The Spurs have been consistent. Yes, I realize that is an understatement, but it is their key to excellence. Their business model is based on their vision; to consistently put a winning team on the court and consistently win games.
Is was Vince Lombardi that said "Winning is not a sometime thing, it is an all the time thing. You don't do things right once in a while...you do them right all the time."
From the coach, to the front office, to the players to the ownership, they have been consistent in their efforts, teamwork, dedication and their drive for success. The Spurs have consistently put athletes in positions that play to their strengths, while some of these athletes may have been waived or passed over by other teams in the league they came to San Antonio for a dramatic renaissance or make a Lazarus like comeback. The Spurs have consistently exercised discipline and focus, not just on the court but off the court as well which is why you would be hard pressed to find a player make the tabloid pages. While some may think of consistency as repetition or becoming predictable, it is providing predictable, reliable results every time. Coach Pop consistently looks for ways to improve his game plans by adjusting and tuning his offensive and defensive game strategy. This last season was a great example of this. After the loss in the finals of the previous season, Coach Pop went back and looked at game tapes and came to one conclusion, the ball needs to move faster. He adjusted his offensive strategy, the team adopted and embraced the new direction. The team was able to provide consistent results, all players contributed regardless of their time on the court and the season culminated in a championship. Consistency allows for measurement, accountability, relevance and establishes your reputation.
My father would tell me; "Consistency, Consistency, Consistency!" My dad was consistent in the things he did in his career and his personal life. It was something that he picked up in the Army with the 2nd Infantry Division. I think back on my fathers life especially now that he passed in June. He was interred at Ft. Sam Houston with full military honors being a veteran of The Korean War. Dad believed that consistency was the source of excellence, the path of success. You had to get good at what you do and be consistent about it. To my dad it was the only way.
It is consistently giving up a good opportunity for a great one, consistently working on and mastering your fundamentals, consistently managing your business and cash flow and consistently providing great customer service/experience.
Consistently doing things right all the time will ensure that your small organization has a long and successful run.
The Spurs emphasize the fundamentals, passing, shooting, blocking and playing together. Even Tim Duncans nickname was The Big Fundamental (before being named Old Man Riverwalk) Fundamentals are the foundation for any endeavor. If you want to build a strong house, a strong relationship, a strong sports team or a strong small business you need master the fundamentals for a solid foundation. For small businesses those fundamentals fall under financial, marketing and customer service.
Cash flow is the life blood of any business. Without a firm understanding of your finances and the effects operational decisions have you can't get to the awesome marketing campaigns. Many startups run out of money before they get to breakeven or even bringing a product to market. Good financial fundamentals include financial controls, good data, financial reports, budgets, forecasts and a financial strategy. None of this is sexy but it's vital. Without cash you can't do anything else.
Next is your marketing. Before you get sold on glossy marketing materials and splashy ad campaigns there some fundamentals. What is your brand or your business all about? To advertise you need to communicate about yourself and have a call to action. Measurements, what is the ROI on your marketing? What campaign is bringing in clients? Is that billboard bringing in clients or are people so distracted by the radio or texting to see your billboard? A good marketing expert will learn about your business to determine the most effective way of communicating your brand and not be afraid of measuring marketing effectiveness.
Customer service is huge as well. You have to leave your customers with a positive experience every time. Take care of the need first. Customers feel better when they feel you are looking out for them by asking what the need is and providing options that fit. This also build a degree of trust which can go a long way to providing repeat and referral business.
These are some of the fundamentals that can help drive small business success. As with all fundamentals these need to be worked on consistently to ensure and allow you to build your own championship organization.
The San Antonio Spurs have won their fifth championship. The Spurs now have the highest winning percentage of not just any basketball organization but any sports organization and have broken a number of records in the last two finals. Forbes lists the Spurs as number 10 on Forbes NBA Team valuations
One of the thoughts stressed by coach Popovich is give up a good shot for a great shot. This entails a player not taking or passing on an opportunity for a good shot and give the ball to a teammate who is in a position to take a great shot. This brings to mind a comment I once read that says you have to say no to the good so you can say yes to the best.
There are opportunities and choices that are good, but are they the best? There is always a limit to the time and resources available but this is more pronounced for small business owners. Small business owners do not have the cash flow or other resources of larger organizations and so being able to do this is more critical to small business owners.
Knowing the difference between good and best means knowing what is needed. What qualities are required, what needs have to be fulfilled? You need a benchmark in your mind to know when opportunities are good and when they are great. You also have to be realistic, while having a vision and a full checklist is good you also need to know that you will only get close to getting everything on that list. You also have to be able to walk away from an opportunity. Having a benchmark or vision of what the best solution or opportunity is will help, but it can still be hard to walk away from opportunities. Remember, as a small business owner you may have to walk away from many good opportunities to be able to accept great ones.
While no one wants to give up a good shot at an opportunity saying no will leave you open for taking a great shot down the road and help you build your own world class organization.
We recently started up our postcard mailing initiative. This is where we send postcards to prospective businesses letting them know about our small business and the value we could provide them. Again as in other years we found a substantial stack of postcards returned due to incorrect address.
While it could be said that these businesses are not getting solicitations in the mail, they may also not be getting potential clients. Making sure that your contact information for your business is correct is very important. In the past it would have been as easy as letting the yellow pages know you moved or changed phone numbers, but with the large number of sites on the internet along with social media where you can list your business the risk of incorrect contact information or location address is high.
Today we can find anything we need via our smart phones. I can walk down the street and if I was in the mood for a particular food or meal I would pull out my smart phone and search the internet for the nearest restaurant. If that restaurant has moved to the part of time I am at but has not updated their information I will not know about them, therefore I won't visit them.
If you have moved recently or need to update your contact information here is a list of sites you might want to review to make sure that they are up to date:
1) State of Texas - Make sure your address and contact information is up to date with the state. You can either file a form (include fee) or wait until you file your Franchise Tax to update your information.
2) IRS - Make sure your address and contact information is up to date with IRS. IRS now charges a penalty if you do not file an update by the deadline.
3) Social media - Update your contact info on Facebook, Google Adwords, Google Places, etc. This is important especially if you are using Google since anyone performing a Google search automatically gets routed to Google maps and locations from Google Places
4) Internet list pages - there are so many listing pages that allow you to post your business for free that it's easy to forget that you have your information there. Keep a spreadsheet with a list of the sites you have your business on. That way if you ever need to update your information you can see what sites need to be updated.
Marketing your small business is hard enough, make sure it's easy for potential clients to find you.
Technology and crime
Times have changed and technology has changed the way we operate but technology has also changed the way criminals operate.
While some criminals may attempt to hack into a bank or other institutions to take our information, in some instances they can get it directly from us.
One of the most common is known as Phishing. In phishing an authentic looking email is sent perhaps stating that access to an account or subscription needs to be updated. A link redirects users to what appears to be the official website using maliciously registered or hacked domain names and victims unknowingly will provide personal information such as ID or passwords. In 2013 there were 72,758 phishing attacks worldwide.
Some phishing emails may have an attachment that installs a keylogger software to your pc that records every keystroke and then sends it back to the criminal.
While large corporations have set up departments within their IT organizations dedicated to prevent cyber crimes against their organizations small businesses are vulnerable to these attacks. But there are steps you can take to prevent from becoming a victim.
1) Beware of emails from unrecognized senders and/or emails that ask for personal information. Most organizations will not ask for your ID or password. If you have doubts you can always contact the organization by phone to verify an email is legitimate. (Never use a phone number from a suspicious email since it may be part of the phishing attempt)
2) Never click on links on emails or open attachments from emails from unrecognized senders. These can take you to alternate websites to gather your information or to install malicious sofware.
3) Make sure you have firewalls, spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware on your pc. This may prevent such emails or detect malicious software within the email.
4) Always check your accounts regularly. Always open a new web browser and type the web address. This will ensure that you land on the official website.
Preventive measures can help small businesses and their owners from ensuring that they are less likely to become victims of a cyber crime.
Tax Time & bookkeeping
Welcome to the New Year! What does this year hold in store for us as small businesses? While no one can accurately predict the future we can look at trends and current conditions to get an idea what to expect.
BBVA Compass expects 2014 to be the first year where the recovery reaches the most Americans since 2006. Wells Fargo Economics expect big gains for Texas in 2014 as it continues to benefit from a stream of new residents (Texas is ranked No. 1 in in-migration nationally for two straight years), boosted retail sales and tightened housing markets. Both banks expect Texas to benefit from stronger U.S. and global economic growth.
Some of the projections from both banks economists are:
Oil and gas - This industry is still a driver in Texas but the fast pace of growth has slowed down. YTD productions fell reflecting low gas prices. The economists see more investments in pipeline construction and expansion/development of refinery operations.
Technology - Growth in mobile devices, cloud computing, big data and social media created a recent surge in hiring in Austin. The mix in Tech is moving from aerospace to more computer system design, architectural and engineering. Companies in data analytics and data security are also opening in Texas metro areas.
Housing - sales grew 7.6% from a year ago which is more than twice the national average, driven by the strong population growth and declining unemployment rate. This has also left home supplies at their lowest levels in two decades. Wells Fargo economists noted a recent decline in construction employment but noted that this came from heavy and civil engineering projects.
Retail Trade - Year over year retail gains are driven by stronger population, employment and income growth. More consumers are buying online, but despite this hiring at brick and mortar retailers is up 4.4% in Texas from a year ago. Fastest growing employment in Texas can be found at building material stores followed by clothing stores and auto dealers.
Regardless of your industry it appears that 2014 could be a very good year for Texas overall.
Business data, business information
Information or business data is critical to the success of any business but even more so for a small businesses. This information can not only let you know when there are issues with your business but can also be used to help guide decisions for critical business initiatives and ventures.
But getting the right business information requires having certain elements to ensure that the information you are basing your decisions on is accurate and relevant.
I spent several years as a business analyst providing information, reporting and decision support to business leaders and have found the following is necessary:
Good data - remember GIGO? (garbage in, garbage out) It is important to ensure that the data you are entering into your systems and software is correct if not any report based on this data is irrelevant and useless. Good data provides a strong foundation for business reporting, analysis and decision support.
Relevant data - Not only does the information that is entered need to be accurate, you have to determine what information is important to capture. You know you need sales and the date of sales but what other information is important? Do you need the location of the sale to compare the performance between markets? You can't analyze business performance with data you do not have.
Ask the right business question - This one is a bit tricky. Business reporting and business analysis requires pulling relevant data and applying parameters. If you ask the wrong business question you may pull the wrong data element or use the wrong parameters. It is important to fully understand what information you need or what business decision you need to make.
The three elements above are important in ensuring that business leaders have the information they need to make the best business decision possible for their small business.
Mobil apps for small businesses
With the move to mobile devices applications are turning smartphones and tablets into productivity tools for your small business. Need to fax something or scan it? No problem, just take a picture with your phone and send it via email or text. But what other functions can you perform on your mobile device that may be beneficial to your small business? Here are a few mobile apps that are available.
Need to store files but keep them accessible? Dropbox is an app where you can store files in a cloud and easily retrieve them. Dropbox provides 2 Gigabytes free and the app is free as well.
Need to jot notes or ideas? Try Evernote. Again, the app is a cloud based app that allows you to save notes and not only retrieve them later, but allows you to search by keyword or tag.
Need to process a credit or debit card? Apps such as Square allow you to plug in a small swipe device and your mobile phone becomes a credit card processing machine. Several of the apps charge a percentage of the transaction amount and the app and sometimes the dongle are free.
Need to have a virtual meeting? Skype and WebEx allows for virtual meetings. Skype allows for face to face and WebEx gives you the ability to share files so that those you are meeting with can view the files as you review them.
Need to review files created in Office? Docs to Go is a mobile app that allows you to open, Word, Excel and PowerPoint files and even allows you to create Word and Excel documents.
Too many passwords to remember? Password Keeper and other applications like it have the ability to keep user id's, passwords and even the website url giving people the ability to store all their passwords in one application. So instead of trying to remember all your passwords or having a list, you only need one password, the one to get into the password keeper app.
With mobile technologies capacity continuing to grow the mobile platform will have continue to see newer and better applications that can help with running a small business.
Answering your business calls
We live in an age where people tweet to one another or message via Facebook, but some people still reach out via the phone. With all of the technology that has come up, some people have forgotten the lost art of answering a business call.
How you answer your phone can be just as important as any marketing strategy or campaign that you come up with. It is the first contact and first impression that potential clients get when they speak with you or anyone in your business.
Cathy Hernandez is the owner and operator of A&A Virtual Office, a locally owned answering, transcribing and administrative services firm that has been the front desk for many small businesses and entrepreneurs. Cathy is experienced and well versed in the art of the business call. She provided a few tips regarding answering a business call:
1) Be professional - you can't answer with "Waz uuuuup?" and a generic "Hello?" will have people asking if they dialed the right number. Callers should get a courteous, professional response, know who they have called and feel that they are dealing with a professional business. Remember first impressions count.
2) People like talking to people and not machines - we have all called an 800 number and started hitting "0" to get to a "live operator". An answering machine may be less expensive but could cost you business. If cost is an issue an answering service can provide that professional first contact for a fraction of the cost.
3) A missed call can mean missed business - if potential clients are calling you, they are also calling your competitors. A professional response to a call can go a long way to creating a good first impression, provide potential clients with answers to general questions they may have and set expectations as to signing up for services or purchasing products. If it's getting difficult to get to your calls, having someone take on that task may be a good idea. Again, an answering service is a cost effective option for small businesses or entrepreneurs.
A phone call may seem like a little thing, but it's the little things that can drive potential clients away. Providing a good first impression regardless of any channel that you interact with potential clients on can make your marketing campaign a success as opposed to lost dollars.