Confessions of an Entrepreneur: Technology's Vital Role in Traditional Retail

Business.com
Confessions of an Entrepreneur: Technology's Vital Role in Traditional Retail
Mon, 04 Feb 2019 04:00:00 -0800

Some people may be surprised to learn the importance tech plays for a fine diamond jeweler. But Jonathan Goldberg understands that it's an essential component of his retail concept, Kimberfire. Based in Toronto, Ontario,  Kimberfire specializes in custom engagement rings and diamond jewelry. Technology is as much of a tool for this jewelry retailer's success as quality craftsmanship and expertise.

Q: What devices do you use daily?

A: "The MacBook Air is my primary computer, which I can take anywhere easily, whether it's to meetings in the city or on travel," says Goldberg. He also uses his iPhone for emails and social media when on the go. Goldberg prefers Apple for his team as well. "We use iMacs throughout our office at employee workstations and as displays used during our client meetings," he says.

Q: What technology do you use to get ahead of your competition?

A: The team at Kimberfire uses a variety of technologies to provide customer service and manage operations. While some, like G Suite and QuickBooks Online, are standard business choices, others keep Kimberfire's projects transparent and running smoothly, like Monday.com.

"It allows the entire team to be aware of pieces that are in production, where they are at in the production process and any timelines involved," says Goldberg. "It also allows team members to communicate with each other on specific jobs that are in process." The Kimberfire team also uses Calendly, which allows clients to see the team's availability and schedule appointments at convenient times for the client.

Q: Is technology a significant enabler for your business?

A: Technology may seem like a strange component in a jeweler's business, but for Goldberg, it's a critical differentiator.

"It allows us to see more clients in an efficient manner, all while maintaining our strict quality and service standards" he added. Yet technology's influence on the business goes beyond customer service. "It also allows me as a business owner to manage the business even when I am unable to be physically present in the office."

Q: Has social media influenced your business at all, from internal employee policies to how you promote your company?

A: As a B2C business, it's important to get in front of a broad array of potential customers. With applications like Hootsuite, Goldberg's team can leverage social media to reach a broad audience while staying on brand.

"Having employees responsible for social media posts and engagement on a daily basis, it's been important to put processes in place for internal review and guidelines," says Goldberg, and the workflow process within Hootsuite allows the team to do that.

Q: Have you had to adapt your business because of security concerns brought about by the increased use of technology?

A: "As a six-year-old business, we've been making heavy use of technology from the beginning," said Goldberg. When it comes to security concerns, though, "We're definitely cognizant of them."

For Kimberfire, a large part of dealing with security concerns is risk mitigation. "We're always evaluating potential risks and ensuring our internal processes mitigate these to the extent possible," he added. "This includes, as mentioned, internal reviews prior to social media posts being published and ongoing employee training."

How to Tell a Good Acquisition From a Dud
Mon, 04 Feb 2019 05:00:00 -0800

Like any ambitious businessperson, I want to court high-quality business deals while sidestepping the stinkers. I’m looking for companies that will either generate operational revenue into the future, or can be sold for a healthy multiple of what I spent on them. In specific terms, I want a return on my total investment (including integration, operation, and improvement costs) in three years or less.

My best acquisitions were often companies I bought for consolidation. These had steady, portable revenue but messy operational processes, so shutting them down and rolling them into another business has proven to be a great strategy. Consolidation grants lots of opportunity to maximize profit while leaving room for error in the integration process. If revenue and market forces remain steady (and the absorbing company has high operational efficiency), it's hard not make money with consolidation.

My worst acquisitions usually came from purchasing standalone companies in an effort to improve their operational efficiency and raise profits without a clear sales growth strategy. When your attention is on efficiency, revenues can slip and eat up the gains you made on the operational side. This happened twice to me in my career.

I can chalk the first incident up to being younger and not fully understanding the risk. The second time was quite a “fool me twice, shame on me” situation — I saw the same risk pattern but thought I was smart enough to get around it. I thought, “What are the odds of this happening again?” Sure enough, it happened again. Ever since that second mistake, I structure the deal so that the seller helps manage as much risk as possible.

These days I evaluate companies for acquisition on three levels: how the deal is structured, how much time the acquisition requires, and what the new company culture ought to look like. 

How is the deal structured?

If you buy a company under advantageous terms, a “bad” company can be a true winner. You should obviously complete due diligence on a company’s market, financials, and operations, but the deal structure is far more central to managing risk and increasing your odds of success. 

How much time will it take?

It’s easy to get hung up on the monetary costs of acquiring and integrating a company, but don’t forget about cost of time, too. You need to be highly aware of the time a new acquisition will require from your existing management and integration teams. One deal might be a walk in the park, but others will need ongoing focus for an extended period of time.

Risks to your time need to be managed on the same level as financial and operational risks. If you miscalculate the time commitment, you’ll end up paying a high opportunity cost down the road. 

What should the company culture look like?

If you are going to purchase a company to keep it operating (instead of  consolidating it into another company), you need to be very aware of the company’s existing culture. You furthermore need to consider how it will fit with the culture that you are bringing to the table.

Turning a good culture into an even better culture is one of the hardest things you can do, and changing bad to good is even harder! You must be aware of how cultures are going to interact and intersect as you begin your integration process.

A company’s sale price is an important statistic for any acquisition, but it doesn’t get at what the company does, what values it holds, or the terms its executives set as company ownership changed hands. When you can effectively manage all these at once, then your acquisition is bound to go smoothly.

Hiring Smart: 10 Do's and Don'ts for Hiring
Mon, 04 Feb 2019 05:00:00 -0800

One of the great things about owning your own business is that it allows you to be completely independent, and in control of every element of the work. Hiring an employee can change that dynamic. You’ll need to work in close quarters and learn to trust someone else to get the job done the way you like it.

However, if you do it right, hiring employees for your small business can open up a range of possibilities for your business. You’ll be able to grow your revenue, take your company in new directions, and maybe even enjoy your work more than ever.

Here are ten tips you can use to find employees that can support you, and help your business reach its potential:

1. Don’t Rush

Just like other aspects of running a business, it all comes down to planning ahead. If you're desperate and feel that you have to take the first candidate you see, you’re unlikely to get the best candidate. Instead, give yourself time to create a hiring plan. This will help you proceed methodically, giving yourself the chance to really get to know people, and attract the type of candidates who appreciate order and organization.

2. Think Hard About Your Needs

Writing a job description is one of the most critical phases of the hiring process. It’s your chance to dig deep and think about what you and your business actually need before you put it to paper. Spend some time examining your own strengths and weaknesses, and figuring out where and how someone else will be able to fill in the gaps. Imagine what the person’s day would look like, and how their position will change your workload. For instance, it may turn out that hiring an independent contractor could be a solution for certain tasks, which would allow you to outsource projects periodically. Or, after reviewing the factors recommended above, you may recognize that you definitely need a full-time employee who can handle a variety of tasks.

3. Understand and Identify What’s Really Important

A great employee should have a good balance of professional skills, motivation, attitude and the ability to learn. The first one is much easier than the others to measure, but that doesn’t mean it’s the most important element. You want an employee with some skills; however, in some cases, a candidate with slightly less experience who is enthusiastic and eager to learn on the job, is usually a better choice than an expert who you can’t rely on.

4. Know What You Have to Offer

If you can’t afford to pay the highest salaries on the market, think about other ways you can attract the best employees. If you’re a small business, you may be able to offer better learning opportunities, or flexibility than a large firm. Maybe you’re located conveniently to a neighborhood without a lot of other employment options, which could make employment with you that much more convenient, and strengthen your roots within your local community. Think about your advantages and recruit accordingly.

5. Think Outside the Box

Diversity is in recruiting is a key factor, and it has a lot to offer your business. Old-school hiring practices often left out some highly talented people, simply because they might not have fit the "traditional image" for a particular profession. For example, you may be able to find great people who were overlooked because they didn’t go to the big-name schools or can’t work standard hours due to family obligations. Plus, it goes beyond mere demographics. You may think a good salesperson is someone who is gregarious and bold, but someone else with a slightly different approach may achieve fantastic sales by being approachable and a good listener. Try to go beyond your preconceptions to find people with unique skills and potential.

6. Ask Specific Questions

Go beyond the classic “tell me about yourself.” Your interview questions should be specific, but open-ended. For instance, try asking people about projects they worked on in the past or former work environments. Have them tell you what they liked and disliked about each. This will help you get an idea of the person’s strengths and what kind of environment they’re likely to thrive in.

7. Don’t Take Their Word for It

You don’t have to run a formal background check these days to get some idea of who your candidate is outside of the interview room. Besides calling references, a simple Google search can go a long way. It won’t reveal everything but it can help verify what’s on a CV and may turn up some red flags.

8. Don't Count on Candidates Accepting Your Job Offer

Candidates always have the option to turn you down. You need to impress your candidates just as much as they need to impress you. Be friendly and considerate of their time throughout your recruiting process. In the interview, provide information about the job and give your interviewee a chance to ask questions. And remember, the questions you choose to ask send messages. For example, even for someone with no family responsibilities, asking (possibly illegal) questions about their home life may hint that you don’t know how to support a healthy work-life balance.

9. Reject Wisely

It’s a small business world and news travels fast. It’s perfectly fine to reject most candidates, but it will reflect well on your business to make sure to be courteous, and appreciate the time the potential candidates invested. It's not polite to disappear once you've ruled out a candidate. Take the time to send a basic thank you email, and let the other candidates know you’ve filled the position. In this case, an email is fine. If you liked the candidate, you can even let them know you’ll keep their application on file. Even if they don’t have the skills you need now, it could save you time later when you do need someone with their particular experience.

10. Don't Hire More Often Than You Need To

Make a solid effort to retain your best employees by making sure they feel appreciated, and giving them room to grow in their positions. There are a lot of ways to do this, so find some that work for you, and make them count. Employee loyalty is a priceless commodity that you won’t be able to find on a resume.

How to Totally Revamp Your Content Strategy Without Losing Your Mind
Mon, 04 Feb 2019 07:00:00 -0800

Great content can be the defining factor that sets your business apart from competitors, but it can certainly be hard to find and create. Even the best marketing teams seem to struggle with the creation process.
 
Most marketing experts will agree that creating unique and valuable content is one of the most challenging tasks on their to-do list. One of the reasons why this is often so difficult is due to the high demand for consistently high-performing content in terms of engagement and quality. Fifty-one percent of marketing teams publish content every single day, which puts a lot of pressure on their writers to constantly come up with fresh ideas.
 
Chances are, even if your team is extremely talented, they have struggled with coming up with great new content over and over again. If your current content marketing isn’t driving in the numbers you’d like to see, or your team’s stream of ideas seems to have run dry, it may be time to rethink things.

Conduct a Thorough SEO Audit

Creating content is more than just writing about something interesting or trending; it also needs to increase your brand’s online visibility and boost its searchability. Knowing the keywords and terms that your audience tends to include in search engine queries is essential for coming up with relevant content topics. But, if your writers are unaware of the optimal keywords to use, it could hurt the effectiveness of their work.
 
Conducting an SEO audit is a great starting point because it not only shows your team the current status of the keywords your website content is utilizing, but it can also identify new ranking opportunities. It’s a good idea to partner with an SEO agency to conduct this audit and analysis because they will be able to offer unbiased advice and recommendations based on thorough research and expertise.

Try New Content Mediums

Switching things up with your content can mean more than just writing about new subjects; it may be quite effective to totally revamp your content style by trying a totally different medium. Visual content like videos and infographics tend to receive higher engagement rates with audiences than traditional blog posts, but one of the latest content trends that many businesses can benefit from is vlogging and podcasting.
 
Vlogging (video blogging) is highly engaging because it gives your content a face and a personality through the people sharing it. This type of content is also fairly easy to produce, depending on the type of format you wish to use. It can be as simple as sitting a few of your marketing leaders down in front of a camera and filming them discuss a particular subject or reading off the highlights of a previously published piece. Podcasting has also been on the rise and is becoming quite a popular way to quickly consume content during commutes or downtime.

Look for Missed Niche Audiences

When it comes to targeting audiences, small can often be better. Honing in on the niche segments within your business’s audience is important for increasing engagement and building important connections with your customers.
 
If your team’s content has been falling flat or engagement rates are simply not where they need to be, it may be time to reassess your audience niches. Your customer’s preferences and interests can change and shift over time, and there may be new niche groups that have formed since your last analysis. Be sure to regularly reexamine audience data and observe shifts and changes in important demographic areas -- such as age groups, locations or overall interests. Finding these new audiences can help your content team come up with new topic ideas that speak to these niche segments and strengthen the engagement rates with these small yet mighty groups.

Experiment and Track

Trying out something totally new and changing the traditional approach that you’ve always followed may be just what your team needs for inspiration. For instance, your marketing team may want to give employee advocacy a try and encourage the entire workplace to share their thoughts and experiences on the business’s content outlets and social media pages.
 
The important thing here is to actually give things a shot and give them enough time to determine whether or not it actually works. Just because your first video content piece doesn’t receive a lot of views doesn’t mean that it was a total bust. It takes time to figure out what works and what doesn’t, and your team will find ways to adjust and improve their efforts overtime. However, it is still important to constantly track important metrics, such as engagement rates, audience reach, and conversion percentages to see if there is an upward trend.

Check Out a Competing Brand’s Content

While you obviously want to be extremely careful not to copy your competition, there is no harm in using their content strategies as inspiration. If there is a competing brand that really resonates well with an audience that is similar to your own, encourage your content marketing team to identify patterns in their strategies that seem to be working. On the flip side, your team may also benefit from checking out struggling brands and seeing what content approaches they should avoid.

A stagnant content strategy simply cannot support a growing business. Keeping things fresh and exciting is certainly a challenge, but staying inspired and finding ways to switch things up can help your marketing team create better and more engaging content on a consistent basis.

Kamyar Shah
12 Mistakes That Can Destroy Your Personal Brand
Mon, 04 Feb 2019 11:31:00 +0000
Lack Of Consistency In Your Brand Voice
One of the main pillars of branding is consistency, both in tone and subject matter. It is also one of the rather common issues that hinder or damage a brand. Insistence on diverting from a steady voice is inherently contrary to consistency, which in turn can create confusion as well as illustrate a lack of planning. Hence, consistency should be part of long-term planning for any entity. - Kamyar ShahWorld Consulting Group
Originally published at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2019/01/25/12-mistakes-that-can-destroy-your-personal-brand/#62f76fea6ab9
How To Decide If An Open Floor Plan Is Right For Your Business
Mon, 04 Feb 2019 11:34:00 +0000
Study The Data And Experiment
Much like most decisions in business, the physical layout of an office should not be subjective. It should be based on historical industry data and available case studies combined with experimentation and data analysis. The end goal of creating a more physically inviting space for collaboration and productivity purposes should be the result of a scientific examination and repeatable results. - Kamyar ShahWorld Consulting Group
Originally published at https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2019/01/30/how-to-decide-if-an-open-floor-plan-is-right-for-your-business/#688a321e72e5
12 Tips For Managing Coworker Relationships After You've Been Promoted
Mon, 04 Feb 2019 11:36:00 +0000
Be A Servant Leader
The assumption that the nature of the relationships among coworkers inherently changes after a promotion is an outdated notion. The personal and professional relationships both tend to stay the same if the promotion is treated as an additional venue to help others succeed. Servant leadership will inherently result in the elimination of the promotion noise and its impact on team dynamics. - Kamyar ShahWorld Consulting Group
Originally published at https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2019/01/31/12-tips-for-managing-coworker-relationships-after-youve-been-promoted/#46ca7fb2445d
Are Incentives A Good Employee Motivator? 15 Coaching Experts Weigh In
Mon, 04 Feb 2019 11:40:00 +0000
Rewarding Human Nature Is Essential
Most rational actors have a positive reaction to incentives. Choosing to address a natural need for recognition via any method of reward or incentive is inherently in line with what comes naturally. Granted that it is debatable what kind of reward or incentive should be selected, there is no doubt that since it is one of the natural desires, it has the greatest chance of success. - Kamyar ShahWorld Consulting Group
Originally published at https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2019/02/01/are-incentives-a-good-employee-motivator-15-coaching-experts-weigh-in/#571e9e536dcf

Pop Quiz, Monday with Kamyar Shah
Mon, 04 Feb 2019 11:43:00 +0000

Can you please tell everyone your name?Kamyar Shah
What is your job role?Remote COO & Remote CMO
Tell us about your company?World Consulting Group is a premier management consulting firm.
What do you love most about your job?The ability to assist clients to achieve their goals quicker.
What motivates you to get up every day and go to work?My goal to help entrepreneurs be better at what they do is a primal motivator for me.
How do your co-workers inspire you?My team members problem-solving skills are extremely inspirational.
How do you have fun at work (team building, pranks, etc..)?Gamification of problem-solving allows my team and I to solve problems while having fun.
What are some of the challenges of your job?The biggest challenge I encounter is convincing entrepreneurs to delegate tasks instead of doing it themselves.
What are some lessons learned from a past project that you can share with us?Mind the reality of perception: good intentions are pointless if it interferes with the reality of others.
What advice would you give to someone who is starting in your industry?The most important advice is to learn quickly where and how to acquire knowledge and maintain cutting edge know-how.
Thank you for taking our pop quiz today. You get an A+ for effort. You can learn more about our interviewee and their business by visiting them on the web:
Site: 
Originally published at https://thestartupgrowth.com/2019/02/03/pop-quiz-monday-with-kamyar-shah/
HBR.org
2019-02-04T13:05:08Z

They help low performers but hurt high performers.

2019-02-04T14:00:13Z

Not everyone wants the added stress and responsibility.

2019-02-04T15:00:37Z

To make real progress, countries must coordinate.

2019-02-04T16:00:26Z

And how to do it better.

2019-02-04T17:00:24Z

And how they’re using them.

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