The Business of Generosity

Gift

Can you build a business on being generous? Can you commit to delighting your customers every time, and how would that affect your bottom line? Can you always deliver extra value and a pleasant experience for your clients?

While you ponder that thought, let’s take a look at the opposite side of the spectrum. Consider a company that manufactures something and decides to cut corners and reduce costs. Perhaps the product still works well – almost as well – as it originally did, and a few pennies are saved. Is this kind of cost-cutting a solid business decision?

Possibly, but the answer might not be quite so simple. In the scenario where the product works slightly less well with a few pennies saved, then what happens the next time costs are cut? And the next? Many times there will be a gradual degrading of quality to the point where people start to notice and question their purchasing decisions.

We all know how much easier and more cost-effective it is to keep current customers instead as opposed to seeking out new ones, which means that losing a customer is an expensive proposition – probably a lot more expensive than the pennies saved in production.

But let’s take the idea of adding value, going the extra mile for your customers. Your bean counters may not be happy at first, but what’s the real value of a delighted customer – one who tells their friends about the extraordinary service that he or she has received? It may be hard to quantify but that doesn’t mean it’s not extremely valuable. Companies like Zappos understand this concept and have built their entire culture around it.

How can you embrace excellent service within your organization and encourage your employees to be generous with their time and skills? You may find the way that your customers decide to thank you to be both delightful and profitable, as well.

Elin Barton is the President of White Knight Productions and the host of the podcast, Ready, Set, Grit.  Her first book, Ready, Set, Grit: How to Turn Your Daydream Into a Phenomenal Success, will be released in the Fall of 2017.

Adapt and Grow

If you’re not always changing and adapting as a business, then your business is dying.

You have probably heard that idea before, but if you’re running a small business are you so caught up in the day to day that you’re forgetting to ask yourself how you can continue to do better, be better, and adapt to and ever-changing and often fickle marketplace?

Part of the solution to this issue is a commitment to education for leadership and employees of any organization. And the other part is a willingness to grow and change, to try new things and to let go of that which is no longer serving you.

In order to do this effectively you have to ask a lot of questions, which means listening to your customers, your employees and to peers and leaders in your field. And, when you do start getting feedback, you have to be willing to do something about it.

If you start hearing that your pricing is too high, for example, that could mean one of two things. Either you need to come up with a product or service that is more affordable to your customer base, or you need to court a different demographic because you’re probably not working with your ideal clients.

Obviously no business should want to jump on every trend that pops up, but being savvy enough to balance what your customers need and want with new advances and best practices in your business are a winning combination and one which we all should be striving for.

And even if achieving the perfect balance of innovation and consistency is tough, you don’t have to be perfect to be effective. In fact, any steps you can take towards intentionally creating an innovative and forward thinking company are going to serve you well and move your closer to your goals.

Perfect Place, Perfect Time?

At times running a business can be scary. You could lose a big client, make a costly mistake or have issues with an employee. Your office space could flood as we’ve seen happen recently down in Texas, or you could get sick and have to step back from the company for a while.

I recently spoke with business owners who have experienced all of the above, and one of the similarities that I found among them was this.  While no one enjoyed actually going through the unpleasantness of a major setback, every one of the people I spoke to was convinced that their lives and their businesses are better off now than before they experienced their life-changing event.

One friend, for example, had extreme challenges in her business when she lost a major client. She was forced to dramatically cut back on her staff, and then shortly after that she became seriously ill, which meant that working 70 or 80 hour weeks was no longer an option for her.

What ended up transpiring was that she cut her work hours back dramatically and actually found that without her previous overhead, that her profit was actually significantly higher, even with the shorter hours. She also started working on a book that she had been meaning to write for years but which she had to keep putting off due to other obligations.

It’s not hard to see how this friend’s life and business were better after the unwelcome shake-up happened, and interestingly, I found the same thing to be the case with everyone I talked to about this. Each of the business owners had had a significant setback that turned out to be a blessing. And that’s the part that I started getting very, very interested in.

So often we resist change, especially when it’s something that is perceived as negative, but in the cases of the people that I spoke to, the changes they had endured all had incredible blessings attached to them.

There is a school of thought that says the Universe is always conspiring for our highest good, for our best interest – even when it’s difficult or impossible to see it at the moment you’re going through something challenging. I for one am going to work on actively remembering this the next time things don’t go my way in life and in business. Sometimes the best thing we can do is to relax and allow, and lean into our faith in happy endings and positive outcomes.

The Results are in… It’s Video Crisps for the Win

For years we have specialized in producing high-quality video content. I’ve always been proud of our storytelling abilities and our expertise and attention to the technical quality of our craft – the lighting, the color, the sound…

I don’t think there are many people who would dispute that our team is known for their professionalism and skills, and also for their dedication to producing excellent content and to customer satisfaction.

The thing is, video production is more complicated than most people realize and traditionally the cost of professional production has reflected this fact. At White Knight we knew we could help more people create great video content if we could just get that price point down.

We’ve also extensively studied the mounting evidence that proves video is the most powerful medium for engaging your audience and attracting new clients to your business. There are hundreds of statistics to back up that claim – from the one that tells us that social media posts with video are 1200% more likely to be shared or that people are twice as likely to buy a product once they watch a video about it.

Moreover, we know that these days a company’s values, culture and brand is more important than ever before in creating an engaged and active audience. Every company out there would love to have fans that are so excited about the brand they can’t wait to recommend it to all of their friends. Video can help to create this kind of engagement – with consistent and well thought-out messaging, which is exactly what the Video Crisps do.

Our Video Crisp clients get fresh, custom-created video content delivered to them every month, with a minimal investment of time and money, and so far people love this program! We’ve helped all kinds of companies, from colleges to financial services firms to pet sitters, and across the board we are hearing reports of positive feedback, a broader reach and higher rankings in the search engines.

It’s just one more piece of evidence that proves why video should play an important role in any marketing strategy. What are you doing to create a highly engaged audience today?

You can learn more about our program, see examples and read what people are saying about working with us at this link: http://whiteknightpro.com/video-crisp.html

Tribe it Up

The other day I had lunch with my friend and fellow entrepreneur. We spoke candidly about some of the challenges in our respective businesses, and as we were getting ready to leave the restaurant she said to me, “I’m so relieved that I’m not the only one who goes through this stuff.”

That statement struck a cord with me because so often as entrepreneurs and small business owners we do feel like we have to figure everything out on our own, and that can be a very lonely position to take. The truth of the matter is, we have more in common than we realize. Even though we may be running businesses in different industries with our own very specific challenges, on a slightly higher level we are all the same.

We face issues and questions around cash flow, sales, employee recruitment and retention. We have to pay attention to marketing, advertising, culture and reputation. As our companies grow we most likely have a team in place to assist with many of these items, but ultimately, as a small business owner, the buck does stop with us.

But that doesn’t mean we have to go it alone.

Taking the time to intentionally seek out and build a support network for yourself is, I believe, key for the success of a business. At a minimum you may want to consider hiring a business coach or a mentor, but beyond that setting up a “mastermind” group of trusted peers will help you to keep challenges – and successes – in perspective.

Elin Barton is the President of White Knight Productions and the host of the podcast, Ready, Set, Grit.  Her first book, Ready, Set, Grit: How to Turn Your Daydream Into a Phenomenal Success, will be released in the Fall of 2017.

I’ll Tell You a Secret

And that secret is, your customers don’t care about you.

Okay, that may have been a little harsh and it may be a slight exaggeration, but only a little one. The truth of the matter is, many companies spend their time talking about how great they are and how much they have to offer.

I know you’ve heard the pitches. They go something like this:

  • We have the best team.
  • We offer the best service.
  • Come and work with us and you’ll get the benefits of our new and shiny equipment/office/services.
  • We’re so much better than the competition

The thing is, your customers probably don’t care about all your bells and whistles. They don’t really care about your awards, accolades and your team. No offense, but they really don’t.

The truth is, what they do care about is how they’re going to feel if they decide to work with you. That’s it, so start shifting the story that you’re telling and turn it into one that they actually want to hear.

Need help with your content creation? At White Knight we offer both Video Crisps and our total content solution: Content and Crisps. To find out more about our programs, schedule a time for a discovery session.

Content is King

Remember the old days of communicating with customers when you were forced to rely on broadcasting your message to the masses, whether via TV or radio advertising, print ads or billboards? You put your message out there and calculated that some small percentage of people who saw it would have a favorable reaction and buy your product or service.

These days, of course, we’ve gone a complete 180 and instead can hyper-target who sees and responds to your message. There are incredible tools available to marketers now, in 2017, but what’s more relevant today than ever before is the need to produce quality content. And quality is the key word. Your content needs to be something that your current and future customers will find interesting, relevant and engaging.

Many marketers find that producing such content is time-consuming and challenging. But at the end of the day it is completely worth the investment, and the proof of that is in the numbers. I recently saw a statistic that showed that companies that publish a blog post 16 or more times per month increase their web traffic by three and a half times over companies that publish 4 or fewer posts per month. That is a significant number because of course, every time someone comes to your website it is an opportunity for them to engage with your brand or to purchase your product or service.

When you begin to consistently put out content that people care about you establish yourself as an expert, and you become a trusted source of information. In addition, when your content is interesting and valuable it is shared by your followers and you suddenly find yourself in front of a new audience that you may have not initially been aware of or had access to.

Written content is powerful, but video content can help you take your customer engagement to a whole new level. Consider these statistics. Social video generates 1200% more shares than text and images combined. Brightcove reports that video drives a 157% increase in organic traffic from search engines, while MarketingLand says that 62% of Google searches include video. And, of course YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine and videos that are hosted there and link to your website can help your Google rankings. “How-to” searches on YouTube have been consistently growing at approximately 70% per year, and this trend is projected to continue.

It’s our belief that written content and video are both important to your customer engagement and your SEO. But be aware that both your written and video content must be high quality or it will be a turn-off for your audience. Brightcove, in one of their studies, reminds us that poor quality video will actually give people a negative perception of your brand.

Need help with your content creation? At White Knight we offer both Video Crisps and our total content solution: Content and Crisps. To find out more about our programs, schedule a time for a discovery session.

 

 

 

Let’s Celebrate!

What do you celebrate in your business? Is it reaching a sales goal or locking in a promotion? Winning an account or delivering a great pitch that your client loved? Is it a certain number of years in business or a new and greater number in your bank account?

People celebrate all kinds of milestones and achievements, but if you’re like most of us you don’t do it often enough. When we achieve any kind of goal most of us don’t even take the time to acknowledge it, much less sit back and rest on our laurels. More often than not, we just keep moving forward, continually resetting the goal posts higher and higher.

And, really, there is nothing wrong with that strategy, for that tendency to constantly push ourselves to reach higher and do better is how we grow. But I’d like to suggest that equally as valuable is the act of pausing for a moment to recognize the small victories. Taking a moment to reflect on where you started and how far you’ve come is a great habit to get into.  When you adopt this practice of celebration it can help keep you moving forward when the going gets tough, because you’ll be better able to remember your successes, victories and achievements along the way. And, if you’ve had celebrations in the past, why not also in the future?

That is easy enough to understand, but here’s the part that most people don’t realize: you don’t just have to celebrate victories.

What if you also learned to appreciate your failures? How would things change for you if, instead of berating yourself when things don’t go the way you planned, you chose to stop and honor the lessons learned during the experience? What if, instead of getting angry and upset with those who have wronged you, you instead practice showering that person with love, light and even gratitude?

The thing that happens when you do this, is you shift the energy and rid yourself of negative connotations that you may be associating with a so-called failure. Start seeing these failures as valuable lessons and stepping stones and suddenly everything gets a little easier. You may find that you’re less afraid of missteps along the way when you remove the aspect of judgment from them, and that newfound boldness may lead you to victories and green pastures that you’d only dreamed of previously.

So, go ahead and celebrate the good and the bad. Every step along your journey really does move you just that little bit closer to your goal, and that truly is something that’s worth popping the champagne cork for.

 

 

Elin Barton is the President of White Knight Productions and the host of the podcast, Ready, Set, Grit.  Her first book, Ready, Set, Grit: How to Turn Your Daydream Into a Phenomenal Success, will be released in the Fall of 2017.

It Takes a Village

I saw this video of Arnold Schwarzenegger the other day. It was just a video that someone had posted on Facebook or Twitter, and I’m not really sure what made me watch it, but it turned out that Arnold said something very profound that stuck with me. I don’t remember his exact words, but essentially he asked people to never call him a self-made man, because along the road to his success were so many people who helped him on his way.

That idea struck a chord with me because I think that it is so completely spot-on. There are very few things, if any, that we can succeed in in life that are true solo endeavors. On the contrary, most significant achievements involve both teamwork and a good support system. They require a solid outside perspective, resources and skills that you yourself may not possess, or even just someone who is going to challenge you and push you a little harder.

This is the very reason why people hire mentors and coaches and why the tribe that you choose to surround yourself with is so important.

Recently, I was surprised to learn what a group effort is involved with writing a book, something that I had always assumed was more of a solo project. I’m now in the final stages of completing my first book and in the course of its development have grown and nurtured a supportive community of fellow writers, early readers of my work, my publisher and editor,  my cover designer, all the publicists and other publishers who have offered additional advice and guidance, my family who tirelessly offer encouragement and constructive criticism… then there are the folks on the periphery who ask about the book and who help keep me focused on finishing it when life tries to get in the way.

I’m sure I’m forgetting some of the people who have helped, and for that I apologize, but hopefully you get the idea. Every single one of those people has played an important role in bringing the book to fruition.

In business, the same thing is true, but of course the list is much longer. You get into employees, support staff, strategic partners, suppliers, clients, affiliates…

And then there’s the thing that not many people want to talk about. Sure, it’s easy to find support for your business when things are going well and the money is flowing. But what about during the tough times? Who do you have on your side then? The answer might end up surprising you, if you ever happen to find yourself in that situation.

It’s a tough way to find out who your real friends are, but it’s also a valuable lesson, and one that you must make a point to remember once your fortune improves. For, the most important lesson in the whole “village” concept is that you’re part of someone else’s village too, as you help them to build their dream.

So, appreciate the people who show up for you, then pay it forward with gusto. That’s how we build the things that really matter, and isn’t that what we all want, on some level?

An Independence Play

We’re fast approaching Independence Day here in the States and it’s got me thinking about business and why we start companies in the first place. In the beginning everyone imagines that their business is going to give them freedom – financial freedom, but also the ability to choose how to spend your time, both at and away from the office.

The reality, however, is often far from this utopia. Many of us business owners get through the start-up phase doing anything and everything that needs to be done, from answering the phones to taking out the trash. And, truthfully, some of us never stop being that person – that “start up hero”.

But at some point we have to consciously make a shift away from the place where we are the core of all that happens in our business. This can be difficult for some people to do (after all, the business is our baby). But, if we don’t grow these businesses in a smart way, putting systems for our business in place, AND empowering our employees to make decisions, we’ll never achieve that freedom that we so badly want.

In fact, we’ll end up with the opposite effect – our business will start to feel like a prison. Even worse, when a business relies so strongly on a single person to function properly, this means that systems are not properly in place. And, in many cases, it also means that the business has little cash value if the owner should ever wish to step away.

Creating a business without systems, and without a way for your team to make key decisions, means that you’re designing a hamster wheel that you can never step off of. Company founders and CEO’s feel important when they’re required to sign off on everyday tasks, and oversee operations. But, isn’t it a better testament to a company’s health and value when nobody even notices when the CEO is out of the office for a week? When things run smoothly and established policies and systems do what they’re supposed to do?

When that happens you know that you’ve built something good. Something of value that will not only provide freedom to those on the top, but which will be a sustainable and scalable company that’s in it for the long haul. And that, my friends, is when you get to experience true independence.

Elin Barton is the President of White Knight Productions and the host of the podcast, Ready, Set, Grit.  Her first book, Ready, Set, Grit: How to Turn Your Daydream Into a Phenomenal Success, will be released in the Fall of 2017.