5 reasons to make branding the key ingredient in your food and beverage business

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The food and beverage industry is one of the fastest growing industries world wide with new concepts launching everyday and existing concepts growing by leaps and bounds. It is also the industry with one of the highest rates of failure. Successful concepts suddenly fade and disappear due to innumerable reasons. New concepts catch the attention of consumers and many fail right at the launching board itself. 

Though issues like planning, staffing, quality of food, location, cash flow planning and timing play important roles in the success and failure of F&B concepts, branding lends itself to help stand apart from and attract customers. A well thought out brand can cut right through the clutter and be a strong catalyst for evolving into a regional and eventually an international brand. With the emirates set to attract almost 20 million visitors  by the year 2020, the opportunity for great local home grown brands are phenomenal.

A well constructed and strategically created brand can  boost your F&B business. Here’s 5 key reasons why your business needs branding to help leapfrog past the competition.

1.Showcase your Unique Selling proposition

‘If you aren’t a little different than your competition, you are in trouble.’

-Mark Sanborn

Your business needs to have something unique that differentiates it from the competition. A concept that doesn’t have a unique story tends to fade out and be without a context for the consumer’s choice. Its important to work with the branding agency and discover whats sets it apart and weave a story that can be communicated across all consumer touchpoints. Competition on price and quality is a dangerous game without an entry barrier and pushes the business into becoming a commodity that doesn’t stay relevant. Often existing concepts don’t even realize they already have a USP and they havent gone ahead and manifested it. It may be simple aspects like how friendly the place is or how the food is made, or the passion for excellence, or a fusion of food and maybe even a special dish that was created by the chef. Branding allows to discover or express this uniqueness and showcase it into the logo, the messaging, the space and the vibe of the place.

2.Connect emotionally with your consumers 

‘If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.”

-Howard Schulz, Starbucks

Branding is the art of finding an uninhabited space in the consumers mind and sparking a positive  emotional response to the business that makes them come back again and again. When a brand evolves into an emotional relation with the client the risk of competition recedes. Emotional brand connect can happen through every manifestation of the brand and this is what translates into a concept that can then be marketed and eventually franchised. Without brand emotion, again the business tends to become a commodity until the next best thing comes along.

3.Your consumers to do your marketing 

‘A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is- it is what consumer tell each other it is.”

-Scott Cook

A good brand that stand apart and connects emotional creates evangelists that market your product for you. In todays age of social media being your biggest marketing force, having reasons for your consumers to scream about your brand is crucial. Smart branding that imbibes hash tags, messages, cool interiors, unique names for dishes, humor, ambience and rituals spark reasons to share these stories through social mediums and aggregator apps (Zomato, Trip advisor, Talabat etc). A well laid branding strategy can imbibe consumer led marketing and nudge their top marketing officers to go forth and scream from the rooftops.

4.Ready for expansion and franchising 

“Your brand is what other people say about you when you are not in the room’

Jeff Bezos, Amazon

Branding standards, repeatable processes and detailed guidelines pave the way when franchisees come knocking, when new locations seek out your brand or you expand on your own. When each location has the same experience, you are officially a brand. It makes business sense to invest in systems and processes that allow your brand to take off into the next level.

5.Stand apart from the competition

‘If your business is not a brand, it is a commodity.”

-Donald Trump

Around 19000 outlets are expected by 2019 in the UAE, almost tripling the current numbers according to a recent study. The market size for the UAE places it amongst the top 20 in the world and accounts for almost Dh 60 billion, making it attractive for concepts from all over the world even with the high rate of failure. New concepts will always be born, international chains will arrive and entrepreneurs will hunt down new and successful concepts and bring them to the region.

The challenge is for businesses to compete and stand out in this crowded market space and find their feet. A well crafted story manifested as a brand will help your business cut through and be noticed by consumers and set the business up for continued success. Without a brand, it becomes increasingly tough for home grown brands to stand head to head with international chains with established brand strategies and consumer programs that are tried and tested.

10 steps to rebrand your successful business

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In today’s dynamic global market space, competing on price and quality will never be a game changer. Businesses today are looking to create a brand that speaks their story, that packages their USP and expounds to  the world why they are so good. They need a visual depiction of their offering that emotionally connects their business to the consumers, sets them apart from the competition clearly and helps them stand head to head with large multi national firms that are coming into the economy at an alarming pace.

These simple 10 steps are important to know when you embark on the journey of rebranding your successful business.

1.Know your USP and differentiate clearly

The first step in a branding process is to know your strengths and understand what sets you apart. To look inside and see what attributes have lent themselves to your success. Basis this a clear DNA for your company will evolve and this is what has to be communicated in your brand and visual language to your prospective consumers.

2.Involve the full team

Rebranding is also an immense opportunity to install change management within the organisation. Communicating to your team that the company has ambitious goals and expect the team to also be involved in the facelift. The process is a catalyst to gear the entire team for the next innings of the organisation. It helps to involve the team in the initial briefing, brainstorming and presentations and be part of the rejuvenation of the organisation.

3.Speak to customers

During the rebranding, it always helps to speak to your consumers and key clients and see what they think of you. To ask them what keywords come to mind when they describe you, why they do business with you and what they feel is the DNA of your organisation.

4.Branding is not just about a logo

Most companies make the mistake of thinking that a brand is a logo. Its not. A brand is your voice and soul and its the emotional connect with your key stakeholders. A brand is a sum total of all the interactions with your business. Besides the visual aspects, your customer service, tone of voice, product or service and even small elements all add up to reinforce your brand values.

5.Think 10 years ahead

While doing a rebranding, its paramount to project the company 10 years ahead and think of expansion plans, diversification, acquisitions, geographies and even your exit strategy so the new brand stays relevant. If a firm currently manufactures food packaging and creates a brand that reflects that and later diversifies into logistics for example, the new brand will again be irrelevant.

 

6.Work with professionals

Many companies make the mistake of working with a freelancer, a relative or even the printer to save costs. They usually turn out as a disaster and the exercise is never strategic in nature but purely a visual depiction. An experienced branding expert will bring years of experience and will play a large role as a strategist and spend time understanding your vision, competition, benchmarks, limitations and marketing plan before they go to the drawing board.

7.Celebrate and announce your new avatar

When the rebranding is done and ready for a roll out, its a great marketing opportunity to connect with old customers, prospects and other stakeholders. Inform them proudly with your new look and share your new vision for the future. It builds new found confidence and respect and translates into business in the near future.

8.Follow the guidelines

After the branding is done and the initial roll out is achieved, many companies make the mess of tinkering and changing the look. Leaving it open for interpretations and short cuts will diffuse the impact of the brand. Make sure the DNA is respected and visual guidelines are adhered to.

9.Remember it’s an investment

The brand value is the largest asset in the balance sheer for almost all the the largest companies in the world today. A well brand that redefines your image will over the years convert into closed orders, goodwill,  set you apart form your competitors and help rapidly grow the organisation. Don’t see it as an expense but an investment for the future of the business.

10.Be ambitious 

A rebranding process is a great opportunity to think big and envision the future with lofty goals and aspirations. Its a time for the organisation to think big and see that the business will be able to compete and outrun large multinationals and competitors. Ensure your brand embraces this ambition and represents the image accordingly.

Sajith is the founder and CEO of Idea Spice, a branding firm that has helped create over 1200 brands around the world.

10 Innovative marketing  techniques for todays business landscape

This article appeared in Arabian Business-Start Up Magazine in Dubai May issue. Here is the article in text form.

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The current business landscape calls for a rethink of your marketing strategy. As CFOs tighten budgets and question marketing spends, CMOs have to still meet targets and ensure the organisation is continuing to grow. Marketeers are faced with the quandary of continuing efforts in increasing the visibility of their brand and staying top of mind with their consumers while working with reduced marketing budgets. Reduce your marketing efforts and you face the threat of losing market share or helplessly watch a new entrant capture mind share of your consumers immediately.

Given this scenario, marketing today requires a blend of innovation and imagination. The key is to take on the challenge and find new ways to create demand and interest in your product or service. Here are 10 innovative methods that can help businesses market their business, connect with prospects without increasing marketing spend.

1.Word of mouth

“Do what you do so well, that people cant resist telling others about you”

-Walt Disney

Word of mouth is one of most powerful mediums of marketing because it comes from happy customers. Creating evangelists for your business needs to be engineered right across every department of the company. If the goal of the organisation is to deliver a customer experience thats so spectacular that it surpasses the client expectation by a mile. A delighted customer will shout your name from rooftops. Mapping the customer experience step by step of the buying process and studying ways to wow them at every interaction ensures this. Do the unexpected and don’t just meet their expectations- shock and awe them with delight. Apple has customers who are evangelists converting everyone they know into the fold and will never ever move brands regardless of whatever option comes their way.

2.Increase conversion rate

“If content is king, then conversion is queen”

-Jon Munsell

Time needs to be invested to relook at the complete process of client acquisition. What steps can be put in place to double the current conversion? If you are at 25%, can your big hairy audacious goal be 50%? Its a good time to relook at your website, what you say, your SEO, first meeting, marketing presentations, quotes, pricing, negotiation strategy and even what rituals can help build trust. Mapping the clients decision process in detail and juxtaposing what you can do the influence the decision your way can help. Think out of the box, think funny, think values, think persuasion and go ahead and implement it immediately!

3.Social media

“Activate your fans, don’t just collect them like baseball cards “

-Jay Baer

Social media today has democratised marketing and client engagement. It means that the person with the best ideas and client engagement wins and not the one with the biggest ad spend. Even the smallest companies can easily create compelling viral content that can interact and emotionally attract a consumer. Its not about the number of fans and paid followers, its about the engagement and building brand loyalty and eventually converting to a sale. Social media is the most cost effective way to reach out and seek to your consumers on a one to one basis. Once the brand DNA is established, the brand needs to be humanised to connect. Based on your demographic and target there is a right medium or a combination of social media platforms that reach out and build bridges with consumers. Social media is also a double edged sword where customers will shout from the rooftops if they are unhappy and a company needs to have a clear and authentic method to combat and resolve issues immediately.

4.Existing and Past Clients

“Customer service should not be a department, it should be the entire company”

-Tony Hsieh

Acquiring a new client is 7 times more expensive than retaining an existing client. It’s even more important today to ensure that your existing clients stay forever. Calculating the lifetime value of a client to the company and then focussing all efforts to retaining them. Every department should know the importance of an existing client and alarm bells should sound if you lose even one. Reconnecting with clients who have done business with you in the past is another way to focus on a target segment and win business with someone who already knows you. Make those phone calls, dust that rolodex and reconnect. Ensure you have a drip marketing system in place to inform your past clients or your current achievements and activities without reaching them spam or junk mail.

5.Get out of the office!

“The magic to a great meeting is all of the work thats done beforehand”

-Bill Rusell

The best way to increase conversion is to meet more clients. Increasing the number of clients you meet is directly proportional to the number of new client acquisitions. Plan meetings closer to each other so you can do more in a day. Create systems to reach out and meet prospects. All your marketing efforts should be engineered to connecting with your target clientele.

6.Public Relation

“If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on Public relation”

-Bill Gates

PR tells your story and instead of you professing your strengths, this allows other people to speak about you. Having a clear strategy on what strengths and stories you want your consumer to hear is the first step. Listing which mediums you want to be heard in and what stories can enhance your expertise is the next. Engaging with a specialist company ensures a clear strategy and a consistent effort which is long term. Many companies make the mistake of expecting immediate results. PR is brand building over a long term and will not result in an immediate sale.

7.New geographies

“If Opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door”

-Milton Berle

When the going gets tough, looking at markets which still have demand and a growing consumer base is a great idea. This is a tougher and a more expensive prospect but it balances your risks. Investing in new and emerging markets bears fruit in the future. New markets which don’t have long flying hours, that don’t have much competition, have low set up costs and have potential demand for your product or service are good parameters for selection.

8.Networking

“The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing”

-Tom Fishburne

Connecting with potential customers and partners on an ongoing basis is critical to grow your influence as an entrepreneur. Join business networks, industry associations and conferences to grow your bandwidth of contacts.

9.Showcase industry expertise

“You must become an expert on a product, service or anything you write about to really be effective”

-Joseph Sugarman

Speak at conferences, write articles, blog, lecture and position yourself and your organisation as an expert in your field. Assume expertise in your subject and ensure you are one too. Educate yourself, keep track of trends and devour information on your subject field. Become and influencer and a voice for your industry and this will convert to business eventually.

10.Reposition the brand

“Its time to reset, rethink, reposition…”

-Hunter Hayes

A challenging business scenario is a good time to relook and rethink what your company is, what your weaknesses and strengths are, questioning if you really have a USP or an edge over your competition. This is the time to get better at what you do, improve and look within. This is a good time to rebrand, redo your image and express your differentiated strength clearly to your consumer and target clientele.

“Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs”

-Peter Drucker

The author Sajith Ansar, is the founder and CEO of Idea Spice, a branding firm that has helped 1000s of brands innovate and market themselves internationally.

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The definition of business simplified in one line!

Danny Myers has set up some of the best restaurant chains in the world including shake shack. In his book “setting the table”, he defines business so beautifully. Within these words is an ocean of ideas. In essence, this is all an entrepreneur should ever care about.

He says:

“Business, like life, is about how you make people feel. It’s that simple, and it’s that hard.”

Wow!! Superb, simple and all encompassing.

Read the book. It’s an eye opener even for people outside th F&B industry.

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10 ways for SMEs to build their brand image

An article I wrote for a business publication recently:

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10 Ways for SMEs to build their brand image

A company’s brand is one of the single most valuable asset. Your brand image can grow faster than any number on your bank sheet and today it is the biggest asset for any fortune 500 company. For an SME, brand image usually takes a back seat, as day to day issues and operational aspects take precedence. This is one of the biggest follies that companies with myopic vision fall prey to.

 

The brand image is the beacon that lets a company stand apart in todays market space, allowing customers, employees and vendors alike to be attracted instantly. Its an emotional bond that instantly builds a bridge and grows consistently to loyalty. In today’s fast growing market place in emerging countries, with the influx of multiple global brands that seek the attention of your customer, its the brand image that binds them emotionally. Its the bond that ensures your clients ignore the seduction of better price, quality, packages or add ons.

 

Every SME dreams of one day evolving into a Coca Cola, a Starbucks, a Nike or Apple. Becoming household names over decades and being entrenched in the everyday lives of our customers. Even a B2B business needs a strong brand image to attract the right partners, suppliers and even financial institutions that understand effortlessly what the company stands for and its defining purpose for existence.

 

For an SME, the journey to build a brand image that connects and endures need not be an uphill task if you gets the basics right. Its not just the advertising budget that defines the brand image. Rather, it is the basic principles and foundation upon which the company itself is built. This holds true for a FMCG, a service company, an individual, a manufacturer, real estate company, a government or even a country.

 

Here are some simple rules to get started without spending big bucks. These 10 rules will help define and build a brand image for your company.

 

 

1. Be unique.

 

In every business, if you don’t have a differentiated advantage over the competitor, chances are you will shut down soon or you have hit a glass ceiling. If you are growing successfully, then you have a differentiation and a unique way of doing business, but haven’t defined it. It may be the integrity with which you do business, it may be the process you follow or even something as simple as the unique skills of the employees you have. Having a unique selling proposition immediately sets you apart and makes the connect with the customer so much easier.

 

 

2.Know the consumer

 

It’s paramount that you know exactly why your consumer wants to do business with you. On a continuing basis, conversations, observations, discussions or research will allow you to know whats going on inside your consumer’s mind. Without this knowledge, you will never know whats their trigger and what the emotion you possess within their mind. The best brands have always reinvented themselves with the mindset of their customers, and those that failed are the ones that chose not to listen. Basis this knowledge you are constantly positioning and then repositioning your brand in their mind.

 

 

3.Know your DNA

 

A brand is born when you know what you stand for. Every brand has a DNA like a living organism, it has a personality which you build and breathe life to. Your brand has an age and characteristics. You could be youthful, fun loving, hospitable, caring and an extrovert if you are a cafe for example. Then, every manifestation of the brand has to live this DNA. The music, smell, the way your employees answer the phone, the colors, website, tone of communication and a hundred other aspects all live this DNA.

 

4.Delight your customer

 

The most effective way to build brand image is to delight your customers so much that they become evangelists of your products or service. The simple old school business rule of “under promising and over delivering” is tweaked to “promising and delivering way beyond expectations”. If every department and function has the laser focus to delighting customers and the company is consistently wowing them and bowling them off their feet, ignore all other points in this article! The first step to delighting the customer is to be able to know their end objective and most important reason for buying your brand. Then, its mapping the consumer’s decision making process, concerns and issues and installing systems to exceed expectations incrementally such that the experience as a whole is a whopping delight! Only when the experience exceeds their functions requirements and borders on delight, will real brand loyalty be born. This experience has to manifest even within departments like accounts, finance, administration or human resource, not just marketing and sales.

 

 

5.Stay connected always

 

Create reasons to connect with your customers regularly. A brand needs to be on top of mind always. Inform customers about new activities, products, services and your victories. Many of them may not even know what all you are doing now. Build events and information sharing and invite them to celebrate in your successes. Newsletters need to be exciting and interesting enough so it doesn’t reach the junk box as fast as they arrive.

 

 

6.Embrace social media

 

With the advent and acceptance of social media across age groups and demographics, media has suddenly become democratic. With the smart use of the right mediums for the right business, one could exponentially grow their visibility at almost minimal costs. So many businesses that have grown at the speed of light today attribute much of their success to being to connect directly with their consumers directly. Its important to work out a strategy and the brand voice on social media before diving into it and sinking. Clear objectives need to be assigned and responsibilities. Social media can hurt a brand faster than any medium in the past because of the lack of control on whats said and spoken. Its as important to have in your ammo fire fighting tools and methods predefined to combat an attack on your brand. With the use of Facebook pages, an SME can connect and speak to their consumers, the specific demographics can be mapped and the business can monitor the visibility very closely. Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, blogs etc all give voice and a face to the brand and can be used as catalysts to help consumers fall in love with your brand. Linked In can assist building bridges for the brand with prospective employees and decision makers.

 

7.Create brand ambassadors

 

The best way to build a brand image is to create brand ambassadors who will expound the virtues of your product and service. Every individual that a company connects with have the potential of becoming a brand ambassador. Happy employees who won’t devalue the brand no matter what. Even employees who leave the company should leave happily and remain ambassadors. Vendors, suppliers, bankers and competition can all be brand ambassadors. If other people can speak about your brand and its values its a million times the effect of you shouting it from the rooftops.

 

8.Staying focussed

 

One of the biggest pitfalls for an SME is to deviate from their core competency and strength. The more SMEs have a chief definitive aim and chase excellence in getting better at that, helps evolve a brand image of success. If the effort of an organization is to excel and have a mindset to continually improve with the focus of becoming the best at their industry, their brand will automatically sky rocket. Diversification and forward integration should emerge after conquering excellence and having a system to repeat that on an ongoing basis. Excellence is the biggest catalyst of brand success.

 

9.Adopt a cause and be a thought leader

 

Every brand should stand up for something and then become the voice for that which they hold most dearly. When the core team introspects they will find one or more key messages or words that springs up in multiple discussions. Innovation, empowerment, emerging markets, logistics, cloud computing or even employee welfare. Find these and use every opportunity to talk about it and associate your brand with them. Seminars, lectures, events and workshops all allow the company to build their image by what they say and do and become thought leaders in the field of their choice. Give interviews with your opinion on the cause, write articles, debate, research and implement innovations on your key cause.

 

I am writing this article because our company has adopted branding for SMEs and growing home grown brands as our cause. We help local companies compete with MNCs and put everything behind this cause. For us, this is passion and our ongoing quest. We speak at seminars, conduct workshops and have created 100s of brands that have gone on to hold their own against global established ones.

 

 

10.Innovate

 

Point number 10 is yours to innovate and evolve because the most effective ideas are born from your own knowledge and capabilities. Branding is a continuos process of innovation, so commit from here on to innovating for your brand and instilling in the organization a culture of innovating in each and every department.

 

Get ready for a brand that will soon be worth more than you have ever imagined!

 

About the author

Sajith Ansar is the CEO and founder of Idea Spice. Idea Spice is a branding firm that specialises in helping creating and evolving home grown brands around the world. The company has created and reinvented over 1500 brands including startups, SMEs and countries.

10 tricks for frequent travellers

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Even a simple day trip for business brings out the best in me. Travel is my introspection time, reading time, sketching time and learning time. I tend to shut out the world and immerse myself in me. A bubble envelops itself around me and I tune into my innermost thoughts. This is my kaizen space where I connect with my personal SWOT, where I do my internal housekeeping, reflect and fine tune my journey. This is the time where I check my map and calibrate the compass.

I tend to follow a pattern of simple habits so my mind is uncluttered on the journey. This is what I do.

1.Pack the day before
I ensure my bags are set early and everything is in place well before I have to leave. I also have a clear mental picture of what I will be wearing on the day.

2.Travel light
I make sure I have value engineered what leaves with me on the trip. Over past experience, I know what is needed and what isn’t. Most importantly, when I travel alone I never check in my baggage. I plan around my cabin baggage and never carry more.

3.The right luggage
I prefer soft luggage that doesn’t add excess weight. Always with wheels so I am not carrying it myself. I prefer day bags with many compartments and pockets so each place can have its designated items.

4.Repetition
Packing and placing every item I travel with in the same place in my bag helps to access everything easily. There’s a compartment for my passport and ticket, for the book I will read, chargers, money, lap top, etc etc.

5.Prepare for security check
This I find an underrated skill which can really help ease your mind and save time. I make sure all my metallic objects (watch, wallet, belts, phone etc) stay in my bag till after the check. I try and use a slip in shoe even for formal wear so I can weave in an out faster. All liquid items are always under 100ml.

6.Simple food and hydration
I try and completely avoid airline food on short flights and snack on fruit and drink a lot of water. Travel food used to leave me feeling bloated and sluggish.

7.The right music
When I am traveling I listen to lounge music on a high quality headphone with noise cancellation features. It helps me shut the world out and works as a wonderful catalyst for energizing my thoughts.

8.Mind mapping
When thoughts explode and ideas are bombarding me, I use the Mind Node app to capture my ideas. I find this the simplest and most effective way to keep my planning at the same speed of my thinking. I have 100s of mind maps on all kinds of subjects which then keeps my brain clutter free.

9. Books, the perfect companion
When I am traveling I carry books which are non fiction. My companion is a self help or business book centering around an area or issue which I am grappling. I also love scouring airports for new books. I buy faster than I can read and I know it’s an investment that can’t go bad.

10.immigration
Simple things like memorizing and remembering your passport number, issue and expiry date can save time at the airport or on a flight. At immigration counters my eyes search for sections which have 2 personnel managing one line. These lines move much faster and usually there’s always one such counter closer to the end. I also place my ticket within the concerned visa page so it’s easier for the officer to find it.

Besides these, some other ideas are to ensure my pockets are empty in the flight so I am comfortable. I carry gum always for overnight trips, do power maps if the flight is in the wee hours and I have meetings on arrival. I also pack based on how I unpack.

And now I can probably add blogging in my free time to that list!!

The coolest tool for thinking clearly- mind mapping

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One of the most powerful tools that has helped me think really fast and declutter my mind has been mind mapping.

I create simple and detailed mind maps for almost every aspect of my life. I have mind maps for goals, company vision, team planning, client briefs, holiday plans, health goals, web site maps, workflow planning and a 100 other things. Using mind maps have allowed me to accomplish in a fraction of the usual time that work would taken me ages, because it immediately structures my thoughts. It allows me to organise information and moreover my notes can almost keep up with my speed of thinking and unrelated chains of thought.

What are mind maps and what is mindmapping.

A term that was coined and then detailed by Tony Buzan in the 60s, mind mapping is a process of organizing your thoughts visually and organically as opposed to the linear manner of listing tasks and thoughts. Mind maps break down ideas and thoughts into graphical representation that allows for total clarity.
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I have had the good fortune thanks to Right Selection to attend his workshops and learn with him. Our team and also my daughter attended and it was an eye opener. He also subscribes that we use a lot of color and visuals that stimulate the mind. He has written 100s of books on the subject and many deal with the subject of thinking for kids.

Mind mapping is also a brilliant tool for children to use for learning and this ensures they never ever forget a lesson or learning. My daughter even uses it even to plan her holiday activities and she lists out tasks and goals to achieve.

There are quite a few apps that are available and softwares which are also downloadable from tony buzans site, however I personally found “mind node” the best and easiest among the ones I tried. The other apps are “simple node”, “imindmap” and “Ithoughts” which is a paid app for (approximately 9$ on iTunes).

I found some examples of mind maps from the web which show how they can be used for planning, brainstorming, note taking, education, strategy, research and basic thinking.

Try it, it will change your life!

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30 quotes for CEOs and budding entrepreneurs

A collection of inspiring quotes and ideas for CEOs and people wanting to take the plunge into the world of business.

Each thought has so much depth and can trigger ideas and directions. The common thread of inspiration is about passion in work, risk taking, being the best at what you do, embracing failure, hard work and staying focused .

Read on and be inspired!

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The wisdom of getting rich and 5 untold secrets

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I find it fascinating meeting successful people and understanding what makes them who they are, absorbing their secrets to success, seeking inspiration and lessons. Over my  interactions with hundreds of entrepreneurs, I see extremely intelligent and innovative people struggle financially, dropouts become billionaires and billionaires become unhappy and unfulfilled. Then there’s a rare species that gets it all perfectly balanced.

A few questions I have often asked myself are:

“How do some individuals become so rich? What do they do different? “

How come certain people suddenly rocket across the business stratosphere? What suddenly shifts?”

“Why do some people who come across as inspirations turn out to be a facade of optimism as you peel away the layers? ”

“Why do so many achievers speak of regretting that they didn’t stop and smell the coffee along the journey?”

It’s interesting that how much money you make, how much you retain with you, how smart you are, how rich you are and how happy you stay is not always linked nor proportional to each other.

Having read so many books, research documents and discussed with mentors and role models, I have begun to comprehend some interesting home truths. They are so simple and staring us in the face. As I tried experimenting and began to feel the impact of the wisdom and found paradigm shifts in business and life.

The 5 important secrets are:

1.Resetting the financial thermostat

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Each of us have a relation with success and money. This evolves as a mix of genetics, experiences, things we have heard, preconditioning and internal decisions we made along the way. We often hear phrases like “you can’t make money without losing your ethics”, “dirty money” “money only brings unhappiness” and many more phrases and notions that condition our minds against it.

Deep rooted inhibitions with finance often create a love hate relation with money. Our grandparents and parents have views that stay rooted after generations. This festers like an old wound and leaves a scar.

I ran my business for years without thinking of money and as a creative person feeling that money is not a good thing. I discovered that my expenses would get covered because that was my desire but the cup would never overflow.

The simple rule is that money comes to those who love and desire it without contempt. When money is not a dirty word and welcomed with a red carpet, she visits and stays. When you long to be with money without cringing and when it’s not desired just for the material benefits of money, she appears.

This is the one simple first secret of every book on success and money. The intense desire for it. It’s as simple as that. If you intensely desire money and welcome it with open arms, money comes.

The starting point of all achievement is desire.

-Napoleon Hill

2.knowing what you want and having a map

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Imagine you are on a road trip and you want to drive to a nearby town and decide to get there without a map. You then decide you won’t ask for directions or follow the signs and don’t even know what the town is called. You set off and make a journey and you do reach somewhere, but with no reference point how far away you are and where you are. You are never going to reach and needless to say you would never know how far you are from where you want to be.

It’s the same with visions and goals. You need to know where you are going. One of the simplest secrets successful people share is that they knew what they wanted and where they were going. Writing down your plans like you already achieved them triggers actions without you realizing. Making a vision board and seeing it every day increases the chances of fulfilling them even further.

When you know where you are going, every crisis and issue become deviations, you just need a side lane to get back to the main highway of your goals.

The same rule eluded me. My vision was to do great work, work with good people, have a chic office and a cool car. All the wishes were granted very soon and then growth stagnated because I hadn’t reset my map not broadened my vision.

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
–Steve Jobs

3 . The magic of saving

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The simplest rule of money is to increase your income, reduce your expenses and make sure theres a lot in between both. Then you got to keep it that away and widen this gap year on year. Ideally the expense shouldn’t grow more than inflation and the income should grow exponentially.

Having the discipline to force yourself to save needs a mindset change. How often I have caught myself saying that I had less expenses when I had less money. The secret is to spend much lesser than we make.

The joy of seeing money as investments and not just a means to spend more needs a mindset change which creates paradigm shifts. Having your rental income cover your regular expenses and your investment interest pay your luxury EMIs is a big high.

The day it dawned on me that cash is the king in business and the oxygen that keeps it going, I sensed a remarkable turnaround in strategy and direction. There are so many nooks and corners and hidden recesses where unnecessary expenses stay hidden without realizing as I moved along. I call it the spring cleaning of unwanted expenses and this needs to be done every 3 months.

Too many people spend money they earned..to buy things they don’t want..to impress people that they don’t like.
–Will Rogers

4.Learning to give

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One of the most important secrets of wealth sharing as I read, spoke and understood is the ability to give. To share our wealth knowing that it comes back to you even more. As we move to an abundance mentality away from scarcity, the mind programs itself to know that as we give, more will take its place.

Rockefeller, Carnegie, Gates, Buffet are all well known philanthropists. In a letter to his son, Rocketfeller wrote, “…in the beginning of getting money, away back in my childhood, I began giving it away, and continued increasing the gifts as the income increased…”

For it is in giving that we receive.
-St. Francis of Assisi

5 . Enjoying the ride

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When I converse with people who inspire me, I often ask them if there are any regrets along the way. The pattern of the answers is always the same “I wish I had watched my kids grow up” “I wish I had taken more holidays” “I wish I had more time for myself” “I didn’t spend enough time with my wife” “There’s a million things I didn’t do because I was busy making money”.

Everything you make becomes worth it when every day is lived like its your last day. What is money if you can’t enjoy it with the ones you love, if you don’t have time for yourself and for finding yourself too on the journey. I believe you get richer with experiences. As you get rich, your life needs to get richer too.

Early enough we need to decide that the pursuit of wealth doesn’t have to be devoid of soul, that the journey will be a celebration and not a struggle.

I needed a major mindset shift from my 90 hour weeks I proudly practiced in the initial years of business. Waking up and deciding that I want to enjoy the ride and never regret a moment helped to change the way I enjoyed the journey. The trick was to focus on things I am best at and termed “play” and finding other people or outsourcing tasks which was “work”.

It’s good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure that you haven’t lost the things that money can’t buy.

–George Lorimer

 

 

Try out these simple ideas and see the effect!

The 7 forces of business mastery

I read this insightful and inspiring article in the Entrepreneur magazine. It featured an interview with one of my favorite authors and thought leaders, Anthony Robbins. These simple pointers are home truths and there are so many nuggets at very nook and corner. I took away truckloads of ideas and I wanted to share the complete interview.

This is a must read:

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Robbins: They’re the seven parts of any business that have to be consistently managed to consistently grow and succeed. Most people know that 50 percent of all startups are gone within the first year and that 96 percent of all business fail after 10 years.

Why do so many business fail?
Because even a small business requires consistent improvement in many areas simultaneously in order to compete and win. Oftentimes, entrepreneurs have some core skill sets — perhaps they’re extraordinary at writing code or creating extraordinary products — but their marketing skills are low. Or, their marketing skills might be off the charts but their inability to make effective financial analysis in the end destroys all they’ve built. They make poor decisions, and decisions shape our business destiny.

So, for a quick review, it’s best to start with the end in mind.

The seventh force and ultimate outcome for any business is to create raving fan customers and culture. Satisfied customers leave you when somebody gives them a better deal. Raving fan customers are loyal, they know who you really are and they stick around even when you screw up because you’ve consistently added value to them in a way that nobody else can.

After that, the first force that will shape a business is knowing where you really are and creating an effective business map. The biggest challenge for business leaders is that they’re not honest about where the business really is. They often see it better than it is, which keeps them going but it causes them to have blind spots that inevitably undermine or even destroy the business.

Knowing what business you’re really in, or what business you need to be in long term is critical. Knowing why you’re in the business and ultimately what outcomes you want the business to serve is critical for a business owner. Then, you have to know who you are and who you need in order to have long-term success.

You also need to know where you are. Every business has a lifecycle, just like a human being. Is your business in the toddler stage? Is your business in its prime? Is it aging? What to do in your business is completely controlled by where you are. Then you can decide where you want to go.

The second force of business is strategic innovation — finding a way to meet your client’s needs better than anybody else. Some companies innovate so often that they put themselves out of business because they are not being strategic about it.

The third force of business is world-class, strategic marketing. That just means having a process that gets a mass number of people to want to do business with you. Or, more importantly, the ideal client you want, to seek you out. It’s something I call “value-added marketing.”

The fourth force is sales mastery systems. It’s great that your marketing strategy is attracting clients, but that doesn’t mean anything unless you produce continued growth and sales.

The fifth force that business leaders must understand is the power of both financial and legal analysis. If you aren’t able to understand and analyze the financial condition of your business on an ongoing basis, you’re like a pilot of a plane who doesn’t know how to read the gauges in front of him. It’s easy to fly when there are clear skies (i.e., a good economy), but when you find yourself surrounded by storms and fog, if you can’t read the gauges, you’re going to crash. It’s only a matter of time.

Finally the sixth force is where you can create explosive growth in your company. Most people think in order to have explosive growth they have to make giant changes. In reality, if you understand the force of optimization and maximization of your people and processes, you can grow your business consistently while others are taking wild risks that don’t always pay off.

Entrepreneur: How can a business owner grow his or her profits by 50 percent in the next 12 months?
Robbins: The key to making documented, explosive profit gains is optimization and maximization. The goal is to make small, incremental changes that all together make your entire business significantly more efficient and profitable. If you’re not doing this already, you’re working hard every single day and you’re still not at the level you deserve. The secret is, little things aren’t little — they’re everything. Those little details — every lead you generate, every margin you increase, every promotion you run, every transaction you make, every sales person you hire — if you don’t measure it, you’re not managing it. So you’re not managing the driving force of what comes into your business to get those profit levels you deserve.

We’re treasure hunters. We know there’s treasure in our business, no question, and we’re going to find it no matter what it takes. If we try something and it doesn’t work, we’re going to try something else, and if that doesn’t work, we’ll make another change, and if that doesn’t work, we’ll shift something else until we get the result we’re after.

Entrepreneur: You say that looking through “a new filter” can help entrepreneurs uncover solutions to business problems. What do you mean by that?
Robbins: There are basic keys that offer entrepreneurs solutions, keys like finding a way to get more clients, and finding ways to increase your average transaction value. But beyond those basic keys, you need fresh perspective, or what I would call a new filter.

Take pricing for example. I did my first seminars for free. I advertised, I marketed, I did everything. I showed up in this room, I expected 500 people. Seven people showed up. Guess what I did for them? I dumped everything I had on these seven people. Can you imagine us in a room for a day? It was like Shallow Hal stuck in the elevator. But then I changed my filter. I changed my pricing, and I changed the size and venue for my seminars. Instead of intimate sessions in my living room, we were doing events at Madison Square Garden and people could learn from everyone else sitting there, which added even more value and reshaped the entire experience of the service. In many ways, it’s the same core product, but a different filter can make massive difference.

Entrepreneur: How can an entrepreneur become a better person in order to become a better business owner?
Robbins: People may come to my events to change their business, but I’m also here to help them change their lives. We all want to take both our business and our lives to the next level, and your business is a beautiful vehicle for doing that — it gives immediate feedback whether you’re in the right state, whether you’re telling the right story, whether you’ve got the right strategies. And it can provide a vehicle for your economic freedom and an expression of what you value most.

It’s important to remember that most people spend more time in their business than they do with their children, or with their spouse. For most business owners, the business is just an extension of their identity. So when we can help people make a shift or a dramatic change in their own psychology, that spills over to impact their business and every other area of their life.

If you’re able to meet your top needs in a positive way, then your life will improve. Similarly, if your business is able to first identify, and then meet, your clients’ top needs in a unique way, then you will develop a raving fan culture. Whether you’re becoming a better person or a better business owner, it’s really all connected.

Great blend of architecture and fashion

 

Hotel The Exchange is an independent fashion hotel in central Amsterdam that playfully weaves together fashion and architecture in unique rooms ranging from one to five stars.

At Hotel The Exchange fashion meets architecture in the most unexpected and inspiring way. Rooms are dressed like models by young designers from the Amsterdam Fashion Institute (AMFI), allowing guests to sleep in fashion and wake up in style.

Hotel The Exchange * Amsterdam Fashion Institute | Design Gallerist | Rare & Unique Products.

How we do what we do! How we added spice to over 1000 home grown brands!

A short animated film which explains the how, what and why of Idea Spice. This film explains in a fun manner who we are and what it takes for startups and SMEs to stand out from the clutter and connect emotionally with their consumer. We storyboarded this film and Ti22 animated the film. We had a blast making this film, hope you enjoy seeing it!

Home grown brands

A short film about inspiring start ups and their story.

Our heroes and inspirations who have taken that plunge and converted their ideas into successful entrepreneurial stories. We asked them a few questions and here are their responses and stories in a bid to galvanise other entrepreneurs.

In this session, we cover Pantry Cafe by Mahesh Kalwani, M2M bespoke tailors by Kamlesh Ramchandani, Little Champions by Sabina Azizova, Fuego by Arjun and Adarsh Kumar and Farada by Ravi Menghani. From over 1000 home grown brands we have partnered with to create, here are a few in an ongoing series of stories.

At Idea Spice design and Spice works interiors, we work with ambitious, visionary and fun entrepreneurs who have a vision to create and grown home grown brands into international successes!

Directed by Umair Tareen and Camera by Asif Limbada

Shot in Epic Red.

Questions we asked entrepreneurs

While making our movie on home grown brands, we asked the entrepreneurs 5 simples questions to explain their success. The questions are highlighted here in the form of book titles which is how they will be presented in the movie.

These 5 questions are also the basic questions to consider while creating a unique business.

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Home grown brands

We are making a film on Home grown brands. Branding work done for clients of ours at Ideaspice,
who have started businesses by themselves and successfully transformed them into brands that have connected with their consumers.

We are covering 6 entrepreneurs across industries and asking them to share their story and challenges and inspire other start ups and business men. They will also share the impact of branding and design on their differentiation.

Today is the last day of shooting. We are currently at M2M, (made to measure) which offers bespoke suits for men. Last week we shot at little champions, a Pre school, Pantry cafe and Farada, Arabic footwear for men. For all these projects we have been involved from the naming, branding, design and interiors. Today we will also be interviewing the young entrepreneurs behind Fuego, a Mexican lounge in souk al bahar, dubai and milestone, a landscaping firm.

I will share the videos soon. Looking forward to the end product.

Umair Tareen from digitally films is directing the film and Asif limbada is the Director of photography. The film is being shot in Red Epic and Leica lens. The rushes are looking super!

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Interview about marketing for SMEs

An interview of mine by SupportBiz. Sharing this here.

May 24, 2013
Spice Holding Group: New age advertising and marketing for SMEs

The digital age gave birth to a democratic business ecosystem. Now with smart marketing practices, smaller companies can also have the liberty to access their clients themselves. The web interface allows the SMEs and start-ups to make a strong impression through their web presence. The social media platform too enables these new brands to have a direct connect and initiate a dialogue with their consumers. It sounds very lucrative; however, it has certain criticalities which can only be managed or judged by experts.

Sajith Ansar, founder and CEO of Spice Holding Group is an expert in this domain. Through his company, he caters to the needs of the SMEs’ non-traditional marketing practices. In an exclusive interaction with SupportBiz, he highlighted some glimpse of cutting edge trends in the non-traditional marketing and advertising practices for Indian SMEs.

Edited excerpts:

What are the key trends in the area of marketing and advertising?

The trend for today’s organizations is to constantly innovate methods that engage them directly with the consumers. Companies now are interacting with their specific clientele by using non-traditional media like social media platforms and activation ideas to emotionally connect with their consumers.

What are the roadblocks or challenges for better penetration of innovative marketing practices?

Social media and digital marketing is a double edged sword and unless there is enough preparation, this may backfire. Companies should know how to respond to complaints and attack on their integrity which happens publicly and may fan rumors and doubts easily. There are so many instances of companies, who have lost credibility because of using social media without preparation.

Reaching out to the market and customer engagement are two important deliverables of any advertising agency.

What is the level of understanding of Indian advertisers on these points? You can provide a comparative feedback based on UAE and other countries.

Indian advertisers have a great understanding of customer engagement and today more and more ads are born with strong Indian sensibilities without aping the west. Ads that connect with consumers across states and demographics, purely because they speak to the very heart of India. Blending elements like humor or sentiments with strong visuals that are rooted in India, so many brands have reached out and leapt into the hearts of consumers.

The UAE has another challenge of having hundreds of nationalities and the need to connect across all these sensibilities. UAE does not have much manufacturing industry and many foreign brands have entered the market with their own guidelines and DNA. Advertisers need to evaluate these frameworks and local cultural sensibilities and create advertising pieces that stand apart. Other challenge like smaller population and target market that the advertisers appeal to, also cut down budgets and media mix. I feel that advertisers in India are lot bolder with their concepts and media platforms today.

What is your go-to-market plan of action for Indian market?

We offer branding solutions for home grown brands in India and the GCC. We bring our knowledge and expertise of working with hundreds of brands worldwide. We work with startups and SMEs and local companies and help them compete with the multi-nationals. We help them find their USP and differentiation and communicate that effectively in an integrated manner.

Here’s the link to the article:

http://www.supportbiz.com/articles/top-story/spice-holding-group-new-age-advertising-and-marketing-smes.html

If You Love Your Brand, Set It Free

Great article on fluid branding with examples on fluid brands. Jose Martinez argues for an brand thats flexible and connects with the consumer, not one thats strait jacketed.

 

If You Love Your Brand, Set It Free | Smashing Magazine.

Brilliant article on the 25 characteristics of an entrepreneur from entrepreneur.com

25 Common Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs

Do you have what it takes to get through hard times? Here are the traits that help home-based business owners thrive.
BY  |This article has been excerpted from the Ultimate Home Based Business Handbook, by James Stephenson, available from Entrepreneur Press.


Regardless of your definition of success, there are, oddly enough, a great number of common characteristics that are shared by successful businesspeople. You can place a check beside each characteristic that you feel that you possess. This way, you can see how you stack up. Even if you don’t have all of these characteristics, don’t fret. Most can be learned with practice and by developing a winning attitude, especially if you set goals and apply yourself, through strategic planning, to reach those goals in incremental and measurable stages.

The Home Business Musts
Like any activity you pursue, there are certain musts that are required to be successful in a chosen activity. To legally operate a vehicle on public roadways, one must have a driver’s license; to excel in sports, one must train and practice; to retire comfortably, one must become an informed investor and actively invest for retirement. If your goal is success in business, then the formula is no different. There are certain musts that have to be fully developed, implemented and managed for your business to succeed. There are many business musts, but this article contains I believe to be some of the more important musts that are required to start, operate and grow a profitable home business.

1. Do what you enjoy.
What you get out of your business in the form of personal satisfaction, financial gain, stability and enjoyment will be the sum of what you put into your business. So if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, in all likelihood it’s safe to assume that will be reflected in the success of your business–or subsequent lack of success. In fact, if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, chances are you won’t succeed.

2. Take what you do seriously.
You cannot expect to be effective and successful in business unless you truly believe in your business and in the goods and services that you sell. Far too many home business owners fail to take their own businesses seriously enough, getting easily sidetracked and not staying motivated and keeping their noses to the grindstone. They also fall prey to naysayers who don’t take them seriously because they don’t work from an office building, office park, storefront, or factory. Little do these skeptics, who rain on the home business owner’s parade, know is that the number of people working from home, and making very good annual incomes, has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years.

3. Plan everything.
Planning every aspect of your home business is not only a must, but also builds habits that every home business owner should develop, implement, and maintain. The act of business planning is so important because it requires you to analyze each business situation, research and compile data, and make conclusions based mainly on the facts as revealed through the research. Business planning also serves a second function, which is having your goals and how you will achieve them, on paper. You can use the plan that you create both as map to take you from point A to Z and as a yardstick to measure the success of each individual plan or segment within the plan.

4. Manage money wisely.
The lifeblood of any business enterprise is cash flow. You need it to buy inventory, pay for services, promote and market your business, repair and replace tools and equipment, and pay yourself so that you can continue to work. Therefore, all home business owners must become wise money managers to ensure that the cash keeps flowing and the bills get paid. There are two aspects to wise money management.

  1. The money you receive from clients in exchange for your goods and services you provide (income)
  2. The money you spend on inventory, supplies, wages and other items required to keep your business operating. (expenses)

5. Ask for the sale.
A home business entrepreneur must always remember that marketing, advertising, or promotional activities are completely worthless, regardless of how clever, expensive, or perfectly targeted they are, unless one simple thing is accomplished–ask for the sale. This is not to say that being a great salesperson, advertising copywriting whiz or a public relations specialist isn’t a tremendous asset to your business. However, all of these skills will be for naught if you do not actively ask people to buy what you are selling.

6. Remember it’s all about the customer.
Your home business is not about the products or services that you sell. Your home business is not about the prices that you charge for your goods and services. Your home business is not about your competition and how to beat them. Your business is all about your customers, or clients, period. After all, your customers are the people that will ultimately decide if your business goes boom or bust. Everything you do in business must be customer focused, including your policies, warranties, payment options, operating hours, presentations, advertising and promotional campaigns and website. In addition, you must know who your customers are inside out and upside down.

7. Become a shameless self-promoter (without becoming obnoxious).
One of the greatest myths about personal or business success is that eventually your business, personal abilities, products or services will get discovered and be embraced by the masses that will beat a path to your door to buy what you are selling. But how can this happen if no one knows who you are, what you sell and why they should be buying?

Self-promotion is one of the most beneficial, yet most underutilized, marketing tools that the majority of home business owners have at their immediate disposal.

8. Project a positive business image.
You have but a passing moment to make a positive and memorable impression on people with whom you intend to do business. Home business owners must go out of their way and make a conscious effort to always project the most professional business image possible. The majority of home business owners do not have the advantage of elaborate offices or elegant storefronts and showrooms to wow prospects and impress customers. Instead, they must rely on imagination, creativity and attention to the smallest detail when creating and maintaining a professional image for their home business.

9. Get to know your customers.
One of the biggest features and often the most significant competitive edge the home based entrepreneur has over the larger competitors is the he can offer personalized attention. Call it high-tech backlash if you will, but customers are sick and tired of hearing that their information is somewhere in the computer and must be retrieved, or told to push a dozen digits to finally get to the right department only to end up with voice mail–from which they never receive a return phone call.

The home business owner can actually answer phone calls, get to know customers, provide personal attention and win over repeat business by doing so. It’s a researched fact that most business (80 percent) will come from repeat customers rather than new customers. Therefore, along with trying to draw newcomers, the more you can do to woo your regular customers, the better off you will be in the long run and personalized attention is very much appreciated and remembered in the modern high tech world.

10. Level the playing field with technology.
You should avoid getting overly caught up in the high-tech world, but you should also know how to take advantage of using it. One of the most amazing aspects of the internet is that a one or two person business operating from a basement can have a superior website to a $50 million company, and nobody knows the difference. Make sure you’re keeping up with the high-tech world as it suits your needs.. The best technology is that which helps you, not that which impresses your neighbors.

11. Build a top-notch business team.
No one person can build a successful business alone. It’s a task that requires a team that is as committed as you to the business and its success. Your business team may include family members, friends, suppliers, business alliances, employees, sub-contractors, industry and business associations, local government and the community. Of course the most important team members will be your customers or clients. Any or all may have a say in how your business will function and a stake in your business future.

12. Become known as an expert.
When you have a problem that needs to be solved, do you seek just anyone’s advice or do you seek an expert in the field to help solve your particular problem? Obviously, you want the most accurate information and assistance that you can get. You naturally seek an expert to help solve your problem. You call a plumber when the hot water tank leaks, a real estate agent when it’s time to sell your home or a dentist when you have a toothache. Therefore, it only stands to reason that the more you become known for your expertise in your business, the more people will seek you out to tap into your expertise, creating more selling and referral opportunities. In effect, becoming known as an expert is another style of prospecting for new business, just in reverse. Instead of finding new and qualified people to sell to, these people seek you out for your expertise.

13. Create a competitive advantage.
A home business must have a clearly defined unique selling proposition. This is nothing more than a fancy way of asking the vital question, “Why will people choose to do business with you or purchase your product or service instead of doing business with a competitor and buying his product or service?” In other words, what one aspect or combination of aspects is going to separate your business from your competition? Will it be better service, a longer warranty, better selection, longer business hours, more flexible payment options, lowest price, personalized service, better customer service, better return and exchange policies or a combination of several of these?

14. Invest in yourself.
Top entrepreneurs buy and read business and marketing books, magazines, reports, journals, newsletters, websites and industry publications, knowing that these resources will improve their understanding of business and marketing functions and skills. They join business associations and clubs, and they network with other skilled business people to learn their secrets of success and help define their own goals and objectives. Top entrepreneurs attend business and marketing seminars, workshops and training courses, even if they have already mastered the subject matter of the event. They do this because they know that education is an ongoing process. There are usually ways to do things better, in less time, with less effort. In short, top entrepreneurs never stop investing in the most powerful, effective and best business and marketing tool at their immediate disposal–themselves.

15. Be accessible.
We’re living in a time when we all expect our fast food lunch at the drive-thru window to be ready in mere minutes, our dry cleaning to be ready for pick-up on the same day, our money to be available at the cash machine and our pizza delivered in 30 minutes or it’s free. You see the pattern developing–you must make it as easy as you can for people to do business with you, regardless of the home business you operate.

You must remain cognizant of the fact that few people will work hard, go out of their way, or be inconvenienced just for the privilege of giving you their hard-earned money. The shoe is always on the other foot. Making it easy for people to do business with you means that you must be accessible and knowledgeable about your products and services. You must be able to provide customers with what they want, when they want it.

16. Build a rock-solid reputation.
A good reputation is unquestionably one of the home business owner’s most tangible and marketable assets. You can’t simply buy a good reputation; it’s something that you earn by honoring your promises. If you promise to have the merchandise in the customer’s hands by Wednesday, you have no excuse not to have it there. If you offer to repair something, you need to make good on your offer. Consistency in what you offer is the other key factor. If you cannot come through with the same level of service (and products) for clients on a regular basis, they have no reason to trust you . . . and without trust, you won’t have a good reputation.

17. Sell benefits.
Pushing product features is for inexperienced or wannabe entrepreneurs. Selling the benefits associated with owning and using the products and services you carry is what sales professionals worldwide focus on to create buying excitement and to sell, sell more, and sell more frequently to their customers. Your advertising, sales presentations, printed marketing materials, product packaging, website, newsletters, trade show exhibit and signage are vital. Every time and every medium used to communicate with your target audience must always be selling the benefits associated with owning your product or using your service.

18. Get involved.
Always go out of your way to get involved in the community that supports your business. You can do this in many ways, such as pitching in to help local charities or the food bank, becoming involved in organizing community events, and getting involved in local politics. You can join associations and clubs that concentrate on programs and policies designed to improve the local community. It’s a fact that people like to do business with people they know, like and respect, and with people who do things to help them as members of the community.

19. Grab attention.
Small-business owners cannot waste time, money and energy on promotional activities aimed at building awareness solely through long-term, repeated exposure. If you do, chances are you will go broke long before this goal is accomplished. Instead, every promotional activity you engage in, must put money back in your pocket so that you can continue to grab more attention and grow your business.

20. Master the art of negotiations.
The ability to negotiate effectively is unquestionably a skill that every home business owner must make every effort to master. It’s perhaps second in importance only to asking for the sale in terms of home business musts. In business, negotiation skills are used daily. Always remember that mastering the art of negotiation means that your skills are so finely tuned that you can always orchestrate a win-win situation. These win-win arrangements mean that everyone involved feels they have won, which is really the basis for building long-term and profitable business relationships.

21. Design Your workspace for success.
Carefully plan and design your home office workspace to ensure maximum personal performance and productivity and, if necessary, to project professionalism for visiting clients. If at all possible, resist the temptation to turn a corner of the living room or your bedroom into your office. Ideally, you’ll want a separate room with a door that closes to keep business activities in and family members out, at least during prime business and revenue generating hours of the day. A den, spare bedroom, basement or converted garage are all ideal candidates for your new home office. If this is not possible, you’ll have to find a means of converting a room with a partition or simply find hours to do the bulk of your work when nobody else is home.

22. Get and stay organized.
The key to staying organized is not about which type of file you have or whether you keep a stack or two of papers on your desk, but it’s about managing your business. It’s about having systems in place to do things. Therefore, you wan to establish a routine by which you can accomplish as much as possible in a given workday, whether that’s three hours for a part-time business or seven or nine hours as a full-timer. In fact, you should develop systems and routines for just about every single business activity. Small things such as creating a to-do list at the end of each business day, or for the week, will help keep you on top of important tasks to tackle. Creating a single calendar to work from, not multiple sets for individual tasks or jobs, will also ensure that jobs are completed on schedule and appointments kept. Incorporating family and personal activities into your work calendar is also critical so that you work and plan from a single calendar.

23. Take time off.
The temptation to work around the clock is very real for some home business owners. After all, you don’t have a manager telling you it’s time to go home because they can’t afford the overtime pay. Every person working from home must take time to establish a regular work schedule that includes time to stretch your legs and take lunch breaks, plus some days off and scheduled vacations. Create the schedule as soon as you have made the commitment to start a home business. Of course, your schedule will have to be flexible. You should, therefore, not fill every possible hour in the day. Give yourself a backup hour or two. All work and no play makes you burn out very fast and grumpy customer service is not what people want.

24. Limit the number of hats you wear.
It’s difficult for most business owners not to take a hands-on approach. They try to do as much as possible and tackle as many tasks as possible in their business. The ability to multitask, in fact, is a common trait shared by successful entrepreneurs. However, once in a while you have to stand back and look beyond today to determine what’s in the best interest of your business and yourself over the long run. Most highly successful entrepreneurs will tell you that from the time they started out, they knew what they were good at and what tasks to delegate to others.

25. Follow-up constantly.
Constant contact, follow-up, and follow-through with customers, prospects, and business alliances should be the mantra of every home business owner, new or established. Constant and consistent follow-up enables you to turn prospects into customers, increase the value of each sale and buying frequency from existing customers, and build stronger business relationships with suppliers and your core business team. Follow-up is especially important with your existing customer base, as the real work begins after the sale. It’s easy to sell one product or service, but it takes work to retain customers and keep them coming back.

James Stephenson is an experienced home based consultant with more than 15 years of business and marketing experience. 

Great article in Forbes

Counterintuitivethings successful people do

You’re always going to get the same results, doing what everyone else does. Sometimes you have to know when to zig where others zag. These are some of the counterintuitive lessons I’ve learned and applied from the most successful folks I’ve met.

Pick Fights – to test others’ resolve in their own beliefs. In business you can’t turn over the reins to someone who doesn’t know how to defend their own ideas and plans.
Isolate Yourself – to reenergize. Many seemingly extroverts are introverts. If you recharge when by yourself, you need to seek out isolation from time to time.

Purposefully Offend – sometimes the only way to get someone’s attention is to call him or her out. But, you can always positively turn the relationship around with persistence and some mea culpa. Tech entrepreneur Jason Calacanis is a master of this.

Hyper Self-Critical – of your own standards and choices. I once watched George Carlin berate himself on stage, in a rehearsal standup performance, for missing the timing of one of his jokes by a few seconds. He nailed the follow-up HBO special.
Peacock – don’t give others the option not to see you or hear your message. The pick-up lesson from “The Game” applies to business as well. Nobody buys a product they’ve never seen. (TIP: more of my thoughts on marketing and publicity).

Repeat Mistakes – enough times until you really learn the lesson. Sometimes, mistakes do need to be repeated if the payoff is big enough. We hardly ever learn anything truly worthwhile after one try.
Seek Out Rejection – to get desensitized to the fear of it. Once we lose the fear of rejection we more easily go after what we want, and thus get more of it. (TIP: more details in the 5 Steps Sales Process)
Ignore Consensus – when your own data and foresight is convincingly contrary to the wisdom of the crowd (like Jobs, MLK, Gandi). Consensus bonds us together and creates harmony, but it rarely moves us forward. Progress sometimes has to come at the hands of an individual’s decisive disruption.

Expect Nothing – in return for helping your peers. Karma points are dispersed unexpectedly over decades, not in a scorecard of dollars.
Quit – those endeavors you’ll never win at, and take a new swing at the plate. Don’t double down on a losing effort by not knowing when to walk away. (TIP: watch How to Make the Right Business Decisions)

Play Possum – with your competitors. Don’t be so eager to show off your strengths until it’s the perfect time to strike. If rope-a-dope worked for The Champ, it will for you too.

Get C’s instead of A’s – if you excel in non-traditional environments (like entrepreneurs) & can justify the opportunity cost of your time. Oddly enough, more of the C students I went to school with, employ our A student classmates, than vice versa. (TIP: I explain this point in more detail in video here)

Become Indifferent to Slights – because time and energy are too valuable to waste on petty matters. Attention being paid to wounds of our ego is precious energy diverted from achieving our goals. You can win the argument, or win the game. I know what I’d choose.

Self-Sabotage – yourself when you find yourself miredin complacency. Don’t ever get too comfortable with the status quo, always be willing to blow it up and start all over again to truly create something better.
Abstain from Work – which others can do for you. Delegate every task that others can do 80% as well as you, and focus on those items that only you can achieve that have big payoffs. (TIP: focus on The One Most Important Thing)

Plot & Scheme – your next couple moves ahead. If you don’t see the whole landscape of the playing field, you’re bound to get sideswiped. Know where you’re going far in advance of making your first move.

Underestimate Demand – for your products and services. Don’t ever assume people want what you got, and you’ll always have the appropriate amount of urgency and hustle to validate what you’re trying to achieve. (TIP: don’t fall into the trap of the #1 Reason Why Businesses Fail)