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What Las Vegas Teaches Us About Business


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?

What Las Vegas Teaches Us About 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?

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Debits and Credits


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.

Accounting Basics Debits and Credits

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:

Assets: Debit
Liabilities: Credit
Equities: Credit
Revenues: Credit
Expenses: Debit

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.

Debit Groceries Expense 100
Credit Cash (100)

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.

Debit Real Estate 150,000
Credit Payable to Bank (130,000)
Credit Cash (20,000)

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.

Debit Cash 20
Credit Revenue (20)

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?).

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What Makes You You?


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?

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What The Bachelor Teaches Us About Business


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”…

Business-Lessons-from-The-Bachelor

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?

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What Figure Skating Teaches Us About Business


I am a huge believer in the fact that there are learning opportunities to be found in all aspects of everyday life.  So to pay homage to my past career on the ice, today we’re going to take a closer look at the sport of figure skating, and the lessons that we can learn by paying close attention and listening to the swish of the blades.

Business Lessons from Figure Skating

Lesson 1: Determination and perseverance pay off

By far the most heartwarming figure skating story of the Vancouver Olympics was that of Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao.  Married since 2007, Shen and Zhao returned from retirement to compete in their fourth Olympics at the ages of 31 and 36 (unheard of for modern figure skating).  They broke through to win the Olympic gold medal.

From Xue and Hongbo, we learn that things get better with time.  The couple had been skating together since 1992, but only fell in love in the last few years of their partnership, and only reached Olympic gold in 2010, after eighteen years of working towards their goal.

While hopefully it won’t take you eighteen years to reach your business goals, it’s important to know that you will continue to grow and define yourself over time.  Your business and your industry will evolve and you must be willing to stick with it, work hard and work smart, and trust that the solid foundation you lay will help catapult you to success when the time is right.

Lesson 2: Healthy competition only makes you better

What do the ice dancing teams of Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir have in common? It used to be their coaches – Marina Zoueva and Igor Shpilband. Then Belbin and Agosto left Michigan and began training with Linichuk and Karponosov. Only two of these couples went on to become Olympic champions.

So why did the teams of Virtue and Moir and Davis and White (who are good friends in addition to being training partners) rise to success so quickly and ascend to the highest level in their sport? Aside from their phenomenal talent, the fact is that training together pushed them to raise their game each and every day.

Although competition might seem scary at first, it’s something you should welcome. It will raise the stakes, but that is what allows you to challenge yourself and become even better tomorrow than you were yesterday.

Lesson 3: How you handle controversy defines you

It wouldn’t be an Olympics without a figure skating controversy and Vancouver was no different.  Evan Lysacek and Evgeny Plushenko were 1-2 after the short program, with the slimmest of margins separating them.  In the free skate, Evan’s all around skating skills were enough to vault him to the gold medal, and Plushenko settled for silver.

The battle didn’t end on the ice.  And while we won’t debate the ins and outs of the code of points here (suffice it to say that I think they both have nuggets of truth in their arguments), what we can take away from this experience is that your poise and grace under pressure – your ability to handle controversy – can define you in business.

  • Do you crack under stress?
  • Do you write or speak without thinking?
  • How do you respond when someone lashes out at you?

As a small business, you are your own public relations, so be cognizant of your actions and their impact on your image, and on your business results.

Lesson 4: Costumes can make all of the difference

Notice, if you will, the difference between the costume on the left and the costume on the right.

Domnina and Shabalin OlympicsDomnina Shablin Olympics

Same couple, my friends.

So what can we learn from Domnina and Shabalin? Well, it’s simple. No matter how great your skills are, branding is important.

  • How do you differentiate yourself?
  • Is your website design consistent and pleasing to the eye?
  • Do others see you as you want to be seen?

Your design, and not your talent, is the first thing that someone sees when they visit your website. And you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

So there you have it, four lessons that figure skating can teach us about business. What other life and business lessons can you find from my favorite sport?

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