Tag Archives: Market Trends

Market Contraction

The Coming Market Contraction & What it Means for Your Business

After a nearly decade long recovery period, it’s starting to look and feel like the time for an economic contraction is on the horizon. It likely won’t come for another year or so yet (if we’re lucky), but based on the history of our country, it’s certainly inevitable at some point.

A lot of the experts, economists, and pundits are starting to sound the alarm already. Things like the student loan debt crisis, 2018 interest rate hikes, the collapse of retail, and the toxic political climate, are all going to come to a head and likely trigger it. Forbes, Inc. Magazine, CNBC, Bloomberg, Seeking Alpha, and Newsmax are just a sampling of publications that have had a relatively recent article about it.

Now I’m very much an optimist, so I don’t want you to interpret my prediction of a market downturn as me being pessimistic. On the contrary, I think recessions can be an incredible opportunity for those who are prepared for them. Historically, a lot of fortunes were made in the years during and shortly after economic recessions. Not to mention, regardless of whether the stock market goes up or down, someone is always making a lot of money.

While I’m no economist, I am fortunate to be able to work with a lot of people with brilliant business minds and insight into the mysterious world of macro market forces. My suggestion (if you made it this far I’m guessing you care enough to read it) is to keep an open mind to start being proactive before it’s too late. I know a lot of you might be a bit too young to really remember 2008, but if you think back to past recessions they always seem to abruptly appear to come out of nowhere and catch people off guard. One day everyone is riding high with exuberance and the next day the bottom falls out. Clearly, it’s possible and likely that it happens this way again.

I’m not saying to run around being worried or dwelling on this. I’m simply recommending that you start tightening your belt a bit now while you can. Rein in those spending habits that may have gotten a little out of control lately. Perhaps consider cashing out on a few things while values are high and take some chips off the table. Otherwise, you could end up falling into the preventable trap of being forced to sell assets at the bottom.

Simultaneously you should also be going all-in on growing your business too. I know that may sound contradictory but investing in revenue/income generating activities is and always will be a wise move. A lot of people will be out of the game when the day comes and being able to perform a land grab because your business is dialed in can be a life changing opportunity.

Start thinking strategically about the next 1-3 years and what they could mean for you and your business. Instead of hiring several full-time employees consider leveraging a consulting firm so you have more flexibility. Make the commitment to increase your emphasis on sales and marketing even more. It’s tax season right now, so it’s a great time to really look at your numbers and analyze your financial data to identify weak spots or areas for improvement.

Hey, perhaps myself and others will end up being wrong about the timing of it. Maybe the next recession doesn’t come for another 3 to 5 years instead. Either way, would your business not be better off be taking those steps sooner rather than later?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject! If you agree with me I’d be interested to hear what steps you’re currently taking. And if you think I’m crazy, I’d still like to hear why you think we have nothing but blue skies ahead.

The Industries of the PRESENT

How many times have you seen articles about the industries of the future recently? Probably more than you can remember. This is especially true if you’re a futurist nerd like myself that loves researching trends, innovative ideas, and thinking of all the potential practical applications these ideas/realities are going to have on our day-to-day lives.

Therefore, I’d like to take a slightly different approach to this one. These industries aren’t abstract concepts that are in the distant future any longer. These things are going to disrupt, improve, and turn our lives upside down within the next few years. These aren’t industries to just keep an eye on, they’re industries that I highly recommend hustling and scratching and clawing your way into immediately, before another gold mine passes you by.

If I have to listen to another person say, “If I only invested in Amazon/Google/Apple back in the day…” I’m going to lose it. Here’s your last call. Take action, or regret it later.

 

CRM – Big Data / Data Analytics – Marketing Automation

This one is a much more mature market than the other but still extremely early in the cycle of what it’s going to evolve into. I know many of you despise Salesforce.com/Microsoft Dynamics/Insert other CRM program here from a user perspective. Well I suggest getting over it, take the time to learn how to use them effectively and embrace this technology as CRM, Big Data/Data Analytics/Marketing Automation are going to continue to get more deeply involved in your day to day operations if you want to survive and thrive as a company whether you like it or not.

Nowadays it’s crucial to be able to turn vast amounts of data into insights and competitive advantages, while simultaneously improving customer service. CRM systems can increase sales by improving lead generation activities, help you design better products and services, and reduce supply chain costs. It will improve your decision-making by identifying new markets opportunities, and by improving your business processes and communication throughout your company.

You’ve had your head stuck under the sand long enough now, it’s not going away so get on board. (*Yes, my company provides these services and is partially why I started here, the other reason is that this has been around for a decade already).

 

Augmented Reality – Virtual Reality – Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning – Internet of Things

Notice how I listed AR first? Don’t get me wrong I do think there is a huge place in the market for VR and 360 videos, etc. That place is just dwarfed by the market impact that AR is going to have however. Again, industries are CURRENTLY being disrupted, and consumer/professional products and services are on the brink of mass adoption. I also lumped these together as they’re all related in a variety of ways and will supplement each other going forward.

Industries such as health care, real estate, education, military, public service, entertainment are about to be severely disrupted. Keep thinking these are all just entertainment gimmicks/Pokémon games if you must, but you’re going to wake up in a brave new world wondering what happened before you know it.

I am personally and professionally deep in this industry. I am a partner/co-founder of a company called Eolian which is a software/content development firm and systems integrator. We specialize in Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Artificial Intelligence (AI). We’re currently focused on helping government and large enterprise organizations utilize these technologies for critical applications. We are also launching a product called ARRE (Augmented Reality Real Estate) this week which will blow people’s minds.

To say we’re growing like crazy would be an understatement. This industry is the next wave of computing. Think personal computers, mobile phones, and tablets, now this could, and will, easily trump them all.

 

Block Chain – Crypto Currency – Bitcoin – Ethereum – “Smart Contracts”

Many of you likely don’t really understand what these things are. I’ll give you a brief definition of each. Blockchain is a complete record of every smart contract transaction executed, all of which are stored in a public ledger (the Blockchain) created by collaborating online computers. Bitcoin is a digital currency that was the first algorithm to utilize blockchain technology and encryption techniques to generate units of currency and verify the transfer of funds, independent of any central bank. Ethereum is a public blockchain platform that powers smart contracts via apps created by developers around the globe.

Essentially these technologies will allow for cross border commerce, enable complete transparency and trust between parties in a transaction, as well as prevent currency manipulation. They aren’t just ways to buy illegal contraband via “The Silk Road 2.0” like you’ve probably read about and think is the purpose. It goes much further than that.

This is another industry I’m putting my time and money where my mouth is as I’m a partner and equity holder with a company called GNEISS. Essentially, we act as your ultimate security companion in a free market transaction. You can create, transfer, mint, burn, exchange, tax, or pay dividends to any crypto-asset or smart contract on our decentralized blockchain-powered trading platform. And this is just the beginning. Check it out and register to take a look yourself.

 

Others:

Cannabis – Marijuana

I’m sure you’re much more aware of this one as its been getting a ton of mainstream attention these days. It’s another that’s already been growing like gangbusters. I’m not fully “in” the industry just yet but working on it by helping my friends on the team of The Kush Life/Kush House get funding to continue building out their luxury retail space and product line. They’re also developing technology to help others in the space operate more efficiently and transparently. They’re based in Maine and quickly growing a reputation as New England’s leading cannabis authority.

Renewable Energy: I.e. Solar, Water, and Geothermal

While I don’t have a meaningful equity stake in a company in the solar industry (other than owning a rather insignificant couple hundred shares of a public company) I would love to get more involved in this industry from each angle. Yes, I understand the current administration isn’t a huge advocate, but it’s all about the long game.

3D Printing

This is one where I have 0 stake in currently, but will be hunting down a way to get involved in 2017. Not only will the manufacturing and distribution industries be disrupted like crazy, but also retail, and likely countless others.

 

This was a long one, but if you made it this far hopefully you will be grateful you did one day. I’ve been so deep in thought, as well as taking action to get more involved in these industries that I easily could’ve written another 10 pages.

There are plenty other industries that intrigue me as well of course, but what others are YOU excited about and going all in on? Do you disagree with any of my predictions? What steps have you taken and/or are planning to take? Would love to hear your perspective!

Unsolicited Insights From The Minority at the #BlkTechClt Event

First let me start with the description of the event that I, aka “the minority,” just attended:

ThePLUG Daily (make sure to subscribe) presents Charlotte’s first interactive event designed to immerse black tech entrepreneurs, professionals, and enthusiasts in the Queen City’s local startup ecosystem. This new monthly after-work event connects you with Charlotte’s most notable innovators and business leaders over drinks and appetizers while getting a sneak-peak at new products and an opportunity to share your area of expertise.”

Next, let me offer up a few disclaimers:

  1. I’m well aware that this event does not need, nor is seeking, validation from a random white dude whatsoever.
  2. Tito’s Vodka was one of the sponsors (I wrote this immediately upon getting back to my office after the event so pardon the tone…)
  3. Said random white dude’s writing about said event may have un-implied/privileged undertones despite the many clichés of his whole background and existence, i.e. growing up in an “urban environment” and having lots of black friends, etc.

Ok, now after that unfortunate introduction that hopefully in the future won’t even need to be written prior to such subjects because race won’t even be a factor in life whatsoever, let’s get to the key point of all this: random white dude attended the #BlkTechClt event and had his mind blown.

First of all, not like I’m surprised by this at all, but I saw a truly passionate and capable community of brilliant minds, both young and old, male and female, all coming together to empower and encourage one another to do whatever it takes to succeed. There were lawyers, bankers, financial professionals, coders, scholars, hobbyists, dreamers, artists, and just about every type of person you can imagine together sharing ideas, plans, business models, and projects they were working on and receiving feedback, insights, and suggestions from genuinely interested parties. It was an electrifying atmosphere.

Secondly, not only did I experience the reversed perspective of what it must (is? could?) be like being a minority attending a typical professional networking event, but I also noted that I was likely the only one that even noticed, or at least mentioned, the fact that I wasn’t black. Even though everyone embraced me without a second’s thought, the shear self-consciousness of constantly wondering, “Do these people not like me/ do they think I don’t belong/are they wondering why I’m here because I’m white/different” led to a perpetual awkwardness that forced me to bring it up and try to explain myself (note: this is never a good idea) even though I spent a great deal of time growing up in similar scenarios.

To say it was a cultural experience/awakening is an understatement. Because of my background, I tend to try and emphasize that race isn’t an issue to me personally whatsoever. Now I see however, that on the other side that “luxury” or perhaps “ignorance” isn’t even allowed to exist. Those subconscious thoughts stick with you ALWAYS, and are constantly nagging underneath the surface.

Lastly, I made some incredible contacts with potential clients, referral sources, and strategic partners. I would be so lucky to get a chance to work with and collaborate with some of these entrepreneurs that are destined for greatness. I can now only hope that my whiteness doesn’t keep me from consideration (ironic how the tables are turning isn’t it?) and that the new era of diverse businesses begins to thrive.

The BEST Approach to get Media Coverage for Your Business

Most entrepreneurs and small businesses do not have the budget to shell out high dollars for paid advertisements to promote their services. Instead, they need to rely on cost effective or free ways to get their message out. The same is true for public relations professionals who are tasked with gaining publicity and raising awareness for their organization. While their marketing and advertising colleagues often have a nice chunk of change to spend on ads or partnerships that promise coverage, the majority of the publicity the public relations team brings in is done with little or no cost.

I’d like to share what I have found to be one of the most successful methods of getting a news outlet to talk about your work and demonstrate how you can do the same for your business. It all comes down to identifying a great story and crafting the perfect pitch. Media with CHS 2

  1. Make your pitch a story and not a commercial

My first tip is the most important. Do NOT make your pitch a commercial. No one is interested in how wonderful and intelligent your product is. If your pitch goes on and on about why everyone needs to buy this product or how great of a business person you are, it will get thrown in the trash, along with your reputation.

The best way to promote your business is to dig a little deeper and find a real life example that clearly illustrates why something is news worthy. This will take more effort on your part but it will make all the difference in whether or not you get coverage, and ultimately, the story that comes out will resonate with your target audience much better than an expensive commercial.

  1. Find the essential “characters” for your pitch

Your pitch needs to focus around the main character. This should be someone who is not affiliated with your business; such as a customer or a client. If you are promoting a product or a service, find someone who uses it on their own (meaning they are not getting paid to do so) and who genuinely has a positive experience with it. Your pitch will highlight their experience and what led them to use your service/product and the difference it has made on their life.

Secondly, you need an expert; whether it’s yourself or a designated spokesperson for your company.   This role is to discuss how the service or product benefitted your main character. They should also discuss what they personally did to help this person and what their work means to the community. This role does not include showing off, gloating or trying to steal the spotlight.

  1. Is there a conflict and resolution?

In order to have a story, your main character needs to have a conflict that your expert has solved by his/her service or product. In addition, you need to make the case that this is something that can help all of the reporter’s audience as well. It can’t be something that will only benefit one person.

Once you have your two main characters, the conflict and the resolution, you can plug your information into a simple format. I’m going to coach you through this format using a recent story I worked on that resulted in coverage for one of my clients, Dr. Oleg Tcheremissine. Claire and the Oosterhuis's

  • Introduction of main character

Example: Peter Oosterhuis, a former golf pro and CBS sports commentator, is incredibly popular and respected among his peers, fans, and family. He has a long and storied career in golf and is known best for defeating golf legends such as Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.

  • Describe the Conflict

Recently, Peter and his wife began to notice lapses in his memory and professionalism. He struggled with everyday tasks and was growing increasingly frustrated with the mental changes he was experiencing.

  • Introduction of your expert

Peter went to go see a doctor in Texas. The doctor diagnosed him with Alzheimer’s disease; and suggested that he go to Charlotte where the experts there would be the best to treat him. Peter went to Charlotte where he began seeing Dr. Oleg Tcheremissine, who enrolled him in a groundbreaking clinical trial.

  • Resolution

While we don’t know if Peter is receiving the actual drug or a placebo in the trial, he and his wife are on a mission to raise awareness and funding for the treatment and research of Alzheimer’s disease. They want to let others know that this trial is significant for the development of a drug that may ultimately lead to a cure for this devastating disease.

  • Impact- Why should anyone care?

Alzheimer’s can happen to anyone- even the greatest athletes like Peter. The more we talk about this disease, the better the chances of finding a cure. Everyone in Charlotte would appreciate that the world’s best doctors and researchers are located in their backyard and should they or a loved one ever need treatment for Alzheimer’s, they won’t have to go anywhere else.

Results:

WCNC, the NBC affiliate in Charlotte, covered this story and ran it during their nightly news cast.

The Alzheimer’s Association shared this story as a message of hope and education for all of the patients and caregivers that follow their YouTube Channel.

Peter’s story remains one of the most viewed on the Carolinas HealthCare System’s Daily Dose blog, which is followed by thousands of people in North and South Carolina.

The Charlotte Observer did an in depth piece on Peter and his wife and describes the clinical trial that has the potential to delay the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

  1. B-Roll Media with CHS

To provide an additional incentive to reporters, you must find b-roll to support your story. According to the Content Marketing Institute, b-roll is the extra footage captured to enrich the story you’re telling. Instead of featuring only talking heads on video, you want to include additional video footage, still photographs, animation or other graphic elements.

In the case of Peter’s story, we reached out to the Quail Hollow Golf Course who allowed us access to film Peter playing golf there, we supplied reporters with old photographs of Peter and his wife and coordinated with Dr. Tcheremissine at the neurology clinic to film a checkup with Peter. Those visuals really made the story come to life and allowed the viewer to see what it was like to experience what Peter was going through.

  1. Fact Sheet

If you are pitching a story idea to the media, it is your responsibility to know your topic inside and out and you must be able to teach the reporter about it. Often times, the expert may be so advanced they don’t break down the information in an easy to understand way; so the reporter will often rely on you to explain it to them. Or if you are doing the interview yourself, you must absolutely be prepared for every potential question they can ask you. Plus, reporters are on tight deadlines so they don’t often have the time to research each topic. This is where you can be a huge help to them. I like to supply reporters with a fact sheet before and after each interview with suggested questions, key messages, and data. You can even go as far as to write the story for them and supply quotes, photos and links for more information.

Recently I worked on a story about a young woman who got married in her father’s hospital room just days before he passed away. A reporter with People Magazine was at the airport so couldn’t be there in person- so I took photos for her and provided as much information as I could so she could write her story.

  1. Share and Follow Up

Now that you put in all that work to get your story in the spotlight, it’s time to share it! Post the link on social media, your company’s YouTube page, and email your family, friends, and contacts. When the share the coverage with their networks, it gets even more exposure! Plus, it’s a great way to build relationships with everyone involved and if the experience was positive, it will be that much easier to work with that reporter on another story in the future. When reporter Lena Sun with The Washington Post covered the behavioral health integration model, we shared the link and connected with Lena on Twitter to immediately to promote the story, which resulted in greater exposure of the report and our behavioral health team.

Conclusion

According to research done by Paul Zak and his team at the University of California, Berkeley, stories “shape our brains, tie strangers together and move us to be more empathic and generous.” These are all the emotions we should try to evoke when reaching out to our target audiences. Anything less than that and they will change the channel, skip over the story, and stop engaging with you. I encourage you to put on your own reporter hat and ask questions to find that great story that will resonate with reporters and audiences to ultimately help you achieve your goal- showcasing the great work of you/your company and getting your audience to respond and connect with you.

—-

Claire Simmons is with the clinical public relations team at Carolinas HealthCare System in Charlotte, N.C. She is responsible for developing strategic communications initiatives and coordinating public relations activities for women and children’s services, behavioral health and neurosciences. Claire develops and manages annual communications plans that promote new programs, facilities, services and other activities for her various clinical specialties. As a former news producer and reporter, Claire’s favorite aspect of her work revolves around telling stories that connect with the community while promoting her clients. Connect with Claire on LinkedIn or email her at Claire.Simmons@carolinashealthcare.org.

THE WIMS GUIDE PIVOT

The WIMS Guide Pivot

I originally launched my blog, The WIMS Guide a little over a year now, and have been writing sporadically ever since. I mostly receive positive feedback with each post, which is nice, but to be brutally honest with myself it wasn’t going anywhere. And to keep doing it in that perpetually half-assed manner is just not in my nature. So I made it a point to redo the blog in order to breathe new life into and to tweak the approach as well. Here’s a brief overview of the concept, let me know what you think and perhaps even go one step further – and actually subscribe.

Now I read a ton daily, not just books but lots of blogs and how-to articles like “The Top X Things to Improve Your Y” type stuff. A lot of them are just subtly trying to sell you stuff, and usually they’re written by some intern but placed under the by-line of a famous entrepreneur or a partner at a large firm who most likely didn’t even read it before posting (I know this because I used to and still write for some).

I’m not just trying to bash Inc., Entrepreneur, Huffington Post, Business Insider, Elite Daily, etc. of the world as a lot of their content is quality. However so much of what’s out there is the same. Its lessons learned, tips to keep in mind, success stories from people who have already made it. At times I love reading them of course, but other times I’d prefer a different approach and angle.

So, rather than focus solely on the destination, I want to create content that focuses more on the journey. I want stories, insights, and life hacks from the people who are still in the trenches, scratching and clawing their way to success but haven’t quite made it yet. I want to read the words of the hungry hustlers and learn what they’re doing on a daily basis to achieve their goals.

We live in a world today that anyone can realistically become a pseudo-celebrity. With the compounding nature of our social networks, any one of you can create a massive following and loyal audience. I want The WIMS Guide to help enable that, not by only writing content myself, but with A LOT of help from my friends.

I’ve enlisted the help from members of my network, spanning across an extremely diverse range of backgrounds and expertise. The content will be primarily geared towards entrepreneurship and ways to enhance the daily grind in the lives of young professionals but with an occasional curve ball thrown in there to keep you on your toes.

We’re going to have entrepreneurs, consultants, health care professionals, bloggers, MBA students, lawyers, bankers, accountants, real estate brokers, investors, and on and on. The main goal is to provide an outlet to empower and raise each other up rather than focusing so much on celebrity entrepreneurs that we don’t even know.

If you have a compelling story you’d like to share, or know someone that does please send an email to mike@wimsguide.com with an overview of the concept. If you’re not a writer but want to share your thoughts on the concept, I’d love to hear that too.

Finally, to end with a shameless plug: please make sure to subscribe and share!

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Marketing Process Outsourcing

The New WIMS Inc: Putting In-House Marketing Departments on Notice

Unlike my typical blog posts, this one is certainly going to piss people off, including current and former colleagues, friends, clients, and prospects. While I usually try to avoid that, I can’t any longer as some things just need to be said. Change can be a scary and complicated thing, but there’s just a better way to do business and it’s nothing personal.

Now, the trend of outsourcing is far from a new or innovative concept. Yet companies like professional services firms continue to allocate extremely high budgets of $500,000-$1,000,000 and often much more to their in-house marketing departments. They do this despite the fact that they could spend a fraction of the cost while simultaneously getting significantly better service and results.

Regardless if you prefer to keep your team in house or to use a consulting firm, one thing is constant in either case, you need to DEMAND to see ROI. There are some advantages to keeping the team in-house I’ll admit that, but you should at least be able to make an apples to apples comparison between both approaches.

The way to do that is ROI, the objective metric that evens out all playing fields. I’ve seen many CMO’s apply the “smoke and mirrors” strategy year after year. They avoid accountability by overlooking past failures while waving the amazing, shiny new “marketing strategy” that they’re going to deploy this year. This is often just the old strategy repackaged to appear new however. CEO’s looking to avoid conflict accept it as a cost of doing business and then proceed to kick the can further down the road.

Now while there are plenty of exceptions, as there always are when dealing with people, there’s something I’ve often observed in the corporate world, I call it the “comfort theory.” Essentially, when you’re paying someone a predictable and stable salary it inherently allows most people to start cutting corners and reducing the quality of their work because they can get away with it. Not only is there a reduced quality of work, but why subsidize employee’s internet browsing time and social media addiction when you can just pay for the work that’s actually done. Besides, I doubt they’re going to give you a cut of their fantasy football winnings despite squandering hours a week of your time managing their team.

Don’t just take my word for it, conduct your own experiment and see for yourself. The next time you’re in a meeting with your marketing department demand more out of them or suggest changes, and watch the level of pushback, reluctance, and resistance you get. On the contrary call a consultant about a new project idea and watch them passionately geek out about all the possibilities.

I understand the comfort of familiarity and the status quo believe me, but is it really worth spending $50,000-100,000 on a salary for someone to just write an occasional blog post or article, blankly stare at a twitter feed, or create an occasional ad. You can get the same result or better for a tenth of the cost in many cases.

As another experiment, this Friday afternoon say around 3pm, take a walk around your building and see how empty the offices and cubicles are. The mentality of being an employee and working for your boss vs. being a client and working for your business partner can’t be compared. Working with independent contractors that need your business takes the quality of work to another level. They are mini-CEOs trying to better their lives, they’re not just punching a clock while desperately waiting to leave the office early on Friday afternoon. They’re the ones working at midnight on a Saturday because they’re hungry and ambitious.

You create the best work when you absolutely need to, like when writing a paper the night before it’s due. There’s something about having your life depending on it that generates this hyper-focus of productivity. Imagine having a team of people producing this kind of work every day because that’s how they approach their live, very deliberately.

Typical counter-arguments for in-house departments include things like, “oh but we know the brand so well,” or “what if someone urgently needs a brochure for a sales call?” It may not be a popular sentiment, but people are easily replaceable. We work with various brand guidelines all the time and pick them up very quickly. Also, I’ve seen countless desks with stacks of brochures piled high collecting dust, as much as marketers may try to convince you otherwise, your beautiful brochure is not what’s going to win you new business, relationships are.

Perhaps this post is like that old “Magician’s Greatest Secrets Revealed” show where the masked magician showed you how the tricks were really done and made a lot of magicians extremely angry. If you’re feeling that way right now I hope you take this opportunity to step your game up and prove me wrong.

Changing a decades long mindset of keeping marketing teams in-house is going to require evolution and a rebuilding process, but there’s definitely hope. It will force people to BE BETTER. Think about the Golden State Warriors a few years ago. They were very bad, but they had some decent and promising players, they stuck to their long-term plan to build their team, make a few strategic moves and then a few years later they won a championship. The metaphor is very relative in business as well.

For the sake of full transparency, this long-winded blog post has the additional goal of announcing the new WIMS, Inc. We now offer a complete suite of marketing, CRM, and business development services that are provided for literally a fraction of the total cost you’re paying for your entire marketing department. By leveraging strategic partnerships and a deep team of independent contractors we are now able to offer literally any marketing service, and to any size firm in any industry. If you’re interested in video, we can develop the content, build an entire distribution network, and even create your own online channel. If audio is your thing, we can help with the creation, publishing, and promotion of your own radio show and/or podcast. If you need a website, an ad campaign, online content creation, or social media network, whatever it is you’re looking for, we can help facilitate.

Give us a call or send us an email and we’ll be happy to provide you with a FREE consultation to see if our companies would be a good fit to work together. Part of building strong long-term relationships includes occasionally offering some free advice, which we do happily. What do you have to lose by at least evaluating whether it’s worth pursuing a potential 6-figure a year cost reduction in your marketing expenses?

Hathrup Logo

The New Entrepreneurial Landscape: Not Just an Ol’ (White) Boys Club Anymore

American’s born abroad are now responsible for launching more than a quarter of new businesses in the US. This is a substantial trend as that percentage continues to grow each year and doesn’t appear to be slowing down. Hathrup Capital Funding, the company I’m thrilled to be the CMO of, is extremely proud to be one of these businesses as our CEO, Henry Nnorom, was born in Nigeria, and continues to pursue his American dream. At Hathrup, It is our mission to help entrepreneurs of all backgrounds succeed regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, or any other demographic.

Henry Nnorom

Henry Nnorom, CEO of Hathrup, realizing it’s time to get back to work!

It’s no secret that the American economy as a whole is vastly different than it’s ever been. While there haven’t been too many changes to the top of the food chain other than the emergence of the tech titans, the landscape in the middle class is evolving at a rapid pace. The reemergence of growth in this country can largely be attributed to the groundswell of start-up businesses.

Entrepreneurs are inspiring and creating a revitalized level of innovation enabled by the rapid progress of technology. Because of this the world has become very small, and much easier to make an impact. One of most important components of this increase in new businesses is that it is largely attributed to women, immigrants, and minorities, creating one of the most unique opportunities for commerce in the history of the world. This is better than the Silk Road, the rail road, and just about every other commercial quantum leap combined. It is the opportunity for literally everyone to become a member of your target market and the potential to spread commerce to a global scale without having to leave your couch.

Collaborating across multiple cultures and backgrounds and biases inspires innovation and growth. Differing ideas that complement and challenge each other lead to better ideas. The fact that people from other countries are coming here to start a business is a huge win for the US. This not only expands our tax base, improve our markets by increasing competition, but it also opens up a gateway to the rest of the world. This enables any small mom and pop shop to have the potential to create a global impact. Collaborating and working with businesses from a variety of backgrounds opens up your opportunity as well. In the event they maintain connections in their home country, new markets emerge and become a realistic opportunity.

At Hathrup, it is our goal to facilitate funding of businesses locally in the US initially; we especially want to service people of all backgrounds and ethnicities as we subsequently want to export capital around the world. When we help a business get started here, after they become successful, hopefully they will then want to pay it forward and fund businesses not only locally but from their home country as well. That is how we help create and facilitate a more global economy and enhance growth for all. This will enabling people to be able to make their dream become a reality and gain an entirely higher level of pride and self-worth.  We want to encourage everyone to take the chance and start the business of their dreams. Even if they maintain their day job while they build it, that’s ok with us.

Stay tuned as we gear up to launch our beta testing program in the next few weeks. If you’re an entrepreneur, planning to become one, or if you’re open to the possibility of becoming one of our investors please reach out and let us know. We’re opening up our testing program to those interested in getting a sneak peak at the platform in order to get user feedback and implement improvements before going live on a much larger scale.

Funding Gap

The Gaping Hole in Capital Funding

Along with countless other entrepreneurs out there it has been nearly impossible to acquire funding for my consulting firm, WIMS Consulting. It’s a constantly looping game of “chicken or the egg.” You can’t get a business loan or start-up funding without demonstrating two-three years worth of income. Simultaneously you can’t grow your business to a sustainable level without having an appropriate amount of capital. See the dilemma?

While I’ve been fortunate enough to walk this tight rope since I launched my business back in March, at some point the only way my business can truly grow is with additional external funding. Only that’s much easier said than done, as you can only operate on retainers and short-term projects for so long before the bills start piling up. But for professional service businesses like mine it’s difficult to show predictable and sustainable revenue in the beginning. It’s not only the case with consulting; it’s the same whether you want to start an accounting firm, a law practice, a hair salon, or photography studio among countless others.

Perhaps I’m just going about it all wrong? I certainly realize that’s a distinct possibility. To quickly digress, this isn’t meant to be a “woe is me” post, I may have to struggle now but don’t get me wrong, it’s been the most exhilarating and rewarding experience I’ve had in my professional life to date. But in case I’m not the only one stuck in this catch-22 let’s review the existing options out there along with their shortcomings.

The first one that comes to mind is going to an actual bank. Theoretically their sole purpose of existing is to give access to capital to those that need it, right? Ha! Unfortunately that is far from the case. They only loan money to those that already have it and don’t need it. Even when they do consider shelling out a measly slice of the multi-billion dollar pie they’re hoarding they make you jump through insurmountable hoops while holding you hostage throughout the entire process.

After banks the idea of peer-to-peer lenders came to mind. Companies like the Lending Club would be more understanding that I can’t provide two years of my business’ tax returns because I just started it, right? Wrong. It doesn’t matter how much money you made at your previous position, starting your own business deems those years of income moot.

Unless you have a world-changing technological innovation or company that can prove solid cash flow over multiple years, venture capital and private equity aren’t really an option. Not too mention the equity hit you’ll have to take for them to give you the time of day typically isn’t worth it either. Moving on.

I finally found the ideal solution, or so I thought. Crowdfunding is all the rage these days and the success stories receive a ton of media attention. While it has been a step in the right direction, and has done wonders for things like financing movies of old TV shows and launching innovative new products like the Coolest Cooler, it doesn’t help much when you’re starting another “boring” service business. I tried getting in on the action by setting up a GoFundMe account; sadly it still remains bare after several months. There remain challenges with this approach, but at least upcoming (still pending) changes allowing the incorporation of equity provides hope.

What’s left is the dreaded and awkward “friends and family” option, another far from perfect one however. This is especially true in my case as I personally come from a very poor family. While I’m generally very proud of that fact, it’s an unfortunate one when you’re trying to raise capital for your business. Yet, even when you get past the awkward ask and get to pitch to wealthy friend, it’s quite challenging to assure them that you will be able to generate enough revenue to be able to pay them back as these can be quite unpredictable businesses. You can’t blame them for being concerned, like any reasonable person they just want that elusive guarantee that their investment will be returned to them.

Despite this ongoing challenge, starting my own business from scratch has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life, and one I’d remake over and over again. And on a sort of related note, the best businesses always solve a huge problem that a large number of people face. Therefore there is a huge opportunity here.

When I became the CMO of the start-up (and soon to go live) Hathrup Capital Funding it’s clear that this is a problem that I personally can become part of the solution for, while helping potentially millions of people in the future so they don’t have to go through the same experience I have. I’m very much looking forward to the challenge.

CRM

CRM Revisited: It Should be Your #1 Priority Heading into 2015

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) programs aren’t only the future of business; they’re the present. And they aren’t just for Fortune 500 companies anymore either. Like with most technology, competition, economies of scale, and innovation have driven costs down significantly. Now, you can even get a basic version of a CRM program for free. Without a doubt, acquiring and implementing a CRM program is my #1 recommendation for businesses of all kinds looking to grow and increase revenue.

Whether you’re an independent freelancer, a sales mercenary who is compensated by getting to “eat what you kill,” or a large and complex company, there is a CRM program out there for you. Regardless of your budget (or even a lack thereof), you can customize the level of sophistication of your CRM program as they all have various subscription levels. Most integrate with your email provider of choice and have a mobile app too. Additionally there are an incredible amount of third-party add-ons you can incorporate depending on how robust your operations processes are.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not like building a CRM program is a cheap and easy task, far from it in fact. So keep in mind when considering which CRM program is best for you that the cost typically exceeds that of the user license fee. They require a significant amount of time and commitment, especially in the beginning when you’re just getting started. Don’t let that deter you however, as the ROI (while seemingly intangible at first) will more than make up for it, assuming it’s implemented correctly. In fact, the average ROI of a CRM system is $5.60 for every $1 spent.

CRM systems allow you to track and store vast amounts of data about your customers and prospects. The more data you have about your sales cycle that is accurate and relevant, the more deeply you can analyze that information to gain insight that will not only help increase revenue, but ultimately help you improve:

  • Close rates,
  • Customer service and retention,
  • Length of sales cycle, and
  • Forecasting efforts and projections.

Just as important, CRMs also help you automate your sales process. The more automated your sales cycle and follow up efforts can be, the greater volume of deals your business will be able to close as opportunities will be less likely to slip between the cracks.

By now you are probably either thrilled by the amazing potential a CRM program can provide, or perhaps you’re overwhelmed by the thought of endless amounts of data. If you’re like me and skew towards the former, below is a list of the necessary things to consider before rushing into it, along with some things to keep in mind after you’re fully operational.

  1. Conduct an “audit” of existing processes and database.
  2. Clean up your existing data to avoid the dreaded trap of “garbage in/garbage out.”
  3. Code your database to more easily identify priority contacts, “ABC”.
  4. Perform a sales cycle analysis, what are the typical steps involved and the time frame?
  5. Customize CRM pages, fields, and layouts with your appropriate specifications.
  6. Training of users/administrators.
  7. Import your database and start beta testing.
  8. Integrate with your existing systems, i.e. email, QuickBooks, etc.
  9. Reporting and sales forecasting.
  10. Ongoing maintenance, monitoring, updates, and improvements.

While implementing a CRM program can be relatively time‐consuming and expensive, if you do it right, the benefit to your business is invaluable. Don’t dismiss CRMs and cloud‐computing as trends that will soon go away, otherwise your competition may have already long passed you by the time you’re ready to get on board. With just over a month left in 2014, now is the perfect time to start planning and conduct your due diligence to start 2015 with yet another resolution.

Bootstrappin'

Bootstrappin’: How to Launch Your Business on a Barebones Budget

Starting a business today is far easier than anytime in history. The caveat is that it depends on what type of business however, thus I’m primarily referring to professional service businesses (i.e. consulting, accounting, real estate, photography, legal, etc.). The type that don’t have the overbearing regulations attached to them or endless red tape to acquire permits and licenses, on the contrary those probably have more hurdles than ever (particularly in the US). But if you’re like me, and want to start a consulting or other service business, you can do it quicker and cheaper than ever, not to mention minimize overhead so you can compete with larger competition.

Before I begin, I want to emphasize that every single business is different and has various requirements, so while I’m speaking from a more general manner, please make sure to do the appropriate research regarding your specific industry and niche to make sure everything is legitimate.

Establishing Your Entity: My attorney friends may not be too happy to read this, but you don’t necessarily need one to establish your business. You don’t always need an automated service like Legal Zoom either. If you’re certain of the structure you want to use and don’t plan on having partners (which require more complex operating agreements, etc.) than in most instances you can go directly to the source and bypass additional fees (they can range anywhere from $150 to $1,000+). In my case, WIMS, Inc. was established in Coral Gables, FL so I used Sunbiz and set it all up for around $75. I will say that in most instances seeking counsel from an attorney is invaluable and worth the cost, however.

Website: Nowadays you can create your own website for free, using sites like Wix and 1and1. They have many elaborate templates to choose from so that you don’t have to start from scratch or learn to write code. You can simply swap out generic text for your own as well as graphics to completely customize it. It even ads easy to incorporate SEO (Search Engine Optimization) functionality. The catch of using these for free is that you can’t use your own domain name (they include theirs in the free versions) and there may be some ads. However, it’s quite affordable to create your own domain name (costs typically around $15 a month) if you’d prefer to go that route.

Email: By now it’s no great revelation that you can get great email service for free using Gmail. In most cases businesses can even get away with solely using a Gmail account (not to mention you get the added benefit of the also free Google Docs). However if you want to step up the professionalism a notch and create an email account using your domain name it’s relatively affordable to do so. For example, when I registered my domain name with GoDaddy, it also allowed me to leverage a custom email account via Office365 for about $10 a month. I find both to be well worth the cost.

Blog: Another one that is far from a novel idea, but you can start a blog for free using sites like WordPress (my personal preference) or Blogger. This is a great marketing tool that when coupled with social media can be very powerful, and all it costs is time. Providing thought leadership type content to your network demonstrates your expertise and adds value to the services you provide. Of course, there are upgrades to the service as well that are both affordable and worth it as your blog’s following begins to grow.

Marketing: I’m going to keep this section short and sweet as most of you know the usual suspects that can help market your business for free (yes, I’m referring to social media). My personal favorites: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+. If what you’re selling is more visual (photography, hairstyling, tattoo artist) consider Pinterest too. There are plenty others as well.

CRM: CRM programs used to be thought of as these overly expensive and overly complicated Big Brother like programs that only the big boys could afford. Not anymore. Now you can get access to simpler CRM programs for free. My favorite is Insightly, it has a web based version coupled with a free app. Can’t beat it for the price!

Financing: If you need to raise money and aren’t able to get financing from a bank (you can’t show “2 years worth of income” when you just started, HELLO silly bankers!) consider crowd funding. Kickstarter is a good one, as is GoFundMe, which leverages your social media accounts to spread awareness. They’re “free” to start but make money by taxing 5% per donation or so (but hey 95% of something is better than 100% of nothing)! Although I’ll admit, I’ve recently set one up without much success yet.

Freelance Income: As you’re getting started you may need to build up some short term income with smaller projects as you build your network. Consider sites like Elance (I use it and love it so far) or others like Fiverr and Freelancer. There are million of projects searchable by expertise that you can do online or in person depending on location. Typically you get paid using PayPal (you do have PayPal right?), which is great, if you don’t have a fancy credit card machine. Although one solution I’m evaluating now is Square as I’ve heard good things.

Loose Ends: Just wanted to touch on some other things to consider in this paragraph. For one, you can get free digital storage space at either (or all if you’re a true hustler) Dropbox, Google Drive, or Box. For business cards, (which some people don’t even use anymore, although I advocate for them still) check out either Vista Print or Moo. Lastly, office space, this can be one of the hugest overhead expenses around. Do you really need to pay a ton of money each month in rent? I advocate a mix of home office, Starbucks, or local library (free internet!). But if you need tangible office space you can look at some of the shared office spaces from places such as Regus, or if you’re in Miami, Pipeline Brickell.

So there you have it, just some of the ways to start your business on the cheap. There are plenty others of course but I wanted to hit on some of the main ones to help get your started (if you have others please share in the comments!) Keeping low overhead is one of the ways to remain competitive with larger competition, so be relentless about every dollar you spend and you’re business will stick around long enough to start being profitable. Good luck!