Fifty years after it was coined, Moore’s law (the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years, or why the cloud works) continues to amaze. Murphy’s law on the other hand has been around forever.
Unfortunately as we are approaching singularity, Murphy’s law is in full action below the surface. While reading Future Crimes by Marc Goodman, I was struck by how much our society has closed it’s eyes when it comes to: “What could possibly go wrong?”.
Just think for a moment about your own business and how much you take it for granted that things will not go wrong – we all expect and accept glitches and soldier on. But what happens if you find your files locked by ransomware? Or you are one of the 143 Million identities released by the Equifax hack? Murphy’s law bites when you least expect it.
If you are older than 18, then I strongly suggest you make the effort to read this book. It is not an easy read, but it will make the hair on your neck stand-up when you see the implications outlined in gory detail by the author.
You will never look at a DNA test the same way again.
Frequently we are approached by potential clients who want to build a business arround an App. While many of them know how to code, a significant number only have a concept that they want to convert to the next mega app – and cash out.
Unfortunately not many realize that most of the current market for Apps are at the long-end of the tail and very industry/user specific. Their business models are often predicated on unrealistic user acquisition rates, and they are disappointed if not angry when we explain that their model in its current state is not functional.
The book “Machine Platform Crowd”, written by Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson is a must read if you are considering building an App.
If you are a maker of products, then this is a question that you need to answer. You will also have to be prepared to live with your answer, especially if you say: Yes!
Full disclosure: I have always insisted that the products made by my companies be “unconditionally guaranteed.” I never regretted that philosophy and in 25 years+, the cost was less than 0.01% of our sales.
Last month, I had the opportunity to test another company’s lifetime guarantee. Zippo ®, was made famous by soldiers during WW2, and most recently was a key accessory for the men in the Mad Men TV series.
I inherited a Zippo® lighter made in the early 1950’s and the lighting mechanism finally stopped working. I mailed it to the American repair center and 4 weeks later my lighter was returned in perfect working order. Zippo ® confirmed receipt and sent me the return shipping information – a professional and flawless transaction.
The recent uproar over L.L. Bean’s® decision to change their guarantee policy because of “claimed” abuse, prompted me to look a little deeper. To my amazement, while a large number of companies offer a “lifetime” guarantee, the fine print says otherwise. A Google search showed that there are only 20 -50 brands currently with a genuine “lifetime” guarantee: in other words, companies with a no-hassle process to exchange your product or to get it repaired for free. Country Living has a photo gallery of 25 products/companies that practice what they preach.
My recommendation to a Start-Up or an SME that manufacturers or distributes physical products is: Guarantee your product unconditionally. Yes, you will be tested on your resolve, but the resulting customer goodwill and word of mouth will be worth every penny you spend on fulfilling your promise. Do not get into fine print with qualifiers. Just spell out clearly what constitutes a failure of the product and what the procedures are to get it replaced or repaired. Yes, it is OK to charge for shipping – just do not make that an unrealistic amount. You will be doing the right thing.
As an entrepreneur, you will have to make an early decision on where you should physically locate your company. While micro businesses or single employee companies have the most flexibility and the least need for a fixed location, businesses that produce or handle physical products do not have that luxury.
Because many of our clients fall into the latter category, we frequently face this geography question and while each situation is unique, there are some common denominators. I will address some of them, so that you can evaluate your situation before committing to a location that could be more expensive than necessary.
In the restaurant business, your physical location is more important than your social media prowess. Rent and build-out costs will be your most significant fixed expense and consequently choosing the right location (i.e., a neighborhood where your target customer wants to go) is mission critical. An established location will be more expensive than a location beginning to trend. How do you choose?
- Do a thorough demographic analysis – framed by your ideal customer persona.
- Establish a relationship with a real estate broker active in your target area and who is specialized in restaurants.
- Do a personal review of Social Media covering the area (Yelp, Google, Facebook community page, etc.)
- Walk the neighborhood during the day and at night.
- Get comfortable with using data from the applicable municipality – zoning regulations, noise restrictions, building permits, crime reports, etc.
- Join a neighborhood organization and make friends.
Manufacturing or Assembly Companies
Here the main criterion is not foot traffic. Instead it is infrastructure and transport accessibility. How your employees get to work, how safely and at what cost has a long-term impact on your profitability. So does the infrastructure condition for electricity, water supply and whether or not you are located in a flood zone or possibly a volcano eruption. How do you pick what is right for you (assuming you have already settled on a city or town)?
- Create an optimal floor plan for your operation and determine the amount of square feet you will need, both minimum and allowing for growth.
- Create a relationship with a commercial real estate broker who specializes in light industrial buildings and provide a detailed list of your requirements. In addition to square feet, you need to specify your electric and water requirements, determine whether or not you need to be dock high, how many restrooms, parking area, ceiling height etc.
- Visit every location under consideration at least twice and at different times of the day.
- Meet with local politicians to see what incentives are available for you to locate in their district. For example: Targeted Economic Zones will allow an investor to invest only $ 500,000 instead of $ 1 Million to qualify for an EB-5 Visa. There also may be development credits, tax breaks and other incentives available.
If you are involved only in e-commerce and are doing your own fulfillment then you have the greatest amount of leverage over your future landlord, because you can use just about any light industrial space to house your operations. Location, signage, foot traffic or demographics are of little interest to you. What you require is the lowest cost per square foot in a reliable building. You want to have easy truck access but you do not need to be dock-high since a forklift will be adequate for loading and unloading. What you do want is a relatively safe neighborhood and a secure building.
- Determine your square-foot requirements.
- Contact several commercial brokers to provide a list of locations.
- Visit only the places whose pictures indicate they may work for you.
- Check with FedEx® or your preferred trucking company on a location’s accessibility and service times.
- Check on Internet availability (i.e. fiber-optic cable vs. regular).
- Negotiate for the smallest deposit and shortest lease landlord is willing to give.
Most important, never forget that getting the first or a new place for your business is a significant mile-stone. Enjoy the process and celebrate your accomplishment after your lawyer has checked the lease and it is signed!
If you are in the food business, this book is worth slugging through. Stories and characters that explain a little on how we ended up looking at Chefs in a different way.
Trade shows have been a marketing fixture since 1851 when the “Great Exhibition” was held in London.
Since that time, Trade Shows have become a staple in the marketing mix of established companies.
What about Start-Ups?
If it is a B2B product, we strongly recommend that our clients include Trade Shows as part of their marketing budget. If it is a B2C product and our client also wants a retail channel, then Trade Shows are a great way to get exposure to buyers from large and small chains. We also urge the client to be sure that the Founder and all senior staff attend the show and work the booth.
Why? – Because Exhibiting works!
“Trade shows are the #1 business-to-business marketing expenditure to support sales – beating out specialty publications, internet, promotions, and PR respectively”
It is estimated that 80+% of all exhibit attendees have some sort of buying power. So if they stop at your booth, your people and your booth must be ready to impress.
Whether you are at a National show in Chicago or at a Regional show in Austin – you owe it to your product and your stake holders to be at your best. While your booth may be minimal, your effort must be at the maximum. You have about 15 seconds to make a first impression, so make it count.
Some other tips:
- Do not economize on your booth location – get a corner or a larger booth
- Bring adequate POS material
- Have sufficient staff to give everybody down time
- Have a script and a chain of command for staff working the booth
- Have a daily pre-show meeting to get everybody on the same page
- Have a daily post-show meeting to review the day
- Do not tolerate sloppiness or inattention–texting can wait
- Be prepared to provide pricing information – delivered to the customer
- Be ready for surprises
- Last but most important: Know why you are at the show and know what you are trying to accomplish
After 35 years of doing Trade Shows, I can tell you that they are hard work. I can also tell you that proper preparation can improve results exponentially. So if you are just starting out, or already have few years of operating, I urge you to consider Trade Show participation. Carefully select a show to fit your purpose, do your home work and then watch your sales soar.
Recently one of our clients achieved viral status for one of his promotional videos that was posted by Odditymall on their Facebook page and got over 1.2 Million views in 11 days.
This was not an accident however! Our client had been building his relationship with Odditymall for over two years and they had previously given his products exposure on their site and even had posted videos, but nobody expected this.
From our clients perspective, the 1000+ orders came out of left field. While he had inventory, it was not enough. A key supplier had a personal tragedy during that period and that held up the production of additional units resulting in delayed shipments during the critical Holiday period – communication with customers became an instant priority and managed to preserve almost all orders and certainly Goodwill.
If you are bank or ice fishing this product may be of interest to you. Here is the link to the clients main site: The Fishing Caddy