All Posts in Category: Business + Strategy
Several seasons ago, there was a duo on the Voice by the name of Midas Whale. Legend has it, one member of the duo asked the other if he wanted to form a band, and he replied “Might as well”, and thus the name was born. From then on, in the office, each decision we made because we “might as well” was referred to as a Midas Whale.
Over time, I’ve come to the realization that though he may originally appear cute and harmless, the Midas Whale is a dangerous predator. It’s so easy to follow the Midas Whale that the best alternative may be left by the wayside.
- You’re going down the path of least resistance.
- You might not truly want to take the route, but you can’t think of a reason not to.
- Your first choice wasn’t available, so this is the next best thing.
- Other people are doing it, so you think you should as well.
Before following the Midas Whale, ask yourself:
- Is there another course of action with a higher potential upside?
- Am I doing this because it’s easy, or because it’s best?
- What do my instincts say about the choice?
- Am I swimming with the current (pardon the pun) or simply being carried along?
Have you followed a Midas Whale? How did you feel about your decision?
Ah, the land of smoke and slot machines. Las Vegas is an interesting case study, economically. Hotels are luxurious and relatively inexpensive, yet restaurants and shows are exorbitant. The casinos will give you free drinks, even at the penny slots, but a cab down the road is $20. So what can we learn from Las Vegas about how to run our business?
Lesson 1: Get them addicted and they’ll keep coming back
Whatever it is that you’d like people to consume, you want to find a hook—something that keeps them coming back for more. Is it your amazing photography? The unique and creative product that you are selling? Your sparkling wit and dazzling intelligence?
How are you drawing people in to your blog or business website? What are you doing to keep them there? Are you:
- Putting out good products or information on a consistent basis?
- Creating “sticky” content? As people find your site, do you lead them through to other content by using related post functionality or backlinks to other content?
- Providing something that gives them immediate gratification? For example, if someone reaches your website through a google search for “Seattle wedding photography”, are Seattle weddings what they see when they get there?
- Showing them who you are, what you do, and how to get in touch with you through easy to find links?
Lesson 2: Give something away for free and they will stick around
Casinos have this one down, don’t they? Not only does the free liquor make people feel as if they are receiving some sort of value for their time and money, but it impairs their judgement. We’ll skip the fuzzy memories and the “What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas” attitude and focus on the giving piece of the equation.
- Customers are more likely to buy your product if they have seen tangible proof that your work is fabulous.
- People are more likely to pay for supplementary content if your free content rocks (think e-books, magazines, etc).
- Give people something of value to them, whatever that something is (a discount, a sample pack, a great shopping bag — hello, lululemon!) and they are far more likely to purchase from you in the future.
Lesson 3: Objects may be further away than they appear
Anyone who’s ever walked between casinos in Las Vegas knows this one. Hence all the tourists in fanny packs and sneakers.
If you’re like me, you tend to underestimate the time it will take to get something done. “Just 5 more minutes” turns into a half-hour of editing a blog post, or responding to emails. I also overestimate the energy that I will have to devote to projects on an ongoing basis.
- Budget your time as well as you budget your money.
- Make sure that you accurately assess the effort it will take to reach your goals, or complete your daily tasks.
- Pushing to reach the finish line is a great thing, but not if you are exhausted and tapped out in the end.
I’m not an advocate of “slow and steady wins the race”, more like “focused and controlled helps you reach your goals faster”.
Lesson 4: To succeed, you must take risks
You shouldn’t be gambling your life savings away. We’re not even talking huge leaps of faith here, although it could be.
It may be the daily risk of putting yourself out there on your blog. Or the risk of creating a new product line that stretches your business boundaries. Or even something as simple as taking a small capital risk by advertising on a new website or attending a conference.
- How are you taking risks in your business?
- What are you doing to invest in your success?
- Are you committed to your business strategy, even if there are obstacles?
What else can Las Vegas teach us about business?
As small business owners, even if you aren’t going to handle your own accounting, it’s important to understand the basics of your finances so that you can determine how your business is performing. Let’s start with some accounting language and terminology.
Photo: © kazoka / Shutterstock
Your accounting records are kept in what is called the general ledger. The general ledger is made up of several ledger accounts (also known as accounts or G/L accounts). Each ledger account is populated by journal entries. Each journal entry must balance to zero.
A journal entry is created for every transaction in your business, and each account is either debited (abbr: DR) or credited (abbr: CR).
Each ledger account is classified into one of five account types: Assets, Liabilities, Equities, Revenues, or Expenses. These account types all have natural balances that are debits or credits. The total of all of your G/L accounts must balance to zero.
The natural balances of each account type are:
Debits are not Additions and Credits are not Subtractions
Don’t think of debits and credits as additions and subtractions. Simply think of debits and credits as increases and decreases to the natural balance of an account.
A debit will always be a positive number. A credit will always be a negative number. Negative numbers are generally presented in parentheses. The total of the debits and credits in a journal entry will always balance to zero. This insures that you have recorded all aspects of the transaction appropriately.
Confused yet? Let’s do some examples from our everyday lives.
Example 1: Buying groceries
You go to Whole Foods and spend entirely too much money on baked goods (oh wait, is that just me?). You pay cash.
Grocery expenses are increasing, because a debit increases the natural balance of an expense account, and cash is decreasing, because a credit decreases the natural balance of an asset account.
Example 2: Financing a home
You find your dream home and go to the bank for a loan. The home costs $150,000 and you pay a $20,000 cash down payment.
||Payable to Bank
You are increasing an asset, your real estate account, by $150,000. But you now have a liability to the bank for $130,000 (remember, credits increase liabilities) and your cash balance decreased by $20,000.
Example 3: A customer pays you for an order
You sold someone a book for $20, they paid with cash.
Assets, with a natural debit balance, and revenues, with a natural credit balance, are both increasing in this transaction.
So what do you think—are debits and credits starting to make sense? Next up in this series, we’re going to chat about financial statements (excited yet?).
We all work or blog in industries that require a unique perspective in order to succeed. We don’t produce commodity products. Instead, we work with clients who want a fresh and informed opinion or idea.
Due to the speed of information movement in today’s society and the low barriers to entry in many industries, competition is increasing at exponential rates. If you create a product, that product will be copied. If you have a wonderful blog that enjoys success, it will inspire others to blog and connect in that circle. If you are a graphic designer, individuals with access to the same tools and technology will use your ideas. What are you putting out there to make sure people choose you?
What makes you You?
There’s an economic principle called competitive advantage, which says that firms that succeed have some form of advantage over their competition—an ability to add more value, therefore bringing in and retaining more customers (or more readers, if you are blogging). One of the keys to success in business is to find your competitive advantage early and exploit it.
What is your competitive advantage?
You may have a faster product assembly or access to better materials. Or perhaps it’s more intangible than that – relationships that you have cultivated or a creative spin on an idea that you’re able to take to market with great speed.
What is your competitive advantage? How are you exploiting it for your business? Can it be replicated?
Let’s face it, a lot of us are fans of horrible reality TV, including The Bachelor. But we if dive in a little closer, we can see that we can actually learn something from the “journey”…
Photo: © ABC
Lesson 1: Not everyone is your soul mate
The Bachelor has 25 amazing women to choose from. Of course, his connection will be stronger with some than with others.
So how does this translate?
- Not every client is your client.
- Not every potential sponsor is right for you.
- Not every guest blogger fits your aesthetic.
- Not every blog/website/magazine/etc is a good fit for your advertising needs.
It took me a long time to come to terms with this. It’s hard to feel comfortable with saying no! But in the long run, it’s in your best interest to know your business or your blog well enough to make an informed decision about who you should work with and where best to spend your time and money.
Lesson 2: The popular choice isn’t always the right choice
Remember Bachelor Jake? Polls showed that most viewers wanted him to choose Tenley, but he followed his heart instead and proposed to Vienna.
There will inevitably be a time where you have to choose a path for your business. Perhaps it’s a price increase, a geographic move, or a new product you want to introduce. Your decisions won’t always be popular among the masses, and that’s OK. If you have evaluated and determined your course of action – stick to your gut and believe in yourself, because what’s right in everyone else’s eyes isn’t always the right choice for you.
Lesson 3: Sometimes you just have to let go
Megan left Chris’s season of The Bachelor when she knew the “spark” wasn’t there.
One of the most difficult problems faced in business is when to let go – of an idea, of an employee, of a product line, etc. There is no right answer. It’s of course different in each situation, but the key is learning to recognize when it’s time to cut the cord, and when you make the decision, confront the problem directly, make an action plan, and follow through.
Lesson 4: First impressions are important
On episode 1 of Ben’s season of The Bachelor, the all-important initial first-impression rose went to Lindzi, who was also one of the final two ladies.
We all know the old saying “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”. It’s cliche, but it’s true. Most first impressions are now made online, when someone is researching service providers or reading past reviews of products. Potential customers or clients may find your Twitter feed, personal blog, Facebook page, and of course your website.
- How do you present yourself online?
- How does your website/blog reflect on your business?
- Is the branding consistent with your intended message?
- Is what they see representative of what they get?
Lesson 5: It’s OK to admit you were wrong
Even if you aren’t a fan of The Bachelor, you may remember the absolutely wild After the Final Rose where Jason broke up with the winner, Melissa, only to ask Molly to date him again. Jason and Molly have now been married for 5 years and have a daughter, while Melissa married a former boyfriend and has two children.
It’s inevitable that we will all make bad decisions. Handling success is easy, but handling failure and accepting our bad outcomes is so much more important, in life and in business. It’s OK to make bad calls, to admit you were wrong, and to try, try again.
Of course, there are many other life lessons we can learn from The Bachelor, most of which are quite obvious to non-reality-TV contestants! What have you learned from watching The Bachelor?