

See if any of this sounds familiar, even if you have to adjust the facts.

  • Before first light today, I headed out to Melita Island to help teach the 2nd part of Boy Scout Wood Badge. WB is an adult leadership course for Scout leaders and I am part of the instructor team.
  • The morning after I get back from Melita, I leave for Scout camp for a week.
  • The next week is 4th of July week and I have to go to a swim meet that will be a lot about remembering a dear friend who in her last 18 months of life literally willed a small town into getting a new swimming pool suitable for swim meets – all while battling pancreatic cancer.
  • Meanwhile I have client work, coaching sessions, blogging, writing my newspaper column, working on my own product development work, doing family stuff, visiting with that awfully cute granddaughter you see in that photo on the blog, a week in Missouri with the in-laws and such right after the 4th, out of town swim meets every weekend till August, then (not 100% sure on this one) 10 days in the backcountry on a wilderness pack trip.
  • That gets me to August 16 and doesn’t count other troop activities, Rotary (yes, I’m still club president), a few other volunteer gigs here in town and again, more of that client work stuff.

All the while… it sits there and taunts me. The book, I mean. You can probably hear it giggling.

Choice

You probably think “Heck, no wonder you didn’t get it done, with all THAT stuff going on.”

And you would be completely missing the point.

It has nothing to do with how much other stuff I have to do. It has to do with making a choice about the stuff I AM doing.

Each day since the Spring of 2008 when I started “Business is Personal” (the book), I’ve made a choice – several times a day.

These choices were made to do something else other than chip away at the book, even if I chose to do something that might have seemed important at the time.

No one else made these choices. Just me.

A few of my favorite Jim Rohn quotes come to mind:

  • “When you say ‘No’, you say ‘Yes’ to something more important.”
  • “Learn to say ‘No’. Don’t let your mouth overload your back.”
  • “We can no more afford to spend major time on minor things than we can to spend minor time on major things.”

What did you not get done today that you should have gotten done, if only it wasn’t for that “really important” thing you did instead?

Say “No” to the not-so-important so that you can say “Yes” to the really important.

PS: Stay tuned for the book. If you’d like to help with it, take one minute to slide on over to http://www.businessispersonalbook.com and enter a question (someone will win a pair of free consultations, may as well be you).

So, what exactly do you do, anyhow?

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Creative Commons License photo credit: fazen

We had a brief guest-post-ular discussion about this a week or so ago when I used Chris Garrett’s ‘What are you a natural at?” as a guest post.

Add to that, this comment from Drew McLellan and it struck me that there are a fair number of people that I feel like I know fairly well – yet I really don’t know deep down what they do.

In the case of those of you who read Business is Personal, that’s certainly true unless you’ve linked back to the blog so I could follow the trail to your site and read about you.

So here’s the deal.

Add a post on your blog that tells your visitors what you do and link back to this page. Or add a post that refers to an already existing page on your site and link back here in that post. Or post a comment here that links to your “So what do you do?” page.

Not only will I learn more about what you do, which might make it easier for me (and anyone else who reads BIP) to send you some business – but I’ll make an example out of the best responses I get to the question “So, what exactly do you do, anyhow?”.

I’ll find a nice way to reward the best responses: the ones that do a really great job of answering the question.

If you’re looking for an example, here’s my “So, what exactly do you do?” page.

Do I think it’s perfect? Nope. Like anything else, it’s a work in progress that I tinker with regularly.

PS: Yeah, I just invented the word ‘guest-post-ular’:)

Deposits, karma – Whatever it is, are you earning yours?

Hildy Gottlieb, a fellow board member from my days on the CharityChannel.com board had the temerity to call me out on her blog yesterday. 

Well, maybe not call me out exactly. More like give me a hat size adjustment.

I only found out about her kind words because WordPress told me I had a new inbound trackback. So I mosey over there like I always do when I get an inbound link and blammo, I’m humbled by her words. 

It was a nice really thing for her to do, and something that she had nothing to gain from. 

It made my day, if not my week.

Stephen Covey talks about making deposits in your personal account, but he isn’t talking about money. He never uses the word karma, but that’s what some might call it.

Regardless of what it is, the day after Hildy makes that post and calls attention to a number of folks including myself, she appears on a list in a post at FastCompany.com with some pretty amazing company (noting that she is pretty amazing herself).

Maybe it was a coincidence, maybe not. 

What can you do for someone today, without expecting a thing in return? 

To that end, as I asked the other day on Twitter: 

What local business in your area is in the most trouble, economy-wise? What can your business do to help them?

Speaking of deposits, karma and what not…

Tomorrow morning for a couple of hours, I get to carry out Christmas baskets at our food bank. Its cold as a welldigger’s, uh, boots here. Those boxes are heavy. Lots of folks coming to the food bank are not the most mobile or don’t need to be carrying a 20-30-40 lb box of food, plus a turkey – and that’s particularly so when the parking lot is slick, its 4 degrees and the wind is whistling.

Our Rotary Club helps the local food bank at Christmas every year. It’s a high demand time for them. Last year, about 100 Christmas baskets went out. As of a few days ago, they had over 140 requests for this year. Earlier this week, we gave them $1425 to help with their purchases.

Been that kind of week. Good stuff flowing in all directions.

Don’t forget my question about that local business. You never know what that might turn into.

5 minutes to build a more profitable business in a post-bailout economy

Everyone’s busy these days and I am no exception. If only the Borg could talk to WordPress:)

Because everyone is so busy, and because I’ve sensed a tenseness (but not a panic, at least not yet) among the small business owners I’ve talked to this week, I thought I might take only 5 minutes of your time today to help you tackle the stress you might be feeling.

If you are struggling to figure out where your customers are, or where they went, as well as where to find more, and how to keep them, give this a try:

Take 5 minutes EVERY DAY to think hard about what you can say to your customers and prospects TODAY that will benefit them, be of value to them, be of interest to them and make their lives and businesses better.

The money and time you spend to do this will be the best marketing investment you can make.

You might say, “Fine Mark, this is fine for us, show me what you’re doing so I can get an idea how to do this myself.”

Fair enough. This very issue is why I have an email newsletter, a print newsletter, a radio show, a business column in the local newspaper, speaking gigs, a book on the way (not as fast as I’d like…) and so on.

Despite all those things, and despite the fact that I am busier than ever…this is why a live TV show is just around the corner.

What are you doing to communicate with your prospects and clients?

How are you providing even the smallest piece of value to them every day, every week, or at the least, every month?

What are you doing to make sure that you are using the media that reaches each type of learner (some are readers, some listeners, some watchers).

Remember, despite all the noise in the news about the bailout, the election and everything else that’s going on, your economy isn’t dependent on Washington. Your economy is dependent upon you. Take the 5 minutes, and take it now.

I know what you look like

This morning, someone emailed me to confirm an appointment to meet me at a local coffee shop. One of the comments they made when we were making arrangements to meet was “I know what you look like.”

The great thing about that is that we’ll avoid the clumsy “stumbling about looking like you’re lost” thing that happens when you arrive at a public place to meet someone and don’t have a clue what they look like.

It’s one of many reasons why my photo is on this blog, on my printed newsletter, on my personal site, and on my newspaper column.

“Familiarity breeds contempt” only when relatives stay too long:)

In business, familiarity is essential.

Repeatedly, I’ve noticed the looks that business owners get when I step up to the register, counter, etc. They may not know exactly who I am, but I look familiar – which puts me one step ahead of the face they don’t know from Adam.

This is true regardless of whether I want their business, or I simply want to be treated a little better in their store or restaurant.

To my clients and prospects, it’s super critical for keeping me at the “top of their consciousness” when they are thinking about the needs they have that are related to services and products I offer.

You should be doing the same thing. If you have an “about us” on your business cards, brochures, literature, on the wall of your store/restaurant, or website, you should include a picture of yourself, staff, family – whatever seems appropriate.

If you use social media tools like Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, having your picture there is equally important for the same reasons.

People don’t care if you look like a movie star, but they do care about seeing a friendly, familiar face.

You want people to associate you with your product. Humans are very visual people. How many times have you heard (or said) “I remember the face but can’t recall their name”?

You can’t even count the number of times, even if you use every remember-the-lady’s-name scheme ever invented.

Familiarity… top of consciousness is what helps put you a little farther in front of those other folks.

Isn’t that where you want to be?

Some new Glacier Park photos

They rotate randomly, so you might not see them for a few days. All 3 are winter or fall shots in Glacier Park.

Yeah, I know. It has nothing to do with business. OTOH, it has everything to do with me, so bear with me now and then:)

Psst. I’m talking about the photos that appear on the right.

Small business owners, like consultants, should be everywhere

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A friend asked me the other day why I do a small business marketing radio talk show and if it had been profitable for me.

My answer? Because I need to be everywhere, and yes.

The question reminded me of a long-told story in marketing circles about the chiropractor (or whoever it was).

A famous lady chiropractor from the East Coast speaks at a chiropractic convention about her success, her practice and why she got into chiropractic in the first case. It’s a motivational piece, intended to instill “I can do it too” in the young chiropractors in the room.

When she leaves the stage, a number of people in the crowd have questions for her – a commonplace reaction at conventions like this.

One struggling young chiropractor steps up, introduces herself as Lee, and proceeds to tell her a story about her efforts to gain new clients. Lee talks about how she tries one thing and then another to get new clients. No matter what she tries, her office only gets a client or two or three with each ad that is placed.

Finally, she says “So after all of my struggles, I got really excited when I heard you say that you average 72 new clients every month…what’s technique are you using to get 72 new clients?”

The chiropractor shifts her weight and lays her hand softly on the woman’s shoulder and says “I’m sorry Lee, but I don’t know one strategy that gets 72 clients”. As she pauses, she can see confusion and disappointment on Lee’s face.

Then she shares the punch line: “However…I have found 72 ways to get one client, and I use every one of them, every month. You should try that and see how it works for you. I’ve very happy with the results.”

HotSeat Radio is one of my “72 ways”. So is the print newsletter, this blog, the email newsletter, and the Flathead Beacon column, just for starters.

“Be everywhere” is a core strategy that I teach my marketing clients, and I (as you may have noticed) put a significant effort into practicing what I preach.

If you need 50 new clients each month to make your revenue goals, do you have 50 ways in place to get 1 new client? Or 25 ways to get 2 new clients each month?

Sit down with a pad and paper (or MS Word, or whatever) and answer this question: How many ways does my business have to attract and meet future (and current) clients?

Is that enough? What other ways can you think of?

P.S. Notice there wasn’t a password on this post? The reality is that I’m collecting “evidence” for a future post. Not quite as externally obvious as yesterday’s survey, but just as important. More about that, probably next week.

Rohn: Fix the next 10 years today

Anyone who pays reasonably close attention knows that Jim Rohn is one of the guys I pay pretty close attention to. I met him several years ago at a conference, was really impressed with him, and have been absorbing his mindmelds ever since.

If you’re under the age of 50, it’d be a mistake to dismiss Rohn as just another white haired armchair philosopher. Like many, he’s been rich and he’s been broke, and he prefers rich.

It’s bigger than that, however. Rohn’s teachings expand from sales to motivation to treating your dog better (or something like that). Most people have trouble pulling off a career with such a broad brush, but not Jim.

I use Jim’s stuff all the time, in various forms. For example, I have a phone call this afternoon with my coaching group. I’ll be leading a discussion in a workshop setting where we’ll be going over the highlights of the goal setting portion of Jim’s One Year Success Plan, albeit with a mix of other materials.

It’s not the typical New Year’s resolution sort of stuff that will be forgotten by Groundhog Day, nor is it just another S.M.A.R.T. discussion that ends there.

Instead, what it yields is a detailed action plan for the next 12 months, complete with accountability (the critical missing component in most resolutions), yet without trying to schedule every minute of every day during that period (something few would actually do).

An action plan where you can see the next couple of bite-sized steps, keeping it real, so to speak.

One of Jim’s frequently heard quotes about goal setting is “Now is the time to fix the next 10 years.”

What he means is turn off the email, turn off the phone and TV and take a few hours (worst case) to lay down a plan on paper for what you want to do, how you’re gonna get there. Floating around in the breeze like a sailboat with no captain is no way to live.