The secret to standing out with your small business

One of our mentors in business once said, "A confused customer does not buy." Nothing could be truer when it comes to building your small business. How do you cut through the white noise and stand out?

The secret to standing out is taking control of your own narrative.  It is common in our world to let the media, our teachers, our elected officials, our bosses, and sometimes our spouses dictate our choices, opinions, and actions. It is an act of rebellion to take back your own story and present it, unapologetically to the world.

As a small business, you must find a problem, thought to be unsolvable, and present a solution so impossible that only someone with a singular purpose and focus could execute. All problems are unsolvable to some people, otherwise they would have solved them. Conversely, to others, so many of these same problems are so clearly solved, that it'd be criminal not to offer assistance. Solve the problems you know to solve, and make sure those in need know you exist. It's as simple as that. They are dealing with an unsolvable problem, after all, and what would you pay for the solution?!

5 mistakes you are making while developing your brand

When you try to appeal to everyone everywhere, you will end up appealing to no one anywhere. Building your brand is not like running for office--it's not about watering down your message so that you appeal to "the middle." Here are 5 mistakes commonly made while developing your brand.

  • 1. You are changing your message: Methods are many, principles are few, methods often change, principles never do. When you begin watering down your message in an effort to "appeal to a wider audience," you will find that your message becomes bland and ultimately, not you.
  • 2. You are going for the "Home Run": People think that if their brand doesn't immediately gain traction, that you have made a terrible mistake. Track what works, eliminate what doesn't, and go for "base hits." By this we mean find dependable avenues to get your message/product/service out there, and do them consistently. Branding that lasts is about longevity and consistency of exposure, not mass exposure all at once.
  • 3. You are taking "You" out of the equation: If you are in a health/fitness field and you aren't getting your workouts in or find yourself eating fast food consistently, then it's no wonder people aren't buying into what you are offering.  YOU aren't even buying into what you are offering. Lead first by example. Be your own best billboard.
  • 4. You are forgetting your purpose: It's easy to get bogged down with payroll, taxes, marketing efforts, bills, bills, bills, and more bills, but as Henry Ford said,  "A business that makes nothing but money is very poor indeed." Keep your focus on why you got in the game in the first place and the money will follow.
  • 5. You aren't telling people: "Early to bed and early to rise, work like hell and advertise." -BJ Palmer.  You can be branded in everything that you think, say, and do, but if you don't tell others, and if you aren't excited about what you are doing, your message will be bottle-necked and stopped at your own lips. Don't censor yourself with fear or insecurity. You have an amazing solution and are going to help so many people-so tell them.  

perfect packaging for your brand in 5 simple steps

There is nothing like receiving a package on the front doorstep, opening it up, only to receive MORE than you expected. How do you over-deliver on your deliveries? Follow these simple steps:

  1.  You want it to fit like a glove: whether your product is folded, rolled, or wrapped, you want it to be done ON PURPOSE. If you want your shirts to be wrinkled upon delivery, and that matches your message and brand, then that's OK, just do it on purpose, and do it the same every time. Packaging that is too big will ruin even the most painstaking efforts in presentation. Find packaging that fits like a glove.
  2. Tag it: It's worth the time and the effort. Not tagging your merchandise is like sending a card without a signature. The gesture is nice, and I guess the thought was there, but where is the ownership, and who can I thank? The tag is the garnish to the entree, and the flair to the TGI Friday's employee's uniform--without it, it just seems bland.
  3. Include your story: It could be printed on a box, on a card, on the invoice! People today actually prefer to know and LIKE the people from which they are buying. With nearly unlimited options when it comes to sourcing so many products, the consumer now has the ability to shop with companies that they like, and can get behind.
  4. Surprise them: How do you plan on turning something expected to be mundane into something that makes them say, "WOW!"? Bonus gifts are always a great option (e.g., decals, stickers, magnets, hats), but what about a hand-signed thank you for premium products? or a note inside with a personal message contained in something other than your standard white envelope? They are expecting the thing they paid for - so always give them more. It will plant seeds for return business.
  5. Always say thank you: They just spent money with you--THANK THEM. Consider a coupon code for future purchase discounts, or a referral program with incentive for them. An unexpected thank-you paired with a discount can turn anyone into a kid on Christmas morning!

6 ways your writing is making you sound like an AMATEUR 

1. Rambling on: Speak less and say more.

2. Over familiarity with an audience: There is the way you speak with your friends at home, and a way that you speak with your grandmother-writing for your company rarely resembles either of these. Don't get lazy with your interpretation of English grammar, but continue to be relatable. Speak from the heart, but make sure it goes through the filter in the brain before you publish.

3. Do not use texting shorthand: take it from one millennial to another, abbreviating words in any situation outside of an emergency where time is of the essence comes off as lazy, not cute, ironic, or relevant. If your writing is representing a brand, it is even more important that you do not alienate your audience by "lol"ing all over the place. SMH.

4. You can't finish a thought: Passionate people are often excellent speakers but terrible writers. In speaking, tone of voice, animated gestures, and body language can often soften edges of a tangent or two while making a point. But when reading, people want the point first and the details later. Reward them with the point, then back it up with the flourish later.

5. Sweat the little stuff: Things like using the wrong "there/their" or "you're/your" may not seem like a big deal, but it distracts from your message and takes a moment to recover from; that moment can be enough to break the momentum of that reader's thought process, causing frustration, and fatigue all within a millisecond. Most people are not aware of proper grammar, but they can sure spot it when it is wrong. In a world where internet trolls rule the internet, why would you open yourself up as an easy target "who clearly doesn't know a thing about what he is talking about because he used the wrong 'it's'."

6. You never organize your thoughts into lists: I'm only partly kidding about this one. Considering you are reading the last point of a 6 point list, that gives credit to the notion that if you organize your thoughts into small, manageable chunks, rather than large formidable paragraphs, people are more likely to think you know what you are talking about and aren't just posting your feelings up on your online diary for all to read in one long run-on sentence.

3 perfect looks that transition from plane to board room in 5 minutes

If you are like me, you wouldn't wear pants, ever, if you didn't have to. But, alas, for most of us to be productive members of society, we must leave the house, see other people, and even, on occasion, travel for work. Traveling today, and particularly flying in a world scarred by terrorism, is cumbersome on a good day, and absolutely uncomfortable and unbalancing on a bad day.

Not everyone has the luxury or the corporate backing to arrive for every out-of-town meeting the night before, to ensure a good night's sleep, a shower, shave, work-out, and at least 20 minutes to iron your shirt, pick out a tie, and grab a coffee, on your way to your meeting.

For most of us, we are flying in, finding the first cab to the meeting we can find, and greeting clients, colleagues, coworkers, and other people we really want to appear confident to. Traveling in a suit feels as awful as it looks, and requires serious de-wrinkling upon touchdown (at least in my experience).

Here is our solution to the comfy travel/confident meeting attire quick change in the airport bathroom.

1.  Should you be in an absolute rush, and need a statement piece that distracts from your bloodshot eyes, thanks to airplane ventilation, think a bold colored watch that you can rock out with both the t shirt you wore to travel in, as well as the gingham patterned shirt you change into that doesn't show wrinkles from being folded in your carry-on bag. Lastly, a classic oxford shoe in any color, but particularly cordovan not only dresses up any outfit, but goes with anything. Now wash your face, and get back out there, you have deals to close!

2. Quality casual wear trumps shoddy dress wear any day. If you have no time to change, then you better get on the plane wearing something that can be acceptable for your meeting. Quality dark blue jeans are a must, a high-quality, graphic tee with a bold message compliments jeans perfectly, and when worn under an easily stowed blazer, the message you put out is: "Conventional attire be damned! I'm here and ready to get to work, let's do this."

3. Airports and belts don't mix. Airports and lace-up shoes don't mix. One way to dress up an outfit is with a nice belt, cuff links, a high-dollar watch, and a tie clip...all of which were in the checked bag that never arrived at your destination.  What do you do? Let your presentation speak for itself, Rock a bright colored t-shirt under the sport coat on your back as if you have nothing to hide, and then fold up your tie and turn it into a pocket square. That zero just turned into hero.

how to rock a t-shirt like a boss

So you grew up wearing t-shirts that you received from one of three sources:

  1. Your mom
  2. Your sport's team
  3. A parade/sports event/ t-shirt cannon

In their own time and season in life, each of these sources serve their purpose. Overtime, however, many of us continue to wear these same outdated and likely poorly sized articles of clothing. But even more important than being outsized and outdated, it is likely that none of these shirts now bear a message that is currently applicable to your life...unless you are weirdly still into youth soccer, you likely need an upgrade.

So how do you rock a t-shirt? First consider the message. Does your shirt challenge others? Does it say something about you, or does it say something about the manufacturer? Do you prefer to be a walking billboard for a large clothing retailer or for yourself? Choosing clothing that challenges others to speak to you to learn more is a great hook.

Second, consider the quality of the t-shirt. The best kind of t-shirt is the kind that is made so well and looks so upscale that you can dress it up with a blazer or watch and sunglasses and transition this streetwear into a casual Friday outfit that is both striking and professional.

Third, consider the fit. None of us like the feeling of a t-shirt that is painted onto your skin, especially when it gets warm outside. A shirt that fits well on your figure, but also doesn't hug all the corners with an airtight grip will make you look the best and feel the most confident.


Want to be authentic in your style? try this

You choose your breakfast in the morning, you choose how you order your coffee, you even choose what route you take to the office in the morning.

You choose your shirt and tie every morning, don't you? So why don't you choose your weekend wear purposefully? Just because you are off the clock doesn't mean that you are out of the public eye. What are you wearing to the grocery store? To your kid's sport's game? You want to be authentically you, but you don't want to look like a scrub.

Under-promise and over-deliver: that's what you do.

Wear what makes you feel the most confident version of you. Don't try to be someone else, don't try to be what you think a successful person wears, and certainly don't wear what models in magazines wear. Know who you are, what you are about, and find a look that communicates that to others.

Are you in a service industry? Is quality important to your business? Shouldn't that concern for quality permeate into your personal style? Are you in a field where you are your own brand like an attorney or chiropractor? Shouldn't you make sure that your are marketing the true you at all hours, even when you don't know people are watching you?

Being authentic with your style is about getting to know yourself more intimately and then more accurately communicate that internal you to the external world. Whether you are dressed up or dressed down, you should always be you.

how to turn yourself into a productivity ninja

How to be productive is not complicated, but it's also not easy. It requires consistency, preparation, and above all else, elimination of procrastination.

First ninja secret to productivity: Prep the night before. How many of us lie awake at night with a list of "to-do's" keeping us up at night? This is the ultimate enemy of productivity. Most of us tend to allow this list to keep us up at night, give us poor sleep, cause us to awaken the next day tired, anxious, ill-prepared, and ineffective.

"Be the Buffalo" means to identify a problem that scares us, and rather than avoid it allowing the inevitability of it to hold us back in life, we run toward those problems. The sleep problem is a pervasive and damaging one. How you break this pattern is by creating a "To-do" list each night in prep for the next day. This allows you to create a plan of action, get better sleep, awaken rested, become more effective, and ultimately more happy with the progress of each day.

To take the "to-do" list to an even more effective level, understand that "to-do" items are not pulled out of the air, but are created in order to fulfill a list of goals which should be created on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly basis.  These goals should be created in order to achieve the dreams you create on a yearly basis for how you wish your life would look.

Long story short: in order to achieve the life you want to live, take your dreams, break them down into tasks, and then on a daily basis, break down these tasks into individual to-do's, and make sure to complete them.  Repeat. This will dependably lead to you becoming a productivity ninja.

Your customers are judging you without your knowing it-here is how

Your customers are, by definition, giving you their hard-earned money in exchange for a service or product they value. But their subconscious need to know HOW you spend the money they give you will drive their curiosity should they see you out and about in your community.

What are the foods in your grocery cart? What clothes are you wearing. What car do you drive? Where do you go on vacations? Do you appear successful? Do you appear flakey? Do you appear to not spend the money you earn well?

Your customers are noticing all of these details. To a certain degree, you have to be you, but also remember that the reason they trusted you to sell them your good or service in the first place is because they liked who you were.  All you have to do to not lose that respect is continue to be you when out of the office. Do you want your clients to see you in your paint-covered cutoff t-shirts from the 5K you ran 4 years ago? Would you rather them see you wearing something of high quality, but something that shows that you are just a regular person just like they are, when purchasing groceries or running errands.

The worst part of these judgmental interactions is that they rarely happen explicitly.  Usually they happen from across the room, with no dialogue. The judgement may even happen without you knowing it. Better to always have your appearance be "on" so that you don't have to avoid your neighbors.