Opening Doors Blog

Colorado Small Business Week Highlights: Shared Website, Boulder SBDC Events

Tuesday, April 18, 2017
The Colorado Small Business Development Center (COSBDC) Network along with several statewide small businesses, community organizations and financial institutions, launched a website in honor of National Small Business Week in Colorado.

Coloradosmallbizweek.com is where Coloradans can find all the events and celebrations in honor of small businesses in specific communities across the State. Celebrated during the first week of May, this year the US Small Business Administration's National Small Business Week occurs during April 30 - May 6, 2017. 

"Small Business Week highlights the impact of entrepreneurs and small business owners across communities and the Colorado economy," said Stephanie Copeland, Executive Director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. "With over 560,000 small businesses in Colorado and half of our workforce employed by small businesses, this week will celebrate their critical contributions with workshops, events and festivities to celebrate Colorado's entrepreneurial spirit."

The www.coloradosmallbizweek.com website features a calendar of the events, workshops, webinars and celebrations that will take place throughout Colorado during small business week. Events will continue to be added by participating organizations leading up to National Small Business Week. Additionally, Coloradans can submit their own small business training events and celebrations to the website.

Every year since 1963, the President of the United States has declared a National Small Business Week to highlight the impact of outstanding entrepreneurs and small business owners across the nation.

Join the national conversation with the hashtag #SmallBizWeek. 

The Colorado Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network is dedicated to helping existing and new businesses grow and prosper in Colorado by providing free and confidential consulting and no-or low-cost training programs. The SBDC strives to be the premier, trusted choice of Colorado businesses for consulting, training and resources. The SBDC Network combines the resources of federal, state and local organizations with those of the educational system and private sector to meet the specialized and complex needs of the small business community.


The Boulder SBDC is hosting a variety of events in during Colorado Small Business Week as well. From marketing your small business to discovering grant opportunities, the Boulder SBDC will be hosting events for business owners at all stages of development. For a complete description or to register, click on the event name.
  • CEV Breakfast (May 2)Are you in need of financing for your business but unsure of the best course to take? This workshop features a panel of representatives from various funding categories that will explain typical criteria a business needs to meet to qualify and how it works so that you, as a business owner, can understand where you may fit in the financing landscape and reasonable avenues to pursue.
  • Should You Invest in a Franchise? (May 3): A presentation on the ins and outs of buying and owning a franchise. Learn about the process of due diligence, the steps in the award process, the fees you will incur, the unique language - and what those terms mean. We'll also cover the why's and where's of locating your bricks and mortar location and how to find the money! Participants will be able to take a free business assessment tool used by franchisors that can help shed some light on what kinds of businesses would be a good fit for them. 
  • 50 Ways to Market Your Small Business (May 4): Most companies only need 3 or 4 really good marketing tactics to propel their businesses. The hard part is figuring out which ones will be most effective for your business, your style, your brand and within your budget!This workshop is designed for new and seasoned small business owners, home-based businesses, professional service businesses, consumer product companies and anyone who wants to refresh the way you market. You will experience a fast-paced and interactive review of 50 ways to market your business with descriptions of what each tactic is and what each is meant to achieve. You will leave with some good ideas of what you can implement the next day.
  • Innovative Business Road Trip - SBIR Grant Opportunities (May 5): Colorado SBDC TechSource is presenting this program to help your small to mid-sized business improve award success on Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grants. Additionally, we will have a special guest from the RoadX program of CDOT, Peter Kozinski, talk about a new opportunity for innovative companies to get involved with CDOT.

Colorado Small Business Development Center Network Receives National Accreditation

Friday, April 14, 2017

Denver (April 6, 2017) - The Colorado Small Business Development Center (COSBDC) Network is not only celebrating 30 years of supporting small businesses in Colorado, but has earned full accreditation from the Association of Small Business Development Centers, the national accrediting body for Small Business Development Centers under contract from the U.S. Small Business Administration.


The America's SBDC Accreditation Committee voted to fully accredit the COSBDC program with commendations and announced this at the America's SBDC semiannual meeting in Washington, D.C. in February.


"This seal of approval is the result of the skills and expertise of the network's staff and the impact of their work in helping small businesses grow and prosper," said COSBDC Network director Kelly Manning. "The entire Colorado team does a truly outstanding job supporting small businesses and making Colorado's economy the best in the nation."


The COSBDC also received accreditation in technology and is now a "T" designated state, one of only a handful in the country. This enables the COSBDC to focus on businesses with less than 25 employees on the use of technology and technology companies to commercialize, apply for SBIR/STTR grants and strategize on growth opportunities, to mention a few offerings.


"Colorado's tech scene is thriving and the State is becoming an innovation hub. We are in the top five US states for entrepreneurship and innovation with an influx of top tech talent as of late," said Manning. "Having a "T" designation only further allows us to support this growing community of start-ups based within the State."


Federal statute mandates that every five years, SBDC programs undergo a robust review to continue program eligibility and funding. This review process is based on the Baldridge Performance Excellence Program that ensures effectiveness and efficient program delivery.


Reaching full accreditation helps to eliminate inconsistencies between the nationwide network of 1,000 SBDC locations and over 4,000 SBDC business advisors, and creates a standard that defines excellence while providing an approach to achieving the highest performance. No other publicly-funded program undergoes the accountability examinations and reviews that SBDCs receive.


To learn more about the COSBDC and its no-cost, confidential consulting services go online to coloradosbdc.org or call the Small Business Navigator at 303-592-5920.



The Boulder Small Business Development Center is the lead statewide for the SBDC TechSource Program. The SBDC Technology Program (SBDC TechSource) is a multi-faceted program maximizing the economic potential of Colorado companies through direct assistance to technology ventures as well as assistance in utilizing new technology available to business owners. To learn more about the TechSource program, visit coloradosbdc.org/techsource.


How to Write a Value Proposition

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Communicating value is one of the most crucial components of any brand-building or repositioning effort. While yes, the proof is found in its proverbial pudding, consumers need a little bit more to go on before definitively choosing your product or service. This is where a well-written value proposition comes in handy. It’s the hook, the promise that reels your buyer in, and when effectively executed, captures their long-term attention.

Ok, so, what is a value proposition? 
A value proposition is a clear, concise, compelling statement of brand value. A promise of quantifiable qualities and benefits geared toward easing your consumer’s greatest pain. Well-written value propositions paint vivid, easily understood pictures of what a brand has to offer, consistently, time and time again. Value propositions are not slogans and should require no additional explanation. Often, your value proposition is the first big chance you’ve got to impress your consumer—and as we all know, you never get a second chance to make that favorable first impression.

Got it. Now what?
Now that you know what a value proposition is, let’s talk about how to write one. Before getting started, you’re going to want to do some preliminary work. You’ll need to figure out exactly who your buyers are, where their pain points lay, and in what ways your product or service quells them. Once you’ve got that data nailed down, take inventory of all the ways in which your brand surpasses promises made by your competitors.


And now you’re ready to write. Here’s how:

1. Find your raison d’être.

Why did you even go into business in the first place? What initial spark of inspiration led you to action? What’s kept you going all this time? What’s gotten you to where you are right now? How does the product or service you’ve constructed reflect this? What words or phrases can you use to describe your x-factor? How do these chosen words or phrases align with the needs and values of your consumer? Jot down your answers and see which ones stand out. 


2. Identify optimal consumer benefits.

Is your product the most efficient? The most powerful? The most user friendly? Cost effective? Do you have a hold on some patent or other intellectual property differentiating you within your market? Is your brand trustworthy? Does your product or service enhance the buyer’s quality of life in some significant way? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, make a list. Be specific.


3. Link your raison d’être, consumer benefits, promised value and competitive edge.

Take your findings from steps 1 and 2, and use them to create a few simple sentences that connect into one cohesive idea. Bear in mind that the best value propositions avoid trendy or overused marketing buzzwords and clearly communicate what they have to say within 5 to 8 seconds, tops.


4. Write your headline.

All successful value propositions start off with a memorable headline, showing your consumer in no uncertain terms, exactly the kind of value your brand offers. Short and sweet wins the race here, so choose your words wisely. And it’s ok if your headline isn’t the most creative thing ever written in the history of humankind—just make sure it’s clear, honest, and written in words you can live by. 


5. Write your sub-heading.

Your sub-heading should consist of a short 1 to 3 sentences which expand upon the idea presented in the headline you just wrote. Provide specific examples of how your brand delivers value, either in mini-paragraph form or using bullet points. Generally speaking, your value proposition will be displayed on the landing page of your website and in easy-to-spot spaces on other relevant consumer touch points (like postcards, brochures, email newsletters, banners, et cetera) with the subheading displayed directly below its headline. 


6. Publish. Test. Iterate.

Once you’ve come up with something you feel good about, test it out. Show it to your partners, colleagues, advisors, employees, and show it to your most loyal, trusted brand advocates. See how they respond. Tweak or rewrite as deemed necessary.


So there you have it, your own unique brand value proposition in 6 easy steps. Let your consumer know exactly what your brand is worth by communicating its very most outstanding benefits and offerings. Don’t forget to keep your target customer in mind when choosing appropriate copy style and vernacular. Give them what they want, say it in a way they’ll rally for, and see how your brand buzz energizes. 

Happy writing everyone!!!


BIO

Veronika Sprinkel was born into this world with ten fingers, ten toes, and a twinkle in her wide precocious eyes. She is the Founder of Veronika Sprinkel Ink., a Boulder-based brand storytelling and copywriting boutique. VSI clientele includes The Kitchen, Atomic20, Colorado Haiti Project, Boulderganic Magazine, Clean Eating magazine, and countless others looking to accelerate professional growth through effective narrative messaging. Veronika is a graduate of the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship’s Ideas2Action bootcamp and the Interlochen Arts Academy. She is a One World Summit Contributor and holds a donor subsidized Artist’s Membership at MCA Denver. Veronika’s blog, The World According To Veronika Sprinkel, is read widely across six continents. In spare time, Veronika works on fine art photography projects, studies old-world natural wine production, takes long, deliberate bike rides and strolls around Boulder with Pablo, her beloved, formerly-stray New Mexican rescue hound. Check out her LinkedIn profile here and her website here.



How to "Reply But Not Accept" a LinkedIn Connection Request in the New UI

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Do you have the new desktop user interface (UI) on LinkedIn yet?

They’ve been rolling out the desktop redesign slowly and I just received it on my profile. While there are several changes, one I want to address here is your ability to “reply but not accept” a LinkedIn invitation.

I’ve always been of the mind set that, when you receive an invitation from someone you don’t know or recognize, it’s not an immediate reason to ignore their request. Rather, visit their profile, see who they are, if you have colleagues in common, etc. Then, if that person looks like a worthwhile contact, you still don’t have to accept their request YET. Go back to the connection request and message them first.

Reach out and ask them how they found you. They may have been referred by a colleague or maybe they were simply searching LinkedIn. Keep in mind that this is an opportunity to begin a conversation and engage!

However, LinkedIn doesn’t make this process very intuitive in the new desktop UI. So here are the three steps to take to reply, before you consider accepting a LinkedIn invitation to connect.

1. Click on the “My Network” tab at the top of your profile screen and you’ll be taken to your “Received invitations.” If that person had written you a personalized connection request, you’d see it here. You’ll also notice, LinkedIn only offers “Accept” or “Ignore” here. Don’t click either. Instead, move on to Step #2.

2. In the upper right hand corner of the “Received invitations” box, you’ll see “Manage all.” Click on that.




3. Now you’ll see “Manage invitations” and below each person’s name and title, you’ll see a link to “Message” each individual. Click on that (don’t click on “Accept” or “Ignore”).




4. VOILA! A “New message” box appears. Now you can send a short note asking why that person is reaching out. Were they referred by someone or simply searching LinkedIn?




Just because you don’t know a person it doesn’t mean that he/she isn’t worth starting a professional relationship with on LinkedIn. After all, this platform is designed for building relationships and marketing is about nurturing those relationships so that you strengthen the KLT Factor (know, like and trust).

Ideally, personalizing a connection request is the first step any professional should take after hitting the “Connect” button and before sending an invitation off to you.

When you don’t know someone (or don’t know them well), but you’re interested in connecting with him/her on LinkedIn, don’t make the mistake of sending LinkedIn’s generic invitation. Take the extra moment to personalize the invitation, explain why you’re reaching out and start a conversation. Maybe you met briefly at an event or have colleagues in common, etc. Whatever you do, ENGAGE!


Want to learn more about using LinkedIn to generate leads for your business? Register for Debra's April 20th workshop here.


BIO

A recipient of the “Creative Person of the Year” award, Debra Jason educates and empowers creative solopreneurs and enthusiastic business owners to create a lifestyle business that provides them with the flexibility, fun and freedom to do what they love. She also inspires you to communicate your marketing message in a way that captivates and converts your prospects into loyal, raving fans - even if you have been struggling with how to transform your ideas into words in the past.

Connect with Debra on LinkedIn or visit her website here.


How to Spend Your Limited Legal Budget for Your Startup

Thursday, March 30, 2017
You've got a shoestring budget for your startup and, you're being pulled in a million directions to quickly develop your product, find customers, and raise capital, all while ensuring you won't get into legal trouble now or in the future. Sound familiar?

Like any decision involved in running your business, how much to spend on legal expenses should be a conscious and thoughtful decision based on careful consideration of the pros and cons of the expenditure. Too often, such decisions are made on the fly as emergencies arise, and entrepreneurs end up spending much more than they should for legal services.

If you are feeling the pinch, let's look at the possible legal expenses you may be facing, so that you can anticipate the essential items for which to allocate your limited funds.

1. Early stage corporate documents:

These are legal documents that you want to get done correctly the first time. You don't want to skimp on these documents and have to try to correct them after something has gone awry. Some examples of such essential documents are:
  • Incorporation papers and corporate bylaws
  • Founders agreement: I've horror stories about startups that used a generic template from the Internet and found themselves in a pickle when founder disputes arose later.
  • IP assignment agreement: a lack of these documents can raise serious red flags during investor due diligence.
  • Other routine agreements, such as non-disclosure agreements, employment/contractor/supplier agreements, shareholder agreements, and sales agreements.
Here's a nice overview of the necessary corporate documents (https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/253997) on which you should consider spending at least a portion of legal budget. There are attorneys that specialize in drafting such corporate documents for early stage startups, so seek out those specialists for your most knowledgeable and cost effective options.

2. Financing expenses

When you are launching into fundraising activities -- in fact, before you start thinking about fundraising -- you should consider spending some quality time (and money) in finding a good, experienced lawyer to help you navigate these potentially treacherous waters. As experienced investors will tell you, there are few things more likely to kill a deal than having an inexperienced attorney representing the startup in a term sheet negotiation. You know that the investors and their attorneys have gone through many transactions, even though this one deal may be the only and most crucial one for you. The lawyer that represents you will be a reflection of you as an entrepreneur, so choose your counsel carefully. 

Some items for which you will want to budget are:

  • Due diligence preparation: Here's a classic post from AskTheVC.com regarding this process (http://www.askthevc.com/archives/2007/06/merger-and-acquisition-due-diligence-what-to-expect.html)
  • Negotiation of terms and agreements: A bad attorney can get you entrenched in a quagmire over trivial clauses and non-essential terms that don't affect the economics and control aspects of the deal; a good attorney will focus on those essential terms and pick only the battles worth fighting. 
  • Legal fees for your investors: You don't want this one to come as a surprise -- Check out another AskTheVC.com post by Jason Mendelson (http://www.askthevc.com/archives/2007/07/how-much-should-i-pay-lawyers-to-complete-my-financing.html)
3. Intellectual property protection

Intellectual property (IP) is one aspect that you will want to weigh carefully. It's easy to overspend on IP attorney costs and filing fees, if you don't have a cohesive IP strategy. For some companies, Their business strategy may center around obtaining patent protection around a unique technology. For others, the speed of execution of the product plan and first mover advantage may be more important than waiting for your patent applications to wind their way through the patent office. A thoughtful IP strategy should consider the business goals of the startup company and the types of IP protection, whether patent/trademark/copyright filings or trade secret procedures and invention disclosure process, that will maximize the value of the business. In many instances, as long as you can demonstrate some way of protecting your competitive edge and keep competitors at way, you may not need to spend a lot of money on IP.

Some factors to consider in budgeting for IP protection are:

  • Type of product: IP tends to play a larger role in hardware product companies than in software sales in many cases.
  • Stage of company: Will spending money on IP before you have even defined your target customer segment and a minimum viable product make sense for an early stage company? Oftentimes not. 
  • Exit plan: Has IP played an important role in comparable deals in your technology space? Do you plan to use the IP to monetize your technology even if your company were to falter?
  • Attitudes of stakeholders: Are the company founders, investors, and/or advisors IP savvy? Conversely, how much emphasis do your competitors place on IP protection, both offensively and defensively?
Specifically regarding IP protection, the Boulder SBDC will be hosting a workshop on IP considerations for startups on April 27, 2017.  Be sure to attend for further discussions of the nuances of IP decision making on a budget.

In all of the considerations above, recommendations from other entrepreneurs that have been in your shoes are your best bet to finding a good legal service provider. You're talking about the life of your company here -- you want to give it the best chance to flourish, without having legal troubles derail it prematurely. A lawyer experienced in working with startups can help you plan what legal expenses are absolute necessities, and which expenses can be budgeted for a later stage of the company. That adage about a stitch in time saving nine? That certainly applies here, and you don't want to be scrambling at the last minute when attorney bills can REALLY add up quickly.


BIO

Yoriko Morita is Founder and President of Patents Integrated, based in Louisville, CO. After earning her Ph.D. in electrical engineering, Yoriko left her life in the lab and combined her science and technology background with her business side. Since 1996, she has been creating and commercializing patent portfolios by combining her Ph.D. and MBA with the legal training she earned under the tutelage of a group of highly regarded Patent Attorneys at the Pritzkau Patent Group. Yoriko is a Registered US Patent Agent and Certified Licensing Professional (CLP). Part psychoanalyst...part secret agent...part corporate warrior. In the world of intellectual property law, Yoriko has built alliances and bridged the gap between organizations and negotiated contracts that have generated millions in revenue. After forming her own IP consulting company in 2014, Soumei Consulting, Yoriko put a variety of clients on a concrete and strategic road to commercialization. Her specialties include intellectual property (IP), patent licensing, IP strategy, patent portfolio management, IP law, patent prosecution, standard-essential patents, due diligence and patent standards.



Colorado Celebrates 30 Years of SBDC Services

Thursday, March 23, 2017



On March 22, the Colorado Small Business Development Center Network was honored for 30 years of service. Since 1987, Colorado’s SBDC network has helped aspiring and emerging small business owners achieve the American dream of entrepreneurship. The SBDC network in Colorado is the only statewide program of its kind with nearly 70 locations across the state.


In 2016, Colorado’s SBDCs provided 12,000 hours of consulting to 6,236 client businesses, resulting in 3,770 jobs created, $95 million in sales growth, $122 million in capital investments, and 451 new businesses started.


Boulder’s SBDC provided almost 3,000 hours of consulting to 621 client businesses, produced 85 workshops for 1,046 attendees, and helped start 31 businesses, create 259 jobs, and retain another 463 jobs. With the help of the Boulder SBDC, local businesses infused almost $44 million of capital, increased sales by over $6.5 million, and were awarded over $3.3 million in contracts.


Colorado participated in the first National SBDC Day on March 22 to celebrate the collective impact and success the SBDC has had across the state. SBDC Day is a national movement to help share small business success stories and notable impact SBDCs have fostered in communities across the country.


"For the past 30 years, the SBDC has worked to make Colorado a nationwide leader in job creation and small business growth," said director of the Colorado SDBC Network, Kelly Manning. "We are very proud of the work we have accomplished. Small business is the backbone of Colorado's economy."


Colorado's SBDC is the only SBDC program in the nation housed within the Governor's office and is one of only a handful of programs nationally accredited in technology development. It provides free, confidential consulting and no- or low-cost training programs and workshops.


"We are continually helping businesses bring new ideas and technologies to market and further escalating Colorado's innovative spirit," Manning said. "Our SBDC Network team of more than 250 staff and certified business consultants work in partnership to provide entrepreneurs with crucial information that can mean the difference between success and failure. "


Over 560,000 small businesses employ over 1 million people in Colorado.


"Our experts assist small businesses in every county throughout Colorado to create and retain jobs, increase sales, secure contracts and infuse capital into the economy," Manning added.

"We are thrilled to see SBDCs around the country working together to celebrate their clients and showcase the work they do for America's small businesses," said Charles "Tee" Rowe, America's SBDC President & CEO. "SBDC clients see an average job growth of 15.5 percent versus the national job growth average of just 1.9 percent. There is no denying the impact SBDCs have on the success of the small businesses in their communities and their local economies."


To learn more about Colorado's SBDC network visit www.coloradosbdc.org.


Acquisition vs. Retention: Where Should Your Focus Be?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, it’s 6-7 times more costly to attract a new customer than it is to retain an existing customer. But that doesn’t mean you can survive solely on existing customers alone.

As modern marketers, we seem to face the dilemma of where to focus our efforts and our budgets. If it’s more cost-effective to focus on existing customers, how do we get those customers in the first place?

Suite 700 Direct is a strong believer in communication. After all, that’s what we do. But before you can begin sending anything, it’s important to develop a plan. You’ll need to understand your business and develop key goals – remembering that Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Below are some ideas on both acquisition and retention practices:

Acquisition

How do you develop a list of prospects? Sure it’s easier to purchase leads and prospect data. But how good is the list? Where did it come from? And are the recipients open to receiving your communication? This will most likely be answered by the type of business you have. Of course, a list built from organic leads, like data capture functionality on your home page, will typically be the most fruitful.

Once you have your lists squared away, it’s time to revisit that plan. You’ll need to decide how you will message your list. Will it be an email and a postcard? Perhaps a formal letter followed by an email. Or maybe it’s a dimensional package full of goodies. And what will your message be? What do you want the recipient to do? And what happens when you don’t get a response?

Bottom line, acquisition can be a tricky practice. There are tried and true methodologies, but not everything works for everyone.

Retention

Now that you’ve got a healthy list of loyal customers, how will you retain them? This is where customer relationship marketing (CRM) comes in. As we stated earlier, retention is key because it’s easier to keep customers than find new ones. So, it’s important to keep customers engaged.

Make sure they know about new products and services. Keep them updated and let them know you appreciate them. But remember, too much is not a good strategy. The last thing you want is for the recipient to say “oh no, not again”, and throw it away before even opening it.

Equally important is to track your efforts. Keep a record of who responds, analyze the click patterns on your emails and begin to segment your list into different groups based on activity.

Numbers you can learn from

  • 89% of consumers who have stopped doing business with a company have experienced poor customer service. (RightNow Customer Experience Impact Report)
  • It takes 12 positive customer experiences to make up for one negative experience. (Parature)
  • 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated.  (McKinsey)
  • 55% of consumers would pay more for a better customer experience. (Defaqto Research)
  • A customer is 4 times more likely to buy from a competitor when the problem is service related vs. price or product related. (Bain & Co.)
  • A 10% increase in customer retention levels can result in a 30% increase in company valuation. (Bain & Co)
  • Consumers are 2 times more likely to share their bad customer service experiences than positive experiences.  (2012 Global Customer Service Barometer)

Let me know your thoughts.

No matter what your business is or who your customers are, The Contrino Group team can help you in all facets of communication. From acquisition and retention strategies, to segmentation, formats and touch strategies – we’ve done it all and have some great success stories to share. 


BIO 

Joe Contrino is CEO of The Contrino Group, a direct marketing agency located in Lafayette, CO.

Joe is an award winning direct marketer with over 32 of years of experience.   Prior to founding The Contrino Group, Joe was a Senior Partner at Suite 700 Direct, Integrated Marketing Solutions Manager at Henry Wurst, Inc., and CEO and owner of Contrino Direct Marketing, Boulder, CO.

Joe is a Direct Marketing Association Certified Direct Marketer Professional, Industry Co-Chair of the Denver Postal Customer Council Board of Directors, and speaks regionally and nationally on direct marketing topics and trends.

5 Ways to Disengage Your Workforce

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Employee engagement is defined as “the relationship between an organization and its employees.” Like all relationships, they must be built on a foundation of mutual trust and respect with a healthy dose of give and take. How much you put into it, is what you will get out of it.

The statistics on the success of companies with a highly engaged workforce are staggering, so why do some organizations still struggle to find the employee engagement sweet spot?

Here are 5 common pitfalls that will quickly diminish your relationship with your employees:


Ask for their opinion, then do nothing with it.

Most companies use engagement surveys, focus groups, even the old-school suggestion boxes to solicit input from their workforce. Then what? Soliciting input from your employees only matters if you do something with it in a timely manner. That is the differentiator between soliciting input and creating an environment where their opinion truly matters.   

Don’t launch a survey or focus groups unless you are willing to communicate the results and commit to actions based on the feedback. Similarly, create a two-way suggestion box mechanism allowing you to visually share the suggestion and your direct response to it (ex: new carpeting in the break room is a great idea, we’ll evaluate the cost during 2018 budgeting).  

Employees will never feel “heard” unless you tell them what you are doing with the information they gave you.


Forget what it’s like to be in their shoes.

You were there once……young, enthusiastic, hungry to learn, eager to share. You had valuable insights and input to share with your leadership--ideas for new products and services, new more efficient ways of doing things—that’s how you gained credibility, respect and climbed the ladder.

They have the same to offer you.

Don’t underestimate the value of your front-line. They are closest to your products and/or services and more importantly your customers. As such, they are in a position to provide you with unique knowledge and insightful feedback that could improve your business.  


‘Pinball Machine’ leadership.

Have you ever experienced a leader that made quick, knee-jerk decisions, then turned around the next week to revisit/tweak the idea, and the following week canned the idea it all together? Complete waste of time, energy and resources…and worse, loss of credibility. There is nothing more frustrating than working for an organization that operates like a ‘pinball machine’.

Be thorough and thoughtful in your decision making. Even if it slows the process down a smidge, it will ensure you optimize the valuable time of your employees, get the results you desire and gain you far more credibility in the long run.


Failure to communicate.

Failing to communicate (whether intentional or forgetful) creates space for doubt and mistrust. In the absence of having all the facts, employees will try to fill in the blanks and share their theories with one another. And so the grapevine begins…

Control your grapevine by providing your employees with the information directly. Don’t leave it to peers, colleagues, or media to inform and educate your employees on the happenings of your business.

Employees are your most valuable asset and your worst enemy in the communication chain. You choose which role they will play!


Never get comfortable.

Your relationship with your employees is a constant cycle of dating – actively learning about one another, all the while wondering if this will be a long-term fit. It may be a committed relationship for a period of time, but there is no “til death do us part.”

Relationships are hard work and require constant attention. If you get too comfortable and complacent, it will inevitably end in a breakup.


Solvere HR Consulting provides powerful HR solutions that optimize your organizational capability and profitability through your most valuable asset -- your employees.

Learn more at www.solverehr.com.

BIO

Reagan is an accomplished HR executive with extensive experience supporting small, mid- and large businesses develop people strategies that support organizational goals. Her experience ranges across a wide variety of industries including engineering, construction, telecommunications and business process outsourcing (BPO).

She has experience working in the United States and internationally in Europe, Middle East, Australia/New Zealand, Liberia and many countries in Asia.

She is recognized for being a multi-talented and versatile problem-solver with a proven track record of increasing employee engagement and enhancing leadership capabilities that directly impact bottom line results. Reagan’s broad knowledge of business disciplines enable her to develop unique people strategies designed to contribute to overall strategy.


Reagan earned her Bachelor's in Business Management from the University of Colorado, Denver and is a certified SHRM-SCP. She is passionate about advancing the HR profession, and serves as a volunteer for the Boulder Area Human Resources Association (BAHRA) as the Director of Communications & Marketing.



The Inside Scoop on Low Cost Franchises

Monday, March 06, 2017

Every year, there are lists of the “best” low cost franchises. The most reputable being Franchise Business Review and Entrepreneur Magazine lists.  Franchise Business Review is based on franchisee satisfaction, something they survey and measure. I always peruse the list and often am surprised by two things: one, what is categorized as “low cost” and two, what the heck could they possibly mean by “best?”

Let’s start with the basics. Low cost is generally considered to be under $100,000 (in the case of Franchise Business Review) and $50,000 (to make Entrepreneur’s list) “all in.” All in means the total out of pocket expenses you are likely to incur in getting your business up and running. That would include (among other things): the franchise fee, the marketing costs to promote your opening, any cost of initial equipment needed – usually leased, etc. 

In order for a business to fall into this investment range it will almost always, by definition, be home based. This is because you are eliminating the need to lease space, build out that space, and buy expensive equipment. These are going to be service businesses which rely more on you, the owner, to build it with your marketing savvy, or just plain grit in going out and building your business. Sometimes these business will require cold calling to really get going, usually a lot of marketing dollars, and ALWAYS involve getting out into your community and networking your little fanny off. 

So are these the “best” businesses? I would say they are best for certain people, with certain skill sets and in certain situations. Someone with high sales and marketing acumen and a desire for a home based business (which means a lot of flexibility in terms of how and when you work) is a good fit for some of these.

What’s important in doing the due diligence around these businesses, is when making calls to existing franchisees – something a good franchise consultant (ahem) will coach you how to do – is to find out how soon before they got their first client, how long it took to ramp up (to make regular income), and what have they found to be the best marketing strategy. Another good question is: “How much are you spending to market your business?” The best way to fail in any new business strategy is to go in undercapitalized, thinking somehow you will have clients when you “open your doors”. Marketing will be your single biggest expense in these kinds of businesses and are critical to your success. Be sure the “all in” figures disclosed in the franchise disclosure documents you are reviewing is validated by the owners that you call, and is a reasonable figure of what you will go through until you are cash flowing.

BIO

Previously with a large Wall Street firm, Jane Stein was a Certified Financial Planner for over 25 years, and provided comprehensive wealth management solutions for a large base of families – representing over 250 million in assets. She wrote an investment column, and established a program called “Money Matters for Women”, in an effort to empower women to take charge of their investments. Now she helps men and women achieve financial security through business ownership, which is far more empowering.  With her financial background, she is uniquely qualified to guide you through the process to identify and evaluate the right business model, and then later can help you secure funding to open your business.

Check out Jane's LinkedIn page here and her website here.

Who Do You Think You Are? Brand Archetypes, Our Collective Unconscious, and the Drive to Buy

Monday, February 27, 2017


In the early twentieth century, Swiss Psychiatrist, Carl Jung, composed a model of the human psyche, consisting of three distinctive parts: ego, personal unconscious, and collective unconscious. The ego, pertaining to self-identity, our sense of awareness and

existence. The personal unconscious houses repressed emotions retained from the past and untapped future potential. Personal unconsciousness can be thought of as the things we intuit yet do not think of in any organized, cognizant fashion. And then, there is Jung’s theory of the “collective unconscious”—an idea that all human beings share suppressed memories from the same ancestral, evolutionary past. Collective unconsciousness accounts for some of the seemingly inexplicable experiential states which many of us occasionally pass through—like love at first sight, déjà vu, or an acute fear of spiders. Within the collective unconscious, Jung believed that four main archetypes dwell (persona, shadow, anima/animus, self) and offer insight into various unlearned functions of the human psyche.

From Jung’s archetypes, branding and marketing experts developed a set of twelve. Here they are, in no particular order:


  • The Innocent: Happy, good, pure, moral, romantic, simple, loyal, youthful, optimistic. Represents brands with strong values, who are considered trustworthy, honest and dependable.


  • The Girl/Guy Next Door: Belongs to the mainstream, easily connects with others, down to earth, supportive, neighborly. Represents brands that appeal to an everyday, simple yet virtuous consumer.


  • The Hero: Wants to make the world a better place. Daring, courageous, inspiring, confident. Represents brands that inspire, solve big issues, and help others do the same.


  • The Outlaw: Anti-authority, disruptive, rebellious, wild, breaks rules and lives according to their own. Paves the way for change. Represents brands that advocate for transformation and for rights of the disenfranchised.

  • The Explorer: Interested in new experiences and discoveries. Ambitious, adventurous, independent, free-spirited. Represents brands whose culture consists of excitement, risk, and authenticity.

  • The Creator: Builds something from scratch, sells products or services that offer significant meaning, long-lasting value, and mentorship. Visionary, imaginative, entrepreneurial, non-confirmative. Represents innovative brands that make big ideas and broad possibility their number one aim.

  • The Ruler: Creates order and maintains control. Projects qualities of leadership, responsibility, organization. A role model. Represents brands that create security and stability in an otherwise chaotic world.

  • The Magician: Brings dreams to life, creates special and one-of-a-kind experiences. Charismatic, idealistic, spiritual, imaginative. Represents brands that want to transform their client’s lives, promote philosophical beliefs, and expand ideology for the sake of the greater good.

  • The Lover: Creates environments of intimacy and love. Sensual, passionate, romantic, idealistic, committed. Represents brands that increase the consumer’s feeling of connectedness, enjoyment, appreciation, and relationship.

  • The Caregiver: Cares for and protects others. Nurturing, selfless, generous, compassionate and empathetic. Represents brands that are focused on personal wellness, public service, education and aid.

  • The Jester: Promotes happiness on a large, sweeping scale. Fun, humorous, playful, irreverent, rascally, cheeky, impulsive, spontaneous. Represents brands that like to have a good time and encourage their consumers to have fun too.

  • The Sage: Offers the world added insight, introspection, and wisdom. Trusted, intelligent, knowledgeable, mentor, advisor. For brands that provide practical, analytical services that help the consumer better understand a concept or idea.


Long gone are the days when businesses were marketed by fact and figure alone. Research estimates that today’s consumer makes up to 90% of all purchases subconsciously. Knowing this, we marketers must take extra care in telling comprehensive, illustrative stories which speak to the buyer’s senses, their emotional experience, showing them exactly who you are as a brand entity.

Feature primary characters built upon the universal truths of these Jungian-based archetypes and let your buyer know, in no uncertain terms, that your brand understands well, who they are, what they believe in, what they care about, and how your values align. Do this, and watch first-time-buyers become lifelong brand advocates. Do this, and see how your brand moves conversation forward.



So now, tell me, just who do you think you are?


BIO

Veronika Sprinkel was born into this world with ten fingers, ten toes, and a twinkle in her wide precocious eyes. She is the Founder of Veronika Sprinkel Ink., a Boulder-based brand storytelling and copywriting boutique. VSI clientele includes The Kitchen, Atomic20, Colorado Haiti Project, Boulderganic Magazine, Clean Eating magazine, and countless others looking to accelerate professional growth through effective narrative messaging. Veronika is a graduate of the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship’s Ideas2Action bootcamp and the Interlochen Arts Academy. She is a One World Summit Contributor and holds a donor subsidized Artist’s Membership at MCA Denver. Veronika’s blog, The World According To Veronika Sprinkel, is read widely across six continents. In spare time, Veronika works on fine art photography projects, studies old-world natural wine production, takes long, deliberate bike rides and strolls around Boulder with Pablo, her beloved, formerly-stray New Mexican rescue hound. Check out her LinkedIn profile here and her website here.