Don’t tell me that you’re going to tell me your tagline

May I please have your permission to stand up on my soapbox and rant for a moment? Thank you. I promise to make this quick(-ish). Please stop with the meme of the lady yelling at the cat. It was fun for a week but now it’s over. And while I’m up here and ranting – DON’T ANNOUNCE THAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO TELL ME YOUR TAGLINE!

Okay, I’m calmed down now. Phew. Had to get that off my mind. So what do I mean by, ‘Don’t announce that you are about to tell me your tagline’? At a networking event a few weeks ago, there was one business owner who, in his 60 second elevator pitch, was just about to close up his intro when he said my least favorite line: “…and my tagline is …..” I’m not harping on taglines; in fact, I’m a really big fan of them – if they’re well written and get the job done. If you need to announce that something is your tagline, it’s not very good and you need to spend some more time going over it. 

A tagline is a quick statement of few words that can clarify or simplify what a business does. “Building success through creative solutions.” – at Full Scope Creative, that’s exactly what we do: we help our clients (build) success by providing (through) services such as website design, graphic design, and website hosting (creative solutions). It says what we do and makes a promise of what the experience might be.

Great taglines are short and to the point; more importantly, they are clear and easy to understand. If your tagline needs the introduction of, “…and my tagline is…” or “…one of our taglines around here is…” then you don’t have a good tagline. You might have a good start at one, but you need to spend some more time on it. 

And the lady with the cat… that’s another blog for another day. 

What I Learned from the World’s Toughest Mudder, 2019

This past weekend, from 12:00 on Saturday through 12:00 on Sunday, my cousin Matthew Hanson competed in the World’s Toughest Mudder, 2019. While this wasn’t his first time competing in the race, there was something about this race that caught my attention and made me realize a few things about life and business. See, throughout the course of the race, Matt ran 95 miles – impressive. But he didn’t just run 95 miles, he ran 95 miles with various obstacles along the course – unheard of. But it wasn’t just 95 miles plus obstacles, it was all done in 24 consecutive hours all night long and in the cold – inhuman. So how does one get through such a race?

 As is always the case, Matt had an amazing pit crew with him. Countless family members were there to cheer him on and remind him of some of the essential things he needs to do. In fact, “remind him” might be too gentle of a phrase – “fight with him” might be more fitting. See with Matt, his mind is always set to, “go go go go go / run run run run run.”

But in a race like this, the need to stop and eat or add more clothes is critical. Without his crew, particularly his brother Michael, he’d go non-stop to the point of breaking. This year, he also took a moment to go on Facebook and post the name of the individual he was thinking of on each lap – someone who helps to motivate or encourage him throughout his life. The names he posted were not just people who were encouraging him in physical activities and training, but all of those who had helped shape him into the man he is today. While I was following the various updates on Facebook, I couldn’t help but see how Matt’s approach to the race could be applied to so many other facets of life – like running a business.

Now I’ve never competed in the World’s Toughest Mudder, and sorry, Matt, but I don’t plan on doing so any time soon. However, there have been countless times in my journey of being the owner of Full Scope Creative that I have been in that, “go go go go go / run run run run run” mindset – right up to that point of breaking. I needed to rely on other people in my life to remind (fight with) me about the need to stop. I can still remember the sheer exhaustion I felt in early 2017, when working 7 days a week for 7 years was finally catching up with me. I was having lunch with the pastor at my church when he told  me about taking a Sabbath. While it took some time to force myself to take that regularly scheduled break and relax with the Lord, now that I’m doing that on a regular basis, I’d never give it up. As a business owner, it’s our instinct to, “go go go go go / run run run run run” – and without the right pit crew reminding us, and at times fighting with us, to take a much-needed break, we’d drive ourselves to our breaking point.

As I was following Matt’s journey on Facebook, I loved how he would stop each lap to mention the person or group of people he was thinking of that lap and how they’d helped him get to where he was. Running a business can be quite the marathon of long nights, worrying about income, fretting over the sales pipeline going dry, missing family events, not getting to go to the concert you really wanted to, and countless other headaches. All along the race, Matt not only kept thinking of those people who brought him to where he is today, but he took the time to write it down, both for himself and the world to see. When we’re thinking of those that helped bring us to where we are, we can feed off the energy from those people. But we can really turn that energy into fuel if we take the time to write down who they are and how they’ve helped bring us to where we are today. Whether it’s sharing that information with the world or simply pinning up on the wall in front of you, knowing who helped us get to where we are today and how they motivated or shaped us can propel us up and over our next obstacle both in business and in life.

At the end of the 24 hour race, Matt finished 4th overall and 3rd in his division. To say that I was amazed at the success he had in the race is an understatement. The way he was able to overcome obstacles, both within the course and in his life, is nothing short of inspiring. Matt, you make me want to continue fighting for my business and taking on the obstacles in my life. You sir, are one hell of an inspiration! I’m proud to call you my cousin, but I’m honored to call you a friend.

Taking a Sabbath

I started Full Scope Creative back in 2010, and it wasn’t long before I was working 7 days a week. Between Full Scope, working at Schneider National in customer service, and teaching at NWTC, I was working pretty much non-stop. After a series of events in 2016, I realized I was completely burnt-out. Even though by then I was no longer working at Schneider or teaching, I was still working 7 days a week with Full Scope. In the first quarter of 2017, I was working a lot of 4 and 5 day weeks to get recharged.

After about 3 months of that schedule, I started to feel charged up and ready to tackle the world once more – but I was afraid of getting burnt-out yet again. One Sunday morning at church, I was talking to the pastor after service and told him about my struggle. He then asked me when the last time was that I took a Sabbath.

A Sabbath is a 24 hour period of no work, and for many Christians is a day of rest and worship. For me, my Sabbath is usually comprised of church and worship, time spent reading the Bible, prayer, and other activities that I find restful and bring me closer to God. Yard work and cooking are very relaxing and enjoyable for me as well, so I don’t have an issue doing those activities on my Sabbath.

Whether it’s considered “cheating” or not is debatable, but I don’t always take my Sabbath on Sunday. While my Sabbath usually goes from about 4:00 on Saturday afternoon through 4:00 on Sunday afternoon, 6:00 on Friday night through 6:00 on Saturday night has happened a few times, including this weekend. (Sunday night is when I get a lot of my planning work done for the upcoming week.) Finding one day each week where I do no work is tough to find. But a Sabbath is more about a 24 hour period of resting from working for a livelihood, such as making websites, doing accounting, sales, or whatever else I might do for Full Scope Creative.

If you’re feeling burnt-out, whether you’re a Christian or not, I encourage you to take a Sabbath. For the first couple weeks it might feel a little odd – at first I could only make it about 16 hours before needing to work again – now I can easily go 24 hours or more focused on resting and relaxing. Man was not designed to work 24/7; take some time to relax, recharge, refresh, and then go back to taking on the world.

Continuous Improvements

I remember the days of struggling through school and thinking of how I couldn’t wait to be done with school and learning. I haven’t reached that day yet and have long since come to the realization that my once dream day will never come. In business there is always a need to keep learning new skills and perfecting them more and more. Two organizations that have had considerable impact on me and my business have been Toastmasters and Sandler Training.

You’ve probably heard of Toastmasters before, and probably still a bit confused on it. It’s far more than learning how to give a proper toast at a wedding. Through my work with Toastmasters I learned the art of public speaking, overcame my anxieties and fears, and took huge steps in my leadership development. With Toastmasters I was given an outline of the speeches to give and the process to follow to develop and craft each speech. Each speech in order focusing on a new skill to develop and work at. When I start my speeches, I was terrified and gripping the podium like it was the lone piece of flotation in the middle of the ocean. By the time I completed the first workbook, I was giving speeches without notes and freely walking on stage with no anxiety or fears and most importantly – no ums and ahs.

Another organization that has made a huge impact on my business has been Sandler Training. About 2 years ago a Sandler franchise opened up in the Green Bay area. Sandler breaks down the sales process into 7 simple steps and coaches you through how to do each one perfectly and move on to the next. I thought I was good at sales before I started with Sandler Training. I wasn’t. But after a year and half of weekly meetings and diving deep into the teachings, things have changed significantly for me. I’ve learned the steps to better sales and more importantly gained even more confidence.

One thing I’ve taken away from both of these organizations, is the need for coaches. No matter what level we’re at in life, whether a rookie salesman at a company, the owner, or a professional athlete, the need for great coaching never ends. In both Toastmasters and Sandler Training, I gained new coaches that were able to help me learn the skills I needed to learn and more importantly help me put them in place in my daily life.

If your sales or business are struggling, I would highly recommend looking at both of these great organizations to get in touch with and start working with them. Both will provide an outline and a proper way of doing things that you’ve likely never thought of before. Sometimes it’s not a huge change that’s needed, just a simple little change in one area can make all the difference. The day that we can stop learning isn’t coming, and I’m glad it’s not coming. With each new skills I know I keep getting better and my business keeps getting stronger and that is allowing us to make an even bigger impact on the world.

Roll with the Changes

In the same way that it wasn’t surprising to see Toys ‘R Us go out of business, it’s also not surprising to see that Blockbuster is down to one remaining location. Actually, that is surprising – I’m surprised they still have one location that can somehow turn a profit. While there were a number of things that lead to the end of Blockbuster (like their biggest profits coming from late fees), the biggest issue was that they never saw the online jump coming.

In 2000, Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, approached the Blockbuster CEO at the time John Antioco, and pitched an idea that would bring Blockbuster into the space that Netflix was (online). Hastings was reportedly laughed out of the office. Fast forward to 2018: I still buy a DVD every now and then, but all the movies I watch are either through Netflix, Amazon Prime, or another source for online streaming. We’re still consuming movies but the manner in which we do so has changed – drastically. And quickly.

The same pitfalls are out there for any business. If a grocery store isn’t willing to update the lines of food and variety that their customers are demanding, they’ll quickly see those customers going to the places that will.

To make sure you avoid those pitfalls, look at your business and try to see what changes are coming. Ask your clients how they use your product or service and if there’s anything changing. As the business owner, we’re possibly so close to our product we may not see these changes coming until they’re on top of us. That’s not 100% a bad thing, but we do need to be sure to find ways to gather more input and feedback on our products and services.

Look back at how things were done in your company 5 years ago versus today. Changes like those that happened in the past will continue to happen – or they’ll be replaced by completely new changes. It’s been said that the only thing constant in this life is change. (That was said by Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus 500 years years before the birth of Christ – and it’s still true today.) You can take the changes from 5 years ago and double them to get an idea of what the next 2 or 3 years will hold. Change happens so rapidly now that what took the past 5 years to get done will now be done in 2 or 3 years.

I can still remember going to the Blockbuster a few blocks from my childhood home and renting my first movie – Ace Ventura 2. The building that held Blockbuster then now houses a Qdoba, a Smart Cow, and a Noodles & Company. If you want to keep your business relevant in the next 5, 10, 15, 20 years, keep an eye out for oncoming changes and act upon them. Don’t let the Netflix of your industry catch up and surpass you overnight.

Toys R’ Us Going Under Is Not a Surprise

Not long ago, someone asked me if I was surprised that Toys R’ Us was going out of business. I couldn’t help but laugh. Oftentimes in life we can learn so much from other people’s mistakes. The same is true in business and Toys R’ Us is a perfect example. I’m not saying to wear a bracelet that has “WWTRUD?” (What Would Toys R’ Us Do?) on it, but they can provide a great picture of what NOT to do. Simply flip those things around, and you’ll have what you should do.

While it’s true that I don’t have a finance degree or an MBA, I still can’t imagine that running a business with $5 BILLION in debt is a good idea. Add in about $400 MILLION to service that debt, and the situation is even crazier! After reading several of the many articles out there regarding the specifics of their situation, it is apparent that while those two factors were a huge burden to the company, they were only part of what doomed the toy retailer.

One of the many issues Toys R Us had – aside form their debt – was the fact that they did not evolve with the times. One point that hasn’t received a lot of coverage in the news is how their website was always outdated. For a long time, it was clunky and awkward to use.

A few years ago, some friends who live out of state had their first kid. I jumped on the Toys R’ Us site to find some toys to purchase and have shipped to the new parents. You would think that would be an easy task, right? Ha! I literally felt like I was jumping through hoops to make a purchase. The specifics of what they did aren’t really what’s important here. The bigger take away is what they should have done – listen to their consumer base. It’s not difficult to hold some focus groups to see how users navigate the site and how they work through the process.

The problem for many businesses, and even me as a designer sometimes, is that since we use the site so much, we know exactly what to do, and therefore can often skip over the awkwardly clunky steps. Bring some users in, watch them make a purchase, ask their feedback, and best of all – remove a step or two in the purchase process!

Another huge issue they had was that they never evolved their offering. When I was growing up, certain toys were only available at Toys R’ Us. It was THE place to go to if you were looking for a cool new toy. Once other stores started to creep into that niche market, they should have at that point done something to remind customers why Toys R’ Us was the place to shop at. Instead, they pretty much dug their heels in and stood their ground. That works great for parenting, but not for a toy store.

In the 8 years that Full Scope has been in business, we’ve seen most of our clients go through a change of some sorts. Whether introducing new products, drilling deeper into their niche, or changing the way they market, they’ve all done something to stand out and keep customers coming in. We’ve done that ourselves: we’ve introduced new services like graphic design and copywriting and we’ve continually invested time and money into making our website hosting top of the line. Change really is a beautiful thing.

Sometimes seeing the struggles and failures of another company can help a business owner point their own company in the right direction. Toys R’ Us gave many businesses, even small businesses, examples of what NOT to do. Was Toys R’ Us going out of a business a surprise? Nope. We can take the tough lessons they’re learning and apply them to our own businesses, however, and it will be no surprise when our businesses are around for years to come.

Keeping the NEW in N.E.W. Zoo

One of my favorite things I get to do with Full Scope Creative is attend some amazing networking events. This morning, I was at a Green Bay Packers Mentor/Protégé event with Neil Anderson, the director the N.E.W. (North East Wisconsin) Zoo, located here in Brown County. I learned a lot of really cool things about our local zoo – like the fact they are 100% self-sufficient and don’t take any tax money! One of the best nuggets of information I got in the meeting was when Neil said one of his biggest goals is to, “always keep the NEW in N.E.W. Zoo.”

I started thinking of how often I’ve seen businesses go on year after year and never really have many changes. If your business is falling into that trap, where nothing new is happening – act quickly! Make something change! Re-brand, come up with a new tag-line, add in a new service, work with a new demographic of clientele, change your business model, do ANYTHING! If you don’t, your business will remain stagnant, and what life grows in a stagnant river? As Neil Anderson said – nothing.

For example, look at successful bands who have weathered the storm for decades. Their sound today is not the same as it was when they first started; they changed things up to keep it fresh. McDonald’s started with just burgers, fries, and milkshakes. Look how much their menu has changed since their first store back in 1955.
I’m not saying you need to completely reinvent your business or introduce major changes by any means. But do something new in your business to keep things fresh and relevant.

One of the easiest changes you can make is to look at the wording you use to describe your company. Talk to current clients to find the shortcomings of your message and clarify those points to tell a stronger story. Once the verbiage is new, you can look to a slightly more daring task of freshening up your business cards: change the layout, the logo, the colors, something – ANYTHING! The, when you’re really ready for new, take a look at your other marketing material and your product offerings and see what you could benefit from some updating.

For Full Scope Creative, we ran into this about a year ago. The business needed something to pick it up a little. We were doing great with website design, graphic design, and website hosting, but we needed a new something to really help keep things fresh for the company. That was when we first introduced our copywriting services. That was a good move for us, but that’s not the end of it. We’ve got several other things coming up throughout 2018 to help keep Full Scope Creative new and relevant.

If a zoo in Brown County, Wisconsin has the goal of, “keeping the new in N.E.W. Zoo,” it really should be a big focus of your business as well. Keeping your businesses as far away from being a stagnant river is a key step in business survival.

Focusing Too Much on Budget?

I recently went through the always fun process of putting the company budget together for 2018. When I had it ready, I met with a few key advisors to go over it and make sure I didn’t miss anything. I got a lot of great feedback from doing that. One of the nuggets of advice I received was from a trusted mentor when he said to not focus on the budget so much, but rather focus on what goes into making the sales happen.

I know it sounds obvious: don’t spend all day staring at your budget wondering if all the numbers are correct or not. But I had never really given a ton of thought to creating an almost second budget, a recipe of sorts, as to what goes on to make each sale happen. Once I took the time to really dig deep down into what typically makes a sale happen for Full Scope Creative, I had a list of some key activities that result in success for company sales.

Once I had that list assembled, I was able to focus in on a few key activities that I can almost dial up and down as needed to result in more sales for the company (key activities such as cold calling). With that list assembled, I now have an identified list of tools of sorts that I can turn to should sales turn out to be less than what was budgeted.

Having a yearly budget is a great thing to have. I have a yearly budget for the company and even a monthly budget for my personal life. Having those budgets is great, but they’re obviously no guarantee for success. If the income lines don’t come through, all that hard work can be for naught. Focusing on what goes into sales will provide just as valuable of a tool for you and your company – one that can continue paying dividends long after the budget year is over.

Business Networking Groups

As the owner and president of Full Scope Creative, I tend to find myself doing a lot of networking. As people get to know me, they tend to ask my advice regarding which networking groups they should join. Business networking groups are a great way to build awareness of your company, especially in your local area. There are three networking groups I recommend to almost any business – both established brands as well as entrepreneurs just starting out.

Chamber of Commerce

The first group I recommend getting connected with is your local chamber of commerce. They tend to have a finger on the pulse of what businesses in your area are doing and what the business climate is really like. Even with a global economy, having strong ties to your local community is always valuable, especially for a small business. Many times, a local chamber of commerce will have great deals you can utilize. For example, the Greater Green Bay Chamber (my local chamber of commerce) has discounts available to its members for cellphone plans, office supplies, YMCA memberships, and more. A local chamber of commerce is also likely to have great networking events and other opportunities for meeting other business professionals in your area.

Relationship Networking Group

Another type of networking group I recommend is a referral networking group – as long as it is the right group. A referral networking group where you show up a few times a month and do your 60 second elevator pitch and pass referrals isn’t what I what call the the “right” group. I’m sure you’ve heard of groups such as BNI (Business Network International) or HBBA (Helping Businesses Build Assets) where you meet a few times a month, do a 60 second elevator pitch, and then send referrals to one another. While those groups can be helpful, if all you’re doing is meeting is meeting and passing referrals, there will be a limit to the number of referrals you’re likely to receive.

I recommend a somewhat different approach: focus instead on building strong relationships with the other members of the group. For example, in my HBBA group, another member and I have gone for coffee and lunch more times than I can count. Through those meetings, we’ve built a strong business relationship and a great friendship. Needless to say, he and I referral clients to each other frequently.

Toastmasters

The final group I’d like to recommend to everyone today isn’t necessarily a networking group, but rather a personal development and leadership development group: Toastmasters. While I’ve certainly received referrals through the group, the focus is on being a better and more confident speaker. The better and more comfortable you are speaking in public, the better and stronger networking events will be for you. Thanks to the work I’ve done in Toastmasters, walking up to someone I’ve never meet and starting a conversation with them is no problem. Most people say that public speaking is their greatest fear; Toastmasters is a great way to overcome that fear and become confident speaking in public.

I may own a website design business, but building relationships through business networking groups is one of the best ways I’ve found to grow my business – especially in the local greater Green Bay market. Even if your business isn’t currently looking for more clients, you may find value in networking groups; I’ve seen countless business have great success finding new employees and team members through them. We may live in a very high tech day and age, but in-person networking is still a critical foundation for most businesses.

Everyone Is In Sales

Whichever company someone works for, whatever position they hold: everyone works in sales. Whether directly or indirectly, the actions of any member of a company will lead to increased or decreased business transactions. No matter the role, from barista to a janitor, everyone is in sales. Let me give you a couple of examples of both good and bad sales people.

Let’s start with an example of someone in sales who didn’t do such a great job. I stopped at a well known nationwide coffee shop, one of the supposed stars of the industry. After waiting for what seemed like 3 hours in line I finally got up front to the barista to place my order. Problem was, I really didn’t know what I wanted. Simple solution: I asked the salesperson (the barista) what she recommended. Her response was not what I was looking for. She awkwardly replied, “The menu is on the board…” as she pointed to the 100,000,000 (probably an exaggeration) options they had for drinks. She could have recommended something liked the a grande vanilla latte with soy milk with caramel drizzle and I would have ordered it. Instead, I simply took a small coffee to go. I realize that not too many people go to a coffee shop and don’t know what they want, but they missed a chance to sell me a $7.00 drink; instead, I took a $1.50 coffee to go

So what does a good sales person (that isn’t really a salesperson) look like? I’m in California right now for a training program, and the hotel has a continental breakfast. Here in the hotel, I met an employee, a janitor/maintenance worker who is an amazing salesperson. Sitting at a table across from me was a group of people that didn’t push their chairs back in as nicely as some of the other tables’ customers did. The maintenance guy came and moved the chairs to how they should be. When I was getting up to put my plate in the collection bin and throw my trash away, he very quickly said, “No no, please, let me.” and took the plate. Is he in sales? Nope. I saw him earlier in the morning doing some work on a piece of trim on the wall that wasn’t quite right. I’ve since then seen him doing other maintenance and repair projects around the hotel, and while his job title might not say it, his actions gave an excellent example of someone being a great salesperson. Based, in part, on his actions, if I’m back in Ontario, California at some point int he future, I would have no problem staying at the Azure Hotel, and would recommend it to anyone.

The lesson here is that even if your title or your business card doesn’t say that you are in sales, you are! Whether it’s directly involved with calling customers or knocking on doors, everyone is in sales.