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Did you read World Wide Rave by David Meerman Scott? Scott  shares how to use viral marketing with free valuable content to create online success.

Cyndee Perkins

Cyndee Perkins, COMPUTER EXPLORERS Curriculum and Program Development Director read Scott’s book. She is the author of the COMPUTER EXPLORERS blog and put together a celebration for the month of March. She shares the history of the franchise and why the plush lovable turtle named “CT” is used as the mascot.

Perkins enlisted the lead curriculum writer Roz Shafer to develop a fun short video that  young children can relate to (see below). The best part of the campaign is the free access to the password protected eTots portal where children around the world can access the best online activities from home!

March may come in like a lion or a lamb for some but for COMPUTER EXPLORERS March is all about the turtle! Please help us celebrate this month by sharing the links below!

COMPUTER EXPLORERS Blog

eTots Portal for Children Around the World!

This is the last day of the annual International Franchise Association Convention and my brain is beginning to hurt. So much to learn. So many people to meet and network with. So many things to blog about that I don’t know where to begin!

I will start with a few quick highlights for now and details later:

  • Women’s Franchise Committee Leadership Conference – “Leading Through the New Normal: How to Define and Empower Your System” The discussions from franchise top leaders about defining your brand’s “new normal” was powerful! This is an exceptional  committee to be part of. They have a strong mission, a clear vision, effective leadership and a dedication to franchising and team work.
  • IFA TweetUp – Great attendance of new and current Twitter users! It was a pleasure to finally meet @JackMonson (Engage 121) and @Franchising411 (Matt Haller, IFA Communications Director) in real life! Both successfully use social media to promote franchising and I encourage you to follow them.
  • Technology Summit – Ken Colburn,  Chair – Social Media Task Force & Information Technology Committee at IFA did a fantastic job putting together a conference on using social media to increase sales! The keynote speaker Ford Saeks engaged the audience that are new to social media. They walked away with new insights of why and how to implement the basics. He also provided great takeaways for those that are emerged in social media.
  • Best Practices in Training: 10 Ways to Make Your Training More Fun and Impactful – It was a thrill to watch Kathy Muller shine at what she does superbly for COMPUTER EXPLORERS. Her session was full and you can read this Smart Brief post by Brooke Howell about the session.

Here is a fun video that I took during a session I was moderating on the use of YouTube. It proves that I should move in front of the camera and not behind it! The group was great and we had a wonderful time brainstorming about the use of video for lead generation and franchise support.

All of the above happened in the first two days.  I’m still digesting day three and ready to run back to the MGM Grand Convention Center for the final day of learning and networking!

Interview with Les McKeown

Les McKeown is the President & CEO of Predictable Success. He has has started over 40 companies in his own right, and was the founding partner of an incubation consulting company that advised on the creation and growth of hundreds more organizations worldwide. 

Since relocating from his native Ireland to the US in 1998, Les advises CEOs and senior leaders of organizations on how to achieve scalable, sustainable growth. His clients range from large family-owned businesses to Fortune 100 companies, and include Harvard University, American Express, T-Mobile, United Technologies, Pella Corporation, The US Army, Microsoft and the NSA.

Based in Marblehead MA, Les now spends his time consulting, writing, teaching, and speaking. Les has appeared on CNN, ABC, BBC, Inc, Entrepreneur magazine, USA Today and The New York Times.

Les took time from his very busy schedule to conduct a telephone interview with me. He discusses the seven stages of Predictable Success and the importance of understanding each stage of business growth.
The 32 minute interview was a lot of fun for me and so informative that I thought it best to share with you.

Home Office

Prospects ask me all the time what is involved to own and operate a franchise. They are often confused when I tell them they will operate from their “home office.”

One attractive aspect of COMPUTER EXPLORERS (CE)  franchise is that it is a home-based business. This does not mean it has to be run out of your home; it means a franchise owner is not required to lease commercial space. With CE, you simply don’t assume the risk of signing a long-term commercial lease for professional retail or office space.

This can save you thousands in your first year of operation; a normal lease can cost $12-20,000 a year plus the cost of furniture and improvements. That’s money you’ll save by running a smart and lean business out of available space in your home. It’s also a good reason home-based businesses are thriving in today’s economy.

Those who are entrepreneurs and have run a business from home likely know what a home office is and understand how it works. For those without such experience, the idea can be confusing.

COMPUTER EXPLORERS is an on-site business and in many ways, it is a mobile business. We provide education services on site at schools, day care facilities and recreation centers. We bring what we do to our customers so they don’t have to come to us.

When you open your COMPUTER EXPLORERS  franchise, most of your teachers will be subcontractors. They’ll pick up the equipment they need from you. Your home office will need storage for the equipment – laptops, projectors and iPads used in CE courses. With electronic equipment, climate control is important so the gear can’t be stashed in the trunk of the car, garage or attic.

Much of your work will be on the phone and on the Internet. You’ll need desk space and file storage for your records. You’ll need a fax machine, phone lines, printer and high-speed Internet access. For many people, buying a communications bundle from your cable company that includes phone and Internet makes the most sense.

A spare bedroom, bonus room, flex room or den works great. Using a home office significantly reduces your costs, too. Ask your accountant or other financial advisor about tax savings you might be eligible for if you do use a room in your home for your CE office.

Clients don’t come to your office; you meet them where they work. A CE home office does not need a reception area or meeting room, but it does need to be a place where you can work productively. If your home is full of distractions, you might want to explore an executive suites or coworking spaces, which provide a business address and a small suite or desk along with access to a conference room and other amenities.

To start, talk with COMPUTER EXPLORERS franchisees and ask about their office space. Did they start out in a home office and move to an executive suite? Are they still in a home office? Why? What works for them and what doesn’t?

One size does not fit all, and a COMPUTER EXPLORERS franchise is flexible. It easily can be run from home, which is the most affordable option. It can be run from an office or executive suite. We leave that choice up to you.

Could you work from a home office?

I Did It … I Did It!

I accomplished my goal of posting to my blog daily this week.

GiGi and Kace

Today I want to reflect on 2010. Personally, the birth of my grandson represents the best of the year. Unfortunately, there is also the worse of the year with the death of my brother-in-law just a few days ago.

Professionally, there are several great things that took place in 2010. I will leave the bad for another post.

COMPUTER EXPLORERS conference in March gave me the opportunity to meet Randy Hall in person. Randy is CEO, 4th Gear Consulting and we developed a friendship and working relationship virtually. Randy worked with franchisees in group coaching sessions prior to conference and his presentation at conference was extremely well received. He had us focus on success and how financial success won’t last unless we are enjoying what we love in your business. Meet Randy here on this link to the COMPUTER EXPLORERS YouTube channel.

Mirror Test

I was fortunate to be one of the speakers at ICED (International Center for Entrepreneur Development) Executive Conference. The keynote speaker was Jeffrey Hayzlett. In all honesty, until I was asked to be a speaker at the conference I never gave Jeff a second thought. I started following him on Twitter and then read his book The Mirror Test.  In fact, the entire COMPUTER EXPLORERS team read the book and took the test to determine if our business was really breathing. To say Jeff has lots of personality is an understatement. Take a minute to search the Web and watch some of his videos and/or read his book.

Social Geek Radio fan Dana Lopez

Social Geek Radio launched in May! It was a big step to move outside of my comfort zone and try something so public. It’s been a real learning experience and a great deal of fun. There are a few loyal fans like Wendy Hatch and Dana Lopez that listen weekly. Knowing they are there supporting me is very comforting. This week I received an email from a listener, Angela. She said that she listened once and is now hooked. I don’t know Angela and I’m sure she doesn’t know what that email meant to me.

COMPUTER EXPLORERS new Website launched with a lot of hard work by St. Jacques Marketing firm, the Franchise Advisory Council and Lorri Wyndham. It’s a work in progress but I’m confident as we enter 2011 it will get better engaging and providing valuable information to our communities.

These are just a few of my favorite things of 2010. (Does it make you want to break out in song?). Resolutions, goals, expectations are set for 2011 along with a determination to succeed.

Hopefully, this time next year my post will be I did it, I did it …. I just don’t know at this time what “it” will be.

Happy New Year!

As I have mentioned, I subscribe to Predictable Success blog written by Les McKeown. His blog post: 3 Steps to Writing Your Strategic Plan This Weekend peaked my interest. In fact, I shared the link with the team and we each made a commitment to listen to the 40 minute audio recording and workbook.  I personally downloaded to iTunes and on my ride back and forth to work Les accompanied me. I will admit that at first I was mesmerized by his accent but quickly realized he was sharing very good processes related to strategic planning.

One of our first steps in planning was to outline our KK and KDK. Les explained that the KK is what you “know you know.” The operational activities you do everyday. The KDK is what you “know you don’t know.” For example, customer satisfaction has declined. You know it has declined but you don’t know why.

Each week we worked on the 2011 strategic plan as a team. We implemented many of the suggestions Les outlined and used his worksheets for planning.

In our last newsletter to the franchisees of the year we outlined four major expectations. Each expectation outlined our strategic thinking, tactics and actionable steps.

  • Building and Growing the Brand
  • Fostering Relationships
  • Becoming Stronger and Smarter
  • Staying Innovative

In my letter to the franchisees I said, “trying to grow with the speed of technology is a daunting task, but with the support and enthusiasm of the system I know we will exceed even our own expectations in the coming year.”

In our visit to Blinds.Com Complex, Jay Steinfeld taught us to “experiment without fear.” Watch out 2011! COMPUTER EXPLORERS team is ready to start experimenting.

Experimenting Without Fear

What are your 2011 expectations? Did you work as a team to create them? Have you shared them with your franchise/organization?

Top Influencers

Earlier this year LinkedIn Groups added a few new features. One is the the ability to receive email alerts to new postings. The other is the addition of top Influencer of the Week. Per the LinkedIn blog:  “the new groups interface introduces an easy way to discover participants who truly drive the activity of the group’s discussions each week by highlighting them as “top influencers”.  This designation is given not only to those who contribute the most, but also to those whose contributions stimulate the most participation from other group members.”

I love the top influencer feature on LinkedIn and I started thinking about who my top blogging influencers are. Here are my top three:

Gini Dietrich

Spin Sucks – In my opinion, Gini Dietrich, Founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich  is a social media guru. Gini helped me and COMPUTER EXPLORERS understand the importance of social media. She was patient and mentored us as we started using the various platforms. She started us in the right direction of  what platforms to engage, who to follow and worked closely with me to develop a  social media tool kit for COMPUTER EXPLORERS. Gini posts daily to Spin Sucks and most days has a guest blogger. Her content is written in a conversational tone and she doesn’t hesitate to be controversial. In fact, she encourages it! Her blogs receive outstanding traffic and readers consistently leave comments. I not only learn something from the content Gini posts but often from those who leave comments!

Les McKeown

Predictable Success – Les McKeown, President & CEO is also the author of the book Predictable Success.  His book focuses on the evolution of a business and how and why some succeed and some do not. The best part of owning the book is the access to book-owners-only resources! I will admit I just logged on this week and I’m not sure what took me so long. Les believes it is a continued journey to be successful. I believe that if you subscribe to his blog he will coach you along the way. His podcasts, videos and postings provide a road map to follow on accountability, goal-setting, management tips and so much more!


Laura Graham Leonard

In My Court – Laura Graham Leonard, a local COMPUTER EXPLORERS owner writes: “A marketing activity a day keeps the creditors away. Or the ball is in my court – what am I going to do about it?” Early November Laura decided that her business growth was dependent on her marketing efforts. She committed to conducting at least one marketing effort a day and journaling her efforts until Christmas. She says that by blogging her activities daily she would be forced to focus on marketing each day and she would not be able “to hide under the bed until the economy improves.” For the most part Laura has been diligent about journaling and more importantly marketing. I’ve followed her blog reading about her challenges and successes. Christmas has arrived and I’m not surprised that she is busy with her family and taking a well deserved break. She may not be blogging but I have found her on LinkedIn and contributing to discussions. I decided to follow in Laura’s footsteps and try blogging daily for one entire week. I hope to manage my time and continue blogging through the New Year.

Who were your top influencers in 2010?

The phrase “It takes a village to raise a child” is attributed to an African proverb. Author Jane Cowen-Fletcher published a book with the same title in 1994. She wrote about a young African girl who searches for her brother and realizes that an entire village was watching over him.

Over the weekend my young grandson was ill with a respiratory infection. My son and daughter-in-law were capable of taking care of him at home but decided to let his village help and stayed with us over the weekend.

As I prepared to return to today,  I started thinking about my village or tribe at COMPUTER EXPLORERS (CE). I am very fortunate to have a strong team of individuals that work together to support the franchise. They are amazing individuals and together an exceptional tribe. So who are they and why are they exceptional? Is it their passion, motivation and dedication to make the brand successful? Is it their ability to work as a team to complete goals and meet expectations? It is all of the above and so much more!

Cyndee Perkins

Cyndee Perkins: Cyndee has been an educator both in public and private schools, an advocate of using technology in the classroom since the “early days” of student-produced videos. Cyndee, with her husband Perk, became a CE franchisee in 1992. She and Perk moved to VA in 1996, where she held a position in Franchise Services at the corporate office until relocating to Texas in 2004. Her current position is Director of Curriculum and Program Development. Responsibilities include the development and program delivery of all CE products, franchise support and writing the corporate education blog.

Lorri Wyndham

Lorri Wyndham: Lorri has been working with the ICED Corporation (parent company of CE) for the last several years, in operations, training and support of new owners. In 2009, she was elected Employee of the Year by her colleagues. She has been a moderator for a social media panel at the International Franchise Association (IFA) international conference. She is currently working on a University degree in Business Management, as well as her certification as an IFA Certified Franchise Executive. Responsibilities include managing the CE social media marketing and Website development, has written social media professional development courses for teachers and for military veterans, and is responsible for CE internal franchise communications. In addition, Lorri writes Computers & Kids, a newsletter for preschool parents focusing on activities (both on and offline) to build parent/child relationships and enhance preschool learning.

Kathy Muller

Kathy Muller: Kathy has over twenty years of experience in training and personnel/organizational development. Kathy has over fifteen years of experience as an adult leader trainer. She has been an instructor for the Center for Corporate Training & Development at North Harris College and a guest instructor for Drug-Free Business Houston. She maintains professional relationships with several outside sales and marketing specialists, and brings up-to-date techniques to training classes and counseling sessions. Responsibilities include working with members of the several brands in the ICED community of franchises, developing processes to aid them in their sales and marketing efforts.

Other key individuals such as the curriculum writers, Director of Advertising, Franchise Development, Accounting, Legal …. too many to list here with their photos and bios.

Do you know anyone in my tribe and have something to add? Do you have a tribe you would like to share?

Brother and Sister Using iPad Together

Laptops, iPads and video game consoles are among the most popular holiday presents and they often get a bad rap for dumbing down kids. Yet popular technology gifts can engage children in activities that reinforce learning across core subjects and develop important problem-solving skills, says Jenifer Morack, director of COMPUTER EXPLORERS of Mercer & Hunterdon Counties.

“With the right training, kids can use common holiday gifts to design video games, write basic computer programs, better understand the world and even score higher on tests,” said Morack. “With the right curriculum, kids get so excited they forget they are learning. Their ability to absorb knowledge and apply it is really amazing and inspiring.”

In addition to its in-school curriculum, COMPUTER EXPLORERS offers opportunities for kids to design video games and 3-D worlds, program robots, make green-screen movies and experiment with other cutting-edge technology such as iPads; children ages 3 to 16 master technology skills at an early age. The extracurricular classes are taught in public and private schools, after-school programs, camps, pre-schools and youth organizations. ComputerTots and eTots, its online companion, help prepare pre-schoolers develop advanced skills in cooperative learning, observation and problem-solving.

With access to the Internet, most technology gifts can easily do double duty for both entertainment and learning.

“The trick is for kids to use household technology such as iPads and laptops in the classroom to make core subjects fun so kids want to use them as learning tools,” said Morack. “When students realize they can learn whenever and wherever they are with access to the right tools, popular technology gifts become much more valuable.”.