Creating Momentum in your Family Business

One of the problems that plagues family businesses is stagnation.  This is because those who started the business worked hard to get where they are, and know that what they are doing worked to get them this far.  Some people call it founders syndrome.

That is great.  But did you notice the tense?  WorkED.  That does not necessarily mean it is workING now.  I have seen this from both sides.  I have been the daughter questioning tactics and the founder who insists “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Having been on each side of this issue, I have to say we get stuck in ruts and sometimes we need help to get out of them.

I am a born and bread entrepreneur and as such, I tend to lean toward change.  I find it exciting.  I love trying something new.  Many people find it terrifying.  I have one friend who puts it up there with sharks and public speaking.  I get it.  There is no safety railing on the new path.  You might fail.  Scratch that- you will fail- sometimes.

But here is the real question: Do you want o be comfortable in a business that is falling behind, or do you want to move forward?

You have to evaluate your priorities or you will end up like Sears.  A once thriving company that has sold off many of its iconic elements (bye-bye craftsmen, and Kenmore), still limping along on the strength of its land holdings.

Identify the areas of your business that need some special attention.  Once you have them identified, pick the one that is at the center of the Gordian knot and attack it!  Decide that the need to change is more important than your desire to remain comfortable.

If one of your family members is always going on about a specific area, look at it. Really examine what the market is doing in that area.  Are you still a front runner? Or have you fallen to the middle of the pack?  Sometimes things look like a huge mess out there.  CLUE:  That means you are at the back of the race and you will soon be on the sidelines.

As a business leader you probably have high intrinsic motivation and drive.  You are more likely to go the distance when you are doing something for your business instead of trying to please others. You create a positive vision and let your enthusiasm show. You are a rock star!  Don’t let your honoring of the past blind you to the opportunities of the future. Build on the momentum that you have already created. Hold onto what works while experimenting with new approaches. Do your research. Figure out what resources you need to address the issue. Start small then break major changes down into simpler steps.

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Black Friday & TV

Small business marketing is frequently the responsibility of the owner or manager.  I have just finished my first ever time to run promotions for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, etc.  We have had them before.  I just wasn’t in charge of them.  I am not at all sure I did it well.  But I did it and that is a thing to be proud of.

Being a business leader means I have to do things I am not 100% comfortable doing.  I remember the first time I got in front of a tv camera.  I was SWEATING!  But it was free publicity for my business and they wanted to talk to someone with skin in the game.  I was very excited that they called me.  I had been courting the station to some degree for a few months.  Watching as many news shows as I could and sending in email comments about news items that related to my business.  I had a childcare center in downtown, so it wasn’t hard to find things that were relevant.  Anything that had to do with downtown, children or families was liable to get a quick note from me.  This was well over a decade ago, so they weren’t as swamped by email as they are now.  I stood out, so I got a call and people heard about my business.

How do we stand out in today’s market?  Sending an email is unlikely to do it.  We all get far too many to count now.  We need clients to know we are here and are relevant.  We can advertise.  Lord knows, I do.  Everybody does.  How much do you believe in the ad copy you read or hear every day?  10%?  You may be conveying 100% true information, but people filter it out.  Marketing is more than buying a well executed google ad.  It is getting in front of people in different settings, so your customers start to know like and trust you.

How do you position your self as a knowledgable and likable person?  Getting on the local news might still be a good way to get noticed, but how do you get the news to notice you?   I have had some success with hand written notes.  They are the rarity now that email was back in the dark ages.  Tweeting images also has some traction.  You have to engage with them, build a relationship.

I help a lot of my clients get into the paper.  Local papers need local content to stay relevant.  Having a great event that highlights a worthy cause or brings in dignitaries, is the key strategy there.  The images you send also play a central role.  Make sure you send both portrait and landscape pictures, because you never know what space they need to fill.  Your write up of the event should be as close to newspaper copy as you can make it.  The less work the editor or beat reporter has to do, the more likely you are to get in the paper.

The other time-tested way to get in front of your audience in a marketing capacity to build rapport is public speaking.  Half of you are shaking your head right now.  That is OK.  If there isn’t anything related to what you do that you can speak passionately about for 15 minutes you are excused.  Everyone else is still in this.  If you would rather poke your own eye out than talk to people you don’t know, then don’t talk to people you don’t know.  Talk to people you do know.  Do you have a book club, mother’s group, gaggle of gals you eat cheese cake with?  Those are your public.  Talk to them about your passion for your work.  Get comfortable with it.  Eventually one of those friends will say, “Hey, my friend Suzie was just talking about her problems in that area.  I need to put you in touch with each other.”  Voila.  Your marketing just worked!  Once you have done that a few times you might be ready to move on to  networking events.  I wrote about those on my other blog, TexasDirectorblog.com.

This type of marketing is much more in my comfort zone than running advertising campaigns.  That is why it was my turn to run one.  I had to stretch my wings.  It may take a while, but I will get the hang of it.  I may never like it, but it is important that I know how it is done so that I can talk intelligently with my team who focus on that area and with clients who have marketing challenges.  Let me know about something new you have tried and how it worked.  I look forward to hearing from you!