As I sit at a Starbucks a distance from home, a person named Phil is sitting next to me eating a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich. He starts up a conversation while he is eating, stating he is traveling through the area and owns a paving business in Lombard, Illinois. He's on the road actively looking for bad consumer driveways to make money.
We know that sometimes dishing up thousands for a new website is not an option, especially when you are starting your business. You want your business to be found and you want it to be custom made to promote your business. What you don’t want is to pay for a website that will put you out of business. You want your website to generate business and help you grow without nickel and diming you around every corner.
I grew up in the small historic town of Chesterton Indiana. I have been fortunate to see great communities all around the world. Every move I have ever made has shown me a vast array of great communities. Some are struggling and some are vibrant and growing. What I find is the communities that are truly growing all have one thing in common. They have a strong community and even with the big box stores, they buy from local businesses that support their community. I now live in Valparaiso Indiana with my wife and family but get to Chesterton often as it’s just a short drive. I know deep down it’s this support of choosing a local small business before a big box store that makes these communities great and I truly feel good about it.
Although I am calling this small business growth hurdles it actually applies to any business small or large. It is about keeping to your core strengths and not letting them go. This is something every business needs to stay aware of. Being I have never run a large business my knowledge there doesn’t apply beyond working at some of the best large companies in the world. My focus here is on common mistakes business owners make and that can cripple, if not kill, your business. I am going to cover six of the items that I have not only come across but done myself in the past five years. I have overcome each of these and each has taught me several valuable lessons and made us stronger.
We are hearing this more and more from companies talking with us. They ranked high once and now they are dropping and their competitors are ranking higher. These can be local or national companies organically (e.g. free) ranking higher than they and they think it’s because these corporations are outranking them because they are spending money. The answer is yes but not in the way they are thinking. They are ranking not because they are paying the search engines to rank to get those organic listings. They could be paying for ads but that doesn’t measure into the organic listings. They are paying their employees or a digital marketing company to make them rank that way. Let’s take a look and see what a business owner can do to fix this problem.
Our company is going through the biggest change of any growing business. I know there are many ways of phrasing it but I am calling it the “Business Owner Role Transition” and to me, it is the pivotal point for any small business owner that is growing. Many will feel caught in a trap right before or during this part. Many will sell their business when the end reward is just in front of them. They aren’t quitters but quit anyway as they don’t feel they can do it and they really can with that extra needed “push”. Many will not talk to others in the same spot and lock themselves into silos rather than reaching out and talking with those people – not friends, other businesses that you may consider competitors. I also see it as the hardest point in my 30 years of working.
Organizations know they need someone in a role that communicates with clients, they know it will improve customer satisfaction, but never want to invest (e.g. it eats into their profits) in such a role. Often an organization will allocate a small part of a person’s (or multiple employees) time to it. This causes a system that actually can be even more inefficient. This is why as an organization we added Lorissa to our team with just one job duty of communicating with our clients. This dedicated position will make certain customer communication happens. We even have set parameters that we will add another person in this position when we reach certain thresholds so that we don’t run into a situation where our coordinator is overworked and create failure in communication. Our project coordinator position, which we call the Time Keeper, has the sole responsibility to communicate with the customer, put in tasks for the team, double-check the tasks that the team did, and get back with the client that the changes are done. This role has no other functions and how it will stay.
In all of our lives we have transformations that are key to our personal existence, keys to the success of our company's growth (for business owners), and the success of the customer's that we assist. This week for JM2 of Valparaiso Indiana was truly no exception. We have changed our web design and marketing from being what I would classify as a commodity that any individual could due to a strategic marketing machine. That is a very bold statement and one I think you will agree. In this article you will see how we transformed our brand, our customer service, and our internal processes to become something no other web design company in Northwest Indiana has ever done.
Listening whether you are in a small prosperous town like Valparaiso Indiana or a big city like Chicago Illinois listening is the most important trait any company BIG or small can do to be successful in their endeavors. Often a company will think that it’s their way or the highway. They might state publicly it’s all about the customer but the actions dictate and say otherwise. If you’ve been reading our blog and several hundred of you are you now that JM2, my company, is run by humans. Yes, we are inferior beings in that we make mistakes. What makes JM2 different though is our agile philosophy on life where we are quick to adapt and change based on both positive and negative feedback we receive from current and past customers.
We have heard our customers and what they need through both positive and negative feedback. Negative feedback often is some of the best feedback and organization can hear. It’s not because we want that feedback but because the person believes either in (1) driving traffic away from us as they feel scorned or (2) they deeply believe, like us, in local small business and helping them improve. Not every business will choose the improve process and be themselves scorn. We believe no matter the reason for someone giving positive or negative feedback opens an area for not only self-improvement but company improvement. This is why we have opted to create an entirely new position now rather than waiting months, even years, down the road. We pride ourselves in our customer service and what we’ve learned is that a dedicated person between the customer and the team is necessary for success.
The day I decided to start my own business scared the crap out of me. I was going from a beyond comfortable guaranteed income to one where it was a complete unknown. Since I was twelve years old I had worked. Starting out as a paperboy for the Chesterton Tribune was my first step into being a freelancer as I might have delivered newspapers but was responsible for collecting money and delivering the product. I wanted the money for candy, fancy shoes, and anything else a teenager would want. I know that in the past five years if I would have stayed working for “the man” I would be close to having made half million dollars in that short period of time. So why in the world would anyone give up luxury for something less? Actually, I didn’t!
With the company growing I have spent a lot of my time focused on improving business processes, fixing areas that can be improved based on our teams input, and stepping away from what I would call 'normal blog writing' to a more focused on our overall business and marketing processes. This shift is letting our expertise shine even more and allows our search engine optimization team, social media experts, graphic designers, and software developers focus on the free advice I had done for the past three years.
Normally my blogs are written from 4-6am to be sent out later in the day but being it is a relaxing day I did reading and research during that time instead. Last night I was out at 10pm to see what was up in the community. I drove through Chesterton Indiana and then Valparaiso Indiana. I had a secret agenda to see if small business really believes in the support of their community. What I saw truly shows the heart of what small business is and how much they depend on the local community to help them grow.
We are often asked why we work with small business and nothing else. That wasn't always the case but small business is what we only work on now and the answer is quite simple. Small business make up 3/4 of the businesses within the United States which is a large group of businesses to work with. Five years ago, we went straight to the big box stores for everything as we were selfishly looking at just saving a few pennies (literally just pennies). As we saw spending these pennies on a small business were not only possible but made us happy and we established relationships with these businesses. This change happened and was our wakeup moment when we started our own web design and marketing small business in Michigan City Indiana. Our eyes opened, and we started to 'see the light' of what was really driving the American economy. It isn't these large stores but the small business that invest in our local communities that made our communities grow.
You are starting your new business in Valparaiso Indiana (replace with your town/city name here). You have a lot on your mind and truly lot of work to do. When you start you wear many hats and years from now you'll still be wearing those hats even with a growing team. Starting a business requires a lot of juggling on your part, dedication, and passion. Checklists are one of the most valuable assets a growing small business owner will use. It allows you to stick on-task, on-time, and hopefully on-budget. We hear from other business owners, startups, and even business consultants and are amazed at what we've done as well as how we've done it. I have a series of articles that I will be sharing that will help businesses get started and hopefully started better than we did. As you are building your list for your new business or if you have a growing and established small business these five tips will help you better market your company online.
It's time to talk about the pieces of our business that no business owner ever hopes to be discussing. Being prepared though is the first step in this situation. Dealing with your own mistakes, mistakes of employees, mistakes of other customers, misconceptions, missed expectations, and dealing with people that are just unhappy with your services. How you handle these situations will either turn them into an advocate or make them your worse enemy. Let's shoot for your advocate! Whenever we take on a project for our SEO and social media Business Improvement Plan clients we do an onboarding meeting whether on the phone or in-person. We discuss how to deal with negative reviews and remarks. In this article, we are going to talk solely on about the review side but pertains to any negative attributes you receive regarding your products, service, or business.
How fun would it be to be the richest man in the world even for just a day? If you ask Jeff Bezos he can honestly say due to his company Amazon making a difference in the retail sector. Wal-Mart, Target, and others have been retail leader's due to their physical stores where we consumers can go in and purchase what we need with instant gratification. Amazon started in 1994 selling out of his garage. It seems many start out of their garage or out of their home if they don't have a garage that have become successful businesses. Some of these businesses we know nationally, like Amazon, while others are local versions making a positive difference in which they server.