Thursday, March 19, 2009

Girl Scout Lesson In Business

Timothy Ferriss would be very proud of 8-year-old girl scout Wild Freeborn. Ferriss is the author of the book, "The 4-Hour Workweek," a book where he describes how to use technology and outsourcing to automate processes and take advantage of your true strengths.
Freeborn, in her first year as a Girl Scout selling cookies, decided to think outside the box (parden the pun) when it came to the cookies. Instead of spending days walking door-to-door hawking the cookies or standing outside in the cold at local grocery stores, she decided to put a video on YouTube.
In the video she talks about selling enough cookies to send her whole troop to camp. Genius. Then, her web savvy father placed an order form online. It didn't take long for her to reel in more than 700 orders.
Unfortunately, the Girl Scouts don't see it that way. The organization asked Freeborn to take down her web video, saying it was not fair to the other girls and that the cookie program is supposed to teach "young girls to be entrepreneurs." HELLO!
I think Freeborn just gave the first lesson in entrepreneurism.
We can all learn something from Freeborn. We all get caught up in "this is how it's always been done," and "We can't do that." Those words have been spoken in every office around the world.
When that happens, we close the door on any future opportunities and growth.
Even though she was ordered to take her site down, she's playing hardball. She hasn't stopped taking orders online.
She's a true entrepreneur: daring, open to new opportunities and hard headed. She's going places in the future.
--Ron Ameln, SBM

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Business Lesson From American Idol

I just finished watching an American Idol episode. Although I've seen maybe 10 minutes of the show over the years, my 5-year-old wanted to watch it tonight so I sat with him and we watched it for an hour before bedtime.
The show is certainly one of the most watched programs (No. 1 in last week's Nielson ratings), but it's not because of the singing. The show is tremendously produced. The producers of the show take you on a journey, where they let you meet and get to know each singer before he or she performs. These well-polished interviews take the viewers into the singers' homes and gives us a better idea of who they really are. For example, one contestant's wife just died a few months ago, making his journey unbelievable. Another had the challenge of raising a small child as a single parent, hoping to provide a great example for her daughter.
The show takes us into the lives of these individuals, gets us hooked into their personal story and then finishes (crescendo like) with the actual performance. Why would the show's producers do this? Why not just let the performers sing, just like any other karaoke contest?
The answer is simple: By telling their stories, it personalizes the entire process. The audience gets to know these individuals and starts rooting for them. You want to follow along with them on this journey.
If you are a small business, learn from this. Get out there and tell your customers and prospects your story. Let them know how you began with $200 and a phone book. Let them know how you've helped charities or how you've helped employees get through some tough times in their lives.
People will take notice and they'll began to root for you and your company. Don't underestimate how this support can help your business. Your fans will follow and support you. Now is not the time to be humble. Let people know your story.
--Ron Ameln, SBM

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Succeeding With Older Employees

There isn't a networking event that I go to where a fellow business owner doesn't come up to me and complain about employees. Either he or she can't hold onto them, can't find them, wants to kill them, etc., etc...
Lately, since the stock market had tanked and health insurance continues to skyrocket, I've been thinking about all of these employees in their mid-50s through mid-60s. These folks probably aren't as eager to retire and sip cocktails by the pool as they may have been 5 years ago.
So, the question is, who is going to hire them?
How come employers don't value the experience and work ethic of a 55 or 60 year old? I mean, if you hire someone at 60 and he or she works until 70, that's 10 solid years. Research shows 20-30 year olds only stay at one company for two years.
These older generation workers are going to be looking for jobs in the coming years. The companies that can figure out a way to get these folks in their companies are going to be adding years of knowledge and experience to their teams.
--Ron Ameln, SBM