Category Archives: The WIMS Guide

Charlotte Fall Updates

Charlotte in Fall

As the calendar has turned to October the temperatures in Charlotte are finally cooling off slightly after some record heat through September. While the weather may be cooling down and the fall spirit is spreading from Ballantyne to Belmont the business community around the Queen City is staying busy. Cranes can be seen all around the city and the roads are packed with dump trucks and construction vehicles. The real estate market is continuing to be very active as new residents continue to move into the Charlotte area and millennials embark on their first home buying purchase. Technology jobs are expanding across Charlotte bringing high paying jobs to the city and diversifying the entire regional economy. As job growth continues the real estate market in Charlotte is becoming one of the hottest real estate markets in the country. As an increased number of jobs are being created and the major infrastructure investments are made across the region the area is striving to move forward and be positioned for the economy of the future. While challenges including access to affordable housing and congestion exist the improvements and efforts of public and private leaders across the Charlotte region are addressing critical issues and moving the city towards a brighter future.

 

A Southern Tech Hub

Charlotte is expanding beyond being more than a financial services hub, it is becoming a major destination for tech talent. The CompTIA Tech Town Index 2018 ranked Charlotte as the best city to embark on a technology career. The lower cost of living, 1.3% below the national average make Charlotte a desirable place to move, begin a family and purchase a home. The cost of living is particularly more affordable than other tech hubs including the Bay Area, New York, and Boston.

Many workers from the Midwest and Northeast are relocating to Charlotte to settle down in a place with lower taxes and an abundance of recreational activities to supplement career growth. The projected number of openings over the next five years in the tech sector is a steady 11% showing how the growth in the Charlotte tech sector is here to stay. Many Charlotte companies desire tech workers including some of the largest regional job creators including major banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America. Mooresville, NC based Lowe’s is opening a tech hub in the South End neighborhood of Charlotte bringing 2,000 jobs by 2021. This favorable job growth is spilling into the real estate market which consistently ranks as the one of the most active markets in the US.

 

Real Estate

The Charlotte real estate market was ranked fourth in the 41st annual Emerging Trends in Real Estate behind only Raleigh-Durham, Austin, and Nashville. The metrics from this report combine tech jobs to real estate investments in determining the rankings. The ranking of fourth marks a move from ninth in the 2018 report showing how the Charlotte real estate market is heating up. Some of the insight from the report also highlighted how strong home building prospects are in Charlotte, ranking second in 2019 up from fourth in 2018. The ability to attract technology and manufacturing to diversify beyond financial services is another factor driving regional growth and helping the housing market. Investments in infrastructure projects have provided additional benefits to improving desirability to Charlotte including improvements at Charlotte Douglas International Airport and an expanding Light Rail system. Along with massive success comes some growing pains and Charlotte, like many other Sunbelt cities, is feeling some residual effects of growth. These include higher housing costs, additional roadway infrastructure projects, and a need to improve stormwater systems. All things considered the real estate market is continuing to be very active, attracting 1.2% of US real estate investments from 2016-2019 while accounting for only 0.8% of the nation’s population. As additional companies  relocate to Charlotte and retirees move to the desirable Carolina climate and tax situation additional single-family homes, apartments, and townhouses will be needed to handle continued housing demands.

 

Relocations and Expansion

Over the past 12 months multiple companies have announced major relocation projects. The Charlotte Regional Business Alliance has been working with local and state officials in South Carolina and North Carolina to attract companies to expand current business operations, open regional offices, or relocate their headquarters to the regions. Some recent projects which have created new jobs across the region include Honeywell, which has relocated their headquarters to Charlotte in a move expected to create over 750 jobs.

These jobs along with new jobs from Lowe’s and a continued presence by Duke Energy, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo mean some of the world’s largest companies have a major presence in Charlotte. Beyond these firms the startup community in Charlotte is growing with recent expansions coming from AvidXchange who is planning to grow to accommodate 1,200 new employees. This diverse economic landscape allows Charlotte to grow beyond traditional financial services institutions while utilizing the skills of the regions highly skilled workforce.

 

 

WIMS Partners

The WIMS team has a robust and expanding presence in Charlotte utilizing the skills of partners. As we continue to grow, we are always looking for new partners and if you believe you can grow with us, we want to hear from you to see if opportunities exist. With the continued growth of WIMS it is exciting to see the city and region around us changing and growing.

 

Concluding thoughts

Charlotte has established itself as a major economic powerhouse in the Southeast that is seeing increased investment and interest on a regional, national, and international scene. As companies continue their planning for 2020 and beyond, many in the Charlotte region continue to grow towards an even brighter future. The institutions in the city through public private partnerships are investing in the city’s institutions to continue to encourage investment and relocations to Charlotte. By focusing on sustaining growth and creating a better region for the future, Charlotte is positioning itself for long term success moving up the ranking of best places to live as the quality of life in greater Charlotte region continues to improve.

Data Analytics Dashboard

How Anyone can Build a Custom Data Analytics Dashboard

If you could carve out an hour a month for analysis in order to save a dozen hours of work, the one-hour investment would be worth it, right?

How about if that same hour led to crucial details about your sales trends and customers insights?

On top of all that, what if that same one-hour investment came at no additional cost to you?

Seems like a pretty great deal.

Welcome to the benefits of an Excel-based analytical dashboard.

Benefits of an Analytical Dashboard

You’ve most likely heard of the powers and benefits of data analytics. You’ve probably seen examples from things like POS systems, Tableau, cloud-based software, and many others.

Some of these benefits include the following:

  • Saving you time and money through efficiency and more impactful insights

Spending time looking over your dashboard saves hours of debating anecdotal or piecemeal results and helps guide you towards the best path forward

  • Giving you better insights into your customer to improve marketing campaigns

Campaigns based on hard data are more successful as you can target your intended customer more effectively

  • Taking the guesswork out and make great, data supported, decisions in less time

The high end services all have their merits, but in a small business where you might not have the budget for those services (which are also potentially far beyond the capabilities you actually need), plus a large learning curve, those services don’t always make the most sense.

By learning (on a much faster learning curve) to make a dashboard in Excel, you can get the benefits you want in a completely customized dashboard at no cost (since you already have Excel on your computer).

 

Why use Excel for this

Let’s start with some common business questions.

How did your sales do last month? How does that compare to the same month of the prior year? How about compared to the pace you’ve been running at this year?

Now how about separating those numbers by project, item, or client? How about by distribution channel? Sales rep? What about the specific days you had promotions?

The first set of questions is somewhat easy to have a gut feeling for, if nothing else. You might even have some quick analysis created for you in QuickBooks (or similar software).

However, the second set of questions represents another level deeper. You might feel a bit less confident about your gut feeling. They require you to dive into the data each time you want to look, and maybe even anecdotally piece it together from a few different sources. It’s kind of a hassle, but they’re important insights, so it’s worth the time.

Here’s the good news from Excel – you can answer all of those questions, from top line revenue down to whatever level of detail you need, and have them at your fingertips in one place!

With a simple export of data from whatever source you need, you can populate dozens of custom views that you’ve templated and turn it into your very own analytical dashboard!

The only time intensive piece is building the template and framework for all your custom views.

After you create that, you’re essentially just updating with data each week/month/etc. and looking it over for trends. Making changes to it? Duplicating views with variations? Actually, all pretty easy.

The Excel Dashboard

Here is a very quick sample dashboard that shows that topline sales numbers (black chart) followed by a few, slightly deeper, analytical pieces that help evaluate performance (gray charts).

When I say “very quick” … this dashboard took less than an hour to fully create. Real life dashboards of this level of depth take a similar amount of time. Getting significantly deeper into the data does not necessarily mean significantly more time to create though.

Only a few “next level” type questions are displayed (although these may only be half a level deeper), but they are meant to be representative, and the great feature about the “behind the scenes” of the dashboard is that the building blocks for all levels of analysis can be VERY easily duplicated to get at any question you need.

Take a quick look at the dashboard, follow it along the yellow markers, 1 to 5. Any trends jump out at you?

You can likely see the following in a quick pass:

  • Sales are up in 2019! (Callout #1) – by 22.1% if we want to be specific

  • There seemed to be a change in performance starting in February (Callout #2). Perhaps a new item was released? Or a new marketing campaign?

  • All Sales Reps are selling more this year (Callout #3). Shawn leading the pack with a 28.7% increase over 2018

  • In Store sales have grown by over 60%! (Callout #4). However, Online sales have shrunk a tiny bit.

  • Further diagnosing, it looks like Jennifer and Oliver have really improved their In Store sales, while Shawn has faltered there (Callout #5). Perhaps there was a training that stuck with Jennifer and Oliver? Maybe Shawn has just focused all of his attention on Online sales?

Those types of insights are crucial to running your business and can be seen quickly from the dashboard. On top of that, there are still tons of different ways to cut the data… by product, by product and distribution channel, by sales rep by month, etc. All of these examples are (almost) as easy as copying and pasting.

Creating the Backend of the Dashboard – a General Guide

We start with one of the building blocks of an Excel-based analytical dashboard. Simply, the Pivot Table.

Depending on your level of familiarity with Excel, Pivot Tables might seem like “that complicated next level” or “that tool we use every day”.

The truth is, everyone can easily be at the latter, and if you’re already there, you could probably be using them more even more effectively. Investing just a bit of time can have a very outsized benefit to your business.

Pivot Tables are fantastic, for all levels of users, because of a few main pieces of functionality:

  • Very easy to build, use, and manipulate

Drag and drop methods, no complex formulas, no macros or coding

  • Ability to create charts and dashboards from the Table(s) easily

  • Build automatically updating formulas off the Table to create new data elements

It deserves mentioning that the quality of your data is very important. If the data is wrong to start, then there is no point is doing any analysis.

First… a few tips on how to create a Pivot Table

Feel free to skip this section if you’re already familiar.

For a detailed “how to” build a Pivot Table, I recommend watching from ~2:30 to ~5:30 in this video. The rest of the video has some good explanations as well, but for a quick guide, the 3 minutes is really all you need.

One piece I would highly recommend changing though, is in the data selection piece.

Important – select the entire column in the data, making sure the headers are in row 1. This allows you to add data in the future and have it included in the pivot table without having to change the data range.

The boxed-in range is okay as “ Sample Data!$A$1:$E$13 ”, but would need to be changed if you add more data to the end of it. The better version’s range “ Sample Data!$A:$E” highlights the entire columns.

Onto Creating the Dashboard

Start with creating a Pivot Table, and from there it is really just about dragging and dropping fields, copying and pasting, and picking a layout!

  • Let’s say you begin by creating a simple Pivot Table with sales by month:

  • From there, go up to the ribbon and find the “Pivot Table Analyze” or “Analyze” tab, depending on which version of Excel you’re working with.

  • Select the “Pivot Chart” option, and out pops a variety of options. Select your favorite chart option (bar chart, line graph, multiple types, etc.) and boom! You’ve got a working chart to help you analyze!

  • Any time you change what’s in the Pivot Table that created the Pivot Chart, the Pivot Chart will change accordingly.

Example, if you limited the data to just “Jennifer” (Sales Rep filter), you’ll see only her sales in both the Table and Chart.

Tip for the aesthetics of the Chart

To get rid of the “buttons” or ugly looking gray bubbles polluting your chart, you can right click on any of them and select “Hide All Field Buttons on Chart” and they’ll go away (as shown below).

If you don’t mind their appearance, each button acts as a filter for the Pivot Table. So instead of scrolling over to the Table, you can filter right from the Chart.

  • From there it is just preferences:

You can add a chart title, hide the legend, and a lot of other customization by clicking on the Chart, and then selecting the green “+” button that appears to the right of the Chart (shown below).

Once you’ve got your first chart, you can then start the duplication process!
  • To make another Pivot Table and Chart combo, you can just select the entirety of the Table, then copy and paste it elsewhere on the sheet

Copying the Pivot Table to be replicated
  • Drag and drop the fields (from the Field List on the right) you want to look at in the new Table (ex. Sales Rep in place of Month), and then go through the same quick process to create a Chart

The premise here is that each Table you create is referencing the same data. Each variation is just how you want to cut the data for that particular view.

Note – the formatting you select for one chart will not transfer to a new chart. The easiest method is to pick from Excel’s preset templates, which are normally visually appealing enough – both the black and the gray Charts above are in Excel’s preset templates. You can always customize the look of every chart individually to how you want though.

Best practice is probably to settle on a color scheme and layout after you’ve created all the charts you want, that way you can quickly go through each and select the same layout all at once.

After creating however many variations that get to your necessary level of depth, you’ve now just created yourself a dashboard! Congrats!

Best Way to Create Formulas Based on the Tables to get Additional Metrics in your Dashboard

You may notice that some pieces in the above dashboard (the tables with headers that have blue background and white text) are not Pivot Tables or Pivot Charts. These are created using the same information though.

Enter the GETPIVOTDATA formula. It is one of the most complicated looking formulas, but one of the most effective to use.

Note that it is simply complicated “looking”, but not actually that complicated to use.

Here’s an example. We’re going to walk through the Sales By Month table in the dashboard above (and referenced below).

Let’s say you wanted to get that 41.1% “Growth vs Prior Yr” for Feb from the information in the Pivot Table.

Naturally, you would do the following (referencing picture below) U10 / T10 – 1 = 41.1%

When you go to do that though, this scary looking formula comes out:

Let’s break it down and look at the first piece, before the “/”:

=GETPIVOTDATA(“Sale Amount”,$S$7,”Year”,2019,”Month”,”Feb”)

Translating, it is saying the following:

  • From the Pivot Table

=GETPIVOTDATA(“Sale Amount”,$S$7,”Year”,2019,”Month”,”Feb”)

  • Grab the metric “Sale Amount”

=GETPIVOTDATA(“Sale Amount”,$S$7,”Year”,2019,”Month”,”Feb”)

  • In the Pivot Table located in cell S7

=GETPIVOTDATA(“Sale Amount”,$S$7,”Year”,2019,”Month”,”Feb”)

  • Given the following criteria, Year = 2019

=GETPIVOTDATA(“Sale Amount”,$S$7,“Year”,2019,”Month”,”Feb”)

  • And the second criteria Month = Feb

=GETPIVOTDATA(“Sale Amount”,$S$7,”Year”,2019,“Month”,”Feb”)

You’ll notice the second GETPIVOTDATA (after the “/”) is the same formula, just referencing Year = 2018 instead of 2019.

It is the same formula as the nice and easy U10 / T10 – 1 above, just bringing in the functionality of the Pivot Table.

So why on earth would you actually use the complicated version?

Reason #1: Let’s say you add in another filter and the bulk of the Pivot Table shifts down by one row. The U10 / T10 – 1 will remain but will now be looking at a different month.

Reason #2: What if you changed the Pivot Table to include each Sales Rep’s details in each month (like below)?

Now that “U10 / T10 – 1” formula would be referencing Jennifer’s sales in Jan… not even close to total Feb sales.

If you used the GETPIVOTDATA formula, you would still get the result you want (Total Feb Sales Amount, 2019 over 2018) because you’re telling it what criteria to look at, regardless of what cells the intended data ended up in. It would still do $26,070 / $18,470 – 1, or 41.1%.

Note – in a scenario like the above picture, make sure Subtotals are enabled in the “Design” tab that appears when you click in the Pivot Table

Reason #3: You can completely customize the look of your created table, whereas you have limited aesthetic flexibility in the Pivot Table itself. I choose a blue header with white text.

Reason #4: You retain the copy and paste functionality of the “U10 / T10 – 1” formula but increase the accuracy of the formula.

Notice in our summary chart with each month’s “Growth vs Prior Yr”, we have the month abbreviation in the left column, then the % growth in the right column.

To utilize the copy and paste functionality of formulas in Excel, we just have to reference the month in the formula.

It is the same formula as above in every way except for the P9 in place of “Feb”. This just tells the formula to take the value in cell P9 as the criteria needed to be found in the “Month” section.
You can then copy and paste this formula to each of the months, and the “Growth vs Prior Yr” will fill out for each month, regardless of how many other variables are in the Pivot Table, or where the numbers you want are located (cell-wise).

Summary

So now you’ve learned…

  • The benefits of a dashboard, specifically one in Excel

  • How to make a Pivot Table

  • How to make a Pivot Chart based off it

  • How to duplicate those efforts (for efficiency)

  • How to reference the information in it to get analytical metrics that aren’t directly called out in the Pivot Table

  • (Most importantly) How to build your own fully functional, completely customizable analytical dashboard!

Updating the dashboard is an exercise that takes mere minutes to download the data and add it into your data sheet.

Reasonable time investment to make the dashboard, small time investment to update it, big business benefits.

WIMS BREWERIES & WINERIES

3 Marketing Tips for Breweries, Wineries, Cideries, & Distilleries

The brewery and winery industries have been fortunate to have experienced a major boom in public interest along with media attention over the past few years. Just opening a new location has been a major event that has typically generated a lot of buzz and received coverage by every Business Journal and local social media influencer alike. That’s not to say that marketing breweries and wineries has been easy of course, far from it.

Once the grand opening has passed, and the novelty subsides, the business must continue to attract a loyal and recurring customer base, in addition to the one-off tourists and large groups as well. While all businesses have their tried-and-true marketing methods that work, we wanted to offer up some that may appear obvious, but they truly work. And when done effectively in conjunction with a robust marketing and sales strategy, they’ll keep your brewery or winery full of customers for a long time to come.

Tastings and tours are a “must” for any brewery, winery, cidery, or distillery. However, even if you diligently open your brewery daily for happy hour, there’s much more you can do to raise product awareness. In order to broadcast your brand’s name, it helps to bridge the gap between physical and digital. While locals and tourists might stop in for some beer, wine, or cider, incorporating digital marketing into your outreach campaign will multiply your success. These digital marketing strategies help breweries and wineries attract interest and show off their new craft beer and wine releases, as well as just consistently get people through the door.

 

Blog Posts

Creating a new beer, wine, or cider is still big news. Your fans (and prospects) want to hear about it! However, people also want to know what they’re getting into before purchasing beer from a brewery. For many, that means doing some research beforehand. Introducing a new beer, wine, or cider through blogging is a fun, creative, and informal way to get word out of your newest product. Along with sharing information about the new release and the story behind your winery or brewery online, you can link to your social media pages as well. With these additional steps, you’ll effectively reach your social media followers and those who have signed up for email alerts or announcements (not to mention jack up your SEO rankings). This makes it easier for followers to share the news about your brewery or distillery on their social networks too.

 

Email Campaigns

While it often takes a back seat to social media, email marketing is still a significant part of a successful marketing strategy. Surprisingly, many breweries, wineries, and cideries use social media exclusively as their digital marketing strategy. Considering that 3.2 billion people use social media worldwide, tapping into a social network is a good start. Yet, email is even more effective in reaching a target brewery or winery audience than Facebook or the others. Studies show that 900 out of 1,000 people see a company’s message via email compared to just 20 out of 1,000 people on Facebook. Ultimately, it’s worth your time and effort to create a message that 90% of users will see. Email also has the power and convenience of automation. With social media, on the other hand, you’ll need to personally post a message every day or at least several times each week (which you should be doing ALSO).

 

Social Media Ads

Even though email campaigns are the fastest way to reach a broad audience, don’t underestimate the power of social media for your brewery or winery. About 67% of the US population uses Facebook, which translates to many potential views. Facebook advertising is simple and easy for breweries and wineries to use, and you can even try A/B testing to see which campaigns and strategies are most effective.

 

From tried-and-true email to web content and social media, there are many creative and effective avenues that breweries, wineries, distilleries, or a cideries, can use to increase brand awareness and spread news of a new wine, cider, or beer. If you’re interested in discussing how you can build upon your existing marketing and sales strategy reach out to us at WIMS Consulting and we’d be happy to help!

Eolian Health Care Manifesto

The EolianVR Health Care Manifesto

We at EolianVR know that the health care industry is fascinatingly complex, multifaceted, and one of the most vital pillars that holds society together. The implications of its direction, evolution, improvement, are paramount to us all.

Regardless of how quickly firms, researchers, scientists, and front-line providers can innovate, the inevitable counter-punch strikes as new diseases emerge, political and administrative bureaucracy bogs down progress, or the sheer volume of humanity’s growth tips the scales in the other direction. Nevertheless, we must persist and never relent in this noble pursuit of progress.

Absolute magic is performed every single day, in countless ways, across the entire globe as professionals in the space manifest modern miracles on demand to save lives and treat their patients. However, the magnitude of how far we’ve come is often diminished and unappreciated as there simultaneously is still so far yet to go.

Just because the road ahead is difficult, and at times downright overwhelming, doesn’t mean that we should simply accept the status quo and settle for the way things are. On the contrary, the hard problems are the ones truly worth solving.

These ideals and sense of duty are what inspired our team at EolianVR to make the commitment to the health care industry. We want to do anything and everything we can to help contribute, even if just in a small way, to our firm’s primary mission: to help save lives.

We pursue this mission by leveraging technology to build customized software platforms for our clients in the health care industry. Specifically, we build these new worlds primarily using augmented reality/virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. Then, we maximize the value and exposure of these platforms by ensuring that they interface with the more prevalent and widely available technology of today, such as mobile/tablet devices and personal computers.

We are currently working with some of the most world-renowned and innovative health care organizations on the planet on a variety of use cases ranging from patient treatment, clinical research, training and education, surgical demonstrations, to even creating a virtual walk through of a children’s hospital to make it less intimidating for future patients before they arrive.

Not only do we have a vast amount of experience in the health care industry, but our patent pending platform is being built for several other high level industries as well (more to come!). Again, our mission of saving lives was the motivation and inspiration that lead to its creation and we’re only just beginning to perceive the widespread implications of its potential

Due to the fact that the sky is the limit with respect to what we can assist organizations with, we typically try to start by identifying one or two of the primary objectives that exist and use those as an initial pilot project. We work with the appropriate stakeholders to determine the most appropriate problems that need solved and build a project plan around the desired outcome. We lay out key goals and metrics, establish the appropriate budget and deadlines, and collaborate to track progress along the way. Each engagement is customized in this way and ensures that at the end our clients are pleased with the result.

As a firm we make sure to stay on top of the latest technological innovations in our space and remain device agnostic in our development so that we can always make sure our platforms and software work on the best hardware that the industry gets to market. This agile and dynamic approach allows our clients to remain confident that the solutions they invest in will always maintain value and effective regardless of what comes out next.

It’s truly our honor to do our part in helping the health care industry continue to innovate. We would love the opportunity to partner with your organization and build new worlds together to help save lives. Just reach out to mike@eolianvr.com!

Starting a Company: When Do You Quit Your Day Job?

At a recent Charlotte Business Group event I moderated a panel on entrepreneurship. We hit various topics that provided the audience with a ton of value, so I wanted to share some of the key takeaways from the discussion with you. The event featured a great group of local entrepreneurs that covered a wide range of topics about starting, and running, a company.

Our panelists included:

To begin, as far as the “when do you quit your day job” question, there wasn’t a specific answer that fit everyone, as it’s a deeply personal situation. It truly varies for every individual. And in some cases, the answer is never. So, as you can imagine, most of the conversation surrounded providing details about what worked for each of the panelists, as well as them offering various ideas with respect to the way they thought about (act acted on) that at the time.

That being said, below are some of the key takeaways from the evening. There was a lot to unpack and share so I may come back and edit/add more in the coming days.

Ideas for businesses come from a variety of places. In some cases, you can innovate, break, and then reinvent the wheel. In others you can make small tweaks to existing business models that work elsewhere. Or you can find a specific niche and build from there. Business opportunities arise from a multitude of potential catalysts. One great takeaway that stuck with me was to use Bill’s “if you spend 30 minutes researching a problem and aren’t sold something (i.e. served ads) within that time frame you just might have a business idea.”

Just Start. You need to have a little bit of risk involved; you can never get rid of it completely so don’t let that keep you from starting. You don’t need to have absolutely everything figured out. The important thing is to take action consistently. Bill had another great gem; he created a list of 100 things/task and did 1 a day. By sticking to that he started his company in 100 days.

You don’t always NEED to quit your day job. It’s ok to keep your day job long term, keep it for a while as you get traction in the business, or “jump off the cliff and build the plane on the way down.” Everyone has a different risk tolerance and level of resources available to them. Others like Chris just like and prefer continuing to keep their job as they grow their businesses and don’t feel the need to quit.

Know your target market. Learn about what they value, the problems they need solved, and what needs they need met. These are the fundamental elements of launching a business. Market fit is crucial to identify the initial opportunity. Scalability comes later.

Create systems to lean on. As you build your business you want to create systems, procedures, automations, etc. to make sure the business can (eventually) run without you. You don’t need the latest and greatest technology for this, just implement processes that work to help you stay on top of managing everything as things can get overwhelming quickly.

Delegate the things you’re not good at. Pretty much everyone mentioned getting a good bookkeeper/accountant to manage the finances (as that wasn’t necessarily any of their strengths). That’s just an example to reiterate that in order to grow your business you need help and need to be able to delegate the tasks that aren’t suited to your strengths. This may take time as resources are limited, you may need to wear many hats in the beginning, but make this a priority as soon as you can.

There are a variety of ways to fund your business depending on your goals. This is yet another personal preference. Some people bootstrap, building with sales and revenue as they go. That was Elechia’s preferred approach as she met with doctor after doctor, potential patient after patient and growing along the way. Others raise money from investors to continue growing and scaling. You can also leverage debt with SBA loans, etc. There is plenty of research out there about ways to fund and grow your business.

Know what your long-term goals are. While you don’t need to do this first, eventually you should try to have an exit strategy in mind (or the lack there of) as you initially build your business. Whether you plan to eventually sell it, build a business you want to work at for the long haul, or simply want a side-hustle, they’re all fine as long as you’re transparent and honest with yourself and your partners.

All that being said, it’s ok to just have a short-term side hustle that only lasts a year or two and provides some additional income along the way. There doesn’t have to be a long-term vision if that’s your primary objective. As was mentioned several times, each situation and individual is different.

There are many other things to consider when starting and running a business. This was just a small snapshot of a great evening filled with plenty of additional takeaways. What are some of the things you’d add to the list?

The Charlotte Business Group has a lot more educational events like this planned where we share knowledge and experiences from local professionals. We aim to continue nurturing the business and entrepreneurial spirit and providing opportunities for the community to do so. Make sure to keep an eye our for the upcoming schedule!

navigating networking

Navigating Networking

Recently at the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance’s 2nd Annual YP Leadership Convergence: Navigating the Career Jungle Gym (#YPLeaderCon) I moderated a panel about networking. This break out session was one among many others, along with some incredible keynote speeches and a great day full of, well networking.

The panelists I interviewed were:

Since we received such great feedback from our session, I wanted to share a few of the key points with you to highlight some of the primary takeaways.

Be authentic and a real person. People can spot a fake pretty easily and know when they’re just being sold. Begin a conversation with cultivating a real connection by being transparent.

Get to know people for who they are, not just their job. Yes, it’s common that the first thing people often ask in a networking setting is, “What do you do?” But you’re allowed, and encouraged, to take a different approach.

The elevator pitch: Yes, you should have one, but know when to use it. When to use the elevator pitch often comes much later in a conversation, and typically when it’s prompted by the other person. You should be able to comfortably speak about who you are and what you do naturally of course, but generally you can keep the elevator pitch in your back pocket.

Add value to others and give back. Every interaction doesn’t always lead to a sale or referral right off the bat. Rather, those often take time (roughly 5-7 touch points on average). If you focus on adding value to others first and going out of your way to help them it’s more likely that will be reciprocated later. That’s not a guarantee that it will. But trust us, just try it and see how well it works out for you.

Be strategic about where you spend your time. We all have a limited amount of time in the day. Be thoughtful and which events you plan to attend in order to get the most value for your precious time. Further, when you do commit to attending an event make sure to bring your best self and be present.

Leverage technology, (i.e. your phone, Outlook, LinkedIn, a CRM system, etc.). It’s pretty much impossible to remember every single person you meet, who you’ve made plans with, or where you met them, among the infinite amount of information we consume each day. Create a system and make sure to use it. If it’s in real time the better. Add their contact info into your phone and send the calendar invite right then and there (when appropriate) to maximize efficiency.

Follow Up! This is by far the most important tip yet so many people fail to do it. As they say, “the fortune is in the follow up”. Try to do so in as timely a fashion as possible to ensure you continue cultivating the relationship.

There are plenty of other networking guidelines to adhere to, what are some of yours?

 

For additional context on the YP Leader Con conference’s theme this year the description was: “The career path for a young professional often looks more like a jungle gym than a corporate ladder. During a full day of learning and exploration, you’ll gain insight from a diverse array of speakers with varied career and leadership paths.” It was a dynamic day packed with incredible content. If you live in, or near Charlotte make sure to sign up for next year’s conference!

Project Management Banner

The Project Lifecycle

 

At its core, project management is about focusing on a plan to execute a series of tasks to accomplish an end goal within a specific constraint. Projects take many different forms and are often defined by having to perform complex tasks under the constraints of limited budget and time. Before diving into the article I suggest that you the reader take the time to go back and look through the WIMS Guide archive to read some of the other insights from myself and my colleagues.

 

I have addressed some matters related to project management and am going to embark on a further process of highlighting my experiences moving through the world as a project manager. Projects can be scary, and this is something which I am aware of and address these myself as I go through my daily life both professionally and personally. Projects do not need to be fretted or feared but should be embraced to tell the stories about your own journey and the strengthens the organizations you are a part of through your career, civic engagements, and volunteer organizations.

 

Getting started with a project

A five part project, lifecycle which was compiled by Villanova University is a good starting place to understand the values of going through a series of steps to complete successful projects. These five distinct phases occur over the life cycle of a project. The ability to see structure through the course of a project and learn about the structure of the project lifecycle is valuable to both the project manager and the entire team who is implementing specific pieces of the project and are not entrenched in the language and specifics of project management.

 

Project Initiation: This serves the starting point for the entire project. Often feasibility and value for the course of the entire project are measured at the on set of the project before any additional planning has commenced. If the project seems feasible and profitable the project manager will move forward with the project and showcase how this specific project fits into the core of current business operations.

 

Project Planning: The project has been given the go ahead and planning is needed to get it up and running. A plan will differ slightly for every project but will often include an outlined schedule, budget, how risk will be addressed, and the scope of the project to outline necessary resources and departments involved in different phases of the project.

 

Project Execution: After the plan has been written the work on the project will be done. The deliverable goods or services will be delivered through a series of deadlines to involved stakeholders and sponsors. Executing a project can only happen by following and updating the project plan as work is accomplished and some tasks are met.

 

Project Monitoring and Control: As tasks and work is completed some deadlines will not be met and adjustments to resources and timing are necessary. The project manager must monitor, document, and control these changes to ensure the project can move forward towards completion.

 

Project Closure: The project will have an end date when it is delivered to the customer. The end of the project should involve communication with the stakeholders across the project and serve as an important closure point for the team members to look back on the time they spent on it. Furthermore, this closure can serve as a celebration to enjoy the successful completion of the project while sharing lessons learned and spending time with some project members for a final time.

 

 

Concluding Thoughts

The steps surrounding the project plan are not rigid steps which need to be followed like financial equations but are guidelines to improve the process and outcome of projects of all sizes. Project Management offers ways to improve scheduling and optimize different tasks across projects for both individuals and teams. Empowerment occurs working through complex projects using a well-developed project plan. It is vital to understand that while projects are difficult the ability to deconstruct them into simpler steps will allow the lifecycle of the project to be completed in an easier and more rewarding manner.

 

Resources

 

“The WIMS Guide.” WIMS Guide. Retrieved from https://www.wimsguide.com/tag/the-wims-guide/.

“Project Management.” WIMS Guide. Retrieved from https://www.wimsguide.com/category/project-management/.

“Project Management.” WIMS Consulting. Retrieved from https://www.wims-consulting.com/project-management.

“Five Phases of the Project Management Lifecycle.” Villanova University. Retrieved from https://www.villanovau.com/resources/project-management/5-phases-project-management-lifecycle/.

Photo by Jo Szczepanska.

2019 YP LeaderCon

 

On August 2, 2019 I had the pleasure of attending the second annual YP LeaderCon held by the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance. The event was at the beautiful UNCC City Center and brought together emerging leaders from around the Charlotte region. By attending this event I was given an opportunity to learn and grow, hearing from speakers and other professionals in their 20s and 30s while validating the steps I am taking in beginning my professional career and helping to grow my personal brand.

 

The sessions I attended included a range of topics including networking, financial planning, the power of professional organizations, and the importance of mentorship in personal and professional situations. Across these sessions a common theme continually arose which was the power of taking ownership of your actions and directing the course of your life.

 

Beginning a career is certainly challenging requiring an individual to balance paying off debt including student loans, becoming acclimated with the culture of your new job, navigating the job market, and deciding which professional organizations to join and prioritize which events to attend. Sometimes the most important thing to do during the initial years of your career is to establish the skills that will drive your entire career while also understanding what attributes you value. We can become so accustomed to saying yes that saying no to things that do not provide value to our lives should be where we focus our main energy.  Having an understanding of the things we truly value will help prioritize decision making and reduce time spent on unnecessary actions.

 

During the event, a topic that was highlighted across sessions is the importance of seeking help from others.  The session led by Lisa Medley explored the value and importance of seeking out resources through mentorship, sponsorship and coaching. Many people understand the importance of mentorship from the professional sense yet the aspirational, personal, and family should be used to create buckets of different mentors to become a better person across all aspects of your life. This is an area I will look to improve on by seeking additional mentors and using the people around me as resources. By gaining skills and relationships from mentors I will be able to learn from them while also providing them new skills as I continue to form strong relationships through mentorships and as I progress in my career further mentoring others with the information I learn.

 

I value the time and the opportunities I had during the YP LeaderCon and the importance the Charlotte Regional Alliance places on growing young talent in the entire metropolitan region. Seeing professionals beginning their careers I could see the dynamics of the modern workforce as I gathered with young professionals who worked for startups, Fortune 500 companies, and regional firms with a strong presence in Charlotte. One of the top reasons I am proud to call the Charlotte area home is the commitment to fostering business relationships and improve the entire community. The hints of Southern charm that are spread across the shining city of Charlotte shows the power of the New South. The sessions were filled with young people from across the country who have moved to Charlotte because of its robust job market and abundance of recreational activities. This trend should continue as more people and companies are attracted to the region and top talent is retained to ensure sustainable growth across the entire Charlotte region into the future.

reconnecting with your network

Reconnecting With Your Network

4 min. read (too long? Scroll down to the bottom for the bullet points)

You did it. You went dark.  You ghosted. Pulled a professional Irish Goodbye.  You haven’t spoken or been in touch with the majority of your network for some time.  Could be a couple months, or even over a year.  I know I’m guilty of it.  You change careers/jobs, move to a different part of town or new city, or experience a major life-changing event like a new relationship, marriage, or have your first child.  For one reason or another, you lost touch and some people got left behind.

 

This is completely normal.  Things happen, and priorities change.  But what do you do when you want to reconnect to some, or all, of your old network?  Well realizing you want to reconnect is the first step.  We went around asking others who have been in that same predicament, what they did that worked for them.  Below we compiled a list of the steps they took to warm up their own networks and get “reintroduced to the wild”.

 

  1. Just do it.

Sometimes we over think things, and talk ourselves out of doing something that will ultimately benefit us.  Maybe you only reach out to a couple people you still stay in contact with, or you limit the amount of outreach when trying to get back in touch with your network.  Ultimately, those who want to stay in touch will respond to your efforts, and those who don’t will ignore the effort.  Save yourself the time and worry and reach out to everyone.

 

  1. Get Active

Now this can be vague, but its actually really simple.  Get active in the same circles as your old contacts.  Whether its posting more on social media, attending the same networking groups, or professional organizations.  Getting active will put you back in front of those people. We need to stay in front of those we want to keep us top of mind.

 

  1. Own up to it (but not too much)

It’s been a while since you’ve spoken.  Odds are, you won’t be able to just pick up the conversation where you last left it like nothing happened.  A brief acknowledgement of the passing of time will add some context to the rest of the email.  However, be careful not to sound overly apologetic.  Include any pertinent information, like a change in career, major move, or family addition.  Avoid anything that sounds overly apologetic like “I’m so sorry I haven’t been around.” Or “I hope you’ll reconnect with me again.”

 

  1. Be Transparent about your motives

This one should be rather straightforward; you want to reconnect.  Make sure this is in the message somewhere.  Whether you haven’t spoken in a while, you changed careers or positions, or whatever the reason.  If you want to remind them of who you are, it would be smart to include your previous position, place of work, or where you were when you first met.

 

  1. Don’t sell anything or ask for a favor

Clearly there is a reason you want to reconnect with this group of people, but this isn’t the time to ask.  Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said it best,

If I make deposits into an Emotional Bank Account with you through courtesy, kindness, honesty, and keeping my commitments to you, I build up a reserve. Your trust toward me becomes higher, and I can call upon that trust many times if I need to.

If you haven’t spoken to these individuals in some time, odds are you don’t have the trust built up to ask anything of them.  Use this as an opportunity to give something of value.

 

-Ask them what you can do to help them.

-Congratulate them on a recent accolade.

-Offer some information or research that may be useful to them professionally or personally.

 

Sharing with them something new you’re working on is ok, but stop short of asking them to buy or become a client.  If they’re interested, they’ll ask you for more information.  This is the first step of a marathon, building a relationship doesn’t happen in a sprint.

 

  1. Write like a human/ Make it personal

You’re trying to reconnect, which means putting yourself first and actually connecting.  You may represent a brand or company, but people connect with other people.  Greet them by first name “Hi Christy,” or if you don’t have their first name a simple “Hi!” or “Hi there,” will be ok.  Keep the tone conversational, as if you were talking to a friend.  A rigid tone can be confused for bulk email, and make it seem impersonal.  Lastly, avoid any banners, images or special fonts.  Plain Text works best, as that’s the default look for most of our personal emails.

 

  1. Follow Up!!!

Congratulations!  You did it! You put in all the hard work and reached back out to your network.  When you get responses to your message, thank them.  Gratitude goes a long way to keeping the relationship going.

Now you have to keep it warm.  The fortune is in the follow up! Stay consistent with your outreach and keep in front of them using whatever platform works best for you.  Keep active in whatever in-person groups make the most impact.  If you join a non-profit, make sure its one you have a genuine interest in (we can tell if you’re faking it or using the group for other reasons).

 

General Do’s and Don’ts

 

Do

-it.  Seriously, just put an email together or even just walk into an event.  Do something.

-Be transparent and own up to the lapse.

-Remind them who you are and where you met.

-Give something of value.  Real value. Try to benefit them personally or professionally.

-Keep it friendly and personal.

-Be genuine in your efforts. We can all spot a fake.

-Use plain text.

-Follow Up. Stay Consistent. Show Gratitude.

 

Don’t

-sit on your ass.

-be overly apologetic.

-assume they remember you.

-Sell them something or ask a favor.  I cannot over emphasize this enough.

-give them anything cheap.  People recognize and appreciate value.

-send a bulk mailer with fluff (fancy borders, fonts, images)

-let another year go by before you reach back out again.

 

Hope this helps get you back out there!

 

If you liked this, sign up for the newsletter and keep an eye out for the next posts in this series:

Email etiquette: Anti-Spam and keeping out of Junk folders & Networking: Following up with a new connection.

Sea Level Rising and What the Future Holds

Where are we headed?

What exactly does it mean to be sustainable and do behaviors that people follow determine if they are or are not following a sustainable lifestyle or does sustainability have to be engrained into the core philosophy of an individual?

I do not know the answer to this question, and I will not attempt to get to the bottom of what drives people to choose sustainable choices be it monetary, spiritual, or moral. In the past few months I have found myself thinking about not what draws people to becoming sustainable but the deeper question of does it matter how we live and how can we, as individuals make decisions that will help protect the earth. The earth needs to be protected not only for future generations but for those of us alive because the world and unexpected climate events are already impacting the world and causing irreversible effects. Instead of playing a blame game of who should take the burden of climate change the only path forward is to work with individuals, non-profit institutions, and corporations. While full cooperation is impossible the world needs cooperation on a stage never seen before to offset the costs on the economy and more importantly the environment.

 

Center for Climate Integrity

A recent report from the Center for Climate Integrity highlights the pressing nature of sea level change and how this one aspect of climate change will have immense impacts on coastal communities, the economy of the entire nation, and millions of Americans. This study highlights impacts of one of the major aspects of climate change being rising sea levels and how to handle the costs of these changes. Coastal regions have vast importance on ecological, economic, and cultural importance with vibrant communities. These communities also are home to many marine mammals, birds, and unique ecosystems including salt marshes and lowlands which add to the beauty of the coastal communities and can help as carbon sinks in marshlands that can reduce carbon emissions in the atmosphere.

 

Coastal Impacts

Beyond the beauty of these coastal regions, commercial fisheries and farms in these coastal regions provide fresh food and jobs. Many of the areas which will be hardest hit by the increased sea levels are popular tourist destinations which provide a valuable tax base and employment opportunities to communities. From the Florida Keys to the Eastern Shore of Maryland and the Outer Banks of North Carolina popular summer destinations face increased risks of rising sea levels. North Carolina, faces the third highest cost in the lower 48 from rising sea levels with projected increased costs in the Old North State to be over $35 billion by 2040. This places the economic costs behind only Florida and Louisiana and part of the total costs which could exceed $400 billion over the next 20 years with many of the costs incurred over the next decade.

 

Projected costs to build sea walls by state. Credit Center for Climate Integrity

 

Now what

The first step in advocacy is understanding the issues at hand, gaining background information about the causes of climate change and sea level rising will allow for beginning the dialogue on these issues. Here in North Carolina, some unique geography in the northeast part of the state means the one congressional district, the 3rd District, has the highest economic impact of any congressional district in the nation representing over 80% of the total cost in the state from sea level rise. While congressional district boundaries change the impacts of coastal changes from rising sea levels will dramatically impact the tourist centers of the Outer Banks.

The small coastal communities that many people only think about during yearly beach trips or when shrimp cocktails are order face uphill battles and will bear the brunt of the burden of rising sea levels. All is not lost. Actions can be made which will help protect the coastal communities including reaching out to local politicians, beginning conversations about how to combat climate change, and making purchases when possible to companies that value sustainability. The fight to protect our coasts is not over and by understanding that actions can be taken the coastal ecosystems can be protected.

The costs of climate change can not be thought of as after thoughts because communities are already dealing with the effects of climate change and rising sea levels. The impacts of climate change are not set in stone and can be minimized through advocacy, taking individual decisions to reduce your carbon footprint, and taking the steps to hold large corporations accountable for their carbon emissions and incentive sustainable investments.

 

Sources

Debruyn, Jason. “Rising Seas To Cost NC $35B In Just 20 Years, New Study Finds.” WUNC 91.5 North Carolina Public Radio. Retrieved from https://www.wunc.org/post/rising-seas-cost-nc-35b-just-20-years-new-study-finds.

“Study: U.S. Costal Communities Face More Than $400 Billion in Seawall Costs by 2040.” IGSD: Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. http://www.igsd.org/study-u-s-costal-communities-face-more-than-400-billion-in-seawall-costs-by-2040/.