Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What A Waste Of Time, Energy, and Brand Name Association

I just read an article that shows how small a company can get in their efforts to get larger. In this case, it has to do with 2011 truck emission systems and what they're saying is "we have the best way to do that, they have a different way and we don't like it or think it is a good way because they aren't doing it fairly, and we think they should do it our way because our way is the best way and their way is flawed. They shouldn't be approved because their way has flaws."

What is pretty common in the business world is hearing that a company or its products are better and why and the competition doesn't measure up. But, this is much more silly and time wasting than that. In this case, this company has gone to the State of California and the US EPA (Mommy and Daddy perhaps) to tell them all the bad things that all those other companies are doing and how we have the only way and they shouldn't get to play because they're not nearly as cool as we are--and we are just the coolest. Can I get a witness? Can I get some judgment? In our favor? Please? 

Any person or company who tries to move ahead by taking others down is wasting time, energy and brand name association. There are two ways to have the tallest building. One, become known as a builder, and two become known as a destroyer. Which one does this article indicate to you?

They might be suing in court if they had a leg to stand on, but that would be even sillier. Just think of all the time (time is money), money, energy (people running around doing filings, etc), lawyers (money) that can get expended on this kind of project, many of which go very long. This is the cost of destroying the competition (or trying to). Now think what can be done with the same volume of money, time, people, energy to build the tallest building. Which one would you choose?

I recommend building. . .

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Value Of A Dollar Is Social

"The value of a dollar is social, as it is created by society."

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

The value of a dollar is entirely subjective. Pricing is less a science and more a guessing game. What people pay is entirely based on how they perceive the value of the item. The value of an item can be expressed in many ways and it can also be perceived is as many.

I have an online business through eBay selling used books mostly and also music and movies, mostly VHS. It is not a big business but I have over 10,000 items on eBay and half.com at the moment. Some things may be online without a sale for years. I started this business in mid-2004, and by mid-2005 had amassed quite a bit of inventory. Much of it is common, but I have done pretty well with a certain strategy.

There is a series of books I had quite a few of called, the Chicken Soup For The Soul and miscellaneous titles as such. Book dealers trip over themselves to sell these for .75 each, but what's the point of that? So, I listed them for $5.95 plus $3.50 shipping. Well, you know, I've actually done pretty well with that kind of pricing because I had a photo of the actual book and a large selection of things, but I full well knew I was pricing myself out of this market. But, I did nothing and several years later, I still had these books.

One day a couple of weeks ago, I was looking at them in the warehouse and decided to try something. So, I priced them at $3.95 with FREE shipping as a test to see if I could sell one, otherwise I would just take them offline and throw them away as a lost cause. By the way, it's not the value of the books as reading material, it is that there were so many millions printed!

The day after I changed the price one sold. The next day another, then another and another. So, there ya go. I still got a great deal more than those tripping over selling them for 6 bits, and found a price that customers felt value at. Win-win. Shipping cost me about $2.50, so it is all good, and the experiment paid off. I wouldn't call it EUREKA, but it is a positive change.

So, there's a story of value and price in a nutshell. I love the eBay business because it teaches me so much and I get stories to tell to boot. Win-win.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

We Welcome Our New Trend Setter Package Client: FITBODIES I.N.C.

Upward Trend is pleased to announce our newest Trend Setter Package client, FITBODIES I.N.C. (Individual Needs Customized), owned and operated by Robin Boubelik at 97 Dobbin St, Suite C, Vacacille CA 95688. You can reach FITBODIES I.N.C. at 707-628-5600.

FITBODIES I.N.C. was created with over 17 years of experience and continued education in the fitness industry by Robin Boubelik. She uses an application of personal and professional knowledge in weight training, teaching a variety of classes and managing. She has one important goal: to give each person individual attention and quality instruction.

Keeping in mind that variety and consistency are important for an effective lifestyle of fitness, FITBODIES I.N.C. has a variety of different group and private sessions available to meet individual needs. All sessions are limited in size to give more attention to each client. Robin says, "I take pride in what I do, and it is very important to me that each and every person who comes into my studio feels they are getting the very best out of what they are doing. I want you to leave feeling healthier and happier than when you came in."

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I Partner Inc - How To Grow Your Business Effectively

"I believe that you can get everything in life you want if you will just
help enough other people get what they want."

-- Zig Ziglar

"Win hearts, and you have hands and purses."

-- Lord Burleigh

One thing is clear about our companies. We partner with a lot of other people and companies and it has proven to be one of the best things we could possibly do.

Many businesses think competitively and that idea is based on lack. It is based on the assumed fact that there is only so much business in a certain area for a certain product or service and that the goal of the business is to maximize their share of that business, or think of it as a pie and trying to get a larger slice of the same pie everyone else is trying to get a slice out of. This idea is flawed from the start because it is so limiting in its scope because it is totally based on lack and limitation--there's only so much and no more.

The reality is that this limitation is not fact. It is just an idea of the way things are. It is a point of view; albeit, a negative point of view. Yet there are so many businesses who are working to cut their "competitor" out of as much business as possible so they can have more. Price wars, advertising wars, and the fight goes on.

Based on this kind of thinking, a business would be very skeptical of partnering with this so-called competitor, yet, I highly recommend it. It has proven very successful for our endeavors and it builds relationships and helps our business expand while theirs does the same.

Think of partnering as making a bigger pie. Instead of trying to get a bigger piece of a smaller pie, we just make the pie bigger and everyone gets more. What a concept! But can it be done? Absolutely! We do it every day.

We have partnered with many and even some of them at no charge over a long period of time, helping to grow their business and we find benefits in that. You just never know how something you do for someone else may come back to you. You may be rewarded from a completely different source. Of course, we don't really do it looking for a return, but we also know that the law of compensation will bring us compensation from somewhere. We figure, we were going that direction anyway, we might as well bring some friends!

I could give example after example of how this has worked and proven itself effective, and I will most likely write on this subject more because I think it is not only interesting, but worth sharing. We partner often and we highly recommend it.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sales Skills and Presentation Skills To Consider From Ford Fusion Video

A virtual test drive in the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid! This video comes from YouTube CompareFord and http://www.comparefordsocial.com/.

Now, I hardly ever put anything in this blog about cars, but I was very impressed with this video. Since I spent most of my life in the automobile business and I've been a sales manager in one form or another since 1975, training to do presentations has always been a focus. Here's why this video impressed me from a sales perspective--and this applies to almost any kind of selling:

1. The greeting was excellent, real and in good spirits.
2. The vehicle was brought to the customer at the customer's convenience.
3. This is a familiar area for the customer, so they are much more comfortable.
4. THERE WERE ONLY A FEW KEY POINTS MADE. Some salespeople just love to talk about all the features, benefits, this and that and the other. People don't need that many things to make a decision. Frankly, the more you talk, the further the sale gets from you in general.
5. The demonstration was completely in flow with the rest of the conversation--and, this is key: it was conversational.
6. He treated the customer as a friend, yet not too personal. He was comfortable and that flows easily to the customer.
7. This was obviously not the time to close the sale, so there was not attempt to do so. This was a demonstration and effectively serves as a taste, a sniff, a social get together. As this, it is effective as a convincer of the sales person, the dealership, the product, and the experience.

I want to say, BRAVO! Well done. I know it was staged, but it was very well done and I would highly recommend this approach and please keep in mind not to tell too much. People have a hard enough time trying to decide and more information is usually not the deciding factor.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

My Economic Indicators Are. . . Good!

"If you keep on saying things are going to be bad,
you have a good chance of being a prophet."

-- Isaac Bashevis Singer

It is interesting to hear many business owners say how bad things are and how they are going to get worse before they get better, and then proceed to itemize a list of the reasons and justifications for their conclusions. I am a swimmer, but I have learned from long and hard experience that it pays for me to swim upstream with people just a few strokes before I let them keep those thoughts for themselves.

I really would like to say to them that it can be better right now by just changing those thoughts and conclusions and that this would not only feel better, but actually create more prosperity. I would like to offer proof and options to show how it can be done, but they cannot yet hear me. They have become prophets. They have been proven right (such an easy thing to achieve, yet is entirely subjective). They stand on their proof (the news, group opinions, talk radio, TV, statistics--you know--facts). So, within a few minutes, I have to stop swimming and float downstream and let them have their prophetic creation to themselves.

So, if you've read this far, you must not be the person I'm referring to, so let me give you some thoughts to ponder on this subject.

What if the current economy, economic conditions, state of business, and your life in general was normal? How different might you feel about it? People might think it is bad now, but the word bad is a relative term indicating a position away from good. What if now was good? What if bad wasn't actually bad?

I know this is sort of trippy, but give it some careful thought. What if, in order for things to be bad, it would have to get far worse than it is now. Here's another way to approach it: What if there were no past? What if there were only today and the future? We might have to get rid of the word bad entirely, for it wouldn't have much value without the past, would it?

Some of the best advice I've ever heard came from Theodore Roosevelt: "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." In other words, just do your best. Great advice in any economic condition, and if we're going to be doing the best we can do with what we have and where we are, it sure is going to help the outcome to believe there will be one. In other words, believe in yourself, your services, your business, your value, have a positive outlook in general. It is amazing what a difference that will make once it is an allowed thought.

So, here's a toast to today being good. Maybe it wasn't good enough, but that would only be if you didn't give your best. If you give your best, there isn't any better, so it will have to stand. Find things to be thankful for. This always helps me tremendously. Once you get your mind on that path, you will find many, many things to be thankful about, and your gratitude will change your demeanor, your attitude, and believe it or not, your results.

Today is a good day. Life is good today. Every day is a good day. Thank you for this day.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Now We Can Get On With What Is Really Important

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference."

-- Reinhold Niebuhr

This quote has long been the anthem of Alcoholic's Anonymous and other similar programs and yet I think it applies so widely, no one can claim ownership. Since I write mainly about business in this blog, I think this quote applies so well to the business environment that it was a must to share it.

Just think about all the things we complain about during the day and then think how many of those things are not really in our control to be able to change. The economy for example. We can do what we can do, but in the end, we cannot control or change the economy as a whole; albeit, we do have some control over our own. Think about the other things we don't have control over that we complain and spend time fussing with.

It's high time we accepted them for what they are and leave it at that.

Next. Having the courage to change the things that we can control or change. Of course, there is a long list here I'm sure. We can change our thinking, our attitude, our perceptions, our frame of mind, our work efforts, or our employees, or time schedules, our habits, our punctuality, our cleanliness, our organizational skills, and much, much more. There are so many things that we have the power to change. Celebrate that!

Let us gather our courage to change those things we can change and might want to change.

Last, the wisdom to know the difference. Oh, what a difference there is--and it makes all the difference in our discernment. Let go of the frustration and overwhelming influence of problems outside our control, and rejoice in the fact that the rest of our problems are really opportunities to try again.

What a relief! Now, we can get on with what is really important!

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Competitor To Be Feared . . .

"The competitor to be feared is one who never bothers about you at all,
but goes on making his own business better all the time."

-- Henry Ford

Whether it is in business or sports or other parts of our lives, it will serve us best to focus on what we want, what we do, how we do it and how we feel about it. To always be looking over your shoulder at competition approaching or looking ahead and the competition's behind--either one and both are not serving us.

Sometimes we use competition as a benchmark; a standard; a performance bar to see if we measure up, how close we are, or how we are doing relative to the standard set by the competition. What a waste of time that is. If we spent half as much time focusing on our own standards, constantly adjusting those standards to serve our customers in the best way possible, we would excel as never before.

It pays to have pure focus on what our customers want, what we want, what we do for our customers, what more we can do for our customers, expressing how we feel about our customers and the like. That's where the money is! It is is providing value and always increasing that value relative to what our customers pay for our products or services. That best serves us as our goal. Looking at what the competition is doing or not doing is giving up all our own business in pursuit of someone else's. Maybe it might be easier to close shop and go to work for them!

How about a different way: Lead! How about if we become the benchmark of service and value in the world of business? How about if everyone else is asking how in the world we do it and how we make so much money in the process? How about it if we are constantly pushing the limits of our service to our customers and the world? How about if we pay absolutely no attention to what everyone else is doing?

What do you think? How about it?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Getting Ready Is The Best Part Of The Game

"Before everything else, getting ready is the secret of success."

-- Henry Ford

Isn't that just the way. . . we want success and results, but we aren't willing to spend the time it takes to get ready for receiving it. Just think of what a young athlete must go through in terms of getting ready for many hours, days, weeks, months, years, in order to perform one time in something that most likely takes less than 5 minutes. Think of how strong their vision of the goal must be--to be working hard right now and seeing more working hard for several years preparing for the Olympics that come only every four years. The courage and tenacity that they must have is unthinkable for most of us.

I have found also in business that getting ready is a huge chunk of what I do. I'm preparing for success by thinking, studying, expanding, fine tuning, researching, communicating, and much more. In the beginning it was just me, but now there is a team and that increases all of these things, yet allows for even more possibilities because one person is limited. So, now we are preparing for even more success.

Now, sometimes we might think of getting ready as the four letter word, work. I suppose it is, but when there is this big goal in front of us, the work flows easily and as a matter of course. Keeping that big goal in mind is key to having the energy to continue to drive forward. Other than this one fact, the goal is pretty much not important--it is the journey toward it and the preparation for reaching it that is important. It is important because it is life in the moment. Therefore, I think that getting ready is the best part of the game.

Now some of you might be thinking, as I have in the past, that one cannot spend their whole lives getting ready, like a professional college student getting one degree after another, or a builder who continually brings materials to the building site, but never builds anything. You're right on that. It would be a waste of talent. The key is to live while preparing; to do while thinking--or, an easy way to say it is to try.

Just like the athlete, we think, plan, and execute. If it works, we do more of it, and if it doesn't work out so well, we erase it and begin again with more information from that feedback. In business it is the same. We think, plan, and execute. If it works, we expand it, grow it, advertise it. If it doesn't work so well, we rethink it, adjust it, reformulate it, pull it from the shelf, or maybe even discard it, and move on to more things that work. It's all part of getting ready. It's all good and it is the growth that we live in the moment with that is the thing we enjoy the most and that makes getting ready the best part of the game.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

From Sales Losers To Learners

I just had to share this everywhere and especially on the Upward Trend Blog. I was elated to read this important and extremely insightful view of the sales staff and how even through economic valleys, a good sales staff, well directed by a leader with vision can create a seriously stronger enterprise. Excellent piece!

Check it out: http://www.sixmonthmba.com/2010/08/from-sales-losers-to-learners.html

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Scratching Around Can Be The Best Experience

"Business is never so healthy as when, like a chicken, it must
do a certain amount of scratching around for what it gets."

-- Henry Ford

Ah. . . in our personal lives and in our businesses, we dream of the luxury and everything taken care of, plenty of time away, profits off the chart, cash flow like a rapid river--in other words, ease. Smooth and easy, that's what we want. And what do we get instead of that? We get challenges, cash flow issues, accounting tantrums, customer fatigue, a motley crew, and. . . well, that's just some of it, isn't it? Certainly not all at once, or we would quit and say heck with it. Yet, just enough to keep us off balance and hungry for our day of ease somewhere out there.

I get it and I can totally relate to it and even admit, that yes, I do look forward to the ease sometime in the future--sooner than later I hope. At the same time, I have been learning a valuable lesson. Though I've been through many challenges in my life, financially and others, I am only now recognizing the value of, as Henry Ford says, "scratching around for what it gets."

You may never know exactly how a great idea, or a number of good ideas, really change things for you and your life and your business. They can and do. This we know. What is interesting is that so many of the great ideas and even the good ideas come from scratching around as a result of challenge and adversity. I am beginning to get excited about that concept rather than avoid it, and it is making a big difference in me, and my business.

I've studied business and business leaders for a long time now. I've read a few hundred books on business leaders and businesses such as Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Conrad Hilton, Alfred Sloan, Andrew Carnegie, Juan Trippe, Piper, Boeing, Polaroid, and the list goes on and on. Out of each, I have received wise counsel and have heard stories of such courage and tenacity. I've read and heard of almost losing everything several times, then massive success, others were successful from day one because they chose to satisfy a great need effectively and efficiently. In almost all of them, they faced challenge and adversity and every one of them came through all the better for it--not only in themselves, but a stronger and better company as well.

I am suggesting, as I have begun to do, that we look at challenge and adversity with joy instead of fear. That we get excited instead of disappointed. And, that we learn to enjoy scratching around. I know that will change everything for us, as well as those on whom we have an effect. That would also include our clients and customers.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Ever Our Goal: More Value For Cost; More Value For Less Cost

Since I first heard the phrase of the value exceeding the cost is when a sale is made, I have always had this scale in my mind. I am always cognizant of providing maximum value for the investment by our client or customer and I've felt that way in every endeavor I've done for my entire life. Zig Ziglar was famous for saying that "you will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want," and that has been stored in my brain since I first heard it in the early 1970s. I believe it is a guiding thought and it has served me well throughout my business career.

Especially now, in my own business, I am always asking myself and my partners, how can we provide even more value? It is interesting that in the last 6 months, we have lowered our prices and increased our services sixfold. I didn't even know that was possible, but we did it--and you know what?--business is up dramatically. The value of service that we provide our clients with our new Trend Setter Package is so much more than the client cost that the bargain is incredible. Isn't that the way it should be?

Here's a good question to ask yourself and your team in your business: what value are we giving our clients and customers for the money they pay? How can we give even more value? How can we give more value AND reduce prices? How can we demonstrate the value we know we provide, so our clients and customers are fully aware of the benefits they receive?

When I was selling truck bodies I provided extra value in a number of ways. It was far more than the product or the normal service of taking the order, paying attention to production and following through with the customer. I gave them extra value by helping them grow, from the experience that I had in that field doing what they are doing. I gave them so many ideas that helped make them a lot of money over the years and they in turn gave me business for the company I worked for. It didn't matter that I got paid for any of the extra work (and indeed it was a great deal of work in some cases) because I was just loving my customers and doing what I could to help them if I could. If they sold more, I may get more business for sure, but it was always more than that--it was a gift. Think of it as a thank you gift.

We now do much of that same thing in our website and Internet marketing business, Upward Trend. We don't look at how much money one client pays over an other, but to the service we provide once we have agreed to have them as a customer. Once they're in, we go to work. Even the lowest paying clients get so much more than full value and we are constantly looking how we can even expand that.

I remember when I was in the car business during my early twenties. I will never forget being out in the service drive listening to the service manager talking to a customer, saying, "what do you expect, you only bought a Vega!" The Chevy Vega was the lowest priced new car we sold at that time. How sad to treat a customer that way. I was at that dealership for 7 years and we had 9 service managers! Whew. That's a record, I'm sure.

We owe it to our clients and customers--and to ourselves--to provide much more value than just selling a product and walking away. I don't care how good that product is. The customer deserves better.

Keep asking how you can provide more value for the same or less money. You will find that with this attitude being fully functional, you will have plenty of business regardless of the economic conditions. People will always pay less money for more value, won't they? The more you think about that, you may find that you can actually do it. I know we did.