Tuesday, March 29, 2011

To the right.

Signs can have a powerful impact, but they need to be placed properly. It’s natural for people to walk into a store, head directly right for the first 10 steps and then slow down their pace. AND during these first 10 steps NOTHING is observed.

I recently walked into a nearby Staples, to specifically look at signage placement and as I walked in I did exactly that – noticed nothing for those first 10 steps. The eyes take a while to adjust to the new light, and for some reason we have this naturally tendency to b-line it to the right. By the time I had noticed the sign at the front of the store - it was to late and I didn’t want to slow down to read it. BUT!! if they had placed that sign an additional five feet back, people would of been given ample time for their eyes to adjust and that sign would of been 100% more effective.

Little factors in people’s behaviour can have big effects on the sales of stores. And it’s reading and learning about people’s natural tendency’s that will help businesses better get their words out. Look to big box companies that spend millions a year paying for research for product placement. Take advantage of their research and study the way their stores are set up – there is always a reason.

My advice, slow down. You’ll notice a lot more, and the more you notice the more you’re able to apply to your own business. There’s many simple decisions and actions we can take that can improve the sales of our stores. The cost for those actions = spend some time observing!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Curious Business–JustTheRightBook.com

The everyday book aficionado to the self proclaimed bibliophiles (you know who you are) will love this website. Searching for the next read can sometimes be difficult, but the people at JustTheRightBook.com will take away that search and send you a new book every month. How do they do it? Simple. You order, fill in a quick description of what books you’ve read in the area, and what/if any specific fields you would like to learn more about.

What I love about this website is that they have taken a highly referenced based business (the selling of books) and have basically hand-wrapped references, put them in a nice bow and sell them in bulk for a good price. What’s best? Their staff are bibliophiles. Book lovers are often searching frantically for new reads and because of that you can expect to receive some obscure and well-written titles chosen from among their personal libraries.

So if your looking for a gift, or just want to supplement your own book buying with a new book everything month or quarter, I highly suggest checking these guys out.


On a side note. This business personalizes to the maximum, and nothing immediately comes to mind with what they could do better. Small businesses will always have that advantage over others – it’s far easier to implement a personalization factor in a small business because the founder’s passion infects those around them.

How can you personalize your business or how would you personalize the current company you’re working for?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Why Apple is different

Companies like Apple can enter so many different markets because they are able to inspire people. It is their fundamental beliefs that give them so much fluidity in so many different industries. Apple started out as not just a computer company but a company that set out to change the world by creating a computer small enough and affordable enough to fit in homes around the world. When Steve Jobs was removed in 1984, Apple started drifting away from their why and Apple became just another computer company. But, in 1997  Steve Jobs returned as the head of Apple and he brought the why back into the company with him. He changed the name from Apple Computer Inc to Apple Inc, and because of him the company has been able to break out of their mold.

Apple can produce products in any technology industry, and people don’t question it. They produced the Ipod and people bought it because they saw Apple as a company that pushed the status quo. People didn’t ask, “why is a computer company creating an mp3 player?”  When Dell attempted to enter the mp3 market they failed horribly because they were selling what they had and not why they did it. People didn’t buy Dell mp3 player’s because Dell was just a computer company making mp3s.

Here lies the most important point. People buy Apple because it tells them something true about themselves. Apple speaks to us saying, I push the status quo and I can achieve this by sharing my vision/belief with Apple.

Companies that achieve the Fortune 1000 status have all inspired people at one point. But since reaching that status many of those Fortune 1000’s have lost their why because they become so caught up in the what they do. Then there is a few companies like Apple who still embody the why, and make the market believe with them.

In order for a company to reach a truly remarkable status, they need to be consistent with their why. Why they started, and why they do the things that they do. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

It takes one person

In 1976 Muhammad Yunus was travelling to the poorest households in Jobra, Bangladesh. There he discovered that loan sharks were taking advantage of small local entrepreneurs who were being charged unrealistically high interest rates on small sums of money; meanwhile these high rates were pounding and trapping the aspiring entrepreneurs into poverty. He discovered that by making small loans to local entrepreneurs he could drastically change their lives. And in 1976 in one of those poor districts, Muhammad chose to make his first loan of $27 to a group of 42 women.

This loan led to the next loan until finally he had started an entire movement called micro-financing. He founded the Grameen Bank in 1983 which has now lent over 6.3 billion dollars to over 7.5 million entrepreneurs. Today, there are several prodigious non-profit organizations championing the concept of micro-financing around the world.

Not only did Muhammad create a movement for micro-financing but he and a few key others revived a entrepreneurial movement called “social business”. Social Business is measured by the impact of the business on people or environment, rather than the amount of profit made in a given period. Success and sustainability of the company indicates that it is running as a business while the objective of the company is to achieve social goals.

For a very long time there have been many individual entrepreneurs running “social business” models, but they have usually been on their own, working within their community.  Because of a few key players such as Muhammad these social entrepreneurs can now start to connect, and have since been given more notice from investors looking to make a difference.

Hat’s off to Muhammad for making a difference and providing evidence for the cliche “It only takes one”

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Curious Business– Kiva.org

Kiva.Org has been called “the "hottest non-profit on the planet" by FORTUNE magazine. Kiva is a non-profit microfinance organization that supplies thousands of budding entrepreneurs in the poorest areas of the world with loans. How does that work?  The loans are provided by anyone wanting to lend their money out wanting to make a difference. And because of Kiva over 500,000 entrepreneurs have been provided with almost 200million dollars worth of loans.

My hat goes off to Kiva.org and everybody involved with it for creating a system of finance that provides opportunity for those who wouldn’t normally have the chance.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Small Business Necessities

A new specialty store selling gluten-free products opened in my area  and I often walk by thinking to myself, “What the hell are you guys doing?” And I started thinking of some essential some small business necessities.

1. First, you’re probably asking yourself if there’s a market for gluten-free products. It exists but I imagine it’s relatively small. The problem with their concept is they are alienating anybody who is not gluten-free, I (as someone that can eat gluten) have no reason to go into that store to purchase expensive products. Instead of alienating 99% of the market off the bat, try to think of ways to incorporate them. A possible solution is by creating a bakery selling gluten-free products, great smelling food will infect passer-by's, people buy on impulse. If you absolutely need to have  a speciality retail store, have products that everybody requires like, spices, Milk, butter, etc..

2. Utilize your vicinity. Being the closest in vicinity to a large residential area with no supermarket for 6 blocks means a small convenience store that sells essentials would probably do much better in business.

3. Create a culture in your store. White Walls reminds me of a doctors office. Put some paintings up, plants, music – do something! Recognize your audience and build a culture around your them. If your audience is solely gluten-free people don’t have white walls. Don’t remind them that every-time they walk into a store they are outsiders, that they cannot purchase regular food like everyone else.

4. Know your business and pay attention to where you place things. You sell food? Do not place the register facing the door, it’s weird. Look at every McDonalds, Subway, gas-station, the registers are close to the door but you need to walk in through the side door where the register isn’t the first thing you see. Otherwise it’s ominous and weird because the first thing people don’t want to think about is the money they are going to spend. I cannot emphasize this enough, it is even more true if you have big glass windows. If your a doctor or dental office it’s a little different because the first thing people want to see is a person – know your business.

5. Take care of details. I do not want to see boxes lying around nor do I want to see inside of your employee room it’s unprofessional, put a curtain up. Simple easy details. People feel appreciated when you take care of details, even if they seem meaningless.

6. Your store name is important. And choosing the wrong name or promoting the wrong thing can alienate people. Calling something eco-friendly and calling it better because it’s eco-friendly will alienate anyone who doesn’t care. But I can tell you one thing, people associate eco-friendly with higher-prices, and sometimes worse quality. So calling your store name **** Gluten Free, makes me and everyone else who doesn’t care about gluten-free not bother to go in. Choose carefully. My point is, your only selling point shouldn’t be because something is eco-friendly or gluten-free.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Your best marketing tool.

Your name! For those of us who have a rare or unique name we should use it. In the world wide web there is no better way to build a reputation for yourself than by using your name.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Be a shipper

So many of us can come up with great ideas and say “Look! I have great ideas, my note-books are filled with great ideas”. We come up with so many great ideas that we get to the point that we have trouble executing through on them, until once in a while we will fall in love with an idea so much that we will work at it. We will challenge ourselves at creating the idea for maybe a month or two month’s and then slowly become less motivated because we become passionate about a different idea, or it’s harder than we expected.

Prolific author and marketing guru Seth Godin says the Lizard Brain is to blame. We need to quiet it. When we are getting closer and closer to the conclusion of a project we find more and more things wrong with it. Our lizard brain is telling us “you’ll be laughed at” or “the ideas needs to be perfect”. Godin suggests trimming ideas in the beginning when it’s cheaper, easier, and will save us time. Work very hard at making your idea perfect, and once you start executing it don’t change anything – keep true to your original plan.

So be a shipper. Deliver ideas on time and on budget by trimming your ideas in the beginning.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A companies biggest asset

All businesses have one very valuable asset – their people. Employees provide an unparalleled amount of innovative ideas, they see what executives don’t see and will always have suggestions of improvement. In order to be a constantly evolving business, companies need to access their employees natural creativity by encouraging it, sometimes achieved through creating other venues of learning. Once a company learns to empower their people, they are only then truly sustainable, and truly able to evolve.

Friday, March 4, 2011

In hindsight

What problem do you see with this image, and what can be done about it? Burka Swimsuit

Now introducing the solution to muslim religious wear. The Burqini.


Now here’s the thing, someone recognized the problem, the market, and created the product in 2004. It took people AGES to think of it. A burqa in water is obviously uncomfortable and in hindsight the solution is sooooo obvious. Why didn’t it happen sooner? It didn’t happen sooner because it only became obvious after the fact.

How many of us would have guessed facebook’s success before it happened? How many of us would of put our own money on the bet that it would succeed? Recognizing success before it happens is incredibly difficult.

How can we get better at it?

We need to start by asking ourselves what can we do to improve things, we need to ask ourselves if there is a problem here that I can create a simple solution to. Everyday new opportunities and new ways of getting old things done become available due to technological breakthroughs.

So next time your out shopping take a little bit more time, and think to yourself  “What can be done differently?”

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Future of Receipts

Yesterday I was buying some things as people usually do. And I got my receipt back and started thinking why doesn’t someone create a software that compiles digital receipts?

All businesses would need to do is e-mail receipts. Someone would then need to provide consumer software that compiles digital receipts. After hearing Apple already sends receipts, it reaffirms why I like them so much. Forward Thinking.

As a possible business start-up I asked myself - What can I do to make money? Well what I came up with is. Start a website that compiles receipts. Companies would need to be pay fees depending on how much data they use. The price would be free to consumers. All consumers would need to do is create an account and supply companies with their ID and Code. This website would need to have an exceptional user inter-face among other things for it to be successful.

Ultimately, I see trends that suggest this is where we are headed. 10 years from now digital receipts will be common place. Why? It’s easier for the consumer. And cheaper for the companies. And someone who is first to the plate is bound to make a-lot of money out of this.