BusinessCareersEducationMarketingProductivitySelf-ImprovementUncategorized

Two simple rules that will LITERALLY save you millions of dollars going to an Ivy League school for an MBA

While there is a massive amount all of us can learn about business from a MBA program, I have found that two lessons I’ve learned from my exposure to these programs have been incredibly fruitful in helping me manage strategy and tactics while growing a business and navigating through both good and difficult times.

Don’t be Married to Your Business

If you haven’t learned about the Sunk Cost Fallacy , I recommend you read over the linked site. Just open it in a new tab. It’s ok, I’ll be here when you get back.

Basic gist of this fallacy goes as follows “the more you invest in something, the harder it is for you to stop investing in it.” We are all guilty of this. That significant other you spent over a year longer than you should’ve trying to keep the relationship together when you knew it was long over. That degree you finished because “well, I’m already 50% of the way through it,” and then proceeded to follow an entirely different career path in which everything you learned has been tangential to your current life. Even the business you’ve been working on for years, but never got any traction with.

When you are working on a business plan, or developing a business, you will find only after you have invested a lot of time, sweat, money, blood and tears into it that, unfortunately, your original vision was not that good. At which point you have a sticky situation, should you keep investing in the idea, or is it time to spin things down? I have seen many, many people stick to an idea long past it’s sell-by date, and the history of business is littered with business folks who went to the grave still trying to get that “great idea” to start to pay off.

Here’s the thing, sometimes your idea does suck.

Yep, sometimes it just isn’t as great as it felt it would be once it is built, and all the polishing and reconfiguring of the original idea might make no difference at all. It just is not going to take off as it exists.

So what does that mean? Well, luckily there isn’t a holy covenant between you and your company or your business direction. It is not a mortal sin to decide to drop that original business idea. In fact, that is the sign of a good business person.

YouTube, originally started as a dating site. Yep. Their selling point was that you could upload videos of yourself so people could get to meet the “real you,” before deciding to date. At the time, it seemed like a great idea. Dating sites were hot and making money hand over fist. However, in a very short period of time, it was clear that it was not the brilliant idea the original creators thought it was. Now, they could’ve superglued themselves to the original idea and simply tried to polish it further, making the video interface cleaner, making the matching algorithm better, a whole list of minor perfunctory changes. They could’ve decided that they were married to the original idea, ’til death us do part.

But they were good business people, and decided instead to concentrate on what was working and what wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, they tried almost everything to get stuff working. They even went onto Craigslist and offered women $20 a video to join and upload videos. Still no one came forward. So they said, screw it, let’s let people upload anything they want, forget the dating aspect. The first video ever was this one. YouTube took off and they sold themselves to Google for 1.65bn. If they were married to the dating site idea, they likely would’ve gone out with a puff of smoke, but because they were willing to divorce themselves from that idea and see what else worked, Chen and the other original team are doing quite well for themselves today.

Stick to your Guns

In short, this rule means: Don’t give up so quickly, just change your tactics and keep trying. The fact you built the tech to begin with and the fact that you’ve invested so much in it means that there is something there. However, there are so many external factors that lead to your plan not working. In some cases, the market simply is not ready yet for your product. In other cases, the strategy you are using to sell you product is not properly targeted to the sector in which you would do best. In a surprising number of cases, it’s simply bad luck in finding the right investors, employees and clients. If you stick with it, you are more likely to succeed.

As my father always told me as a kid, “You miss every shot you don’t take.” I hear that some other great hockey player may have said this as well… Might’ve played for the Oilers for a while. Since they haven’t won a Stanley Cup in a long time, I’m guessing that’s why the name evades me, probably Kelly Buchberger. Kellys always have great ideas.

However, I can hear you all screaming at your phone: “Doesn’t this rule fundamentally contradict the previous rule?” Oh, I can see why would think that. The previous rule says that if something isn’t working, you shouldn’t continue to bury money into it. That’s the entire point of the sunk cost fallacy. However, I am not saying you continue doing something that is not working. I am saying you should look at what you have already done, learn from it, and adapt accordingly. Do not give up now that you have learned so much from lack of success. You should look at what you have built and then go, what can I do with what I have built.

You know what doesn’t work.

Which means that the category of possible actions that will work is smaller and easier to choose from. Sometimes the pivot is as major as what happened with YouTube, where the whole model was dropped, but the technology was kept. They stuck to their guns, the technology they had developed that worked and worked well. They got rid of what didn’t work, the original business idea. In the end they were very successful.

Take the chance, invest in the technology, build your ideas, but be willing to fail fast and pivot. If you are not getting traction with your current strategy, there is nothing wrong with changing tact. In fact, that is how most of largest businesses today have got to where they are.

BusinessFutureGovernment

Thank you for shopping local sign

This is based off of a Facebook post I made over the weekend:

Let’s go over some of the things that the federal government has promised to help small businesses and the arbitrary restrictions they have put on it, likely to prevent abuse, but in reality those arbitrary restrictions prevent businesses that actually really need the money from getting it. Please note, I am glad these efforts are here, but they are nowhere as much as is necessary to help small businesses.

First, the Canadian Wage Subsidy: Covers 75% of salaries for up to 3 months of business.

However, you need to have a 30% drop in revenues from your business. So companies like Perks, which are working night and day to keep their revenues up… well they get screwed. Worse, they actually end up worse off because they hired someone to provide the new service (delivery) so they are spending more on employees, and with the new delivery service they were able to keep their revenue drop from going as high as 30%.

delivery

So a business, that needs that subsidy the most, which is actually doing things to adapt to the economy, and could use it and is CREATING JOBS ends up worse off. While a business that has a 30% drop and isn’t doing anything at all to try and stem it, would be able to get 75% of their salaries paid for. So, if their salaries are 40% of their expenditures (which is a really low amount), it is 100% in their interest to ensure they keep that 30% drop in revenues. Do you not see how this causes more problems than it solves?

Second, the Business Credit Availability Program is basically a free cheque to the banks.

The banks get to decide who gets it, and they have tightened up, not loosened their lending standards. Especially since, in the words of a banker I spoke with recently, we are expecting most businesses applying for loans to fail, so we are going to end up rejecting the majority of them. Literally does nothing for the small businesses on Main St.

working

As well, it requires your NoAs and your tax returns to be completed and up to date and _no taxes owing_. Which completely counters the governments’ program of allowing businesses to not pay taxes for the next while to keep their cashflow up.

So, basically a cheque to the banks with absolutely no assistance to the businesses that need it most.

Third, the Canadian Emergency Business Account.

Unfortunately I cannot completely speak to this one that much. However, the restriction that payroll needs to be 50k-1mil actually kills it as a useful loan (assuming, of course, the banks don’t add more restrictions) for most small businesses. Many business owners pay themselves outside of payroll, and try to keep their payroll as minimized as possible. So while there may be 100k+ in revenues in any given year, it wouldn’t be hard for them to keep their payroll below 50k, especially if they hire subcontractors. Commonly these businesses are also the most agile, so yeah. Sucks to be them.

So, again… useless. This time for businesses that are best suited to try and weather this type of disaster.

All 3 programs, while they work for some, so many will slip through the cracks by the arbitrary restrictions that they really don’t do what they are supposed to do.

My advice:

  • Make the 75% for all businesses that are equal to last years, or have reduced revenues. A company could be equal to last March’s revenues, but had expanded employment to compensate. Punishing those companies is literally punishing the successful companies, it’s absolutely stupid.
  • Force the banks to remove restrictions on the small business lines of credit (under 100k) or at least to severely dial them back. Possibly by offering some form of loan insurance.
  • Open up the CEBA to all businesses that have above 100k revenue, regardless of payroll.
  • Open up tax credits for businesses that are implementing unique technological or other solutions to provide their services in this time. Such as Perks adding delivery to their system, or an art gallery finding a way to offer their art online, or a private school developing online learning tools. Similar to SRED, but more broad-based.

There are probably other ideas a well, but the current plan looks good on paper, but fails almost everyone who needs it and who would be the best businesses to succeed at this time.

EducationSEOUncategorized

Understanding Local SEO

Local search engine optimization is a tool for local small to medium businesses that want to target a regional market.  The goal of local SEO is to make it that when somebody is searching for services you provide, you’re the one that shows up first.

Note: If you’re more of an auditory learner, you can also take a look at our Youtube video on this subject.

You’ve probably heard of local search engine optimization because you’ve received *that email*.  You know which one I’m talking about.  The one that says “I took a look at your search engine optimization and I’ve attached a report for you.”  It has performance, search engine optimization, and a variety of other different rankings and under SEO it usually says something like C- or D, sometimes it even says F.  Unfortunately, this is usually true because most people’s search engine optimization is not optimal.

example rankings from SEO reports
You’ve probably received a view reports that have something that looks like this…

However, the person who sent you that report doesn’t know much more than you from that report because he used an automated online search engine optimization report such as SEOptimer to generate the report quickly, print it out, and send it to you. He probably hasn’t even reviewed the report. In fact, when you look at the second page of the report, you’ll see a section that usually says keywords and in that section, you’ll see something like ‘5 PM’ or ‘clock.’ Now, unless you’re actually making clocks or watches, I’m pretty sure these are not your keywords. But when you run an automated report and it is not being reviewed with your business in mind, those would be the keywords that you would see. So, what does this all mean?

Well, for one: He’s right, your search engine optimization needs work. So you need to take a look at your website to make sure that the technical details there are correct so that Google properly ranks you for your business in your region. But you don’t want to spend your time on somebody who doesn’t care about your business or simply doing keyword stuffing to fool Google into putting you first.

Google wants your site, or anybody’s site, to show up first when it is the correct site for the search that is being done. So if somebody’s toilet is overflowing and they have a bit of an emergency on hand, and they search for “plumber my toilet is overflowing.” Google does not want to be showing them YouTube videos of hilarious toilets overflowing. What Google wants to show them is a local plumber they can call right away so that their toilet can get fixed.

sandbox with toys
It’s not quite as fun as when you were a kid

There is a type of SEO out there called Black Hat SEO, where the goal of it is to fool Google into putting you at the top regardless of whether you are credible or authentic to that industry. These are the people who recommend things such as keyword stuffing, paying for backlinks from blogs that have nothing to do with you, and investing in “link farms”. Sometimes these methods work for a while. That’s why black hat SEO exists. But in many cases once Google finds out that you are implementing these methods and trying to find a way around their system, you get penalized.  In the worst case you can get what’s called “sandboxed” in which case you don’t show up on Google at all until you can go through an appeals process.

So how to you show up on top legitimately?  Well, there’s over 400 different factors that we’re aware of that Google considers to determine its page ranking. This is why there are many SEO firms out who can help achieve these high rankings. That being said the three factors we’ve discovered over our many years of doing SEO are:

  1. How authentic are you?
  2. How credible are you?
  3. How appropriate are you to the keywords that are being searched for at that time?

Authenticity

If you are doing it correctly and since all of you probably own legitimate businesses, this would be the obvious way of doing it. You want to target both the authenticity and the credibility side as well as all those technical aspects. Now, what is authenticity? It’s things like:

  • How long has your business existed?
  • How can we know that your business is a legitimate business in the region?
  • Where is your business located?
Toy robot
Google’s a bit fancier than this robot though…

Google’s a robot. They’re not hiring people to go and check every single business, call every single number. They’re looking at existing directories and then from those directories determining whether or not the business has been around for a while, determining whether or not the business is established, and determining whether or not the business is well known. So if you want a good ranking on Google, you need to make sure your Google Business page is set up correctly. You need to make sure that you go through the verification process, where they send you a little postcard with a little code on it, you type in the code and now Google goes “Okay, you exist and you exist at this address. Awesome.” Sometimes Google actually will call you too, but that’s a different edge case.

Google also looks at these aggregators who look at all of those directories online to try to generate which companies are out there. These aggregators pull from other map sites. So once you have your Google business site set up correctly and verified, then make sure you have a Facebook page set up with the exact same address as your Google business site. That means if your address is 123 Someplace Street and you spell it out S T R E E T, then your Facebook page should say the exact same thing. It should not say St. It should say S T R E E T because while Google can compensate for minor differences, we have found that the closer to an exact match everything is, the better your ranking will be.  It makes sense.  Because if you care about your business, if you’re authentic, you’re going to make sure that all of your directory listings are the same.  This is especially important if you’ve moved because from Google’s perspective if it sees two completely different addresses, it doesn’t know which one is correct. You need to spend the time to make sure they match.

Once you have your Facebook page set up then I would recommend you set up a Bing Places page, which sounds silly. Why would Bing influence your Google ranking?  Because Bing gets picked up by the aggregators and the aggregators feed Google.  So it’s very important to make sure that page is set up correctly as well. It’s also worthwhile getting a Yelp page setup if you can.  They will call you endlessly trying to sell you advertising. You don’t need it for most industries. It’s not worth following through on. that’s just their business model. It’s a perfectly reasonable business model but just being listed on Yelp is the important thing.

Outside of that. There are hundreds of other directories that get picked up by these aggregators, including your local Chamber of Commerce, which, if you’re not a member of, I highly recommend you pick up your phone and give them a call. Join Chambers of Commerce, they’re awesome organizations. Once you have all that together, Google can go, “this is an authentic site..” for a lack of better words for that

Credibility

Next Google looks at your credibility. This is your Google reviews, your Yelp reviews, and your reviews on your Facebook page. Google aggregates all those and goes, “Is this a good business? Are a lot of people going to and reviewing it positively?” Interestingly, having a couple of negative reviews can actually help you a bit in this case, because there are a lot of people who will review stuff., that will give an unusually high number of stars for their review and Google goes, “well, that looks a little iffy. Maybe we’ll dial them back a bit.” If you have a couple of lower reviews, it looks more natural. Google isn’t worried about spam.

How do you get reviews?  In this case, it’s really simple: every time you do business for one of your clients, you can write them afterwards with the invoice and go, “Thank you for your business. Please, we would love it if you would review our business.”  You can put a little link to your Google page and allow them to review quickly.  If you want, you can contact us and we’ll show you how you can get that link quickly to send with your emails. This will allow you to naturally and organically get those reviews and help build up the credibility side of your page ranking.

Keyword Targeting

archery target

Now on the third side, keyword targeting, there’s a whole list of ways.  It’s a very intensive environment. But the most important thing to get everything working correctly, is to make sure your site is accessible by as many different devices to as many different people as possible.

If you have images on your site with text, Google doesn’t read that text because Google is programmatically going through your site.  So make sure those images with text either have proper alt tags so that the text has a programmably readable version, or you get rid of those images and make sure you have just plain text on your side at that point. This is very important, not just for Google, but for any potential customer you have because if, for example, you have a blind customer visit your site, they won’t be able to see that image either. So it’s absolutely imperative that you concentrate on making sure that your site is accessible by as many different people as possible, which will also boost your ranking.

Google also takes into consideration how well your site runs on a mobile app, on a mobile phone, which means you need to make sure that your site is responsive so that when somebody goes to your site on the phone, it’s readable, it’s usable, it works well.  Since so many people these days use their phone to look up a business; if they get to your site and they can’t find your phone number because it’s in tiny little text, it’s of no use to them.  So Google is not going to promote that site. Once you get these things done, there’s all sorts of other factors. But just those three things will make such a difference for your SEO that you’ll probably actually notice an increase in your organic traffic if you do this correctly.

However, you have a business to run. You don’t want to be spending all of your time doing the technical work. If that’s the case give us a call. We can sit down with you and figure out something that works within your budget so that you can concentrate on growing your business and we can concentrate on helping you.