Tuesday, May 01, 2018

What If Your Business is B2B only and the Chapter Your Checking Out Is Heavily B2C?

Small business marketing today is moving from an advertising driven paradigm to one based on networking, connecting, relationship building, and reviews and referrals. Consumer goods better have great reviews on Amazon, and service businesses better have great reviews on Yelp. Then you have review platforms on Facebook business pages and Linkedin, too.

All of those systems are passive. Sure you can work them, try to optimize them, even spam them, but they all require that the customer find you through search.

Proactivity, on the other hand, relies more than ever on face to face, or at least text/email relationship building. There are plenty of folks trying to sell small business on the idea that this can be done through Linkedin prospecting, Facebook video ads, or Instagram storytelling. In fact, I’ve made a good living and helped my clients use some of those tools t
o excellent results over the last decade or so. You should be using them.

But almost every small business owner or rep I talk to says the same thing. They either need to go door-to-door or else do some form of organized networking. Some of the possibilities include:
  • Mixers
  • Chamber of Commerce Events
  • Service Club membership
  • Trade shows and local pop up booth events
  • Business Referral Networking Groups. 

All of the above hold their own special charms and can work if they are worked hard and with great intentionality. For this post, however, let’s take a deep dive into the world of Business Referral Networking organizations.

Can You Make Money through a Business Referral Organization?

The following are my recommendations for choosing the right group. But first allow me to tell you a few things that will influence my position. I have been a member of three different groups, have attended meetings of the largest group, and have written about this type of marketing in at least two of my business books. So, yes! I believe this is a solid way to generate new business with a very reasonable investment of time, money, and energy.

I am also currently a director for E-TEAM, a brand new division of TEAM, one of the largest referral networking organizations in the US. However, I think you will see that this position is not causing any bias as you review the methods for selecting the right group.

How to Choose the Right Business Referral Networking Chapter

You see, I’m going to focus on the chapter, not the parent organization. So here are the criteria I would use:

1.     No less than 15 active members. No more than 35. Some very large groups are very successful, but you rarely have time to give a presentation of your business. Less than 15 is usually a club in distress that is on the way to folding. The exception would be one that is growing under a solid leader.
2.     Check before you go as to whether your category is taken or compromised. Some chapters will go to great lengths to divide up categories, so they get everyone to join. You benefit if you have more breadth.  
3.     When you attend, pay attention to the protocol. All such groups insist on using good networking approaches during the 15 minutes or so before the formal meeting starts. Are the members standing up and actively networking? Do you get greeted by one or more members?
4.     Check the membership as they give their 1-minute elevator speeches. Are there power partners for you in the room? In other words, are their individual members who share clients with you? E.g. Real Estate Agent, Mortgage Broker, Handyman, Escrow Company.
5.     Now listen carefully to see how much business is being passed. The rule of thumb is four referrals per member per month. So, in a room of 15, you’d expect around 15 referrals to be passed. If less than 5 outside referrals (non-member referrals) , you need to at least ask some questions.
6.     Always check two or three groups before you decide, unless you are there because of a strong recommendation or unless the chapter is obviously super strong and perfect for you.

This has been a serious problem and may still be a problem in your neighborhood. I was a part of such a group. It was a really good group, friendly and doing business. Unfortunately, I wasn’t getting a single usable referral. To be 100% honest, the first week I was given a power partner referral that turned out to be golden. Then nothing. 

A New Kind of Business Referral Group Is Launched - B2B Only

I happened to get into a conversation with the CEO of TEAM Referral Networking, Kelli Holmes. We discussed my problem. She said she had a solution. A new kind of chapter where all the members were B2B. Essentially this meant that every member of the group was a power partner for every other member.

I attended a local chapter and found the difference to be amazing. The payroll guy, the merchant services gal, and the website developer all had exactly the same client profiles. So did the business broker, the commercial printer, and the business banker.

As I looked around the table at the commercial realtor, the business coach, and the commercial photographer, I realized that every single person could basically hand over their customer and prospect data base to the person next to them, and they could just start calling that list. But instead, the merchant services rep had spoken to their bakery customer about the payroll services guy, and the baker was expecting a call.

The result of that meeting was a decision to partner with TEAM and become a director for this new kind of B2B only referral group. We call it E-TEAM and were opening them throughout Southern California at this time, with plans to expand nationally soon.

We are actively building clubs in the Inland Empire, the Eastern portion of LA County (Covina/Pomona/Diamond Bar) and Northern Orange County. Our plans are to begin organizing additional chapters in DTLA, San Gabriel Valley and WLA in the Fall of 2018.

If you would be interested in joining a chapter of an E-TEAM B2B Referral Networking Group, please call Randy Kirk at 310-910-1848 or email at Randy@TeamReferralNetwork.com. We are also looking for individuals who would like to help build a chapter in their area. For more information please visit SoCalMasterMinds.com/team

Top categories for E-TEAM

1.         Payroll service
2.         Staffing company
3.         Commercial insurance
4.         Lende
5.         CPA and/or bookkeeper
6.         Commercial photographer
7.         IT managed services
8.         Website/social media
9.         Commercial Printer
10.       Sign makers
11.       Merchant Services
12.       Business Lawyer
13.       Commercial Realtor
14.       Graphic Artist
15.       Promo Products
16.       Charitable organization
17.       Janitorial
18.       Supplemental Insurance
19.       Security alarm installer
20.       Buildout contractor
21.       Commercial HVAC
22.       Guard service
23.       Business Broker
24.       Business Consultant
25.       Business Coach

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Five Reasons Why You Should Join a MasterMind group – Three Reasons Why You Shouldn’t

SoCal MasterMinds meet to help on another improve personally and professionally

It was Harold’s turn to be in the hot seat at his MasterMind group meeting. Harold was no different than most who have come before a group of their peers to expose their innermost business goals, needs, and problems. He was terrified. 

However, he had seen how others before him had weathered the brutal honesty and heartfelt advice from the group, and he had also seen how they had been catapulted to change in ways that drove better sales, profits, and quality of life.

The hot seat will make you better at SoCalMasterMinds.comBut Harold’s time would be a bit different than the others. He had never really faced himself in any real sense, nor had he had anyone in his tribe who was willing to be honest with him. 

What came next was both ugly and necessary. Harold became defensive and angry under the questioning of his motivations, his methods, and his results. His defensiveness became the issue, which only created more walls to go up in Harold’s emotional response. The result was that Harold got very little that would help his business from his hot seat experience.

On the other hand, as the next hours, days, and even weeks played out, Harold met with members one-on-one, and recognized how he had sabotaged his opportunity. His apologized to the group as he realized how his ego got in the way of his ability to hear truth.

#1 Reason to Not Join a MasterMind group & #1 Reason to Join

You should NOT join a MasterMind group to confirm you own understandings about yourself, your business, or your expectations. In fact, the number one reason to join is tohave those very things examined, tested, and challenged. As business professionals who run our own show, we are almost always in a bubble, an ivory tower, an echo chamber. Our only resource for good counsel is ourselves. King Solomon knew the results of such counsel “Where there is no counsel, plans fail.” 

#2 Reason to Not Join - You're Happy Being Meh. Join MasterMind Only if You Want to Soar

You SHOULDN’T join a MasterMind group if you’re happy with your current results. As a consultant for the past decade, I’ve run into dozens of business people who have invested time, sweat, money, training, and taken huge risks just to make $60-$80,000 per year. And when asked, some of those will say, “I’m okay with that.”
You should join a MasterMind group if you’re not “okay with that.” The other members of the group are going to use every ounce of their creativity and business skill to provide you with new ways to improve personally and professionally. If you aren’t interested in improving, they will lose interest in your participation. MasterMind members are driven by the desire to see things flourish, not wither and die.

If You Lack Persistence, Don't Join a MasterMind Group

#3 reason why you shouldn’t join a MasterMind group. Lacking persistence.  Most small business owners and reps are getting mediocre results because they don’t want to do the hard things. MasterMind is a place where that reality is going to be handed to you by a group of your peers. Peer pressure may be just what you need to do those hard things, but don’t come expecting to find a simple, passive, non-threatening way to make the big bucks. 

Join If You're Ready to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone

Prepare to leave your comfort zone at SoCalMasterMinds.com 
You should join a MasterMind group if you are really frustrated with your inability to break out to the next level, whether that is breaking $100,000 a year or $1m per year. Join if you are making lots of money, but you’re not enjoying life. Join if you are making money, but have new directions you’d like to try, and need wise counsel to check your decisions.

Finally, you should join a MasterMind group if you are looking for a permanent board of directors who have no reason to kid you, pasify you, or stroke you, but will enjoy the thrill of helping you become all that you can be. 


MasterMind Groups are being formed in Southern California right now. If you would be interested in learning more about joining a group are starting a group in SoCal, please call Randy Kirk @310-910-1848 or email at RandyKirk77@gmail.com


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.