“I’ll Ask You More Questions Next Time” – How a coffee shop hooked me in

Those of you who know me, know I’m a very loyal fan of a certain Midwest-based coffee shop chain. This chain does not have a location in my downtown area, so I occasionally find myself visiting another chain (no, not  *that* one. Well, sometimes).

I visited on Monday and made a purchase. As I usually do, I engaged in some discussion and banter with the folks behind the counter. I left, thinking nothing more of the encounter than just another retail transaction.

I returned today (Wednesday) and made another purchase. At the register, the guy said, “hey, you’re the business professor, right?” remembering our conversation from Monday. I was pleasantly surprised that he remembered, and we started talking about the summer. I mentioned I was planning to go backpacking and he said “I’ve been thinking about getting into that this summer.” I gave him some tips on a local place to go, and a book to read. As I was leaving, I said “good luck on your trip!” and he said, “oh, I have a lot more questions — I’ll definitely ask you next time!”

Immediately, I thought — “I have to come back here.” Now I have a connection, and an obligation (or something just short of an obligation) to help this person. Now this coffee shop isn’t just one conveniently located — it’s one where there is someone I know, who expects me to return, and provide him with information.

Ingenious. My gut feeling is that this is intentional, a marketing move. I feel a loyalty to this shop that I didn’t feel before — in just an instant’s worth of conversation.

How can you use conversation and connection in your business to build loyalty?

May 18, 2011 at 10:20 am Leave a comment

Eff You. Pay Me!

Last month, reading John Gruber’s Daring Fireball blog (which I do daily), I came across video of a talk by Mike Monteiro, who co-founded Mule Design Studio. The presentation has a shocking name, and some shocking language, and I was hesitant to post it. (For those who are wondering, I ran this by Dr. Evans first.)

The title of his talk is approximately the same as the title of this blog post. Only his is a wee bit more profane.  I’m pretty sure you can figure it out. (The title was apparently inspired by some dialog from Goodfellas.)

The subject of the talk is the difficulty businesses sometimes have getting paid by a client. If you can overlook the profanity, there’s a lot of tremendously useful content here. His audience was mostly ad-agency creative staff, and so the content is somewhat tailored to them, but I think most of us in the class can benefit.

I’ve transcribed the beginning because it gives you a taste for the topic, which is the problem of not getting paid for work performed for a client.  He mentions some of the excuses he’s heard:

“We ended up not using the work.”

“It’s really not what we wanted after all.”

“We got somebody internal to do it instead.”

“We cancelled the project.”

“We actually didn’t get the funding that we thought we were gonna get.”

“We think we’ve already paid you enough.”

“It’s really not what we were hoping for.”

If you’ve been paying attention, I think you can guess what his answer is to each of these excuses. His solution involves getting lawyers involved early on to help with contracts, so you don’t need to rely on lawyers later on to fight your battles.

Those of you who have taken Dr. Evans’ Business Law class will probably recognize this problem from one of the contract disputes she assigns.

Anyway, enough with introduction.  Here’s the video.

May 6, 2011 at 7:14 pm 1 comment

How to Get a Real Education at College

That we go to college to learn is axiomatic. But many—perhaps most—if the most important things we learn aren’t actually the subjects of our classes. In almost every class at Lawrence Tech students are expected to learn how to be better writers, better presenters—better communicators in general.

Scott Adams, creater of the Dilbert comic strip, suggests that much of the emphasis on  traditional studies is misplaced. In his essay How to Get a Real Education (published in the Wall Street Journal), he wastes no time in getting to what he things should be the focus of college studies:

I understand why the top students in America study physics, chemistry, calculus and classic literature. The kids in this brainy group are the future professors, scientists, thinkers and engineers who will propel civilization forward. But why do we make B students sit through these same classes? That’s like trying to train your cat to do your taxes—a waste of time and money. Wouldn’t it make more sense to teach B students something useful, like entrepreneurship?
[empahsis mine - SJK]

Before I read this essay, I assumed Mr. Adams had struck it lucky by combining his great sense of humor and mediocre artistic skills into a sort of anti-corporate comic. But after reading it, I’ve concluded that he probably would have been successful no matter what, because he spent his entire college career practicing the art of entrepreneurship.

Scott Adams cartoon

May 6, 2011 at 6:39 pm Leave a comment

Thoughts on the Business Plan

The last assignment, the last commitment, the last thing to do. These are all things we might think about when turning in this business plan, however I thought of something else. I thought that this plan has the potential to define my near future. That this plan marks the start to a new beginning, a new adventure, a new direction. One of the exciting parts of this class was the opportunity to strategically prepare for our plan, and then to actually put it into action.

Presentation day was one of the best experiences of the semester! Why, because we had the chance to test our ideas our plan in the real world. That is a privilege that does not often come to university students. In fact much of our daily activities center around the imaginations of some project that has principles to teach. We work hard to win good grades, and then forget the principles that we were supposed to learn, that did not happen in this class. We had to sell our ideas, our strategy had to work, our sales pitch had to make sense, there was no safety net. Selling to outside professionals was in my mind the essential experience of learning. Metaphorically it represents the time when liquid ideas freeze into hard realities.

Working on our business plans have taught us more than just to format information in the right area. It has taught us to think about what makes our ideas stick, it has forced us consider the big picture of strategy, it has taught us the steps that need to be taken evaluate an idea. Today we turned in our plan, tomorrow we can forget it or we can take the lessons we learned and refine them into reality. I for one am ready to take the plunge.

Cold Reality

Taking the plunge into a cold Reality.

May 5, 2011 at 5:37 pm Leave a comment

A Review of the Seven Deadly Sins in a Sales Pitch

A Review of the Seven Deadly Sins in a Sales pitch.

As we all prepare for our sales pitch for next week, I thought it would be helpful to include a summary of what I found helpful in this article found on INC.com

The first sin is: Not Building Suspense.

There is nothing worse than telling someone your idea and they seem interested then they drop into the glossy eye look.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I put people to sleep a lot, the good thing is that I am getting better at seeing when I’m doing it. My advice to you is not just take the advice of the article, but to sweat the infection of passion for your idea. I always am more interested in listening to people when they really care.

The second sin is: Being too available. One of the great things about being a student is that we are naïve about peoples time. Getting into the business world has really cured me of this idea that my idea is so great it can take all the time in the world. My advice is not to take a person’s time by figuring out what they need to hear not what you want to tell them.

The third sin is: Scaring People. I really did not get what the author was trying to say. It seemed like they didn’t recommend threats which is a “duh” statement. I interpreted the advice like this. Don’t kill with details that make people feel intimidated. The old adage of KISS comes to mind.

The fourth sin is:  BS the Expert

Its bad when you don’t know the details. It is worse when you build a case on falsification. The best application for us next week would be to not make up the details if we simply don’t know. I would rewrite this section and say that the best thing to do in these situations is to tell all. Just categorize what the tell all covers so you don’t waste time.

The fifth sin is: Being overly nice.

Interpreting this advice for us would be: let’s not walk into our presentation with a these guys will tear us apart attitude, but instead we should go in to see the new thing we can learn and the benefits of outside advice.

The sixth sin is: Quoting Dead People

I guess it is hard to understand why we can’t build seriousness of our content with a good quote. I do however see the wisdom; don’t get carried away by sentimentality. Take away advice, keep our information central to our own authoritative research and business knowledge.

The seventh sin is: Being Boring

I agree! The best way to be boring is to kill people with details and variations. This for me will be the hardest part of the whole presentation.  Getting the emotional appeal to work consistently will be the biggest challenge.

May 5, 2011 at 4:32 pm Leave a comment

The Lessons From Hamilton Chase

During this semester I had the opportunity to work on a Hamilton Chase project with two creative partners in the Make You Mark Competition, Eric Wright and Cyrus Sarosh. The whole challenge was to develop an idea that could be created for $10. The premise was that you had to create or develop something that could be used to make a positive impact in some ones life. Our idea was to take the origins of a design competition and build the case for Green Guardians.

The idea was developed from an architectural competition that was outlined by a UK based agency, that supports urban infrastructure designs. The goal of the competition was to give a homeless person a secure and portable shelter for use in the urban environment. The competition generated Green Guardian concept vehicle. The Green Guardian idea was built on empowering homeless individuals with a means to collect recyclable’s so they could receive compensation from the local community for contributing to the greener urban environment. The green guardian would have a special cart designed by us to be manufactured at Lawrence Tech and that would allow them to be supported by a local business interested in social outreach and green issues. The cart would keep the recyclable’s for collection and also be a secure shelter for the homeless individual to use in the travels they make through urban environments.

Our goal was to establish a plan for implementation by a student led organization that would be composed of different colleges at the university. The engineering school would contribute the manufacturing process and manpower to manufacture the carts. The business school would lead the sales and operations of the business, the other colleges would contribute to the program from their various skill sets. The whole plan was to be run as a private venture that would be funded by outside business donations and maintained by purchases by business’ in urban areas countrywide.

As we began to design our plan we discovered that government support did not have a lot of staying power for this idea. The decision was made to develop the plan to be privately driven and privately funded. We felt that we should make the idea drivable by just the student body, and have minimal support by the university except for the provision of square footage for manufacturing.

We took the steps to establish an online presence, creating a Facebook page, developing a website, and creating a blog site.

Overall we felt we created a great idea, sadly we were disqualified for being late with our submittal to the review board. I learned that some of the best ideas come when there is a commitment to a common goal that is understood by all the parties involved. Furthermore I learned that even good ideas can hit snags in the river of development.

N. Turner

May 5, 2011 at 4:29 pm Leave a comment

Show Us What You’ve Got- Prototype Day

Looking back on this past semester, I have found that although it originally scared me, Prototype day was the best of the semester.  We had the opportunity to interact with faculty, staff and professionals from outside the University to receive feedback about our projects.

Prototype day encouraged us to perfect our elevator speech and forced us to be able to quickly and efficiently explain our idea.  Additionally, it allowed us to project what we had hoped our final product would look like, and to make modifications as we collected feedback from others in the room.  With all of our projects in the same place, there was an incredible energy in the room, as ideas were tossed back and forth, allowing each of us to expand on our creativity.

Overall I think that the prototype day was an excellent addition to the semester- it allowed us to make a big step in developing each of our ideas.  What step in the business development process do you find most helpful in developing your ideas?

May 5, 2011 at 3:27 pm Leave a comment

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