- THE MAGAZINE
There are many individuals who fight an overwhelming battle everyday of their lives that greatly overshadows the business problems educated professionals can find solutions for.
These individuals face life-threatening illnesses, something that lends a bit of perspective to trying to survive hard economic times.
Last week I took the red eye home to JFK from Las Vegas. I knew I was not going to get any rest on the flight, so I turned on my television (good thing for Jet Blue). There was a documentary on Shriner’s Children’s Hospital. The focus of the story was a 12-year-old girl named Ali, the same age as my daughter. Ali was in an 8-year-long fight to beat a deadly cancer called neuroblastoma. Through all the operations and chemotherapy, she knew she was in an uphill battle, but would always rise to the occasion and remind everyone today is all we really have. Sad to say, Ali lost her fight with cancer and passed away before her 13th birthday.
You may be wondering what does this has to do with professional textile cleaning. Well, I will tell you. Learning from others how to survive when confronted with seemingly overwhelming odds is a crucial component in your business, your very livelihood. If Ali had the strength to live and fight every day for 8 years, we can learn through education and focus how to take control of critical factors that can save our businesses.
Shriner’s would tell you if they had one wish, it would be to receive much needed financial support in order to fund research and education, the driving forces behind solving complex diseases like cancer. In a similar sense, businesses must also be willing to invest in education to survive. A bad economy is no match for the professional who embraces education and learns problem-solving strategies.
Building the Foundation: Education and CertificationMost entrepreneurs desire to create and provide the best life for their families. One day you turn around and realize the problem is not so much the economy; the problem may be that you stopped learning and never created the strong financial and marketing edge necessary to fend off a sluggish and down-turning economy.
Do not listen to the naysayer who is negative about education and does not believe in certification. Building a quality, profitable company takes the credibility and trust of the consumer knowing they are hiring a competent service that invests in learning the scientific and technical aspects of textile cleaning. Education combined with certification is a critical element for any business that’s in it for the long haul. Take an IICRC or local trade association class and watch your business reach new heights. Do not focus only on the technical aspects of the business. Attend as many marketing and management courses as possible. Education is the best business tool. Today is your day to implement change and create a corporate culture that is based on education with an emphasis on business development.
Combining Education and ConsultationThere may come a time when a business requires professional guidance by a mentor or consultant for growth and increased profits. Mentors and consultants tend to focus on business development issues concerning sales, marketing and raising the financial IQ of business owners so they can better understand how to handle and evaluate money. Mentors and consultants assist in developing a plan to evaluate, re-focus, strengthen all areas of a business, while at the same time maintain financial liquidity of the business, meaning control over cash flow.
Using a mentor or consultant can help you take control of your business, eliminate fear and allow for continual positive progression in business environments that fosters and creates that killer focus. Remember the word FOCUS - Follow One Course Until Successful. Now is the time to analyze your business from the bottom up, and do not be afraid to ask for professional advice. There is a limit where your current level of education can take you financially. A major problem often encountered by entrepreneurs is that their plan is too little too late; generally it’s not a good time to plan when your back is against the wall where it can cause irrational decision making. Owner pride and outright stubbornness can cause a business to fail. It is very difficult for a person to truly analyze their own strengths and weaknesses; sometimes it takes an outside individual to bring things to your attention, especially those you may not want to hear. Successful business people are open-minded and listen to other professionals. Consultants understand your business and speak your language. Consultants can attack hard and fast using the latest in technology and education to create a thriving business culture where losing is not an option.
The best business people in the world have coaches, mentors, advisors, consultants, business strategists or whatever term you like. The beauty of using an industry consultant is that the successful ones have a track record of making their clients more profitable. Top-notch consultants have years of business and technical experience. A major focus of consultants is sales, marketing and team building within an organization. Integrated technology and social networking is also currently a strong focus of forward thinking consultants. Consultants can quickly help a company rise from what appeared to be a dreadful financial position.
The Highs and Lows of MarketingBusiness owners often blame the economy for ineffective marketing systems and strategies. Marketing systems and strategies need to be adaptable and compatible with the current economic times. It takes years to learn how to write effective ad copy and understand brand identity and development, let alone develop the financial skills necessary to analyze the business. When you learn to analyze marketing and sales programs with no bias, then a company can begin to grow and move forward financially.
Marketing is a continual and ever-evolving process that never sits idle and always requires change. In our fast-paced world, consumer needs, wants and desires constantly change. The economy has an even greater impact on consumer behavior and purchasing trends.
The consumer trend having the most impact on today’s professional is the importance of cleaning for health and the “green” revolution. How does your current brand fit together with green, healthy cleaning? Does your company name and tagline send the right message? Education and advice on marketing issues such as a company name change, developing a green cleaning tagline or implementing a strong add-on sales program must be used, like a powerful fulcrum to move mountains.
Staying in touch with clients and implementing marketing strategies that increase sales by having clients clean more often and purchase additional services is a key strategy to focus on. Have you ever looked at a competing company and figured out why they might be more successful than yours?
You should always seek and look for improvement in all areas of your business. Most companies believe they deliver a quality cleaning experience. I suggest you visit www.icsmag.com, search the article “How to Deliver the Ultimate Textile Cleaning Experience” from the ICS archives and honestly compare the level of service you currently offer.
Marketing and sales must be a major part of your current financial budget to stay competitive and develop market share. To be successful in business today, you need the ability to adapt. The ability to set priorities and further develop the financial side of the business must be an ongoing effort. Professionals who are competitive will focus on technology of an interactive nature. Today’s interactive technologies allow clients to get a true picture of your brand. Social networking is quickly becoming a viable business tool that should be looked at very carefully to see how this technology can propel your business light-years ahead of your competition.
The art of marketing and sales must be fine tuned to fit today’s current economic and social climate. The following are 10 survival tips to focus on:
- Create a marketing plan that is new and innovative. Make it different and stand out from your competition.
- Continue to add new and innovative technologies to market your business.
- Now more than ever, reach out and deliver your marketing message to your client base.
- Develop and look for new markets by diversifying services offered. With proper education and training, look to offer leather, tile, grout, Oriental rug or upholstery cleaning and capture new business.
- Try to add more value to your services. Examine your services and make improvements in all areas.
- Evaluate your corporate policy as far as customer satisfaction is concerned. Develop a solid service guarantee, advertise and stick to it.
- Market your services to clients with higher disposable income who are more likely to purchase investment quality textiles. Move to where the money is.
- Boost your commercial sales to help maintain a steady stream of income.
- Get your team motivated to sell. Develop an incentive program and emphasize a team goal. Analyze sales on a monthly basis and institute a financial reward system to boost team morale.
- Make sure your marketing efforts focuses on the Baby Boomer generation. One in every four Americans falls into this group, which continues to grow rapidly.
Putting the Vision TogetherMany business owners dream about being wealthy. Successful business people use education and technology to design and implement a plan to reach their goals. We’ve discussed some vital areas that should be given immediate priority in your business; it is never too late to strengthen your business foundation. The time is now to rise to the occasion and use education to solve the business problems we face. Use the information here to inspire yourself to raise your financial consciousness.
My wish for you as professionals is health and happiness because without our health and truly enjoying our chosen craft, life would be very boring and unrewarding. Take action today to develop the kind of business and life you envisioned when you started your company. Remember the strength and determination of Ali when you feel overwhelmed and your life just may fall into perspective. Remember, today is all we really have.