Archive for Blog’ Category

14

May
2009
Comments Off on Seeing the Light

Seeing the Light

Have you ever met someone who had a belief about something that just seemed to be stuck on that belief.  A friend of mine has that obstacle in her life.  She’s told me time and time again that she cannot have what she wants in life because she cannot afford to go to school, it’s too late in life for her and she is stuck in a life and lifestyle that she hates.  Even after showing her how student loans work and that sort of thing, she still insisted that being able to get what she wanted out of life was completely beyond her.  She refuses to see the light.

Many business owners tend to have the same mentality – what they see, they believe is true, no matter what anyone else tells them. It is interesting when I speak to clip_image002people about any number of topics, such as business plans or marketing or getting capital for their business, or even improving their brands. While are their authority on what it is that they do best, as a friend of mine put it, “they don’t know what they don’t know.”  If it was a sure thing, I am certain they would have ventured out.  However, there was some risk that kept them from seeing the light.

It is like Christopher Columbus when he set out to find a faster route to the West Indies.  He would  find this route by sailing out past the horizon, or what most people of that day, thought was the end of the world.  You see, they thought that the world was flat.  From their perspective, it was completely flat.

Chris didn’t believe the world was flat, and , so he set out toward the horizon.  By opening his eyes to what might be possible, by seeking the light, he found not a new spice route, but an entire continent that the Europeans could never have imagined existing.  He wasn’t certain that it was going to work out exactly the way he hoped, but he was willing to take a risk.  By taking some risk, Chris saw the light.

Thinking about your own business, are there opportunities that you have been holding back from?  Is there an investment that you are hesitating to make?  Instead of focusing on “what if it fails,” what if you focus on, “what if it succeeds?”  Succeeding in business has to do with risk, measuring it and making good decisions.  Just like in the stock market, there is no such thing as a sure thing, and like the stock market, if you don’t invest, you cannot reap the benefits.

Take the steps.  Take the risk.  See the light.

Aepiphanni Business Solutions is a Strategy Consulting Firm dedicated to serving the needs of business leaders and executives. We specialize in helping people get into business, and stay there.  We welcome clients in the personal and professional services industries, including restaurants, catering and event planning.  As always, we welcome your comments, thoughts, questions and suggestions.  If you are seeking a business assessment, or have further questions about creating your strategy or developing your vision, please give me, Rick Meekins, a call at 678-265-3908, or email us at [email protected].


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13

May
2009
Comments Off on It Was Just a…Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

It Was Just a…Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

I have two very sharp teenagers at home who tend to, shall we say, do the things that teenagers do. Of course, since they are boys, I get stuck having to “manage their behaviors,” which must be done. As a consultant, my goal is a) to get to the root of the problem, b) figure out what we could do differently and c) correct the problem while keeping the relationship in tact.

My teenagers, of course, have an agenda of their own, which pretty much goes a) No matter what, take no responsibility, b) find some way to blame dad for whatever the infraction is and, if all else fails, diverge, meaning, find a way to shift the topic away from the main point to something off topic that really keeps any sort of progress from being made.

I think that, sometimes, in business, we do the same thing: there are those important things that we need to do for our business that we tend to avoid, like business development, marketing, advertising, updating the accounting and the like, and focusing on the things that are right in front of us. I always refer to those things as, “the new shiny” – referring to the way a little child will instantly be in love with the shiny thing you will give them – until someone else gives them something else that is new and shiny.

The New ShinyWhat happens, though, when you avoid those things that you know are important to your business? Well, the same thing that would happen if you didn’t keep up with the maintenance on your vehicle or bicycle or even yourself: it would break down.

What does this have to do with keeping the main thing the main thing? Well, like my boys, when running a business, we can get off track performing activities that are outside of our core responsibilities (or what needs to be our core responsibilities!), which, for most business owners, is keeping the business moving toward the company vision, or where the business is headed.

Aepiphanni, for instance, has a vision of providing a suite of products and services for small businesses that will help to create strong, stable, lasting organizations. Therefore, I put all of my energy into keeping the organization moving in that direction. Anything that gets in the way of that, or slows the progress, has to be removed.

Do I get off track? Yes! absolutely! but I know what the main thing is, so that I KNOW WHEN I AM OFF TRACK, and can get myself back on target.clip_image001

Is it easy to stay on track? No! There are lots of “new shinies” that come across my desk and email every day. Can you say Twitter? Facebook? LinkedIn? Skype? You can’t get much newer or shinier than those.

How do I avoid this and try to stay on track? EAT THAT FROG!!

Take a look at the 1:28 video from Simpletruths.com.

Remember: keep the main thing the main thing. It is vital to the success of your business.

At Aepiphanni Business Solutions, we are a Small Business Strategy Firm dedicated to serving the needs of small business owners. We specialize in helping business leaders and executives organize, plan and develop strategies for their organizations. We are committed to our clients’ success.

If you have further questions about creating your strategy or developing your vision, please give me, Rick Meekins, a call at 678-265-3908, or email us at [email protected].


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6

May
2009
Comments Off on Eleven Easy Steps to Creating an Excellent White Paper

Eleven Easy Steps to Creating an Excellent White Paper

Great article from Steve Hoffman at Hoffman Marketing Communications, Inc.  Enjoy!!

By Steve Hoffman, Senior Writer
Hoffman Marketing Communications, Inc.

An interesting and informative white paper requires hard work but is not an impossible task. It does, however, require some up-front planning and a solid interview with a knowledgeable content expert. If you consider the following questions before you sit down with a writer, your white paper briefing will be off to an excellent start.
1. Who is your target audience?

Who will read your white paper? What companies will find this interesting and which job titles within these organizations are you targeting? Which industry are you appealing to? Decide who you are talking to before you consider the following questions.

2. What is the desired length of the paper?

At Hoffman Marketing Communications, most white papers we create are between eight and ten pages in length. Some clients, however, request a more concise, five-page, white paper brief and others require 15 to 20 pages to truly explore a complex topic. The length of the paper depends upon how much information you need to convey. Just make sure you include enough content to adequately cover your topic–but not so much that your readers are buried in unnecessary details.

3. What is the white paper’s objective?

This may sound like a no-brainer…but it’s not. Surprisingly, many people say they need a white paper without a clear idea of what the white paper will accomplish. Will the paper be used to create sales leads or to send to prospects who request more information? Will you distribute the white paper to press and analysts to create buzz or will you use it internally to educate salespeople about a new product? Define a clear objective to guide the content interview and act as a foundation for your white paper.

4. What is the white paper’s primary topic?

What is the focus of your white paper? Are you subtly plugging a new solution or service? Are you sharing best practices about how your customers can build revenue, save money, or weather the recession? What information will you provide to educate readers and deliver valuable insights?

5. What tone will the paper adopt?
How do you want to approach your readers? Will the paper be informational, using a credible third person tone (recommended), or will it adopt a more familiar, “friendly” tone using first or second person?
6. What challenges will resonate with your reader?

What business or technical challenges do you want to address in the paper? These are the problems that your products or solutions help solve. Do you have any current statistics, relevant data, industry stories, or customer examples to underscore the difficulty of these challenges?

7. What primary messages will the white paper share?

What are the top three to five primary messages you want to leave with your reader after they read this paper? What information do you want to stick with them? What memorable lessons can you share?

8. What supporting information can you provide?

What supporting documents and illustrations can you send to your writer that will augment the interview and help round out the white paper? Assemble sales presentations, marketing collateral, videos, previously written papers, news articles–anything to quickly bring the writer up-to-speed.

9. What is the schedule for completion?

What is your deadline for completion? Do you need it ready to coincide with a new product launch? Do you want to take the white paper to a trade show or do you need it for a scheduled press campaign? Work with your writer to establish important milestones during the kickoff call such as the date you will receive an outline, a first draft, and a revised draft. Also, allow enough time for design, layout, and printing–if appropriate.

10. What is the writer’s scope of work?

Will your writer provide writing services only or are design, illustration, and layout needed? If you are using different vendors for writing and design, make sure all parties are aware of the schedule for completion.

11. Who are the key contacts within your organization?

During your initial white paper planning meeting, provide your writer with the names, titles, email addresses, and phone numbers of key personnel involved in the project. Define the primary subject matter expert(s) and state who will need to review and approve the paper. Also, establish a contact for financial questions, such as the person at your organization who will handle contracts, purchase orders, and invoices.

The best white papers result from well planned, informative interviews. Sit down beforehand, make notes, and answer the questions above. Preparing ahead of time will shorten the interview time and will ensure your project starts off on the right foot.

Next month, read about “Green White Papers,” which will explore the benefits of digital distribution.

Want to use this article in your e-zine or Web site? You can! (as long as you include this complete blurb with it): Hoffman Marketing Communications, Inc., specializes in writing white papers for leading technology companies around the world. Since 1985, Hoffman has developed persuasive marketing collateral for more than 100 clients, including Symantec, SAP, HP, Adobe, and Sprint. Visit http://hoffmanmarcom.com/.

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4

May
2009
Comments Off on Business Threats: Swine Flu

Business Threats: Swine Flu

Swine Flu is a very real threat to your organization.  If we were evaluating your company’s SWOT, this would be an environmental THREAT – one that could do your business a great deal of harm.  The goal, of course, in any SWOT is to minimize the impact it has on your operations.

Evaluating the impact Swine Flu will have on your operations will have to be done on every level: operations, employees, vendors, competitors and customers. 

  • Operations: what will happen if someone on your team contracts the disease?  What if that person is a key person?  What if that person is you?  How will it effect yourclip_image002 company’s abilities to get products to market?  Do you have the infrastructure to allow for non-traditional work, such as working from home?  How will you alert your client base to the precautions your organization is taking?  What additional cleaning measures do you need to take?
  • Employees: What if your employee has school-aged children that catch the disease, or someone in their school contracts it and the school is shut down?  Can they work virtually?  Do they have health insurance or some means of getting treated?  Is there another way to keep your employees productive?  What is the policy if someone begins to show signs of sickness?  Are you training your employees Swine Flu, it’s symptoms and what to do in case they feel like they might catch something?  What assurances can you give them?
  • Vendors:  What will happen if your vendor’s business is interrupted?  Do you have another source?  How will this impact your business?  How will this impact your customers?
  • Customers:  Are there precautions your need to offer your customers?  Do you need to invest in some sanitizing wipes or additional masks?  How can you assure your customers that they are safe, or at least that every precaution is being taken?
  • Competitors:  Are your competitors taking action?  What are they doing?  Will you be able to help their customers if their business is interrupted?  Will you need to consider working with them for a short time if both businesses are impacted negatively?

One can not put a dollar value on preparedness, but we have seen time and time again, the costs of various disasters.  Being prepared is the key.  Be ready.  Be vigilant.  Take action.

Aepiphanni Business Solutions is a Strategy Consulting Firm dedicated to serving the needs of business leaders and executives. We specialize in helping people get into business, and stay there.  We welcome clients in the personal and professional services industries, including restaurants, catering and event planning.  As always, we welcome your comments, thoughts, questions and suggestions.  If you are seeking a business assessment, or have further questions about creating your strategy or developing your vision, please give me, Rick Meekins, a call at 678-265-3908, or email us at [email protected].


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