The Face in the Mirror or What Did You Learn Today?

Look at yourself if you want success

three-bearsRemember that girl called Goldilocks?
And how she broke into the house of the Three Bears?
And how she ate their porridge, sat in their chairs, and slept on their beds?
All while the three bears felt that their little home in the forest was safe and secure while they went into the woods for a picnic that day.

Well, that’s what has happened to many business owners.
Something has eaten your porridge, rocked in your  chairs, and rustled those
sheets while it slept in your bed — all while you felt you were secure enough that you could relax and go into the woods for a picnic while your business took care of itself.

And suddenly you arrived home to find the doors unlocked, the bed unmade, and the porridge all gone.  “Woe is me!” you moan, as you wring your hands.  “What is a hard working business person to do?”

I’ve read posts on the gift basket bulletin boards both from people starting a business and from those who have been in business for years.  They ask, “What can we do to rescue our businesses in this economy?  What techniques are working for the rest of you. ”

“Tell me, Tell me quick so that I can do it do,” they seem to say.

Businesses are closing daily while others are in dire need of  resuscitation.  But you’re looking for the wrong Goldilocks.

  • It’s not the economy.  People are still spending money on “feel good” gifts.
  • It’s not the lack of customers.  They’re still there, waiting to buy.
  • It’s not the industry.  As a whole, it is as strong as ever and will remain whole even if your business doesn’t.

The answer is easy.  Take a few moments, step into your bathroom, and look into the mirror.  You’ll see the answer staring you in the face.  Ask that person that you see looking back at you, “Are you taking advantage of every resource out there to keep your business growing and thriving in today’s world?”

Then step back, think a few moments, and listen to the answer swirling around in your head.

I believe that the strength and the backbone of any industry, including the gift and gift basket industry, rests with the educational offerings, resources, and information shared with each other.  The world is changing.  The gift industry is changing.  That’s not news.  It has been changing from the time it first began.  There are always new ways to attract customers, new technology to embrace, new ways to keep our customers coming back, and new ways to motivate employees.  There are always new products, new techniques, and new resources.

So let me ask you the question:  What did you learn today?  What resource did you take advantage of? What new technique did you try?  What idea did you put into practice?

And don’t say, “How can I do that?  There aren’t any resources!  I’m all alone.”

It’s not a question of a lack of resources.  There are numerous Facebook groups available for your use — all frequented by many experienced in this industry that can help guide you through the maze. Most, like our GiftBasketNetwork group  are free.   The others either require a subscription to our national trade magazine or a membership in a gift basket directory, or a membership fee to use the board.  The advantage that the private boards have over the free open-to-the-public boards is that those with knowledge to share are more willing to share if they show what they are sharing isn’t going to show up in the search engines.

Are you taking advantage of the other resources?  GiftBusinessInsider, a monthly digital publication for the gift basket  industry, isn’t free.  GiftBasketNetwork is the leading directory, for the least cost and the most benefits, for driving traffic to your website.

You can operate your business on a shoestring but you can’t grow it without spending some money on important resources.

Are you learning everything you can about changes in the industry and in technology?

Some of you are while others are stretched out on the grass sleeping away the afternoon while Goldilocks trashes your house.

So look in that mirror and place the responsibility, for making sure that your business continues to grow and thrive, where it belongs.

Today, and at the end of each day, ask the face that is staring back at you, “What did you learn today?”

Not Your Traditional Gift Basket

With all the competition in the gift basket industry, customers are looking for value and something different when making  a purchase more than ever before.  Sending a gift is still an accepted way to express feelings–regardless the occasion.  But that gift has to be more than just an ordinary gift.  That gift has to be special.  It has to speak louder than words.

Our customers have all sorts of options for gifts.  They don’t have to send a gift basket.  They can send flowers, a gift card, a book, a cake, cookies, or any number of other things instead of a gift basket.  If all you offer is a traditional gift basket, you may be left behind.

I can hear you now.  “But I don’t want to have to carry a lot of gift inventory.  This box of cookies that I bought can be used in any gift basket that I create.  Buying more stuff just isn’t practical with today’s economic downturn.”

All of that is true.  But you are a CREATIVE ENTREPRENEUR, aren’t you?  If not, stay in touch with this blog.  Follow its suggestions, and you will become one.

Creative Entrepreneurs think outside the box–and even outside the container.

Let’s start with the box.  We use lots of themed gift boxes in this business.  It’s how you use them that can make all the difference.  You’ll find the Boxco Doctor’s Bag box on just about every gift basket website.  But look at how it’s used.  Some people theme it with Dr. Feelgood.  Others fill it with cookies.  There are those who incorporate a teddy bear.  It can be used for a Get Well gift, a gift to welcome a new doctor to the hospital, a gift to say “Thank You for Being a Great Doctor and Taking Such Good Care Of Me”.   But really thinking outside of the box, it could be used as a housewarming gift filled with move-in necessities and called “Doctor Welcome to the Rescue.”

capTake a look at all those Boxco gift boxes that you have on your shelves.  Put on that Creative Entrepreneur thinking cap and think of other new and exciting uses for them.  In other words, think outside the box!”

Now, let’s take that box of cookies that you bought because it could fit in any gift basket.  Is your Creative Entrepreneur thinking cap still on?  What can you do differently with it?  How can you make it an inexpensive gift of it’s own?  There’s wrapping paper, labels, gift containers and more that can be used.

I could give you suggestions but I’m not the only Creative Entrepreneur online.  You have to be one too!  My purpose is to guide you to the new sparkling, clear water.  Now it’s up to you whether you drink or go back to that comfortable, familiar old watering hole.

So think outside that box and suggest some ideas that you came up with when you put on your Creative Entrepreneur Thinking Cap!  Share your thoughts by adding a comment.

Keep Your Business Nimble

Jack is Nimble - Jack is quick!
Jack is Nimble – Jack is quick!

One of the biggest benefits that we, as micro business owners, have over large businesses is the ability to be flexible and to change quickly.  We can respond to market changes and trends.

We can change something, test it to see if it works, and if it doesn’t, change it again.

If you’re an online business, as I am, you can make changes daily on your webpages.  If you get a great price on something or a new item comes in, you can tell your customers about it immediately on your website or by sending out an email message.

Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth tells us that “the difference between great people and everyone else is that great people create their lives actively, while everyone else is created by their lives, passively waiting to see where life takes them next.  The difference between the two is the difference between living fully and just existing.”

The same statement can be applied to our businesses.  We can wait as the economy and our customers determine where we’ll go next or we can get off our duff and take charge.  We can exist or grow our business to its maximum capacity.

Regardless of what kind of business you’re in, there are only four ways to grow that business:

  1. Get new customers
  2. Increase the dollar amount per transaction
  3. Increase the number of transactions per customer
  4. Increase the length of time your customer stays loyal to you.

One of the biggest mistakes that entrepreneurs make is focusing their entire energy on getting new customers.  Not only does this cost more than keeping existing customers, but it takes more effort because you have to be constantly looking for new ones to replace the ones you lose.

The other three options depend on your staying in touch with your customers on a regular basis and ALSO on continuing to think of reasons for that customer to buy from you either more often or spend more when they do buy.  Creating systems (something I’ll discuss in a later post) makes it much easier to stay on top of this and make it work effectively for you.

For example, you sell a baby gift.  Contact the sender 11 months later and suggest sending a one-year-birthday gift.  Your Realtor customer orders a closing gift.  Suggest that they stay in touch with their customers (and get those listings and referrals) by sending a six-months gift and a one-year-anniversary gift.

Add-on gifts can increase the dollar amount for a transaction.  Think outside the box and look for new and different products that they “simply can’t resist.”  Or how about creating a Costumed Delivery for an extra charge.  A jolly leprecon could deliver a St. Patty’s gift.  Santa or one of his elves could make those Christmas deliveries.  Or, if you’re one of the fortunate few who can carry a tune (and that’s not me!), provide a singing delivery service.

Being a micro-business is what enables us to be Creative Gift Entrepreneurs.  So put on your creative thinking cap and think of some ideas that would enable you to be nimble and test some new and different marketing ideas.  And while you’re at it, share some of those ideas with us.  Just click on “comment” below and share.

What It Takes to Build a Successful Entrepreneur!

It has been said that it takes a village to grow a child. The same can be said for us. No man (and no business owner) is an island. It takes a community to build a successful entrepreneur.

Operating our own business can be very isolating–particularly if it is a homebased one. But even those of us who are introverts and enjoy our own company need others in order to be successful.

All of us–and there are no exceptions–need help from other people. People who are on your side and want you to succeed. People who will challenge you and give you a helping hand when needed. People who will help increase your own knowledge and expand your horizons. Even those who disagree with us help open our eyes to new thoughts and new ideas.  And the wonderful thing is that this thing we call the Internet makes it easier than ever before to find that community.

For some, offline communities such as churches, networking groups, business organizations and classes, can serve the same purpose. Just because someone isn’t in the same “industry” as you doesn’t mean that they can’t provide positive support and valuable feedback.

Community helps us fill in those areas that we can’t fill ourselves.

Community gives us a chance to show our gratitude for the blessings we have been given and give back in return.

There’s nothing better than being on both the receiving and giving end. We need to realize that one is as important as the other. If you don’t ask for help, you fail to provide someone the opportunity to be on the giving end. When I first started my gift basket business, there were many skills that I knew little about. Discovering the communities on AOL and Prodigy made all the difference. That was way back when people were so much more willing to give without fear of someone stealing and using their secrets.  Even though that fear exists today, there are still many who understand the value of giving.

I dare you to find someone who is successful and who did it “all on their own”! Each and everyone of us has had people in our lives who bring out the best in us, both as professionals and as people.

people-community1

If you’re looking for a community that you can become a part of — one that encourages both giving and receiving–check out ours at www.giftretailersconnection.ning.com.  Take a step off your island of isolation and join a group dedicated to helping you grow your business.

 

That Myth Called Talent!

If you want to be successful at whatever you want to do, whether it be designing gift baskets, marketing, or writing descriptions for your website, you’ve got to put one piece of nonsense out of your head.  It doesn’t take Talent!  Now let me explain why.

Sure, some of us have more of a “natural ability” in some areas.  But there are many people with no natural ability that are successful.  And there are many people without a so-called “natural ability” that are very successful.  Like a foot race, this natural ability just gives you a few feet head start over the ones behind you.  It’s what those in the starting position do — with or without that natural ability — that makes the difference.

To understand what I am talking about, you have to understand a little bit about the brain and how it works.  No, this isn’t going to be a science lesson — but it could be one of the most important things you will ever learn.

What does the brain do best?  The brain recognizes problems and figures out a way to overcome them.  If you’re walking up the stairs and encounter a closed door at the top, your brain would tell you what to do and you  would automatically try to open that door.   You’ve encountered a lot of closed doors since childhood and your brain learned that you could either open them or you had to turn around and go back.  No matter how many closed doors you come to, you would try to open it.

Now, if you reached the top of those stairs and instead of a closed door you found a huge snake blocking your way, your brain wouldn’t know what to do.  So it panics.  You either turn and run down the stairs or you freeze and can’t move or even scream.  Your brain doesn’t know what to do so it shuts down instead of telling you how to react.

For those of us who are writers, it is referred to as “Writer’s Block”.  But this same thing affects all of us, regardless of what you are trying to do.

You sit down to try to write a sales letter.  You try to tie a bow for the first time.  You stand up in front of a group to talk about your business.  You try to build a website.  You make a cold call to a corporate client that you hope to impress.  You go to a networking function for the first time.  Anytime, you try something new, the brain goes into panic mode.  It quickly scans through all your memories for a memory of success at doing this.  And it fails to find one.

Instead it finds failure.  And fear of failing again.  And you believe that you can’t do it.

Everyone else is just born to write a good sales letter, speak in front of a group, make a cold call, build a website or whatever it is you are trying to do.  They are the talented ones.  You have no talent.

But what you fail to understand is what the brains of these so-called “talented people” are doing.  And why.  The secret that successful writers use to overcome Writer’s Block is the same secret that you can use to overcome “Cold Feet”.

Those who are successful at doing what you are attempting and failing at has a brain that has

  • A memory of success
  • And it’s not just success that happens occasionally or sometimes.
  • It’s success that is a direct result of having structure, a mentor, and a memory filled with success.

They didn’t just sit down in front of the computer and write a great sales letter on the first try.  They weren’t always dynamic speakers.  That first website that they built was pretty pitiful.

They’ve been through the drill before.  In the process, they learned the techniques needed to acquire the skill they were striving for.  And these “talented” people had a teacher or a mentor (or even a book or manual) that helped guide them past the obstacles that lead to failure.  The more the drill is repeated, the more it became ingrained as a part of their memory process.  As a result, they’ve built a structure that makes it possible for them to succeed each time.  And they’ve created a memory bank of successes.

And then suddenly it happens.  You need to build a website that gets results.  You need to stand in front of a group that is looking to spend lots of money on gift baskets.  You call on that corporate client that has a huge holiday budget.

And, if you’ve been through it before, you have the structure and techniques instilled in your memory.  And the memories of success become the dominant ones.  Your brain no longer goes into panic mode.  Instead it whirls through all the memory banks and pulls up just the right one — without your even being aware of the process.

This is the same way that you learned just about everything in life.  It’s how you learned to walk.  Watch a child take his first steps.  He falters and falls.  Mom encourages him to try again.  He pulls himself up using the coffee table for support and tries again.  Over and over until he is walking, then running across the room.  And now, you don’t even think about the techniques, the structure required to walk anywhere you want to go.

Remember when you learned to swim for the first time.  How about riding a bicycle?  That’s why they say, “Once you know how to ride a bicycle, you never forget.”  Actually your brain pulls up that earlier success from your childhood and, even though you may falter a bit in the beginning as the memory of the techniques are whirled into place, you climb on that bicycle and ride away.

So if you’re sick and tired of having cold feet and feeling the fear of failures, stop believing in this myth called “talent.” Do what the so-called “talented ones” have done and create your own memory bank of success.

There are mentors ready to help you, to teach you the techniques, the path to follow and those to avoid.  That is the very reason why I’ve created this website, why Gift Basket Network exists, why we’ve created Gift Retailers Connection magazine and the Gift Industry community and forum , and why I’m continuing to create new opportunities for you to create those memory banks that mean you don’t have to have talent to be a success!