Growing Your (Small) Business

Recently I was led to an excellent article on LinkedIn called “5 Ideas to Stay Motivated in Your Work At Home Business” written by Vladimir Ninov (link to his LinkedIn profile) and contributed a comment to a well written article.

Mohamed BhimjiThere were two points made in the article that made sense for offline businesses, and the example that I had provided in my comment on the article was that of a laundromat. But you can easily take small (incremental) ideas and expand them to other types of businesses. These incremental ideas lead to bigger ideas and help grow your business. As a business owner perhaps you are not looking to run dozens of locations and are satisfied with one – but growth doesn’t always mean more locations – growth also means greater profits.

Here is another idea that I had given to a local businessman. He had a truck, and advertised on Craigslist and a few other sites his junk removal business. It was the least expensive and in fact said that if I were willing to help he would charge less (saves him from calling a friend to help, and paying him in pizza and beer which ultimately would result in $0 profit from my “order”). I didn’t really need junk removed, but some furniture taken to someones home.

I needed to get rid of old furniture because I bought something new, and the retail outlet I bought the furniture from didn’t have a take-away service or delivery service. So I was stuck with a small home filled with furniture that I could never use.

Once we had moved the old furniture to where it was to go, we got to talking and I found out a lot about him: he quit his job as a welder so he could work for himself, he’d been running his business for a few years on/off and now wanted to concentrate on growing it. Right away I made a suggestion to him: talk to local furniture stores (both large national and smaller merchants) and offer his services to them — not to deliver, but to pick-up and dispose!

This is one conundrum most homeowners face, they are buying new furniture but need to get rid of the old stuff. Sometimes it can’t be donated, and if they chose to discard it they need to arrange with someone else to come by and pick it up. If he is able to team-up with local furniture stores (or anyone that is in the service delivery business that does not want to deal with taking away old items) he can provide a superb value added service: homeowner gets new furniture, on the same day and potentially same time he takes away the old furniture (or whatever the item is).

Win-win-win for everyone.

The retail outlet can offer a value-added service, the delivery team doesn’t have to deal with moving the old item(s) into a garage or elsewhere (so they can get onto their next delivery) and the homeowner gets everything taken care of in one shot — no waiting or figuring out what to do with items that will be disposed of.

Regardless of the type of business you run there may be small incremental changes that you can make to help grow your business (either in terms of size or revenue). The changes you introduce should be complimentary – like offering dry cleaning services if you are a laundromat, or offering pop/snacks to your captive audience (who may have brought their kids with them). Make use of Google or other search services to see what other businesses are doing and see what you can use in your own.

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A Tale of Customer Service

We all want it – service, usually at any cost which is why some people tend to take it out on the innocent Customer Service Representative — whether it’s over the phone, or in person at the retail outlet.

HINT: Yelling doesn’t help get your problem resolved any quicker.

Here is a tale of four issues that I had and how they were resolved.

Issue #1 – The Tale of Worn Out and Tired Shoes

stacy99z logoI purchased several pairs of shoes from a local retailer, the shoes were manufactured by Stacy Adams. Two years (yes TWO YEARS) in both pairs fell apart, now I figured it’s just wear and tear but went back to the retailer as I had to buy some other items and mentioned this to them. They were willing to take them back but I felt a bit guilty, so they suggested contacting Stacey Adams. What have I got to lose?

Contacted them and they over delivered. They said “pick out what you’d like from our website”. So I did. They replaced them.

Who provides a warranty on shoes? Apparently Stacy Adams. They want their customers to be happy. Guess who I buy my shoes from now? @StacyAdams. Why would I even consider anyone else?

Issue #2 – The Tale of Headphones That Just Don’t Work

b436aa94-1c6e-482c-884d-6c98f6889265.png._V326648485_My son plays Minecraft and it feels I’m always buying something better or the latest.  He needed new headphones, so we did some research and Turtle Beach looked like a good choice. I bought him their $60.00 headphones (X12) given that everyone I spoke to highly recommended them and the research indicated this was the way to go.

About a year in and they failed – a lot of hissing, and just not usable. So I contacted Turtle Beach and they suggested a few things, but in the end they said “too bad, so sad. PFO” (OK, PFO is my interpretation of how they handled my issue).

I agree that the headphones were out of warranty but so were my shoes (in fact as I said, who warranties shoes?).

What could Turtle Beach have done? Replaced them. They were only $60.00.

Won’t be buying @TurtleBeach again.

Issue #3 – The Tale of Another Pair of Headphones That Just Don’t Work

logitech_logoAt the same time I bought the Turtle Beach headphones, I also bought a pair of Logitech headphones.

Around the same time the Logitech failed.

I contacted Logitech. They suggested some remedies but quickly followed up with “actually they are still under warranty, we’ll just send you another pair”.

Done.

Guess whose headphones I’ll be buying forever and ever. Yup – Logitech. In fact just bought an $80.00 mouse from @Logitech. Who offers a 3-year, no questions asked warranty on headphones or mouse? Logitech does. @TurtleBeach – maybe you ought to learn a thing or two from @Logitech.

Issue #4 – The Tale of the Mouse That Ran Away and Died

Razer_Snake_Logo.svgBought a Razer Naga 2014 from Razer less than a year ago. The mouse shuts down my laptop and desktop (yes, I know – a mouse should not do that, I’ve been building PC’s for 20+ years so know what I’m doing and talking about).

I tried everything: updated drivers, downgraded drivers, removed drivers, updated the laptop chipset drivers, tested every possible combination I could think of.

There was a bit of back and forth with Razer but in the end, Razer stood by their product (probably because it was under warranty – though I’d like to have seen what they would have done had it not been under warranty) and will replace the product. Thank you @Razer for making the warranty execution flawless (well, so far). Though I just bought @Logitech mouse, I also bought the Razer DeathAdder Chroma… what can I say? I’m impressed by bright, flashy and shiny. 😉

Some companies (@TurtleBeach) have a long way to go to help their customers, given that one person (me or anyone else for that matter) will simply go to social media and complain about the product. It’s also not limited to just social media – hit the gaming forums and complain there and then you’re getting to the heart of the users that use some of these products – hardcore gamers that expect the products that they purchase will last.

If good customer service policies are not part of your organization, and you are not monitoring social media and responding accordingly – you are in trouble.

Flying Economy Class

GST 825-07It would be great if we could all fly Business Class – or even Singapore Airlines Suites Class however I suspect not everyone has the $18k to fly a better than Business/First class seat. Perhaps when I make my 2nd million, I’ll give it a go. Check out their site by clicking on the link here.

So you’re resigned to flying economy class. It can be bad, but there are some rules you should follow. Some are just common sense…

Rather than get into more economy rules of etiquette as they can be found all over the place here are a few that I live by. So should you.

If you are planning on drinking a lot and will be getting up to use the washroom every 30-minutes – DO NOT book a window seat and inconvenience the people to your right or left. Pick an aisle seat.

business-insider-number-sevenEveryone hates the middle seat – but depending on the plane configuration (2-3-2 or 3-3-3 or whatever it is) if you’re on the window or aisle, please DON’T HOG the arm rests! What’s a guy in the middle to do? You can’t sit with your arms folded the entire trip. In fact according to Business Insider if you’re in the middle YOU get BOTH the arm rests. Hey it’s not me saying this…

…if you’re in the middle, and there are two guys on either side of you and you are decidedly hetro this is probably the only time ever that it’s OK to be touchy-feely with the guy(s) beside you. 😉

Oh yah – if you have kids, we know they can get ancy on a flight but please take care of them. During take off and landing, keep them in check. In fact keep them in check all the time.

If you are flying economy, please wear cologne, deodorant and antiperspirant. You probably don’t want to sit for 4+ hours next to someone that smells like they have not taken a shower for a month. Be kind to your flying buddy. Smell nice but don’t douse yourself, too much can be just as bad.

I’m an introvert. Leave me alone. I don’t mind a bit of small talk, but once I clam up – that’s a sign I’m done talking. If you’re the kind of person that can’t shut-up — learn how to. Thank gawd for the iPod and other electronic devices, I can simply wear my headphones and everyone leaves me alone. Thank You Sony for the Walkman. Thank You Apple for the iPod.

Do you have some rules that you live by? Share them!

…oh, and another great article on Gizmodo about flying first…