Friday, July 21, 2017

Goal Setting is Step One for Any Business - from Startup to Selling Out


 Carefully Considered and Written Goals May Dramatically Increase Your Overall Success

My mom used to say: “You’re going off half-cocked.” Most of the small businesses that I have worked with could use the same challenge. Any well-run effort should have a plan, and every serious plan starts with the goals. The goals answer the questions:
  • Why am I doing this?
  • What are the ultimate success metrics?
  • Why would consumers or businesses buy from me?
  • Am I passionate enough to do what needs to be done?

There may be a few more questions for that list, but those would be a great place to start. There is an almost unlimited list of ways to make a living or a fortune. Evaluating your specific idea by asking these four questions can help you to make choices between options, and get serious with yourself about diving in.

You are about to risk substantial time, money, energy, and emotion. Setting very specific goals before you start that effort is A. Sensible, and will B. Actually contributes to your success.

You may want to start with your personal life goals. Have you thought them through? Have you written them down? Recent research has shown that those who write down their goals achieve success at a much higher level than those who have not. I believe this advantage derives from the kind of thought that goes into the writing process. You might have some general goals in your mind about what you want in the future, but writing them down will bring clarity, and cement them in your mind and heart.

Whether we are talking about personal goals like family size, where to live, lifestyle choices, and charitable efforts, or business goals like total sales, profits, or type of enterprise, clear goals will provide direction regarding strategies and tactics.

The headline promised that this article was not just for start-ups, and it isn’t. You can and should stop yearly at least to contemplate any changes in goals, and to review your progress towards achieving the goals you’ve been working on.

Another time to think through your goals is when there is a major transition such as a major new product line, an acquisition, a buyout offer, or retirement. Entrepreneurs are commonly distracted from their primary focus by some new, bright shiny object. Even a new line of business for the company may look great in concept, but not really be lined up with the goals you’ve set. Of course, you can change your goals any time, but it is better if that decision is considered in the light of “changing goals,” rather “it seems like a good idea.”

There are many excellent books on goal setting. The first few chapters of my book, “Running a 21st Century Small Business,” take a deep dive into setting life goals.

Friday, June 23, 2017

New Crowdfunding Methods to Raise Cash for Both Startups and Mature Businesses

Kickstarter, StartEngine, GoFundMe, and Others Can Help Your Business Raise Needed Money

Do you have an idea that you believe could sell millions of units, but you just lack the money to bring it to market? I have been faced with that dilemma multiple times in my life. The resources generally available until just this decade are listed below and I have done all of them, some of them multiple times or continuously:

  • Credit Cards
  • Friends and family equity or loans
  • Borrowing against personal assets like your home    
  • Bank borrowing using personal guarantee, personal or business assets 
  • Small Business Administration Loan 
  • Selling stock to qualified investors with SEC filing 
  • Asset lending on accounts receivable, inventory, or purchase orders 
  • Customer advanced payments

All of these are still valid methods and commonly used, but there are limits and companies are commonly not able to use these approaches for all the opportunities or crises they encounter.

Now there are two more methods that are creating massive funding for companies, products, and services that don’t require any assets or much cash. Both involve crowdfunding online. One method uses “rewards” that are paid for in advance based on a HOPE that the company will actually deliver the rewards as promised, someday. Almost generically known as Kickstarter, the most common reward is a new product that the funding is designed to help the entrepreneur bring to market.

The other is raising equity or loans from qualified and non-qualified investors in amounts as little as $100 at a time. The investors are found online as part of a crowd of folks that like to take these kinds of risks.

Let’s take a look at these one at a time

Over the course of the last 40+ years I have brought multiplied hundreds of products to market and either owned or worked with 180 companies that offered products are services. In the course of these years they new company or new product process worked something like this:

  • Idea
  • Business plan for development
  • Cash requirements analysis
  • Personnel and facilities requirement to launch
  • Source of cash analysis
  • Timeline
  • Raise cash, execute on personnel and facilities
  • Spend money on design, tools, packaging, inventory
  • Take idea to buyers and attempt to create pre-orders based on brochures or prototypes
  • Make initial buy of inventory with no idea how fast product will move through distribution and off the shelves.
  • Ship and wait for results – manage results to best extent possible
  • Evaluate and shift as necessary regarding product, packaging, POP displays, distribution channel marketing, price, competitive shifts, etc.
  • Evaluate movement and begin to plan inventory rotation based on sales

Kickstarter and other websites like this are now firmly established with outstanding records for raising amounts as small as a few thousand dollars to multiple millions. The advantages for any company launching a new product using Kickstarter are huge:

  • Almost all of the risk is shifted to those seeking the reward (product.) With other methods the entire risk generally falls on the company and/or owner.
  • You can test market the product prior to spending more than a few dollars on copy, artwork, videos, etc., about the proposed product
  • The product gets displayed on a website where thousands of potential consumers can see your concept and potentially take a risk by placing an order for the “reward.”
  • The marketing content that you create for a successful Kickstarter campaign is now tested and ready to be used to sell in the future in traditional “stores.”

What does it take to create a successful Kickstarter type campaign?

  • A solid and serious new product or service idea that has an element of inspiration around it. There needs to be something seriously new and innovative.
  • Your own large following on social media, preferably including a big email list of folks who would be interested in the product or at least with helping you out.
  • A well thought out and creative pitch that can be translated into Great Copy, videos, spec sheets, etc
  • Rewards – This would include variations of your product, but might also include T shirts, thank you letters, etc.
  • A serious fund raising goal
  • Evidence of trustworthiness

What if there is no “amazing” new product, but you have a great company idea, or an existing company with a track record. If you would like to issue stock, you can go traditional routes similar to what John just outlined with friends, family, associates, venture capitalists, etc. But congress passed a bill which provides a new route.

You can now use online resources, including social media, to “advertise” your stock offering to both qualified and non-qualified investors. The stock can be preferred or common, voting or non-voting, it can even be bundled so that you are only dealing with one entity instead of thousands of individual share holders.

Under these new rules, these stock offerings do not have any of the onerous SEC requirements that earlier offerings require. Sadly, you are limited to only raising $2m per year. LOL

How does this process work?  What do you need to be successful?

While there are those who only try to raise a few thousand dollars using this approach, I would recommend sticking to credit cards and Mom if that’s all you need. Personally, I would suggest a minimum raise of $25,000 or even $50,000 for this type of stock offering.

You will want professional help. Start Engine Is one of the largest, but there are many. Each has their own niche, so it is hard for me to say which would be better for you. The reasons you need help:

  • Unless you think your friends and fans will fork over all you need, these online companies are followed by investors looking for these types of opportunities.
  • They will help you with the legal filings and what you need on your listing
  • For a fee, some will help you with the marketing (Start Engine $4000)
  • There are also issues of timing, how much to ask for, how to value your company preoffering and what that will look like post offering.
  • The actual type of stock, limitations, etc., are other legal issues you may get help with.

To be successful, you either need a killer idea, a great company story, an amazing leadership team or all of the above. Then you need to tell your story within the bounds of legal and ethical constraints. In other words, you are not allowed to puff your deal.

Consider this scenario, which is exactly what I’m doing with a current client. 

  • You have a new product or service idea
  • You have $10,000 available from friends, family, credit cards, cash flow
  • You raise $50,000 through a stock offering (cost $7000)  Net $43,000
  • You put the new product concept up on Kickstarter – cost $5000
  • You raise $100,000 (cost of goods $50,000) net $45,000
  • You now have $98,000 in working capital ($88,000 if you repay the $10,000)
  • You finish the research, make the tooling, buy the goods and ship the orders.
  • You may have spent some of the $98,000 on the make ready and overhead.  Let’s say you have $50,000 left. You can now use the $50,000 to buy inventory, set up the product on Amazon and eBay, and start selling.
If you would like to discuss more about the details of these methods of starting or financing your small business, please call Randy Kirk at 310-910-1848. The first 45 minutes of consult is without charge or obligation. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

No Matter What Your Business, Your Business Is About People

Time to be real. Business owners are not always very good with people. The very fact that someone choose to run their own show generally points to the fact that they don’t want to work for or be managed by people. Entrepreneurs are almost by definition rule breakers who play to the beat of a very different drum.

To be sure, some owners are great at sales. Many restaurant owners love to chat up their patrons. And we’ve all seen the owners whose employees stay for decades, because they love the boss.

Whether or not you are “good” with people, a huge percent of the major issues you will deal with each day have to do with customers, suppliers, and staff…people. And there is always room for improvement in knowing how to manage all these unique and interesting folks.

So back to being real. Rate yourself from 1-10 with 10 being best on the following:

  •         Hiring great personnel
  •         Managing my staff
  •         Managing my employees who also happen to be my childrent
  •         Managing sales staff
  •         Managing managers
  •         Working with suppliers
  •         Customer relations
  •         Personal sales skills
  •         Planning for business transitions
  •         Planning an exit strategy
  •         Setting goals
  •         Helping others set goals
  •         Holding others accountable
  •         Training
  •         Delegating tasks
  •         Delegating responsibility
  •         Delegating authority
How did you do? This is the short list, and not exhaustive my any means. Think bankers, investors, and so much more.

Everybody has strengths and weakness. A great CEO recognizes clearly where he/she has deficiencies and works to fill those places with outstanding associates, either on the payroll or as outsourced service providers and consultants.

As a consultant, I commonly see huge gaps in the people skills of the owners I work with. Sometimes these are very damaging to the prospects of the company. For instance, imagine the impact of poor customer service today, when every mistake is blown up on Yelp. Or think about the legal consequences of inappropriate behavior among the top management. I have personally witnessed the destructive potential of an employee who is a negative Nellie or who undermines the owner. And the damage that can be done by poorly managed sales people is no secret.

If you feel like the time has come to deal with some of your personal shortfalls in the people skills area, or if you have employees that need such help, please give us a call. We can help with this and other management and marketing issues.   310-910-1848   That is my personal cell.
Randy kirk
All of the above skills can be trained, hired, or outsourced, and this is but a fraction of the ways that

Monday, September 14, 2015

Understanding Your Financial Statements Is Critical to Great Marketing!!!

You can't manage what you can't count

One of my clients owns a botique bookkeeping, accounting, and payroll processing business in Los Angeles. She is very successful, but needed help with her online effort. As part of that effort I authored a series of blog posts relating to the importance of using income statements (aka, profit and loss) and balance sheets to increase profits in any small business. Here are the headlines. Click through to read the details.

Increase Your Profits Tip #1 - Margins Matter

Increase Your Profits Tip 2 – Margin Analysis – Case Study

Increase Your Profits Tip 3 – Financial Reports Reveal Luxuries

Increase Your Profits Tip 4 – Financial Reports Reveal Fantasy Thinking

Increase Your Profits Tip 5 - Six Numbers You Need to Run Any Business from Maui

Increase Your Profits Tip 6 - "Risk comes from not knowing what you're doing." Warren Buffet

Increase Your Profits Tip 7 – Count This and That and Even This 

Increase Your Profits Tip 8 – “That Was Really Dumb” App

Increase Your Profits Tip 9 - What Were Your Sales Last Year Same Month? The Year Before?

Increase Your Profits Tip 10 - Where Did All My Cash Go?

No matter what kind of company you have or where you are in the US, you may want to give ATPP a call to discuss whether they would be a good fit to do your payroll processing, bookkeeping, and are accounting for you. You can reach them at

ATPP Accounting Tax Payroll Partners 
20058 Ventura Blvd #118
Woodland Hills CA 91364
phone: 818-436-2775

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Twitter for Small Business - What You May Not Know Could Help You

Your Tweets get found on Twitter by keywords - but not on Google

I do a lot of blogging for my clients. These blogs generally get over 10,000 page views per month. Most of those page views do NOT come from Google. They come from Twitter.

You see Google search (Bing, Yahoo, etc.) is totally clogged. The amount of content on the internet is doubling every year, and there is no end in sight. But the amount of content that can be consumed by the folks is not increasing at the same rate. This is making the competition for those eyeballs more and more expensive to acquire. Where I may have posted on a blog five years ago and seen that post on page one under some keywords I cared about. Not so today. Not without a lot of extra work or much more careful selection of the keywords. Even when successful, the readership will be less.

How do we business owners get better at reaching our clients online with that content. We need to find out how they are searching. And the search engines of the future may be more tied to social media than to the wide open spaces like Google.

Twitter's search engine only searches Tweets. If you search by a person or keyword or hashtag, it isn't going to give you results for YouTube or a website or a blog. Because not very many folks are paying attention yet, it is still possible to dominate Twitter search with a few good Tweets per day. These tweets can be linked to your blog, website, video, etc., and can contain a phone number or other ways to directly reach you.

In addition, many Twitter users have set up key word alerts that are always searching for certain words they care about. Commonly this would be their favorite sports team, their college, or their home town. If someone Tweets that there is a great party going on in Columbus Ohio, and you are alerted for Columbus, you'll find out about the party. Google has an alert system like this, but it is not nearly so popular as Twitters, because Twitters content is social and immediate.

Small business owners will find that in today's internet scramble to find new customers, the time and energy will be better spent on YouTube, blogging, Twitter, and Linkedin. If you'd like to be a part of that future, give me a call at 310-910-1848.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Video Marketing Rocks! 90% of Consumers Use Video in Research


ROI on video is off the charts for most small local business owners

According to Media Post Publications:

Consumers Who Watch Product Videos Spend More on the Product

If a brand isn’t offering product videos on its website, it’s missing a potential marketing and engagement opportunity. 
About 90% of consumers watch online videos, and online shoppers are nearly twice as likely to make a purchase than consumers who do not view video, according to new research from video marketing firm Invodo.

Video is also a key opportunity because of its engagement rate. About 65% of video viewers watch videos through to 80% completion. Most videos end on a product tag or logo, so not watching the final seconds isn’t a huge loss. Consumers are responding well to videos on ecommerce sites, where most videos overall generate a 4.3 rating on a 5-star scale, a promising figure that suggests consumers do value the content in them. On average 12% of visitors to an ecommerce web page view a video when one is available. Many of those visitors often spend more money.

As an example, L’Oreal’s Kerastase hair care line runs videos about the products and then links from the videos to a shopping page. The average value of an order for consumers who viewed the hair care videos was 18% higher than for those who did not, Invodo found.

Invodo recommends integrating videos widely across a brand’s site from search results, to category pages, to landing pages, so that the video can meet the consumers wherever they are. Video can also be syndicated to partner sites, mobile apps, in stores, on reseller sites and in email.

Emails with the word  “video” in the  subject line generate 18.5% higher open rates, Invodo adds.

 My clients have the same experience.  Whether a mortgage broker, a tax resolution company, a bike shop or a personal trainer, videos make the phone ring and the door swing. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

9 Ways to Improve Your Luck in Small Business

Lucky Rabbit - Has all 4 feet

How Big A Factor Is Luck in Business Success? 

Never underestimate what the grand kids are picking up in a room full of adults.  I can distinctly remember bridge nights at my Grandparent's house.  At some point in the evening, someone would invariable comment on my Poppy's "luck."  And while I'm not sure whether his reply was forthcoming at that very moment or not, I did know his philosophy.  You make your own luck.

You see, he was lucky at bridge and poker because he counted cards and studied the game.  He was a national doubles champion in bowling because he was "lucky" enough to practice and learn to depend on his muscle memory.  He was lucky in love, parenting, and business.

This in no way should suggest that we are not all subject to the vagaries of chance.  Lightening struck my factory.  You don't have to tell me.

On the other hand, we who are in pursuit of success in any field might be too quick to check our pocket for the rabbit's foot, point to our competitor's luck, or grouse over our bad luck in the market (I own Apple at $550, and the only reason it is $400 right now is because I own it). 

How can we make our own luck.  Here are 9 ways to "almost" guarantee a luckier future:
  1. Hard work.  Poppy is speaking to us all through the grave.  Part two of his philosophy:  The harder I work the luckier I get.  He would undoubtedly have agreed that he had some advantages in life.  He was reasonably athletic, reasonably attractive, reasonably charming, and reasonably smart.  Getting lucky in the gene pool is helpful, no doubt.  But don't you know folks who are really athletic, really attractive, really charming, and really smart who are barely making it through life or worse.  Business success require extremely hard work and long hours.  More than anything, that might change your luck
  2. Do the hard things.  This is different than working hard.  I can certainly tell you of 14 hour days in my business life when all I did was stuff I liked doing.  I don't like making cold calls.  I don't like confrontation (with employees, suppliers, partners, investors).  I don't like doing long projects with a lot of detail.  There's a really long list of things I don't like to do that need doing.  Doing those things more would have made me luckier in business.  
  3. Do things really well.  My Poppy once bowled 19 strikes in a row.  You don't do that because you got up on the right side of the bed.  There is an entire industry built around the idea that you need to do something 10,000 times to become an expert.  Preparation, practice, concentration during execution will all improve luck.
  4.  Stick your neck out.  I believe that the meek will inherit the earth.  But that Biblical wisdom is often misinterpreted.  There was nothing timid about Jesus, Peter, Paul, or any of those who led the early church.  You can't sell anything that you don't offer to a potential buyer.  And you are unlikely to get lucky sitting around waiting for the phone to ring after putting your name on Craig's List.  Be bold.  Be different.  Be visible.  You luck will change.
  5. Don't be stupid.  I'm hoping that my Grand kids will remember me for this mantra.  It comes from a series I call Randy's Math Rules.  If the answer makes no sense, rethink or rework.  It is a really great way to check your math answers.  This applies to so much of life, including our business life.  Did you just come up with a solution to a problem that makes no sense?  Rethink and rework.  Are you chasing an idea or trying to sell a product or service that doesn't add up.  Rethink and rework.  Do you have partners, associates, suppliers, or employees that are subtracting from your luck.  Subtract them.  
  6. Make things happen.  You are the only person who can determine your destiny.  Take responsibility and get into proactive mode.  Is business slow?  Don't blame Obama.  And don't blame Bush either.  Don't blame anybody.  Change something, add something, subtract something, raise a price, lower a price, hit the road, do a crazy stunt, start calling people.
  7. Help others to succeed.  Your luck will definitely improve if you have helped other people to improve their lives.  Be a mentor, encourager, guide, door opener, motivator, and champion of your spouse, kids, employees, friends, associates, suppliers, and customers.  It isn't necessarily about the Karma.  It is a part of the natural order of things.
  8. Give back.  You contributions of time, talent, and treasure to your neighborhood, community, industry, church, or association will change your luck in many ways.  It will build your skill sets, your network, your confidence, and a vault full of appreciation that may be very helpful when you have an unlucky streak.
  9. Live with Integrity.  One more from my Poppy.  He literally wrote the book on bidding practices for the Mason Contractors Assoc.  Your reputation of honesty in business is a critical component of your luck. 
  BONUS - One way to change your luck is to utilize great outside resources to help with areas that you can't do yourself due to lack of time or talent.  We offer comprehensive marketing consultation for small businesses that can't afford a marketing manager or department.  And we do so at a cost that is affordable for the bakery, the solo lawyer, or the bike shop.  Call me.  We only work with 20 businesses at any one time.  As of this writing, we have 19.