March 18, 2013 No Comments

Key Customer Metrics for Growth

When I ask small business owners about their customers, I often get long pauses and even blank stares. Many business owners are so focused on their products or services that they forget to pay attention to their customer numbers. One of my first tasks is to shift that focus onto the customer. Without customers, there IS no business. Therefore, it is critical to every business to know precisely how they get and keep customers.

There are three key metrics every business owner needs to know about those customers:

  • Customer acquisition cost
  • Conversion rate of prospects to customers
  • Lifetime value of the customer (more…)

Filed under: Business, Customers, Growth, Small Business

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February 15, 2013 No Comments

Choose Customer Service

In today’s news, Metrolinx, the provincial agency that oversees transit planning in the Greater Toronto Area, stated that it was considering charging for parking at the GO Transit parking lots.  Publishing this possible action is a clever move — it allows them to gauge customer reaction and get feedback before taking any action. If you’re planning a major change to how you to do business, finding out what customers think about it ahead of time is a sound idea.

As the comments to the news story show, customers are overwhelmingly against paying for parking at GO Transit lots. They feel they are already paying for parking in the price of the fare. Some have noted that ridership will go down as people seek to car pool instead of pay an additional $100 to $200 a month. Alternatively, some people will abandon public transit and drive their cars into the city, an activity GO Transit was designed to reduce.

While the 65,000 parking spaces at GO Transit lots can rightly be seen as an untapped business asset, instituting a parking fee for those spaces will hurt business growth. Customers see it as “double-dipping” into their pockets, and have clearly expressed that they don’t like the idea.

This is a case where the customer backlash will be far greater than any benefit from charging for those parking spaces. Business growth at the expense of customer satisfaction is false growth, and will not last. There are other ways of increasing revenue; choosing a course that turns your customers against you is never the correct one.

June 15, 2012 No Comments

Is it a Job or a Business?

I have encountered clients who desperately want to grow their businesses, but are already feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work they have to do to keep their current operations running smoothly.

In most of these situations, we discover that they don’t really have a business, they have a job that they’ve created for themselves. They’ve actually created a self-employment situation. They may have employees, a range of products, repeat customers, and an infrastructure, but they have no freedom. You have a job if you absolutely have to be there (or reachable by phone) for the business to continue running. It’s a business if you can be away from it for months and have it still continue to thrive.

Many services businesses are really jobs.

A client who is a graphic designer had a storefront, employees, an organization chart, equipment, and all the accoutrements of a business. Yet she did all the graphic design work herself, and met with all of the clients. Her business could not grow until she recognized that she could only work so many hours a day. She had to let go of the idea that she had to do everything herself. While much of the practical work, such as layout, compositing, printing, etc., was handed over to employees, she still felt the need to be part of every design consultation, and every concept. Her business was constrained in size and scope until she could train and trust others to carry on her methods.

You may have started your business based on your own particular talents. That doesn’t mean you’re stuck there. By creating a few systems, you can free yourself from having to personally drive the business, and do the work day in and day out.

Others can be trained, taught, and groomed to meet your standards. You can put into place policies, procedures, techniques, and quality control to ensure your vision and your talent are being fulfilled. You can create systems that function without your direct involvement.

Instead of seeing this as diminishing your role, see it as an opportunity to expand your ideas and capabilities to a broader market. That will allow your business to grow.

December 5, 2011 No Comments

New Reactor Promises Clean Energy

Andrea Rossi has convincingly demonstrated his E-Cat reactor that produces more energy from a reaction than from a purely chemical process. Nickel plus hydrogen, 80 watts in, 15,000 watts out and no radioactive residue to get rid of afterward, only a little copper.

Strangely, the scientific press are remaining silent on this discovery. Perhaps having been burned by previous “cold fusion” claims that remained unproven, they are twice shy. However, when scientific heavyweights no less than Nobel prize winner for Physics Brian Josephson of Cambridge University talk about an invention, we need to pay attention. Rossi is clearly on to something. Given the size of the reaction chamber, it can’t be other than…fusion.

I am surprised that the scientific media are declining to cover this story. It is their responsibility to publicize science news so that the broader scientific community can become aware, then question, probe, investigate and even validate any claims. If something attracts the attention and support of respected scientists such as Josephson it deserves its moment in the spotlight.

According to NASA Chief Scientist Dennis M. Bushnell, reactors of the Rossi type are already in production and may be capable of “completely changing geo-economics, geo-politics, and solving climate and energy.”

Video on UCAM site with transcript.

October 7, 2011 No Comments

Development Model for the Connected Age

Endorsed Development, a new way of attracting a market for products we want to create.

Since the Stone Age, products have been developed based on need. They were meant to solve problems and assist us in completing tasks. To begin with, it was survival tasks, soon followed by transportation tasks, trading tasks, and leisure tasks. In design, form closely followed function.

As we developed greater technical skills, we began to innovate. We refined designs to be more usable and more attractive. Occasionally, because of cost and demand for the products, designs were adjusted based on ease of manufacture. When we had to get something to market quickly, we concentrated on making it work and shipping it as soon as we could.

Design-Driven Development

With automation and the assembly line, speed of manufacture was handled so we concentrated once more on making things attractive as well as functional. We were still tied to the products-as-solution imperative, but we could add features that we thought were fun. Features became selling points, even though marketers kept reminding us that it was benefits, not features, that sold products.

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May 31, 2011 1 Comment

Different Perspective on the TSA

I was listening to the radio and heard a report on morale among airport security screeners. They are subject to the anger and nasty comments of scores of passengers every day. Nobody likes the procedures for airport security screening. The shoe removal and pockets emptying is bad enough; if you happen to require a full body pat down, that’s even worse. But this report noted that it’s bad for the screeners too. They hate it just as much as we do, if not more because of the rude comments they are subject to while just doing their jobs.

If you use air travel, whether for work or pleasure, what do you say when you’re going through airport security screening? Is your attitude one of cheerful co-operation or surly resentment? Do you treat service personnel in a hotel or restaurant that same way? Think about it.

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May 31, 2011 1 Comment

6 Tips for Getting the Hourly Rate you Deserve

Contractors and freelancers are often asked to name their hourly rate for jobs, or state their salary expectations. Depending on the industry and the type of work you’ll be doing, rates can vary widely. I personally have found that for jobs I can properly scope, quoting a flat rate for the entire job is more worthwhile. But sometimes you need to know what figure to quote for work that will be billed at an hourly rate.

Here are some ideas that have worked for me:

  1. Determine how much you’re willing to do the job for. You will have a sense of how much it costs you to work (transportation, child care, clothing, lunches, etc.) and about how much per hour you’d need to earn to make it worth your while to take the job. That figure is your low end, rock bottom amount. See what they’re willing to offer above that figure. If they offer less, you must realize that you’ll be losing money by taking that job. Unless there’s a compelling reason to take that particular job, or if you have some other way of making up your shortfall, tell them thanks but you really need to be making at least $XX.00 per hour.
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