Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Pursuing the Common Good

I've been thinking a lot lately about the concept of a dual
bottom line. Usually a dual bottom line refers to a business
that concerns itself not just with profits but also with
providing jobs for a community.

My business has always been a dual bottom line business
because I am committed to donating both time and a
percentage of my profits to causes I care about.
Some businesses take that a step beyond and create
businesses whose sole (and soul) purpose is creating profits
to fund charities and good works.

Paul Newman and his partner A.E. Hotchner created
Newman's Own to do just that. Peddling spaghetti sauce
has allowed the duo to donate many millions of dollars
to causes they care about. They also created Hole
in the Wall camps all over the world to provide a summer
camp experience for kids with serious illnesses. You can
read their zany business story in a book Hotchner wrote,
entitled "Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common
Good."

I see small business owners in my community getting
involved in all sorts of good causes like helping out at
the local library, volunteering at the animal shelter,
serving on boards of trustees, donating items for
fundraisers, or making handmade blankets for kids in
crisis.

The spirit of philanthropy has always been
alive and well in the small business community. As
small business owners we well know what it is like
to struggle to get by. We also know how great it feels
to bring a smile to a neighbor's face or bring a new
job in our community.

So, hats off to all those small business owners who
pursue both profits and philanthropy and who keep the
spirit of giving flourishing in all our communities.

Until next time,
Caroline Jordan
Get Knowledge. Get Focus. Get Results.
The Jordan Result

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Tell Me a Story

Everyone loves a good story. Whether it’s the story of your vacation to an exotic place, the story of how you met your spouse, or the story of your small business, people get drawn in and feel involved. Storytelling is as old as civilization itself.

I participated in a seminar a couple of weeks ago and met Rob Nicoll the owner of a Meadery. “A Meatery?” I asked. No, a Meadery where Rob makes mead, honey wine, and cordials. The name of his newly developing business is Fiddler’s Reach and it’s located on the coast of Maine.

One thing I’ve found in talking to people all over the country is that the very mention of the word “Maine” evokes an immediate positive response and adding “coast of” in front of it increases that positive response. It calls to mind rugged granite, crashing waves, soaring seabirds, sturdy lighthouses, wild sea roses, and a feeling of peace and ease.

As I talked with Rob about his business, he spoke of tying his business story into the mystique of the coast of Maine. The name of his company, Fiddler’s Reach, comes from the name of a sharp turn in the river that ships have to navigate to finish their sea journey.

In days of old, once a ship came safely through Fiddler’s Reach, the journey was nearly done, the work slowed down, and the sailors had time to relax and anticipate the joy of homecoming after long months at sea. And that is when the fiddler would reach for his fiddle and the sailors would dance, sing, and laugh.

What an appropriate story for a business specializing in an old fashioned beverage designed for enjoyment during times of relaxation. Envision how Rob can use all those images in his marketing—package design, sales letters, advertising, letterhead, etc. Ships and waves and fiddles and joyous homecomings on the coast of Maine. It ties into the longing we all have for a little rest and relaxation. It transports us to another time when life seemed simpler and less hectic. A magical time when the plaintive sound of a fiddle expressed our homesickness and a joyful tune spoke of coming home to a well loved place. I’ll take a case of that!

Engaging your customers through story telling makes them feel as though they are a part of something greater than themselves. It lessens the loneliness of an uncaring world and provides a momentary escape from reality. What stories can you tell about your business that make people say, “I’ll take some of that!”

Until next time,

Caroline Jordan
Get Knowledge. Get Focus. Get Results.
The Jordan Result

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Is There a Plumber in the House?

I don’t know about you but I get really frustrated when I have to deal with anyone in the plumbing, heating, or electrical field. For the most part, the service is horrible, the contractors are unreliable, and the lack of professionalism is rampant.

Case in point, we’ve been working on adding a new bathroom at our house. We had a plumber all lined up to do the work. When we were ready for him, we gave him a call only to be told he didn’t have time to do the work. If he had told us that a month before we might have had a chance to line someone else up to do the work. So instead of a bathroom, we had a real nice porch. Fortunately, we were able to find someone else to help us out and the construction project is moving along.

Imagine my delight when I saw this press release:
www.clickpress.com/releases/Detailed/2007005cp.shtml

Hub Plumbing and Mechanical in Boston has initiated a program called “Red Carpet Service”. Get this…the technician shows up at your house or business and literally rolls out the red carpet to protect your floors. They wear boot covers, have badges for security, and they actually arrive ON TIME dressed in clean red uniforms.

When you call their offices for an emergency, their phone is answered by a customer service representative who actually works for the company—not an answering service that just takes a message. The customer service rep can dispatch a technician immediately in case of an emergency.

The company also offers consistent pricing for everyone—no extra charges because you live in a fancy house.

I don’t know who the genius was who wrote this press release but it is masterful. It does exactly what you want a press release to do:

It is newsworthy—the customer service bar is set very low in the trades so a trade company that actually provides good service is, sadly enough, newsworthy.
It shows why this company is different from its competitors.
It tells exactly what problems the company solves—they assist “both residential and commercial customers with code violations, sewer/drain clogs, garbage disposals, water heaters…”
They even specify where they work—Dorchester and Wellesley.

Print this press release and save it. Use it as a model for all your future press releases. It really is brilliant.

And speaking of press releases, as a result of one of mine, I’ll be appearing on the Beth & Monica Small Business Resource radio show on Saturday, June 18th. The show is on KHFX from 12-2 p.m. Arizona time. I’m on the 12-1 segment which is 3-4 p.m. EST . The show is web cast live at www.KHFX.com is you’d like to listen in. I’ll be talking about Beating the Small Business Cash Flow Blues.

Until next time,

Caroline Jordan
Get Knowledge. Get Focus. Get Results.
The Jordan Result
www.TheJordanResult.com

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

In the Villa of the Sick Cat

If you’re a pet owner, you know the stress of having a sick pet and you know that having a great veterinarian is a wonderful thing. My cat, Zoe, came down with a nasty infection that had me racing off to the vet’s office last week with an unhappy, howling kitty in tow. (She’s doing much better now.)

This was my first visit to this vet’s office, having just moved here last year. When I arrived, the building was under construction. Lots of hammering, sawing, and loud noises—not exactly the controlled, calm atmosphere preferred by a sick pet. But fortunately, Zoe lives in the House of Perpetual Construction Projects, so she did okay.

But, what really struck me was the construction project itself. The waiting room has been transformed into an Italian Villa with high ceilings, a graceful figure-eight-shaped pool in the center of the room, a decorative fountain, and “faux” plants. It is gorgeous and would make a great setting for a romantic Italian meal complete with fine wine and a strolling violinist.

My first reaction on walking in was “This is beautiful, I wonder how high my vet bill will be.” As Zoe and I sat waiting (and waiting and waiting and waiting), I watched all the other customers coming through the door. Each one looked around at the beautiful setting and said “I wonder how much this is going to cost me.”

The newly designed waiting rooms and exam rooms were not designed for the customers—dogs and cats. They weren’t designed for the humans bringing in their pets for medical care. It’s a total ego design. Impressive. Elegant. Grand.

And instead of all the customers (animal and human) being wowed by the design, they reacted negatively. You see, sick cats and dogs want quiet, dark spaces and they want their visit to the vet’s office to be over quickly. Instead, the new design with its concrete floor (fashionably treated to look like a sun kissed rock patio) and its soaring ceilings means that every time the phone rings the noise reverberates throughout the waiting area. The poor scheduling means that a sick pet has to stay in that waiting room for what must seem an eternity. And of course, the humans immediately understand that the money to pay for this project has to come from somewhere…namely their wallets.

Fortunately, our new vet turned out to be competent and caring and Zoe is recovering nicely. But, the business lesson remains. Focus on what your customers care about and you’ll never go wrong.

Until next time,

Caroline Jordan
Get Knowledge. Get Focus. Get Results.
The Jordan Result

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Story of Kennebec Ice

Today, I want to tell you the story of Kennebec Ice.
It is a story full of valuable business lessons even
though it happened long ago.

Once upon a time, before the invention of modern
refrigeration, folks kept their food cold by using
large blocks of ice. That ice was readily available
to residents of my state, Maine.

(For my friends in other countries, Maine is the
northeastern-most state, bordered by New
Hampshire, Canada, and the Atlantic Ocean. We have
very cold winter’s and the ice freezes deep into lakes
and rivers.)

Now, residents of Maine didn’t think too much
about ice other than for their own use. Ice was just
a part of life, no big deal. During the economic
depression that followed the Civil War, ship’s captains
in Maine had a hard time finding enough cargo to
fill their ships. To compensate for the lack of cargo
the ship’s crew substituted large blocks of Maine ice
to act as ballast. The ice was covered with sawdust to
help slow the melting process. This need for ballast
created a new market for ice.

When the ships arrived in tropics and sub-tropics, it
was discovered that the ice being used as ballast was
a valuable product to the residents of those regions.
They were willing to pay for that ice. Cutting and shipping
ice to other parts of the world became an industry for Maine.
This new market saw ice being shipped to China, India, Cuba,
and many other places.

Now, somewhere along the way, through some
clever promotion, the ice harvested from the
Kennebec River in Maine became known as “the
best ice”. Consumers thought it was higher in
purity and health benefits.

There are many rivers and lakes in Maine, all of them
produce ice. There really wasn’t much difference at the
time, all the lakes and rivers were clean enough to drink from,
but the perception was that Kennebec Ice was the
best. People were willing to pay more to get it.

Because Kennebec Ice was the best, ice companies
all over the world started referring to their ice as
“Kennebec Ice” even though their ice might come
from Kansas or New York. Kennebec Ice was the
gold standard for ice.

And then along came modern refrigeration. The
ice industry died out and Maine residents who are
always resourceful moved on to other industries to
support their families.

So, here are our modern day business lessons
from the story of Kennebec Ice.

1. One product can have many markets and
uses, even a product as simple as frozen
water.

2. The things we take for granted may be
valuable to others.

3. Becoming the gold standard increases
business and allows you to charge a
higher price.

4. It’s important to protect your brand to keep
it from being cheapened and compromised
by others.

5. Watch for trends that tell you it’s time to
get out of the ice business and develop new
products or services.

Of course, the ice business is still alive and well in
the modern world, driven by a new industry--tourism
and recreation. So, next time you fill your cooler,
think of the humble ice cube and the proud part it
played in creating business history.

Until next time,

Caroline Jordan
Get Knowledge. Get Focus. Get Results.
The Jordan Result