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4 Simple Ways to Create Amazing Customer Service

Tuesday, October 18, 2016
By John Bocker


I visited a small specialty retailer tonight and was amazed to unfortunately experience all of the missed opportunities for the establishment to make money!  I could have spent more then $200 but actually left empty handed.  I have been a retailer across various categories for more than 25 years and continue to be amazed at how much under-utilized information and training is available for retail businesses everywhere. Yet when it comes down to providing great service to sell a product, I continue to find the majority of sales personnel in retail missing the primary opportunities to maximize the sale.  Why is this a continuing issue and what can business owners do to correct it?

Retailers across America selling all types of products including tools and hardware, beauty products, apparel, sporting goods, and now even cannabis in Colorado are finding it very difficult to achieve their sales goals and are frequently scratching their heads and wondering why they're falling short of daily sales expectations. Sadly, I also continue to hear from business leaders that “we’ll make it up next week” and other excuses that fall short of addressing the obvious.  In this article I will outline four key areas that can quickly turn businesses around with management leadership focusing on the important selling behaviors that matter most.

These best practices have been proven through “A-Team” exercises over and over again where the best selling employees in the company were assigned to execute to the highest degree possible for a short period of time in a specific store. The behaviors and activities were choreographed, specialty areas were specifically assigned to team members, participants were monitored and supported by business coaches, and all were challenged with “stretch” sales goals.  In every A-Team exercise, the results blew away sales expectations!

1.  Hire the right person!  How many times have you heard this? 
One of my greatest mentors showed me the real impact of requiring retail sales candidates to actually move to the sales floor during the in-person screening process and actually “sell” a specific product to the interviewer.  This simple exercise really challenged the true capabilities of the candidate and revealed whether or not they actually possessed the skill-set, personality, courage, demeanor, presentation skills and product knowledge to be hired as a great sales person. Any candidate can say they know how to sell, and any candidate can say they really want to be a sales person but when you actually put them to the test of impromptu selling, you can quickly and easily validate those who are and are not qualified to represent you well and be a great sales person.

2. Set the expectation

Set the expectation with each sales person that every guest that walks into your business has the potential to purchase thousands of dollars in product if provided the best service and sales attention possible!  We’ve all been amazed when this happens and we celebrate such events but why not think of this as a standard instead of the exception?  When you set the bar very high, it exemplifies the fact that every customer can be the “magical customer” if treated with respect, made to feel important, treated as a “VIP”, and provided outstanding customer service beyond anything he/she can get from any other retailer in the area. Every employee should understand the simple fact that every customer who visits your business will maximize their spend if you qualify their needs, provide a solution, provide great service and build a relationship with that customer.

3.  Engage with every guest

Engage with every guest first by understanding whom they are, where they work or live, their name, their needs and how you can fulfill their total expectations. Today's retail world is unfortunately still filled with sales people who use the old-fashioned and tired approach of “Can I help you?” “Help you find something?” “Find what you're looking for?” and in the worst-case scenario, no approach at all. Today's consumer who is willing to spend as much as necessary for great service and product solutions is just waiting to be over- serviced as a “VIP” and approach that makes them feel special, respected, valued and important. When your customers feel all of these emotions, they become a customer for life and price becomes less important. Great selling is about relationships and rapport and not about price. If your sales people can understand the value of a relationship, you will win in so many ways! This is critical to your success as a retail owner and cannot be left for chance. This process has to be modeled, coached, validated, reinforced, recognized and applauded when executed correctly. Miss any of these aspects of the great sales process, and you will never achieve your full potential as a business owner.

4.  Coach your sales people to genuinely thank and reaffirm with every customer

Lastly, coach your sales people to genuinely thank and reaffirm with every customer how important they are to the business, how excited you are that they have visited with you, confirm that you filled every need that they had and go the extra steps to find out what their future needs are and build a lasting relationship.   Building your client relationship is more important than ever in today’s competitive marketplace. And it's the same reason so many people return over and over to their favorite coffee house, restaurant or lunch spot. There are several great retailers that do this well and if you can model their sales activities and professionalism, you can build your own mini super-retailer reputation and brand that will prompt customers to brag about you and become raving fans of your business. 

And don't forget that if you can build a team that executes to these four points, you owe it to the team to recognize and reward them in creative, sincere, fun and relative ways.


John Bocker is a professional retail and hospitality business strategy consultant specializing in maximizing profitability, risk management, employee integrity, training, and driving success! John is Founder and Principal at JB Group, LLC based in Denver, Colorado where he partners with business leaders to exceed sales and profit expectations.  Visit www.jbgroupco.com or call (720) 514-0609 for more information.

How to Get Your Business On Google's Map and the First Page of Google Search Engine Results

Thursday, October 13, 2016
By Kendra Fernandez


Local businesses struggle with gaining an online presence when it comes to Google search results. This tutorial should answer the question, "How do I get my business on Google and the Google Map?". Approximately, only 37% of businesses have claimed their listing on Google's map. If you do this today, chances are you will be one step ahead of your competition!



7 Steps to Start a Business

Wednesday, July 06, 2016
  By Kat Rico
  


Ok, so it can end up being more complicated than 7 steps, but we’ll do our best to keep it concise for you. Do yourself a favor and hold off on the business cards until you’ve completed these steps.

*Disclaimer: Depending on your industry, where your business is located, and the type of business you are operating, this may not be a complete list. As a business owner, YOU are responsible for complying with the law. Do your due diligence BEFORE starting your business.*


  1. 1. Location check – Where will your business be located? If you’re operating out of your home, you need to check with your landlord or HOA to make sure you are not violating any clauses about home based businesses. If you’re renting a space, verify with your landlord and the city/municipality that your business will not violate any existing zoning laws.

  2. 2. License check – Some businesses require special licenses that can take months to apply for. Colorado has an “Occupational License Database” online at: http://www.advancecolorado.com/business-colorado/occupational-license-database.

  3. 3. Local registration – You may or may not need to register your business with your city or county, you’ll want to check both to make sure. This can also vary if your business is home based. The key to look for is a “Business” section on their website, from there you should see information about potential licensing requirements. While you’re there, pay attention to how to pay sales and use tax if this applies to your business, you may need a separate tax license.

  4. 4. State registration – In Colorado, you must register your business with the Colorado Secretary of State. Again, look for a “Business” section and you’ll find information about how to register your business. The entity type you register as will affect your taxes as well as how much legal separation there is between you and your business, so choose carefully. It can also be difficult and expensive to change your entity type after you’ve started, so again, research is key. You can search here and make sure your desired business name is available in your state as well.

  5. 5. Federal registration – For tax purposes, you’ll likely need to register for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) through the IRS online. Your entity selection will affect how income from your business appears on your tax return and whether or not you’ll be responsible for paying estimated taxes.

  6. 6. Separate your banking – This is a really big deal, even for small single owner businesses. Set up a separate bank account! Your banker will need your EIN and to see you’re in good standing with the Secretary of State. Both your accountant and attorney will recommend you don’t ‘pierce the corporate veil,’ which in essence means that you are walking, talking and acting like a business, and this is especially important with finances. If you co-mingle funds or operate your business from a personal bank account, not only will your accountant charge you more to sort it out, but it can put all of your funds in a legally liable position if something goes wrong.

  7. 7. Walk the walk, talk the talk – Now you can do things like buy business cards, technology for your business, take jobs and make sales under your official business name. You’ve still got a long way to go towards building your dream business, but you’re going in the right direction!

Still lost? Check out our upcoming workshops for "Start-Up Orientation" for classroom training, or register for consulting.

10+ Retail Holiday Marketing Tips

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Our partner location the Larimer SBDC recently held a "Retail Holiday Boot Camp" after hours event. Presenter Alyson MacMullan of Peak Retail Group gave some great takeaways that we wanted to share for retailers to remember as they enter their holiday planning period.

1. Lay all your key dates from November through January (yes, January) on a physical calendar
• Sometimes you may see correlations on paper that aren’t obvious in a digital format.• Small Business Saturday is November 28th this year!
2. Determine your goals for the holiday season
• Do you want more sales in dollars or in transactions? Do you have targets for how much inventory you want to move? Are you aiming for less January markdowns?• If you don’t have data from last year to drive your goals, make sure you begin collecting it this year! What works? What doesn’t?
3. Pick a color pallet for your store displays and stick to it!  
• Highlight high margin inventory in your displays.• Hint: It doesn’t have to be red and green, in fact, your store’s brand colors work very well! 
4. Consider all elements for the in-store experience: Sights, sounds, smells 
• Offer extras like a free stocking stuffer, free gift wrapping and bounce back offers with every purchase.• Do everything you can to keep shopping stress-free and easy for your customers. 
5. Proper staffing is a challenge for retailers during the holidays
• Signs are your silent salespeople. Make them informative and interesting so customers can answer their own simple questions.• Arm your salespeople with mobile payment options so they can help customers avoid lines at the register.
6. Social media is your friend!
• Post every day! Use a planning/scheduling service like SnapRetail, Hootsuite or SproutSocial to help you plan out several days in one easy shot.• People love contests and flash sales, utilize these techniques!• An image is worth 1,000 posts. Show your staff decorating the store!
7. E-mail is your friend too, but be cautious.
• Find an e-mail template and stick with it for the season. It will make your life easier and your customers will recognize your communications.• ONE offer per e-mail only, and keep it clean and concise. People are already stressed during the holidays, your communication should make it easy for them.
8. 12 Days of Christmas Promotions are very effective!
• Drive traffic into your store by offering serious discounts (50-75% off) on a high margin, highly stocked item each day.• These are top secret deals! Resist the urge to reveal the promos early. Pre-schedule deal communication to save yourself a headache.
9. Your merchandise assortment shouldn’t vary dramatically during the holidays; the majority of your stock should be tried and true items
• NEVER run out of your top sellers, that’s a missed opportunity!• Don’t accept late deliveries from your vendors. Communicate clearly and directly when you need your merchandise by and if they can’t meet your deadlines, don’t accept deliveries.
10. Restock key items for January and mix up the look of your store

Sound like a lot of information? We assure you, this was only the tip of the iceberg! 

If you’re a retailer and need help digesting and applying this information, we encourage you to schedule with a North Metro Denver SBDC consultant now to help with planning out your holiday strategy!

Call for Small Business Instructors!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Do you have valuable knowledge or a particular set of skills you'd like to share with small business owners? The North Metro Denver SBDC is seeking instructors to develop and teach new classes in Westminster beginning in January 2016. We are entering our planning stages now, so please submit your ideas and contact information to:

Marty Holladay
marty.holladay@frontrange.edu
Program Coordinator
North Metro Denver SBDC

We're looking for classes that will be unique and challenging for our entrepreneurs. Volunteering to teach a class with the SBDC is a great way to share your expertise with new business owners and contribute to a more diverse economic community. Contact us today!

10 Signs You Need Better a Better Understanding of Your Business Finances

Friday, September 04, 2015
      by Brian Cathcart, CPA, MS
Larimer SBDC Consultant
The Financial Lab

You are probably really good at providing the products and/or services of your business. But you might not feel so competent or confident about the accounting and financial analysis part of your business. Maybe you need to change your mindset regarding your financial reporting as something to get excited about. 

Don’t you get excited about things that make you money?  Financial reporting and analysis makes you money!

10 Signs You Need Better a Better Understanding of Your Business Finances
  1. You don’t know the role of accounting or what accounting means. 
  2. You are not using financial information regularly to make better business decisions.
  3. You don’t know how to calculate your break even or how to calculate sales necessary to achieve a desired level income.
  4. You don’t know what accounting infrastructure means.
  5. You don’t know what accrual based accounting means.
  6. You don’t understand why the balance sheet is the most important financial statement.
  7. You don’t understand why it is necessary or how to perform monthly reconciliations and close the books.
  8. You have a large accounting role without adequate training and education.
  9. You are a business owner or manager that would like to freshen up on all this accounting stuff.
  10. You are not excited about monthly financial analysis.
Do any of those strike a chord with you? The good news is the Larimer SBDC is here to help! We have free, confidential, individual business consulting with professionals like myself who understand the impact financials have on your business growth, as well as several upcoming training options. 

Check out the following helpful classes that are coming up soon:

Friday, October 2 9:00 AM - 11:30 AM
Quick Books Step 1 - Getting Started 
Brighton 
Friday October 9 9:00 AM - 11:30 AM
Quick Books Step 2 - Setting Preferences
Brighton
Tuesday, October 13 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Tax 101
Westminster
Monday, October 19 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Accounting Basics Designed for Entrepreneurs (2 Sessions)
Westminster

Need help sooner? Classes don't fit your schedule? 

Click here to request an appointment.


Leading Edge Fall 2015 Registration Open

Thursday, August 20, 2015
Spring 2015 Leading Edge Graduates

Starting a business is not for the faint-hearted. Most of us were never taught to be business owners: we were taught to be employees. This 10 week course is designed to help entrepreneurs develop a business strategy and/or business plan through a discovery process that starts with a business concept, moves to designing and testing for a viable (profitable) business structure that results in a executable plan of action (business plan). It is in a blended learning format that combines an online learning platform with classroom time. The online learning platform will be filled not only with the information needed to write a business plan, but to actually start and run a business. Class time will be dedicated to interactive learning exercises and guest experts to act as guides for your business success. Depending on individual needs, you will complete either a formal written business plan or an internal working strategy that outlines actionable steps with measurable outcomes and time-bound deadlines. The course registration fee includes one participant and access to the online training materials and business resource library.

For multiple registration or more information, please call 303-460-1032 after your initial registration. Unregistered guests will not be admitted to the course. Seating is limited. 

WHAT TO EXPECT:

  • - Peer learning with a group of like-minded entrepreneurs
  • - Minimum of five hours of one-on-one consulting assistance
  • - Access to an online resource library with videos, white papers, financial spreadsheets and templates to help you build your plan of action
  • - Ten three-hour weekly classroom sessions including interactive group work and guest speakers; plus reading assignments, online presentations, group discussion forums, and homework assignments
  • - Introduction to potential lenders at a funding options panel
  • - Feedback on your business plan or strategy three times during the course
  • - Entry into a business plan competition for a chance to win prizes and have your business plan reviewed by a banker and an accountant
  • - Optional participation in Trout Tank, a pitch event held one month after graduation where you will pitch your idea to lenders and receive feedback from a panel 

IMPORTANT DATES 

Free Info Session | September 15, 2015 | 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm | Click here to register
Registration Deadline | September 26, 2015
Weekly Course Sessions | September 29, 2015 - December 8, 2015 (Skips November 24)
Tuesday evenings | 6:00 pm - 9:00 p.m.

10-week course
$495 Regular Course Fee
Additional Guest - Please call 303-460-1032

Register for the Fall 2015 10-Week Course


» Notify me when the next class is scheduled



North Metro Denver SBDC 2nd Quarter Update

Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Photos courtesy of Kim Liddard
By Kat Rico

On July 29th, the North Metro Denver SBDC held its second quarter consultant and facilitator training. Between the main Westminster office at Front Range Community College (FRCC), Brighton and Broomfield satellites, the North Metro Denver SBDC reported year to date consulting hours of 1,116, with reported 16 business starts, $799,000 in new capital formation, $1.2 million in increased sales and 38 jobs created through July 2015. 

During this meeting, two key players from the SBDC were recognized for their contributions towards these goals. Jon Jaggers, who was previously awarded “Consultant of the Year” in 2014 for the Colorado SBDC Network, was awarded “Consultant of the Year” by the North Metro Denver SBDC. He has been a crucial component in the developing manufacturing program that aims to help small businesses implement LEAN processes and secure better contracts, allowing these businesses to grow faster. 

Linda Kielian was recognized as the North Metro Denver SBDC “MVP.” She has been with the SBDC for about two years in a part-time capacity. Her efforts are largely behind the scenes, coordinating many of the administrative and financial processes that are needed to run classes, complete reporting and more. 

The North Metro Denver SBDC at FRCC is looking towards the future and the growth of the manufacturing program and our continued impact throughout 2015.  

Consultant Feature - Jesse Esparza

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Jesse Esparza has been consulting with the North Metro Denver SBDC for about 8 years now. He has a long and varied career that he draws upon during consulting sessions, as well as bilingual skills he puts to use teaching classes.

In the video embedded below, Jesse offers up some common hurdles for entrepreneurs to beware of as well as some great tips for getting started as a business owner.


Subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay up to date with what our center is doing, get more information about our consultants and more!


Are Business Plans Dead?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015
by Kat Rico

Business plans have long been touted as the method for success if you are starting a new venture, but is the traditional business plan dead? Many entrepreneurs are intimidated by the idea of creating a document that can end up being in excess of 30 pages, let alone determining which sections they need and what goes in them. It’s also easy to assume that if you’re a small business (whatever your definition of small is), you don’t need a business plan, especially if you’re not seeking financing. 

So do you really need a business plan?
Short answer: Yes.


A business plan should be a guiding document for your business as a whole. It is not a static document that you create once, leave and never look at again. Your business plan should be what guides your vision and drives actions for all the decisions your business will make. Ideally, you should be revisiting your business plan at least annually, maybe even quarterly, to make sure you are on the right track. 

Does it need to be a massive 30 page document?
Short answer: Maybe not.

Not all businesses are the same, so it make sense that not all business plans need to be the same. Following are key elements you should have in any business plan, traditional or not:
Executive Summary – This is a short summary of what is in your plan, including what your vision for your business is, what your product or service is, and who will buy it. Do yourself a favor and write this section last, even though it is at the front of your plan.
Marketing Plan – Include information about the demographics of where you will be doing business and who your customers are, as well as how you will reach them (flyers, social media, website, events, etc.).
Operations – Give a snapshot of what the day-to-day practices of your business will look like, who will be your suppliers and who your key partners are.
Financials – This is arguably the most important part of your business plan. Where is the money coming from, where is it going, and how long will it take for your business to be profitable? Be honest about this section, overinflating numbers won’t do you any favors in the long run.
Goals – Use the SMART framework for setting your business goals for the next year, three years and five years out. This will help guide your decisions in the meantime and give you something to celebrate when you hit milestones.

While a traditional business plan may be overkill for some businesses, it is a very important guiding document, and the look of it will vary depending on how it is being used. You may even end up with two or three versions of it, one for you as the business owner, one to show to potential investors, and one for your management team.

Don’t let the process of writing this plan intimidate you! It is best that you, as the business owner, write this plan yourself as opposed to hiring someone to do it for you, because the plan will mean more to you in the end. There are templates available for free online to get you started, and the North Metro Denver SBDC is here to help with free, confidential one-on-one consulting, as well as classes designed specifically to help you write a business plan.