Archive for September, 2010

Stone Age vs Digital Age

Wilma Flinstone

I started my day with a little anxiousness knowing that tomorrow, Friday October 1st COMPUTER EXPLORERS is rolling out our new Website. It’s technology so I expect a hiccup or two and possibly a few burps in the day. Cyndee Perkins says she is hyperventilating in her M&M bags. Maybe if she just keeps eating M&Ms she will be fine. Lorri Wyndham said her eye is twitching so I will share my reading glasses with her and she too will be fine.

When I opened Google and saw the new Doodle celebrating The Flinstone’s 50th Anniversary I was reminded why I’m glad I’m not Wilma Flinstone living in the Stone Age! I love our Digital Age and all the available digital tools available.

I have confidence in the development team (mUrgent) and the marketing team (St. Jacques) that worked hard to get us to this point. I am also confident that the franchisees will give it their all to update their pages adding searchable content so their communities can find them. Most of all I believe in the corporate team to get through every hiccup and/or burp with ease.

Yes, I plan to have a “Yabba Dabba-Doo Day”!

Starting a franchise is not easy. In fact, it’s very hard. When I purchased my first COMPUTER EXPLORERS franchise in 1997 I was the typical new franchise owner and deeply afraid of failure. I received the usual good advice: do what you love, create a solid business plan, interview current and previous franchisees, review the FDD (Federal Disclosure Document) with a professional, etc.

Today, there is a plethora of business books available to help entrepreneurs get started. On the NY best seller lists are: Delivering Happiness, A Path to Profits and Passion by Tony Hsieh and The Mirror Test by Jeffrey Hayzlett.

There are also very good business books written by two men, whom I consider to be franchise greats: Bud Hadfield and Fred DeLuca.

Bud Hadfield, Chairman of the Board of International Center for Entrepreneurial Development, a holding company which includes Kwik Kopy, COMPUTER EXPLORERS and several other brands and Northwest Forest Conference Center outlines the following as his “Business Dozen” in his book Wealth within Reach,

  1. Trust your intuition.
  2. Always Remember – No one is unimportant.
  3. If you wouldn’t buy it, then don’t sell it.
  4. You are more than the number on the readout of a bathroom scale.
  5. The problem with advice is that the person who has the answer doesn’t have the problem.
  6. Quit thinking about thinking to quit.
  7. Expect the unexpected.
  8. Never promise what you can’t deliver.
  9. Your worst employee – too good to fire and not good enough to keep.
  10. Winners feel like winners. Losers act like losers.
  11. Criticism is easy; achievement is more difficult. Winston Churchill
  12. Success comes to the man or woman who gives more than receives.

Fred DeLuca, founder of Subway shares the Fifteen Key Lessons in his book, Start Small Finish Big.

  1. Start Small. It’s better than never starting at all.
  2. Earn a Few Pennies. It’s good practice before you earn those dollars.
  3. Begin With an Idea. There’s probably a good one right under your nose.
  4. Think Like a Visionary. Always look for the Big Picture.
  5. Keep the Faith. Believe in yourself and your business, even when others don’t.
  6. Ready, Fire, Aim! If you think too much about it, you may never start.
  7. Profit or Perish. Increase sales, decrease costs. Anything less and your business will perish.
  8. Be Positive. The School of Hard Knocks will beat you down, but not if you keep a positive attitude.
  9. Continuously Improve Your Business. It’s the best way to attract customers, and generate sales and profit.
  10. Believe in Your People. Or they may get even with you!
  11. Never Run Out of Money. Its’ the most important lesson in business.
  12. Attract New Customers Every Day. Awareness, Trial, and Usage work every time.
  13. Be Persistent: Don’t Give Up. You only fail if you quit.
  14. Build a Brand Name! You’re your reputation.
  15. Opportunity Waits for No One. Good or bad, breaks are what you make them.

You won’t find Bud attending IFA (International Franchise Association) conventions or giving keynote presentations today. But he can still be found many days in his office at ICED.

Bud Hadfield

Fred, on the other hand does attend IFA and in fact last year participated in social media sessions! By the end of the convention Fred was “twittering away” and can be found today posting a tweet or two about Subway as @FredSubwayCEO (photographed below with his blackberry in hand after posting one of his first tweets).

Fred DeLuca, Subway

Starting a franchise is not easy but finding individuals to help guide you is. Become a member of IFA and network with some of the greats in the franchise industry. Whether you are considering a purchase, are a new franchisee or experienced franchisee there are always new things to learn in your journey to success!

Speaking Engagement Tips

I have developed a love for sharing what I have learned with others. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social technology platforms have made this easy for me.

Something that doesn’t come naturally is having my picture taken, speaking to a video camera and public speaking. But…it’s getting easier! When I first joined COMPUTER EXPLORERS in the support role the current President forced me step out of my comfort zone. He constantly threw me in front of the video camera and audiences. He knew that I would accept almost any challenge and of course everything gets easier with practice and repetition.

What I’ve learned and would like to share are a few hints that has helped me to connect with my audiences:

  • Know your audience: When I’m asked to speak as a subject matter professional (I don’t like to use the word “expert”) it’s easy to share what I know.  The skills I share are transferable from one franchise brand to the other but I like to have a basic understanding of the audience and their specific challenges. It is important to me to match the content and skills to their needs.
  • Connect with your audience: I like to do as much research as possible about the attendees. This isn’t as difficult as it might seem if you use LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. When speaking to a specific organization and/or franchise it’s easy to research the brand and find individuals that are connected. I like to reach out and build as many connections as I can via Twitter and LinkedIn. If there is an organization Facebook page I “like” it.
  • Use video messages: I always ask if the organization I’m speaking to uses a monthly communication tool. Most distribute eNewsletters on a regular basis and can easily share a video message. I often use my flip camera and film a very short introduction clip with my contact information and invite attendees to connect to me prior to my presentation.

Those are my three tips to engaging with your audience. What are yours?

Drink out of a fire hose

We’ve all heard the saying, “drinking out of a fire hose.” Some days and weeks are worse than others when there just isn’t enough hours in the day to get it all done. No matter how early I start my day or how late I continue in the evening, there will only be 24 hours in the day.

Not long ago my team completed a time analysis and listed specific tasks and the hours spent daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly on each task. We were not surprised that our 40 hour week actually consisted of 50 – 60 hours. Our work day is technically 8-5 but so often we are working evenings and weekends.  With the emergence of social technology and the ability to check email, text messages and social networks 24/7 via our Blackberry and Droids it’s a wonder we get any sleep at all. There is also the issue that everyone on my team is a dedicated control freak!

Every once in a while we stop and evaluate our time management efforts. Kathy Muller, Director Sales Training and Development spends time with all new owners conducting a time management session and it is not unusual for someone on the team to sit through the session. Kathy reviews  a chart of Important vs Urgent  with four quadrants:

  1. Do Now: Subject to confirming the importance and the urgency of these task, do these now!
  2. Plan To Do: Critical to Success – planning, strategic thinking, deciding direction and aims. Plan to do these.
  3. Reject and Explain: Scrutinize and probe demands. Help originators to re-assess. Wherever possible reject and avoid these tasks sensitively and immediately.
  4. Resist and Cease: Habitual “comforters” not true tasks. Non-productive, de-motivational. Minimise or cease altogether. Plan to avoid these.

All of the above helps us to regroup. It never hurts to close our door and post one of my favorite door hangers either. If you need one, let me know and I will be most happy to mail one to you!

Why read UnMarketing?

Scott Stratten @UnMarketing was one of the first individuals I started to follow on Twitter when I joined in December 2008. He makes me smile. No, actually he makes me laugh out loud! In January 2009 Scott started his 30-day Twitter challenge. As he says in his book he ate, breathed and almost slept on Twitter. He called it “tweeting horizontally.” He literally filled my twitter stream. I learned a lot about Twitter by following Scott but I was also entertained. I remember one day he tweeted that he would be tweeting live via UStream (live video streaming) from his local coffee shop and answering questions. I logged on and was pleasantly surprised that his IRL (in real life) personality was the same as his on-line personality! It was so cool to see and hear Scott as he read through tweets from the audience.

Office fight over UnMarketing book

Lorri Wyndham aka @LorriW heard about the new  UnMarketing Stop Marketing. Start Engaging before I did and actually placed the order. But since she was still reading Delivering Happiness, A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose by Tony Hsieh, I thought it appropriate that I win the tug-of-war and read Scott’s book first.

In the chapter, How Twitter Changed My Business, Scott outlines what really worked for him and I believe actually worked for me too:

  1. Tweet constantly: Not that we would want to tweet 7,000 times in a month as Scott did in his 30 day Twitter challenge,  he makes a very good point about consistency and tweeting when you have something to say. “No one can tweet too much or too little because it’s your account. You can’t try to cater to certain followers because they don’t like your frequency” said Scott. Your focus should be on those that are following you, not who have left you.
  2. Tweet quality: Scott tweets great Twitter tips. He lives by “give before you expect to get” and it shows in his tweets. I know the tips he provided during the 30 day Twitter challenge helped me as a beginner.
  3. Tweet retweetable content: Having your tweets retweeted helps to build followers but it gives credibility to your original tweet. Besides his song had me rolling when I first heard it. Listen to it here
  4. Be authentic: Scott says it is a “fancy way of saying be yourself.” He points out that you don’t always need to talk business. People want to get to know the person behind the tweet. His unique personality + tweets is why I am a raving fan of @unmarketing (Scott).
  5. Use a face picture: Scott points out how wonderful it is to meet someone at an event that you haven’t met in person before. It’s even better when you recognize them because of their picture and you have engaged on-line. If you are using a logo for your tweets you are missing the opportunity to have someone recognize you and strike up a conversation. I love attending networking events and it’s great to meet people I have connected to on-line. I often hear “I recognize you from your avatar!”

UnMarketing is a great book and I have purchased extra copies to give as drawings to my speaking events and to my franchisees that attend our annual conference. It’s that good!

In 2005 COMPUTER EXPLORERS expanded into the UK. They operate under the brand ComputerXplorers (CX). The Master Licensee, Nigel Toplis has actively recruited new franchisees and they attend new owner training at our US headquarters in Texas.

New UK Franchisees, Wendy and Alan  Crocker attended our summer training. During the pre-training process we discovered that Alan was very involved with social media. He connected with us via LinkedIn, established his Facebook business page and had established a Twitter account. Lorri Wyndham, Operations Manager needed to modify training. Social Media 101 would not be appropriate for the Crocker’s!

As we worked with Alan we discovered many things and quickly realized that Alan is very involved in his community. Alan is the Founder and Chair of Derry Hill United FC, a children and youths football club. Over the years in the Club he has  increased player and volunteer involvement from 10 players/2 coaches to 220 players/35 coaches, improved the ground facilities through the fundraising and construction of a  Clubhouse and created an organization recognized and highlighted by the Football Association for the quality and breadth of what it delivers.

Alan is determined to use community involvement and experiences to build ComputerXplorers in Wessex. He is also determined to share his experiences and what he learns with the franchise system. Not just his fellow UK franchisees but with the U.S. franchisees as well.

Recently, Alan posted the following motivational message on the COMPUTER EXPLORERS LinkedIn Group Discussion:

Alan Crocker, UK Franchisee

“On Sunday, I searched press for items to tweet/blog about over the coming week. Found several ‘likely’ articles of an educational interest to see me through the next seven days. I decided I would tweet/facebook one of them as it was a timely piece talking about the change in primary school application process in my County (the changes take place this week when schools return). I thought this was a useful service to those parents who were about to experience this activity.

Today a local BBC Radio journalist rang me to ask what my interest in this topic was. She explained she was running a radio piece on the changes and had been scanning social media to find leads and research material and MY TWEET had come to light!

The opportunity was grasped with both hands. I offered to get her some vox-pop candidates from my football club and then gave her the CX pitch, new business, exciting technology clubs et al.

She’s going away to do her piece as planned but has said she is really interested in doing a piece on CX and tech. We’ve exchanged email addresses and I’m now looking forward to a radio interview on the BBC in October ;o)

Have hope everyone, keep throwing out the bait. There are fish out there ready to take a bite at any moment, they just need time to find your part of pond!”

Foursquare Fun In The Workplace

If you know anything about COMPUTER EXPLORERS you know that we create fun in the workplace. Sometimes there is a photo on Facebook of a co-worker not completing a task. For the record the task was to complete her conference presentation and she was caught swimming in the company pool (after hours of course). We are known to develop funny videos about the history of COMPUTER EXPLORERS and enter them into international competition (actually took first place)! You can watch the video by clicking here

Foursquare fits right into our culture of fun allowing the team to compete for badges and of course Mayor! I will admit that I am a little competitive. It may be true that I dragged one of my franchisees (possibly Robin Scott) all around New York City so I could collect a few very specific badges: Today Show, Historian, Far Far Away badge etc.

We are a technology education franchise and accustomed to listening to children giggle joyfully while learning. We at COMPUTER EXPLORERS corporate office believe that we too can enjoy what we do and giggle joyfully. We create our own fun and involve other departments. For example: once we took a photo of an employee from another department and told him he was the new “CT” (computer turtle mascot). We couldn’t resist, we photo shopped his picture as the turtle and shared it with him and department. Not much he could do since he was on a business trip to Russia.

Foursquare fell right into our fun culture. Lorri Wyndham aka @LorriW on Twitter and I started competing for mayorship. Outsting each other day after day developed quite a cheering squad. There was a Lorri for Mayor team and a Deb for Mayor team.

Lorri came up with a brilliant plan how to resolve our battle. She decided to oust the Mayor of Northwest Forest. ICED Headquarters is part of the Northwest Forest 100 acre campus. Great solution! Now we can both be Mayor and battle anyone that tries to oust us without battling each other!

Charmayne Redd, Director of Advertising aka @Charmayne01 is also very competitive but she stays out of the Mayor feud. Instead she took on #4sqcling. Charmayne is the administrator for Foursquare Northwest Forest and when she received the window cling she made it Texas size so no one entering the campus will miss it and of course be able to say she has the largest cling (let’s not talk about Times Square). You know, everything is bigger in Texas!

Lorri Wyndham and Charmayne Redd

How do you create fun in the workplace? It’s proven that Foursquare is a successful location base application and should seriously be considered for its application of fun!