How Joint Ventures Exponentially Grows Your Business and Where To Begin

Business rivalry. That’s to expected isn’t it? Dog eat dog. Each trying to out-do the other. In today’s fast changing, and ever competitive marketplaces, is that still viable?

How Joint Ventures Exponentially Grows Your Business and Where To BeginTo a certain extent, maybe. Still, more and more small businesses now understand that co-operation is more profitable. To understand why, let’s establish what Joint Ventures (JV) mean.

It’s two businesses working on a project together. This can be a short term project such as a promotion lasting anything from a day, a week, to months. Sometimes it can be a long term agreement.

The two aren’t usually direct competitors. Rather, they offer complimentary products and services to the same audience. Having said, that, there are opportunities where direct competitors could work together. These work better when they each offer extra products the other doesn’t.

By working together, you gain access to the other party’s audience, and they to yours. It’s a great way to expand a business’s reach. To top that off, you are both able to offer more to your audiences than before.

Other benefits of forming a JV are:

  • Ability to enter a fresh market
  • A chance to grow your business that you alone would take longer to do
  • An opportunity to garner new skills, through negotiation
  • A chance to share resources, and reduce costs for the same or bigger impact
  • An opportunity to borrow the goodwill of a bigger, stronger partner

Though there’s plenty of good reasons, be careful not to jump on the the first one that comes along, or ask anyone. First, consider business owners whom you already have a healthy relationship with.

Before approaching them, take time to assess their business. What are their goals? What kind of resources do they have? What resources can you offer them? How can you help them grow and move in the direction they are heading? Ask yourself the same thing about them. It has to make sense for both.

Once you’ve done your homework and are sure of the people you want to work with, it’s time to pitch it. You can do this informally, if you are close to them. A written proposal is also good if you want to have things documented. Whatever the approach, if your pitch has been effective, you’ll both be eager to proceed. Move fast to create the an agreement.

In your agreement, take the following into consideration:

  • Spell out the goals of the JV
  • Document what resources each side will commit to the effort
  • State how long the JV will last
  • State who, if anyone, is in control and how decisions should be made
  • Define what each party will be responsible for
  • Explain each partner’s accountability
  • Lay out expectations of the JV
  • Explain how will you measure the results
  • Describe how disagreements should be handled, if any

It is also vital to determine an exit strategy. It is not uncommon to have a partnership deteriorate. This happens for a multitude of reasons. By defining an exit strategy early, you both know ahead of time what to expect. This also avoids a messy “break up” that could impact on both parties’ market reputation.

If the project is designed to run for a long time, consider chunking it. This means making the first agreement shorter, and extendable with results are positive both.

Last but not least, protect your intellectual property. When you join forces, you both bring parts of it to the table. You need to make sure you don’t lose what you came in with. Getting legal counsel in any such venture is a wise step.

Having entered into several JV’s, I’ve experience first hand, the importance of communication. Be honest. By this I don’t just mean be truthful. That’s a given and should underline everything you do. What I mean is, be straightforward. Be clear about your roles and document things.

Don’t assume consent. Even for what you consider a small decision, err on the side of caution. Ask your partner to give their thoughts. You want to be above board for every move.

After completing one joint venture successfully, you will be better prepared for the next. Perhaps the next one, would be bigger and better.

Why Branding and Sales Promotion are Not Interchangeable

In the world of promotion, branding has been called anything from a logo, to putting a logo on things, to a general image. If I may be so humble to speak for those those of us who specialize in branding, a brand could replace the word “reputation.” How a customer perceives you, your town , your product, experience, or organization etc. is your brand.

Most marketing people I come into contact with simply don’t get it and arrogantly think that sales promotion is 100% of what branding encompasses. Now, granted the end game in branding is to bring more dollars into the organization, BUT that isn’t soley achieved through sales promotion.

Branding done properly with a skilled facilitator looks at all aspects of your brand to see that all elements are pulling in the same direction. All of this is strategic thinking and much of it exists outside the sales and promotion circles. HR plays a role, business management culture plays a role, even people associated with the organization such as the custodian can affect the brand for good or bad. My opinion here on this blog post affects my brand, depending on my audience’s response to it.

Once you learn to embrace your brand and define it, only then will you appreciate the value it holds in making your entire business a success on multiple levels including but not limited to sales promotion.Why Branding and Sales Promotion are Not Interchangeable-061115

You Can’t Build A Brand On Today Thinking

A few years ago I pitched my branding process to a mid-size Canadian City mayor. Suffice to say he loved the presentation and the opportunities it would open up. The one item that buried the project was his short-sightedness. Knowing upfront that there were deficiencies in the brand, he didn’t appreciate my comment that those deficiencies would have to be fixed so that their brand had a better chance of being authentic to it’s target audience. The fastest route to failure is to tout something powerful and then have your buyer discover it was all just advertising spin. The city can’t walk the walk. Today they’re still just doing advertising but labelling it branding.

You Can’t Build A Brand On Today Thinking-043015

Here in my community we have a city market. The bylaws people saw an opportunity. They showed up early on a saturday morning and went booth to booth gathering business cards from the grannies selling biscuits, young people selling items from their hobbies and other micro entrepreneurs. Satisfied that they spoke to everyone, they went back to their offices and proceeded to send out notices to all these people that they’d all have to buy a business license or shut it down. Their phoney smiles hid the reality of their intentions – more fees for the the city. They didn’t care what happened to these individuals and their dreams. What they failed to see was the long-term benefits of city market vendors. Many of these folks are testing their ideas and planning for the future. A local furniture store just turned 90. It all started with one guy peddling furniture door-to-door. Where would the 4 locations and hundreds of employees be today if the city had shut them down because they didn’t have a $XX business license?

Another new grocery business in Ottawa, Canada ( Farm Boy ) started in their city market and now have multiple locations and are spreading across the province. That equates to property taxes, bricks and motor leases, employment, and investment all started in a small city market. What our city should have done was gone in, introduced itself and offered to help them in any way they could to succeed. They should provide mentors, and business incentives to go beyond the cookies in wax paper to opening a small bakery in an area the city would like to re-new. But, this involves long-term thinking and long-term branding.

Place brands like any other thrive on long-term thinking. Bureaucrats have to start understanding that short-term gains CAN and DO suppress long-term growth. Being smug about shutting down the painted flower pot booth today changed the future that might have been – namely a unique gift shop in a wanting downtown area. All this is branding folks. Doing it with vision creates log-term wealth. Short-term advertising spin is just that.

The World Of Brand Awareness has Changed – Sort Of.

There was a time when you started a business and the first thing you did after putting up the shingle was to start building brand awareness. The first order of the day was to find a location. If it was a business that met with consumers you chose a location that was convenient for them to visit you. If you had a services business you like chose a location that was prestigious and would immediately impress those who crossed your threshold.

Next order of the day was to decorate. If your budget for decorating was several hundred or several thousand it was all to make you look competent and professional.

Brand Megaphone Advertising Product Awareness Build LoyaltyThe on of course came your logo and marketing materials that you would distribute manually and using direct mail. You’d hire a professional graphic designer to help your brand image look like the large players in your category. It was key that a prospective customer have the right gut reaction when they first came into your circle. Brand image was recognized as essential for business success.

Then came along the “advertising budget.” How much were you willing to spend to build awareness of your new business? The marketing plan. Who are these people who will make your business a success? How do you reach them? What will it cost? I used to look at it from an individual cost perspective. I’d ask the question – “How much are you willing to give someone so that they become aware of you? Are you willing to give them a dollar, 50¢ or 5¢?” This was of course determined by the budget. If you had an audience of 10,000 people and a budget of $20,000 then you’d expect to pay 50¢ each and so on. How you spent that 50¢ was key. Was that 50¢ a one-time thing or would it have to spent over 6 months or more. No matter the size of the business it was an expensive process. But done well and by those who were well seasoned in the exercise, it could prove very effective over time. Brand awareness was and still is a long term strategy.

THEN, every small business played that game. Some were great at it and some sucked. It made brands and killed brands but the common denominator was brands had to spend money building awareness or fade away and their dreams with it.

TODAY, every business can play on the same playing field to some extent. Thanks to the web, businesses can build brand awareness for free. They can join other players on dozens of social media channels and build incredible opportunities. Free is a relative term on the web though . Free as far as parting with coin but not free in dedicating time. To run socially takes an enormous amount of time and coordination. Many businesses are dedicating their whole existence to web-based promotional efforts. And, of course they can also engage the services of seasoned pros who can help assist them at their web efforts and achieve goals in a quicker time-frame.

What astonishes me and influenced this post, are the businesses who in the face of free choose to do absolutely nothing about building brand awareness. Nothing. Then when nothing happens, they blame the economy, their customers (or lack there of) – never the fact that their frugality and lack of confidence is killing them. They continue to dream of course – that’s really all they have. You see them all around you.

Go to any live networking event – they’re the ones swimming the room, politely smiling but have nothing to add to conversations. They view networking as showing up and trolling the attendees and desiring new bodies each time they go – failing to understand that when all the same people keep attending the better it is to build relationships that will extend to referring you to their networks. Most of these events are free or close to it. They only want to do business with those attending. BIG brand awareness mistake – short sightedness.

To make brand awareness really work for you, you have to have a dynamic on AND offline exposure. They need to compliment each other. Together they are like a 1-2 punch. You have to be flexible enough to see opportunities and be willing to engage them. Don’t base your planning on what’s free or not. If you won’t invest in yourself why should you expect your customers to? As a friend of mine says, “If clients witness a lack of confidence they couple that with a lack of competence.”

Oh, so true.

Reap the Benefits of Using The Cloud In Your Business

Running a small business has so many things to consider to be profitable. Keeping expenses down is just one of them. By using The Cloud rather than expensive hardware, you can save money by keeping your data in The Cloud which also allows you and your team to work together seamlessly on projects. These are just a couple things utilizing The Cloud can help you with, to learn more read How the Cloud is Reshaping Small Business Productivity.

Reap the Benefits of Using the Cloud in Your Business

5 Things That Determine Your RETURN On Investment?

When companies of any size spend money they expect (or at least) hope to get a rerun on that investment. It’s not too much to ask. Of course the trick is to determine “what” will bring in the greatest return. You have to be honest with yourself and recognize that that return isn’t always about the money. We know the end game is money but the road to getting there – the motivator, is often times something entirely different. It’s usually some event that motivates brands to take a hard look at themselves and determine whether or not a brand needs an over-haul.
Five influencing facts might be:

ONE: Low hanging fruit – let’s say it is the money.
They want more of it. They want to increase the brand’s market share. A tell-tale sign is that sales are flat and the sales staff have hit a wall. This happens when brands follow perceived industry leaders and the sales staff are having the same conversations with their clients that their competition is. They have no differentiator. Sales needs a reason to sell, to draw their customer base to them. This attraction would be their ROI

TWO: Succession.
What becomes of a brand when the leadership decides to retire or there is a death? They chose to re-brand to make sure the brand is seen in it’s most desirable light. This makes it to be more desirable to a buyer. It doesn’t matter whether this new owner is from inside or outside of the company. Desireabiility is the ROI here.

THREE: Buy-out.
If someone approaches them to sell – the decision makers choose to re-brand so that they are ready to sell if that sale becomes an actuality. They want to be perceived as powerful. Perception is the ROI is this case.

FOUR: Culture.
This comes up if the staff are not so motivated anymore. Internal communications are lacking and the general atmosphere needs an energy pill. Each company’s culture is unique and affects the mechanics of the brand – it works in unison. That energy would be their desired ROI.

FIVE: A negative Event
Maybe the brand was recently part of a scandal, the stock nose-dived or some other catastrophic event. The leadership wants the brand to regain it’s power position. If the brand is powerful, it is able to withstand these overwhelming events. The ROI hoped for here is power in the comeback.

There are whole number of reasons why you and many other companies like you might desire a closer look at their branding. These reasons each carry with them an expectation for ROI. Addressing them is the sign of a very pro-active brand. One that refuse to accept the mediocre and strives to be the best in their category.

3 Steps to Finding Your Peak Productivity Zone

Why is it when you sit down at your desk to do a few minutes of work and hours later it’s still not done? Is it overwhelm? Distraction? Could be. Another reason could be you’re operating outside of your productivity zone.

3 Steps to Finding Your Peak Productivity Zone-012815

Not many of us are conscious where our productivity zone lies. Even long after we have left the corporate world, we continue to wake up and go to work during the same times as we did before. Depending on your business, sure we do have to operate a certain number of hours within the socially accepted business hours. However, your best work should be scheduled for times when you are at your peak.

What is Peak Productivity Zone?

Some people call these their power hours. It is the time of day when you feel you are most alert, creative and energized. Most people identify with being a morning person or a night owl and these are clues to where your zone lies. It’s not always a hard and fast rule. Some self-proclaimed morning people can also be highly productive at night. To better identify your zones, try these steps.

Step #1 Re-assessing What “Type” You Are

If you confess you are a morning person. Think again. Do you jump out of bed each morning and are able to hit the ground running really quickly? Or are you a slow starter. Though you wake up early, in actuality, you can’t think of work or anything until you’ve taken time for quiet reflection, and to enjoy a cup of coffee.

Maybe you are able to get to work after some time to complete your ritual but you need more mundane starter tasks before you feel ready to tackle the harder tasks.

Step #2 Map Your Energy Levels

Using a simple a spreadsheet or paper, record your energy level during different hours of the day. A simple scale of 1-10 works, 1 being low and 10 being high.

Track this over a period of time. 3-4 weeks will give you a good indicator. You may see a pattern emerging that you’ve never noticed before. Don’t be surprised if you find your energy levels waning and returning through the day.

Step #3 Work It

By now, you would have identified a time or times of day when you are fully engaged. This is where you should schedule the big tasks that require your focus, concentration and creativity. These are the times when you should hang a do not disturb sign on your door, make sure everyone respects it, and protect dearly.

If you have meetings, administrative tasks, time for others, and chores should be scheduled them outside of your peak productivity zone.

Sounds simple? It is, but don’t mistake simplicity for inefficiency. Often, it’s the simplest things, and smallest change that can make a big difference.

One great book that talks about a similar concept of managing your energy is The Power of Full Engagement. Put it on your reading list.