Free Wi-fi

"Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /"

WiFi stands for “What I Find Interesting”

The internet revolution is over. The internet won. Of all the things that we thought would take over the world of business, the internet was not high on my list of things to make or break a business, but here we are. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the strategy ends at the wi-fi connection.

Your reputation on the internet, your webpage, your likeability, and your “tweetiness” will all show what kind of brand you are and whether people will spend money with you. Not once in my business classes in college did any professor explain that we needed to have a virtual presence and it needed to look really, really good.

But, here we are and all of us need to have a business plan for being seen by customers.

There are as many SEO Experts as there are websites and they all say the same thing – “You need to create a brand and announce it everywhere online.” That, my friends, is not going to happen unless you have a team dedicated to watching everything that anyone says about you and responds as well as adds great stories about your company every day.

I can save you time and money. The key to online success is to just be friendly. Earth-shattering isn’t it?

There are times when you should be talkative and there is the rest of the time. Those talkative times are when you have something great about your business that you want to announce to everyone. It adds value to your company to be new and fresh. Just adding noise to be seen every day is numbing and you will soon find your customers tuning you out.

If there is a new product, a place to find your coupon, or even an employee of the month, announce it and be proud. Business owners forget to bring something interesting to show and tell…yes, that is what the internet is. It’s a world-wide show and tell. The kid who brings a rock he found outside and doesn’t care more than to get talking to the class over with is forgettable. The kid who talks about getting a new puppy is excited and happy and someone to watch. Be the kid with the new puppy.

Also, find the right spot to talk. Facebook is not a great place to announce things any more. LinkedIn is only good for business to business. Twitter is even less great when you don’t have a lot of followers. So, what is the spot that your customers visit most? Ask them. A simple question to find out how they would like to hear from you. It could be an email, text, or mail. Whatever they want is what you use. Being everywhere is a waste of time and energy when your customers only listen is one spot.

Sorry to disappoint all the new marketing people who think they can make or break a business with their skills in using 140 characters or less. The key is being real and honest. When you don’t have something to talk about, it is OK to be quiet. When you are excited about your business, talk and show it. Simple.

Let me know what you are excited about in your business.

Bob Griffin
CEO and Chief-Bulldog-in-Charge

Lose Business – Eat BBQ!

I managed a dry cleaners during college to help pay the bills. It wasn’t an enviable job, but finding a decent job when there are thousands of other students looking for work isn’t easy. I considered myself lucky just to have the job.

It was a back-to-basics customer service kind of work. There were six or seven other dry cleaners on the same road, so being the service leader was vital to staying in business (and keeping my job). I would get to know each customer and have their clothes ready when they pulled up.

One night I was called by the owner. He told me there had been a fire and the entire store burned down. This was a real nightmare. You only bring your best clothes to the dry cleaners and now they were burned or smoke damaged – definitely not very clean.

The owner, not being the brave one, gave me the job of calling all of the customers and letting them know we lost their good clothes to a fire. I had to get the price they paid for the clothes to give to the insurance company and other information so they could be paid for their loss. On top of that, I had to sit outside the burned ruins of the business and talk with the customers who drove to the store to talk. This was a perfect time to use some of those crisis management skills I had learned.

Overall, customers were supportive. I had spent the prior year getting to know them, their families, and the story behind a lot of the stains on their clothes. I had a ready question about their family, work, or vacation when they visited to drop off or pick up clothes, so letting them know how sorry I was that we burned their nice clothes was easier because they also knew me.

There were customers who were not so nice. I still vividly recall those people in my mind. The screams of, “How dare you burn my clothes!” and “What are you going to do about this!” were ringing in my ears for weeks after the accident.

Once the insurance company paid the claim, things really got moving rebuilding the store and the brand.

Think about that for a second. We were going to get back into the same business where just months earlier we had lost all of our customer’s clothes. This was a business that was out of business and sent customers to our competitors. How in the world was I going to attract customers back and keep them after an accident like this?

I gave them BBQ!

Bulldog Rule # 7 – Remember to dream about where your business can go and then make it happen

When it came time to reopen the store, I wanted to take some of mystery out of dry cleaning. After all, how do you clean something without getting it wet? I also gave the customers a chance to look around the sparkling clean, new store. I sent invitations to our “Re-Grand Opening” and made it look like a party. We had music playing, toys for the kids, and BBQ sandwiches to eat. I decorated the outside of the store with balloons and streamers and made a sign to hold at the street.

Now, I want to mention the BBQ sandwiches again. This was my moment of genius. Since customers are always worried that stains on their clothes would not come out, I made sure to feed them something that was guaranteed to cause stains. Once they dripped that tasty BBQ sauce on their shirt, I would bring them back to the new machines that would remove the stains and show them how it worked. If it was possible, I would use some of the cleaning fluid and remove the stain while they were still wearing the shirt. On top of that, I gave them a coupon with a steep discount to use on their next visit.

Customers came back because they could see how nice the store was and that we truly wanted them to come back. I re-instituted the customer service that we were known for and customers even brought new customers.

In the end, a fire made things look overwhelmingly dire, but taking advantage of the good customer service I had provided along with a plan to transparent business model gave us a chance to come back stronger than before. A year later, other dry cleaners on that same street started to close. We had taken too many of their customers to keep them going.

If you think like a Business Bulldog, there is always a chance to bring your best efforts. You just have to want it, plan for it, and make it happen.

Bob Griffin – CEO and Chief Bulldog-in-Charge

Top 10 Myths of Franchising

Every workday I am struck by the number of people who fight against the system (franchise) they bought. It’s like balling up all the money you worked so hard to earn and rolling it down the street. If you did roll it down the street, you’d at least be able to know you weren’t on the hook for thousands more because of all the contracts you sign when you buy a franchise. On second thought, forget rolling your money down the street. Tie it to fireworks and blow it up. It’s more spectacular and your crummy neighbors won’t be bothering you for more money.

The ability to lose common sense when it comes to making money is amazingly fast. From the time you sign the Franchise Agreement to the time when you want to change things breaks the sound barrier. Why buy something you want to tear apart and not use correctly? It’s like buying a car and then taking it apart to make a skateboard. Just following the system that made you want to buy in the first place.

Here are is my top 10 myths of franchising that I have seen in my years as a consultant. If the guy selling you a franchise mentions more than one of these, even in passing, he is probably an OK guy to buy from. The best franchises try to discourage you a little from buying.

Top 10 Myths about Franchising

  1. I can buy a franchise and let it make money.
  2. Hiring a manager will take care of most of the work.
  3. I manage people in my day job.I can handle a few hourly/contract workers.
  4. I have a Masters/ PHD/ Doctorate in Accounting, Marketing, Management, etc. This will be easy.
  5. I can teach the franchisor a thing or two with all my knowledge and skills.
  6. I can buy a poorly run store and turn it around for a profit.
  7. I can jump in and sell out fast.
  8. I can buy a franchise for my wife, son, daughter, etc to give them a career.
  9. No one can teach me anything I don’t already know about business.
  10. I like the product so I will be the best marketing person for my franchise.

Do any of these myths sound familiar? We all want to see the best in the things we do. It is human nature. It is also human nature not to want to fail, but we seem to set that fear aside in the “knuckle-headed view” that you can buy a franchise, open the doors, and make huge amounts of money without doing any heavy lifting. You have to work at whatever business you buy.

Hard work, building on success, building a business for yourself first, and many more lessons are hard learned when you get in business the right way. Why start out on the wrong path?

I ask the classes that I guest lecture what kind of businesses they want to buy. Not one, so far, has said they want to buy into an existing franchise. Some of them have mentioned wanting to start a franchise but none want to buy a business with a track record and a reputation. Absolutely none of them have mentioned the work that goes into being a business owner.

Ask anyone how much money they think they will earn in the first year in business and they will gush with profit margins that would make Bill Gates blush. The misunderstanding about the cost of doing business – more than money – is where most people fail to be honest in business.

Take my list my happy franchise friends! Pass it around to anyone interested and especially those who are blind with new business bliss. Don’t follow the myths.

Bob Griffin – CEO

Twitter: @BusinessBulldog
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