Tag Archives: Business Owner

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!

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!

What is 10X Tom Schaefer Jr.

What is 10X?

If you’re an entrepreneur, a sales professional, work within your city’s start-up ecosystem, or are a follower of one of the dozens of personal/professional growth coaches, chances are you’ve seen or heard of “10X”.  This has become a hot term in the last half-decade, and I wanted to break down my interpretation of what this means, and how it’s meant to be applied to your efforts.  It started as a way to describe the “best” engineers who are 10 times as productive as their “worst” counterparts in the field of software development.  The term has been appropriated, perhaps most famously by Grant Cardone in his book “The 10X Rule”, as an understanding of the levels of effort and thinking required to break out of the average results and truly succeed.

The first component in The 10X Rule (get it here free, just pay shipping) takes a closer look at how we think about success, and how we set goals.  While we’re taught “slow and steady wins the race”, this puts our mindset in a place where average is OK.  However, average is a sliding scale.  If everyone is struggling, your struggles are justified.  We set smaller “realistic” goals, limiting our belief in what is possible.  I believe this way of thinking is rooted in the fear of failure, so we celebrate even the smallest victories.  Failure is necessary for growth.  As we fail, we learn what doesn’t work and improve our efforts for the next attempt.  Welcome failure, set audacious goals that are “10X” what you originally thought possible.  10 new clients a month instead of 1.  Raise $1 million for your start up instead of $100K.  Thinking in these magnitudes, even a “failure” of getting 3 new clients or raising $200K is still better than the original goals.

Now thinking at a higher level than before is great, but making them happen can seem daunting.  This is where the second part kicks in, and understanding the order of magnitude of your actions comes into play.  Break down what it takes to reach your goal.  Does it take 5 meetings to get that 1 client?  Schedule 50.  Does it take 10 calls to get 5 meetings?  Make 100 calls.  Don’t have 100 people to call?  Start building your network by sharing what you do with others and ask them if they know anyone that fits your ideal client profile (ICP).  Start somewhere and create the activity to get to the next step.

“But Tom, I’m a solopreneur and I’m already working 60 hour weeks, I can’t possibly work 600 hours a week, it’s impossible.”  or “Those numbers aren’t realistic, in my industry a 20% growth is considered a huge margin.”  Excuses are a justification of our fears.  We stay in a comfort zone to avoid failure.  Well a solopreneur can leverage tools like CRM to manage a sales and marketing strategy, making scalability much more attainable. A strong digital marketing campaign can grow an audience 100 times what was previously done with more traditional methods at a fraction of the price (and often at no cost at all).  The fear of failure is stopping more people from succeeding than the actual failures ever will.  Stop thinking small and start doing, because nothing ever happens overnight, and every great journey begins with a single step.

If you enjoyed reading this article, let us know in the comments below and remember to sign up for our newsletter via the form below.

Small Business Week 2019

WIMS Celebrates National Small Business Week 2019!

In honor of Small Business Week I’ve put together a collection of resources, information, articles, etc. for you to check out whether you’re currently an entrepreneur, if you’re considering becoming one, or if you simply want to support your local crazy roller coaster rider like myself. Also, to celebrate WIMS Consulting is offering a 20% on all services/projects for other small business owners. Just reach out and mention it during your consultation!

What is SBW?

From May 6th to May 11th, 2019, it’s National Small Business Week where the SBA (Small Business Association) recognizes outstanding entrepreneurs and small business owners from all across the 50 states and U.S. territories.

About: “Every year since 1963, the President of the United States has issued a proclamation announcing National Small Business Week, which recognizes the critical contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners.

More than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and they create about two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year.

As part of National Small Business Week, the U.S. Small Business Administration takes the opportunity to highlight the impact of outstanding entrepreneurs, small business owners, and others from all 50 states and U.S. territories. Every day, they’re working to grow small businesses, create 21st century jobs, drive innovation, and increase America’s global competitiveness.”

 

For North Carolina Companies:

Charlotte Business Resources – it’s Small Business MONTH for the CBR and the city of Charlotte (thanks Mayor Vi Lyles)! Check out everything going on. They’re using #31DaysofBiz too if you want to follow along.

Check out NC IDEA, they’re expanding the long-standing NC IDEA SEED grant program by introducing a Micro-Grant Pilot Program to award micro-grants to deserving companies not yet positioned for their traditional $50K seed grants. “The NC IDEA SEED Micro-Grant Pilot Program will award project-based, micro-grants in the amount of $1K – $10K to young companies looking to validate and advance their idea; or if further along, validate scalability where a small amount of funding would make a significant impact. Grant recipients will also receive mentorship and assistance from NC IDEA, as well as access to its wide network of advisors, partners and investors.”

 

Other SBW2019 Resources Worth Checking Out:

Entrepreneur Magazine SBW2019 HQ

Entrepreneur Magazine SBW2018 HQ

Fundera Ultimate Guide for Small Business Owners

Amazon Business Small Business Week Page

They also created: The Small Business Office Playbook is a resource endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as part of its commitment to continually support small businesses’ needs and growth opportunities.

Vista Print 33% off entire site with code SMALLBIZ

Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program

Top TedTalks for when you want to start a business.

Consider These 9 New Ideas For Small Business Week PR (Forbes)

Why National Small Business Week Matters Now More Than Ever (Business.com)

Small Business Week 2018: Need money to get started? We’ve got you. (USA Today)

43 Reasons You Should Support Small And Independent Businesses (Forbes)

Marketing Sales Automation Tech Stack

The Best Marketing and Sales Automation Tech Stack for B2B Businesses

Just about every company in America would publicly emphasize that they’re committed to revenue growth (this is more important than ever now). Yet simultaneously its common to try to cut corners and get cheap when it comes time to invest in tried and true resources that help them realize that goal. Further, these resources will easily pay for themselves and more by leading to significant ROI both monetarily and via efficiencies.

In 2019 I can’t believe companies still need to be convinced that they need things like CRM programs and marketing automation but here we are.

And let’s get one thing out of the way before going any further. No, having a free HubSpot account doesn’t count as investing in a CRM program. It may be slightly better than a Google Spreadsheet (yes some solely use that as their “CRM”) but it’s still a lame attempt at best (that’s not to knock them, they have a fine platform if you’re willing to pay the fees to upgrade it).

Fortunately, there is an upside whether you have a CRM and marketing automation system or not. Regardless if you have none, a poor/dysfunctional one, or even one that’s working decently well, now is a great time to make it even better. Take the time, make the investment, and ensure it’s a priority to get dialed in and implemented now to lead to massive dividends later.

Anything worth doing is worth doing right, so I’ve put together a list of the best tech stack in the game to work synergistically and seamlessly whether you’re a solo entrepreneur or a $100 million company with hundreds of employees.

To set the ground rules this piece is predominantly focused on marketing and sales automation. There are plenty of additional angles to take to assist with ERP, HR/recruiting, etc. (if there’s interest I’ll gladly do a follow up post). Also, there are a variety of effective approaches and platforms to pull this off so in some cases I’ll include secondary and tertiary options. If your favorite tool is omitted it doesn’t mean I’m not a fan, just trying to make this easier in a world with a vast amount of options to avoid analysis paralysis. I’m not going to let that be your excuse not to take action and execute.

Ok here we go.

Communication

This is obvious, but your base starts with communication, so email, mobile device, etc. Personally, my preference is overwhelmingly an Outlook and iOS base. However, Gmail/Google Suite or Android are just fine. I use both Outlook/Gmail and both accounts are connected/integrated with my CRM. If you’re working in teams, adding Slack to the mix is worthwhile as well. Price: $5-$10 per user per month.

CRM

This is really the major component that ties everything together and is the key to making everything else in your business work. If you’ve read anything I’ve written about CRM’s you know my #1 preference right now is Zoho One. It does so freaking much for your company for the price that it’s absurd. Their tagline is: “The Operating System for Your Business” and it’s 100% true. There are literally 40 applications that go along with it that could easily eliminate much of what you’re using right now. But if you love your other platforms and want to keep them it also integrates with them all.

A few steps allows you to sync and keep track of all your communication with clients and prospects, ensure you follow up with leads who fill out contact forms or simply visit your website (yes it includes a heat map and website analytics) and so much more. I also use it for project management.

Almost on equal footing (albeit it comes with a much higher price tag) is Salesforce, followed by HubSpot. These are both great platforms, they just cost a whole lot more to license and don’t come with the extra bells and whistles that Zoho One does. Price: $30-$40 per user per month.

Social Media

This section will be brief, your company has got to have at least the following accounts: LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. If you want to add others to the mix more power to you, but this is the base. I use Zoho to manage, automate, and track my posting (which is included) but you could easily use Hootsuite too. Price: Free (Zoho) – $30 per user per month for Hootsuite.

Email Marketing

Another quick section: you need to be incorporating email campaigns into your marketing activities. Email isn’t dead, that’s a lie (neither is direct mail, but that’s for another time). This is one where you could get away with Zoho to manage it, yet I stubbornly have stuck with MailChimp. I love the platform, the company, and what it stands for and have remained loyal. You can start with a free account for under 2,000 contacts, I have more in my list, so I pay a monthly fee (the fee staggers based on your amount of contacts). Constant Contact is a fine option too. Both integrate with Zoho. Price: Free (Zoho) – $30 per month and up for MailChimp.

Contract/Proposal Management

If your company is like mine, you crank out a lot of proposals and contracts on a regular basis. While we customize each one there is still plenty of overlap and recurring content that we leverage often. Standardizing as much as possible with templates creates a HUGE advantage. It allows us to crank out much more in less time. Business is a numbers game, i.e. more activity leads to more volume, which leads to more sales and revenue. So being able to get more proposals and contracts out in a timelier fashion is going to make a tangible impact on your business alone. For this I use/recommend IntellyDoc. Adding this to your tech stack is going to make a major impact on your business. Price: Free (Freemium Model) – $150+ per month depending on your company’s situation.

Payment Processing

Not that your company is closing all this new business you’ve got to collect, right? I have an account set up with PayPal, Square, Stripe, Venmo, Zelle, Coinbase, and Gold Money to collect fees from clients. I recommend having them all nothing else in your business matters if you don’t collect the fees you charge. They all connect to your bank, which should connect to your bookkeeping platform, which then connects back to the CRM to tie in deal flow tracking and to assist with financial forecasting, etc. Price: Free aside from a percentage per transaction.

Bookkeeping

QuickBooks gets all the love, but I’ve been using Wave and it’s really great too (you’re probably sick of hearing this by now but Zoho has an application that comes with your Zoho One account too). QB integrates with Zoho, Wave doesn’t which is a minor annoyance, but I created a work flow to work around that.

Other recommendations:

Scheduling: Acuity is awesome to assist with scheduling meetings, demos, calls, etc. by allowing folks to see open times on your calendar and book appointments. They have a freemium model.

Ecommerce: Shopify.

WIMS Client Spotlight Robin Branstrom Fine Art

WIMS Client Spotlight: Robin Branstrom Fine Art

Robin Branstrom has been an art consultant for over eight years, working with both individual collectors and business clients. She was formerly a partner in Robin & Robbins Art Consultants before forming Robin Branstrom Fine Art. Her company primarily operates out of North Carolina (Charlotte and Wilmington) and South Florida (based in Palm Beach) however she often travels around the country for projects (she’s particularly found of New York of course).

Robin Branstrom Fine Art works with both individuals and their private collections, as well as in the corporate section, curating collections for commercial properties and businesses looking to add some culture to their office spaces. She also works with interior designers to find the perfect piece for their client. Events are another specialty of the company, whether they have a fundraising/nonprofit aspect or simply spicing up a corporate networker, adding fine art to the mix is always a hit.

Often times it takes a special eye to find a perfectly curated piece that cohesively fits with their new décor. From Site Review to Installation, Robin Branstrom Fine Art connects the client with high caliber art that suits their living space which often involves the following steps:

Evaluation

We schedule an initial consultation to discuss your project. Our aim is to understand your business, and your budget.

Site Review

We visit the site or review architectural drawings to get a clear understanding of the space and identify potential art locations.

Presentation

We provide a broad selection of art options: paintings, prints, sculpture, works on paper, textiles and photography… as your project requires.

Selection

We work closely with you and your design team to select the art and specify the placement.

Framing

We offer numerous framing, matting and glass options to protect and present your art.

Installation and Lighting

We will expertly and securely install your art with an eye for detail and suggest the correct lumens to bring out the best in your collection.

Documentation

Upon request, we can provide documentation for your collection, including photo images, media descriptions and valuation.

 

Robin Branstrom Fine Art is continuing to grow and evolve its focus and services. Check out https://www.robinbranstromfineart.com for more information about Robin and her company and to follow along in their journey.

Business Bootcamp: Entrepreneur

Weekend Business Bootcamp: An Entrepreneurial Prompt

If you’ve been thinking about starting a business, whether as a full-time entrepreneur or as a side hustle, consider this your challenge, you call to action, the catalyst you may have been waiting for.

Maybe you’ve been procrastinating for seven weeks (or 1 year and 7 weeks) since making an entrepreneurial new year resolution. Or you’ve just been overwhelmed and stuck in a never-ending analysis paralysis loop. Perhaps you can’t find the perfect idea that best suits you and your skill set (yes, “imposter syndrome” is real and a dream killer). Either way, the best and only cure for any of the above is to take action and get started.

So, wherever you’re at in the process, I’ve pulled together some resources to act as your quick start guide, leveraging advice from experts across the internet, to help you kick things off and be ready to launch your business by Monday (no joke, it really can be done and isn’t as hard as you’d think).

Here are as many ideas as you can handle, along with some success stories for additional inspiration. After you settle on THE big idea, we move onto the initial steps to kick things off, including running some numbers and what you need to do to make it legit.

 

10 of the Highest-Paying Gig Economy Jobs of 2019

Artificial Intelligence/Deep Learning – $115.06/hour, Blockchain Architecture – $87.05/hour, Robotics – $77.46/hour, Ethical Hacking – $66.33/hour, Cryptocurrency – $65.37/hour, Amazon Web Services Lambda Coding – $51/hour, Virtual Reality – $50.18/hour, React.js Developers – $40.75/hour, Final Cut Pro Editors – $37.12/hour, Instagram Marketing – $31.23/hour”

The 20 Hottest Job Skills in 2019 That Will Get You Hired (Editor’s Note: This list doesn’t just make sense for a job, but as an Entrepreneur as well)

  • “A majority of the 20 hottest skills in the US job market are tech-related, according to a new list from freelancing platform Upwork.
  • In-demand tech skills are changing rapidly: 75 percent of the tech trends leading to job opportunities are new to the list.
  • Demand for mobile optimization, the rise in cybercrime and increasing investment in big data solutions are driving corporate hiring.”

Need a Business Idea? Here Are 55

100 Businesses You Can Start with Less Than $100

15 Businesses You Can Start for $10,000 or Less

“Daycare, Lawn Care Specialist, Court Transcript Proofreader, Bookkeeper, Real Estate Agent, Freelance Writer, Natural Childbirth Educator, Retail Arbitrageur, Blogger, Photographer/Videographer, Virtual Assistant, Info Product Salesperson, Dog Walker/Sitter, Personal Trainer, Estate Sale Manager”

7 Realistic Ways to Make Money Online

“Leverage the app economy, Use existing websites, Sell your own stuff, Sell as an affiliate, Start a blog, Email marketing, Webinars trainings”

9 Ways These People Make Money at Home with Nothing but Their Laptops

 

After you decide what business(es) you want to launch the next step is to read this article from Tim Ferriss and follow through on the exercises. How to Create a Million-Dollar Business This Weekend

Next, review this one: A Simple 6-Step Process to Starting a Small Business, and follow it up with How to Start a Small Business Online: “Seven tried and true steps for attracting visitors to your small business’ site — and getting them to buy.”

 

After you get through your weekend grind session and you’ve taken one of the hardest steps in becoming an entrepreneur, give me a call on Monday and let’s start building your website, marketing plan, and get you some clients. By this time next week, you’ll truly have something to celebrate. TGIF!

Seed Round Capital

Notes on Raising Seed Round Capital

Throughout the past year I’ve helped lead a couple of seed round funding for company’s that I’m a co-founder of. While I’ve assisted and consulted many startups prior to that with raising money, doing it from this perspective was quite different. I won’t admit to knowing absolutely everything, but I’ve certainly learned a few things along the way that are worth sharing if you’re in a similar situation or considering it.

Seed round funding takes significantly longer than you think it will, even if you’re just going after “friends and family”. Start reaching out to potential investors at least 6-9 months before you think you’ll need the funds as it can easily take that long to close the deal and collect the check.

How are you going to structure your company, and the investment? Delaware C-Corp’s are a common favorite structure and get a ton of attention, but you don’t necessarily need to structure it that way. Do you want to offer a convertible note or do a straight equity investment (or equity crowd funding – which is a whole other game)? There are pros and cons to each of these decisions, so it really just comes down to preference and seeking expert counsel.

Get serious about documentation as there’s a ton of it required. These deals are a negation, so anticipate there to be red lining for edits on a term sheet contract, additional concessions will be asked for, etc. Secure an attorney to assist you with this side of things. While you can start with a template, always get approval from a professional before executing the deal and finalizing documentation. It will help you later.

Your valuation is likely too optimistic. But even then, a valuation is always subjective. Your true valuation is essentially what you can convince someone your company’s worth. Remember no business plan or pitch book in the history of the world was 100% accurate with their projections. Make sure your work comes across as thoughtful and realistic however to show the potential investor that you did the work and aren’t just flying by the seat of your pants.

A “yes” isn’t really a yes until the money has been transferred. Don’t count your chickens and start deploying capital until you have received it. You can get a yes (or what you perceive to be a yes) on a deal but then when it comes time to complete a wire transfer the investor can get a little gun shy. Things happen, whether they get push back from their spouse, the market takes a downturn, or perhaps it’s some other random unexpected occurrence, a deal isn’t truly closed until you have the money in hand.

Collecting the funds isn’t where it ends, rather it’s just the beginning. After you receive the investment capital, then you have to execute the vision, deliver on what you said you were going to, provide further documentation along the way, communicate progress regularly, and ideally turn a profit so you can return the capital back along with a sizable return on their investment. Not sure which is the hard part? They all are.

What are some of the things you’ve learned along the way? There are so many others to consider. I always love hearing, and learning from, a good case study about your personal experience raising funds if you’re willing to share.

SMALL BUSINESS WEEK 2018

WIMS Celebrates National Small Business Week 2018!

In honor of Small Business Week I’ve put together a collection of resources, information, articles, etc. for you to check out whether you’re currently an entrepreneur, if you’re considering becoming one, or if you simply want to support your local crazy roller coaster rider like myself. Also, to celebrate WIMS Consulting is offering a 20% on all services/projects for other small business owners. Just reach out and mention it during your consultation!

What is SBW?

From April 29th to May 5th, 2018, it’s National Small Business Week where the SBA (Small Business Association) recognizes outstanding entrepreneurs and small business owners from all across the 50 states and U.S. territories.

About: “Every year since 1963, the President of the United States has issued a proclamation announcing National Small Business Week, which recognizes the critical contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners.

More than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and they create about two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year.

As part of National Small Business Week, the U.S. Small Business Administration takes the opportunity to highlight the impact of outstanding entrepreneurs, small business owners, and others from all 50 states and U.S. territories. Every day, they’re working to grow small businesses, create 21st century jobs, drive innovation, and increase America’s global competitiveness.”

 

For North Carolina Companies:

Charlotte Business Resources – it’s Small Business MONTH for the CBR and the city of Charlotte (thanks Mayor Vi Lyles)! Check out everything going on. They’re using #31DaysofBiz too if you want to follow along.

Check out NC IDEA, they’re expanding the long-standing NC IDEA SEED grant program by introducing a Micro-Grant Pilot Program to award micro-grants to deserving companies not yet positioned for their traditional $50K seed grants. “The NC IDEA SEED Micro-Grant Pilot Program will award project-based, micro-grants in the amount of $1K – $10K to young companies looking to validate and advance their idea; or if further along, validate scalability where a small amount of funding would make a significant impact. Grant recipients will also receive mentorship and assistance from NC IDEA, as well as access to its wide network of advisors, partners and investors.”

 

Other SBW2018 Resources Worth Checking Out:

Entrepreneur Magazine SBW2018 HQ

Amazon Business Small Business Week Page

They also created: The Small Business Office Playbook is a resource endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as part of its commitment to continually support small businesses’ needs and growth opportunities.

Vista Print 33% off entire site with code SMALLBIZ

Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program

Top TedTalks for when you want to start a business.

Consider These 9 New Ideas For Small Business Week PR (Forbes)

Why National Small Business Week Matters Now More Than Ever (Business.com)

Small Business Week 2018: Need money to get started? We’ve got you. (USA Today)

43 Reasons You Should Support Small And Independent Businesses (Forbes)