Archives for category: Entrepreneurship

scaling

I sent a text to an employee with a picture of a pile of stuff I wanted taken inside.  His response:

“If you took the pictures why didn’t you just put it inside?

Side bar the disrespect and the lack of understanding where familiarity boundary starts and stops, in my line of business combined with my age I deal with this every day.

The place where my mind went was actually different. I actually thought – for just a second – that he was right.  I could do it. Possibly even I should do it. Then the second passed.

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Customer-Service-Be-Nice

From the title you can tell this is going to be a customer service post.  Or in this case a lack of customer service.  3 weeks ago a customer received their multi-product order.  One of the mats – for whatever reason not quite relevant to this post – they wanted to return back.  I handed the job of organizing the return to an employee who in his job description is responsible for these types of activities.

What followed was a 3 week stand off between my employee and the customer over who would print the UPS sticker to send the mat back first.  On the one side was my employee, who was making the case he didn’t know what size package the customer was going to send back so couldn’t setup the UPS shipment.  On the other was the customer, who claimed he shouldn’t have to do anything except print out a packing label and drop off at the corner UPS store.  This is a literal digital “you do it.. no you do it… no you do it” school yard stand off.

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act-bigger

Puffer Fish, Peacocks, Toads, and Owls all have one thing in common – they are great at making themselves appear bigger than they are.  Here’s where we as the small business entrepreneur can learn from nature’s great actors.  Be the puffer fish.

No matter the industry, people will experience your business in a variety of ways: website, social media, driving by, calling in, walking in, etc.  It’s important to do what you can to appear professional and established.  Obviously, the real answer here is money.  With enough money, you can buy the best of anything. Mission accomplished. But how do you do the same thing on a budget? Here’s some suggestions:

Professional Logo and Website Design on a budget
Technology has come so far, it’s so easy to do your logo and website right.  WordPress or Squarespace, Themeforest or TemplateMonster. There are plenty of resources for professional looking and available tools.  Don’t get me wrong, you will never do better than an expert. It’s why they cost so much.  But you can fake it until you get there.

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creative-financing

Reading between the lines of some of my past posts, you can see hints of this topic throughout.  As the point of this blog however is to bring real world examples to you tangibly, I thought it appropriate to talk about our financial acquisition of Victory Gymnastics and the initial inventory funding for AirTrackUS.

Victory Gymnastics Academy was bought through seller financing. To sum it up, the seller is acting as the bank for you.

  1. Pros: Save on fees, save on time, ability to work-in creative repayment options.
  2. Cons: Little to no in-depth background checks on seller and buyer, risk of seller not paying their obligations leading to foreclosure, risk of buyer abandoning business/real estate because of low investment risk.

As it relates to Victory, the $ 175k deal included zero down payment 5 year repayment term with 2 $ 10k balloon payments at the 4th and 6th month.  We worked a sale price out and then my CPA back calculated a fair and IRS believable interest rate to optimize tax write offs (9% in our case).

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complacency_header

Success breeds complacency, complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive. – Andy Grove, CEO Intel

For the last few months, I’ve been battling a problem. A generally good problem but a problem non-the-less. Successs. See, I’m a simple man, I don’t need much. So it doesn’t take much to make me happy.  My businesses basically run themselves.  I play ice hockey 2-3 times a week.  We’ve moved into a nice 3 bedroom home with big backyard.  I splurged on upgrades to my home computer.  Life is great.  But that’s a problem.

Laziness and bad habits (eating, sleeping, drinking) have started creeping into my life.  The fire and drive that compelled me into this venture in the first place have dulled.  I’m not me. And I don’t like it.

Google “Complacency + Entrepreneurship” and you’ll get pages of results about this exact topic.  I have two takes on it.

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My goal with this blog is to give practical real life insight into being an entrepreneur and being an adult.  SD UNITED  Training Center has been in existence for 2 years prior to the start of this website.  A lot of the trials and lessons are in the past.  The beauty of AirTrackUS is that it’s a business that is being formed as I type.

With that in mind, I’ll do my best to outline the process and journey.

The Back Story:

Teaching gymnastics and selling gymnastics equipment often time goes hand in hand.  You have a built-in show room.  You generally have access to customers (other gyms).  It’s a perfect match.  Dan and I have tried to establish a relationship with a manufacturer since we took over SD UNITED.  This generally involved us googling manufacturers online in our free time, sending them a blind email, and crossing our fingers for a response.  Enter AirTrack Factory.  We stumbled across them because we saw their product at a local gym and wanted to buy their equipment.  As we always tend to do, we stretched/steered the conversation into more than just buying their product.  A couple emails back and forth and we have an import agreement in place.

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Differentiation

“Differentiation factor” is a sexy business term that gets thrown around at networking events and MBA classrooms.  It’s a verbose way of asking what makes you different?  There are literally hundreds of thousands of sandwich shops in the US – in my world – there are gymnasiums and training centers in every city on every block.  Capitalism has given customers choice. So why choose you?

I’m a huge believer that entrepreneurs and small business owners MUST know what makes them special. What do you well?

What differentiates you from your competitors can literally be anything: location, branding, product design, price, hours of operation, specificity of service, variety of service, on and on and on.  What’s important is that you clearly identify what it is. You need to make sure you know what it is and you need to make sure your employees know what it is. What makes you special isn’t a secret and can’t be a secret.  You shouldn’t be afraid to talk about it. To the contrary , I’d argue it must be talked about openly and publicly. Post it on the wall and brag about it on your website.

In my case, we do 4 things different than anyone else in the gymnastics market within San Diego.

  1. Offer progressive and developmental Parkour Classes
  2. Offer a successful Boys Competitive Gymnastics Program
  3. Offer Adult Classes
  4. And we do this in a high energy, loud, and intense environment.

Now this isn’t all we do.  We offer “Mom and Me” classes, cheer leading, recreational gymnastics, etc. However, the 4 numbered above are what we absolutely dominate in San Diego.  We know this. We acknowledge this. And we work very hard to never slip in any of those areas.

And therein lies my second point.

Don’t forget what you do well.

Those 4 pay the bills. Those 4 make us successful. If we begin to slide in any of those 4 areas, we begin to lose who we are and what differentiates us from the YMCA down the street.

I took aside my entire Parkour staff last week to remind them of how important they are to the success of the entire gym. I felt they were getting complacent, I felt they were coasting, I felt like they weren’t giving me their best. My meeting with them wasn’t so much a scolding but a reminding of why they are so important.  Their “department” is more important than other “departments.” They don’t have the same luxuries as other employees with other jobs.  Presented in the right way, it’s empowering – at least that’s my goal.

So to recap. Know what you do well. Identify it, post it, talk about it, and – above all – never forget it.