Clarity - Levelfield's Small Business Blog
- Jude Samson, President Levelfield.com, Inc
What I Did On Super Bowl Sunday...
I enjoyed a nice evening with my family watching the remake of the 1961 classic, The Parent Trap with Dennis Quaid. It was a great time to sit with my family and enjoy each other's company plus it turned out to be quite the entertaining film. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a family friendly feature. The most important part of this story is the timing. I was watching The Parent Trap during the Super Bowl. As an adult American male I may be scoffed at for my explicit disregard for THE game of the year as I intentionally chose to watch a Disney remake rather than the athletic prowess of the multi-millionaire players of the game.
With the movie credits rolling I changed the channel to see the end of the biggest game of the year with 4:03 left. Exactly enough time to see the best and worst of the role models in the NFL.
As the Patriots drove down the field I saw the utter crassness and blatant ego of Randy Moss as he caught a 7-yard pass to capture the game and the hearts of the New England followers. He seemed truly arrogant as he taunted the crowd with his arms and showed little gratitude for his winning play. As I watched his disregard for the moment I turned to my wife and said, "I truly hope that he is not rewarded." simply because he showed little emotion, heart or gratitude for this success. Unnerved by Moss I watched the rest of the game intently hoping for the Giants to take back the ring.
I was happy to find a reversal in the leading score, the chance for the Giants to win, and the emotion and gratitude of the players on top of the scoreboard. As Plaxico Burress caught the winning touchdown pass with thirty-five seconds left in the game he knelt down, reacting in the opposite way that Moss had a few minutes earlier. I witnessed the heart of a grateful player passionate about his game, his play and the potential victory in his hands as he knelt in the end zone displaying his graciousness for the moment. I was more excited to see the extreme opposite of Moss' disregard for a winning reception than I was to see the Giants get back on top of the scoreboard. Between Moss and Burress were the polar opposites of passion, gratitude and heart.
By only watching the last four minutes in the game I was able to spend quality time with my family and see two extremes in the passion and gratitude of professionals. As in business, if you aren't passionate or thankful for your successes then you typically are not rewarded. Be thankful for each and every dollar you make in your business and be grateful for the continued support of your customers, if you aren't passionate with what you do and the services or products you provide to your customers than you'll lose in the end. Passion is the essence of a successful business. The gratitude and humbleness you share within your successes as a business will make or break your tenure in your industry.
Optimize for $19.95
Have you ever fallen victim to one of these Search Engine Optimization claims? They offer to teach you everything you need to know about optimizing your website to get more traffic to your business' site. In the end you find out a bunch of lousy information that will hurt, not help, your search rankings.
There is no easy way to "optimize" your website for any purpose. It takes a lot of time and effort to get your website up and running to its maximum capacity.
Adding invisible links is not how you can drive more traffic to your business. It just doesn't work. I won't sit here and support that tactic and neither will the major players in Search Engines, i.e. Google. In fact some of the tactics mentioned throughout the internet as blacklisted SEO tactics just don't cut it and will actually get your website flagged. It simply doesn't do the job. Click Here to Find Out More.
The name of the game in SEOs is unique content. Produce unique content and you might have a win in the SEO game. But the only way to get that unique content is to do some work. Don't sit idle as your website becomes outdated. Consistently review the information on your website making it relevant to your business, Today!
One word...BLOG. Blog until you can't think anymore. Create a topic grab bag, pull from it when you get lost for a topic. Talk about what you did last weekend. The funny thing your youngest child told you yesterday. Relate everything in your life to your business. Make connections that mean something to yourself and make them relevant for other people. Make others care about what you are saying. Drive them to revisit your website again, and again, and again. Make your blogging consistent.
Nothing is accomplished that betters your business without hard work. Accomplishing your search engine goals won't magically happen with shortcuts. Look deep into the day-to-day operation of you and write about it. Work hard for your website and developing its content. The harder you work to create a robust up-to-date web space the harder your website will work driving traffic to your business.
The moral of the optimizing story for your business...
Adding content works. Adding more robust and unique content works even better.
How My Father Still Influences My Business...
Growing up I always sought my dad's opinions and approval for my new bigger and better ideas for business. More often than not my father used to tell me that my big idea did not meet the 4 rules. As a lifelong Rotarian it was very important to him that all business ideas and ventures reflect completely the four-way test of the things we think, say or do.
1. Is it the truth?
2. Is it fair to all concerned?
3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
With this ideology I consistently maintain my father's test throughout the growth of my business. Through passion and hard work to achieve what is beneficial to everyone involved I have built a foundation for business and real networking. The power of personal interaction in business has also become foundational for a successful business network.
I've recently become more aware of the power that is gained through personal interaction in business. Networking and the power of the people you know is more influential in your success than any contract that is signed. How do you get in the door to your next potential client? How do you get the ink on paper? It takes a little finesse and a lot of guts and passion. In a world overrun with digital communications its never been more important to utilize personal interaction to help build your relationships to get the deal.
A strong relationship is the glue that keeps our personal and business lives running smoothly. A strong relationship with your significant other can make or break a marriage. Similarly, a strong relationship with a client can make or break a successful business venture. The ties that bind us together aren't the email communications that we receive and send daily, they aren't the dollars that we exchange in business, its the personal relationships that we foster within our network and the passion that drives us. The typical saying, its all in who you know not what you know is golden in the business of doing business. You can't make a dime if you don't have a fostered relationship with someone who will buy in to your ideas. Just remember that its not just who you know its how well you know them and the passion for the business.
Apply the four-way test of the things you think, say or do in business. Increase your passion for what you do in business and make yourself aware of the truth, the fairness, the goodwill and the beneficiary of your decisions in business. Your success is intimately tied to your ability to meet the four rules.
Foster relationships with your business contacts. Make personal interaction a goal for 2008. Call your clients. Develop deeper relationships with your business partners. Make the relationship more important than the business conducted within the relationship. The more passionate you are about your business, the stronger your business relationships become and the stronger the fundamentals for success will have you answering yes to the four-way test.
Focus on Fundamentals
Working on your fundamentals is a key element of your daily activities as well as business. I've recently discovered that focusing on fundamentals and being persistent in your efforts is foundational to achievement. I have been involved in some form of organized soccer or running for the last thirty years and throughout this time I have hit the peaks of fitness and the valleys of decadence. On December 24th I attended my first Bikram yoga class. My reasoning for doing so was to increase my flexibility to help improve my soccer playing ability and to allow myself the ability to run pain free. Flexible muscles would provide me less soreness and less chance to become hurt or injured. Yoga would also provide me with a way to work on fitness fundamentals that I may have neglected in the past. I took a chance and partook in something that I normally would not participate in order to focus on longevity and fitness fundamentals. Today will be Day 17 of Yoga Class (in a row).
On Day 13 I had a breakthrough as I was listening to the instructor and she said, "Focus on breathing as it is the foundation of yoga". Historically I have been quite inflexible but during this breakthrough in class I focused on breathing and I was able to maintain a pose that seemed implausible for my body to achieve on each of the previous days. The Fixed Firm Pose and the element of breathing was my breakthrough.
Look to see what is fundamental to your business and focus on this to achieve your breakthrough. "Where does your money come from?" Improve this through focus and persistence and you will impact your bottom line. My new focus for 2008 is the foundation of my business: the size of the network. We are a small business and in order to achieve an impact to our bottom line we need to focus on our strength as a business, our large network of clients. We've recently hired someone dedicated to marketing because it helps us focus on what is fundamental to our business. Marketing to our existing clientele and our existing network will allow us to build on our fundamentals to reach our next breakthrough.
Move Beyond Your Comfort Zone In 2008.
Its that time of year to watch the ball drop and to make good on resolutions. Instead of resolving to change a behavior or to stop a behavior that you've become used to over the past year, learn from the things you've done and done right through the duration of 2007.
In your business it's important to always keep innovation top of mind. Remember what your business stands for, how you got to your current position and where you’d like to see your business go in the future. Use your past experience to help guide where you're company will prove most effective and profitable in the next year.
My new plan for the New Year is to create a list of all the thing we do well as a company and use it as a foundation and building block to create new ways to be innovative and stay relevant in business.
Day-to-day through constant work we forget what it is that we are good at and the reasons we may have started our business in the beginning. In order to grow as a business we need to identify new revenue streams to consistently update our vision and products to meet our customers needs.
What better way to grow than to build off of what you do well. The first step is to identify what you do well. Next, highlight all the things that your business does well that is also profitable. Become an expert in this "done well and profitable" entity and stick to that. Stick to what you know. Be an expert. Maintain and grow your business with the things you do well that also positively impact your bottom line.
Strive to be the best version of yourself this year. Be militant about your accomplishments. Be committed to not being comfortable. Live aggressively in business and strive to go beyond your comfort zone. Don't just hang on because your comfortable. Be willing to break yourself out of the comfortable place in which you've survived 2007 and become a better version in 2008.
An average of 6 million firms close each year. No matter what happened in the past year you’ve done a great job surviving another year in business. Your business has made it another year to 2008. Pat yourself on the back for ringing in another New Year as a small business.
Happy New Year!
Step-by-Step Work Your Plan
It's the time of year to reflect on the old and look forward to the new. Another year is almost past and we're trained to be nostalgic about what we did and did not accomplish in 2007. Lets learn from our failures and accomplishments and expand our plan for 2008.
If you don't have a specific measurable plan for your business than you are preemptively planning on failure for the New Year.
Lets discuss the idea of a plan in business. A business plan is nearly worthless if there aren't specific measurements in place to quantify a business' success. You make it or break it according to revenue and income. If there is no plan in place acknowledging revenue sources and where your customers are coming from, your business will fail faster than it is started. Beyond that, a business without a plan is an investor's nightmare.
It's important to break down your plan step by step. The degree to which you break it down into simple steps has cumulative effects on the overall goal. You should always plan your work and work your plan so that you have something more to strive for. Don't set unreachable goals for yourself and your business. Set smaller achievable goals that leave you striving for more.
As in business I look at day-to-day activities with specific goals in mind. One of my daily activities/hobbies is running. I enjoy running. As an activity, running doesn't sap my enthusiasm as it does for others. I love to run. I never run until I'm tired; I run until I have something more to give so that I look forward to my next run.
Set goals in business that reflect your overall plan and are an integral part of your success. Make sure that you always have more to give your business so you can look forward to your next successful goal achievement.
Where To Spend Your $$$Money$$$
A friend of mine recently told me a story about his new business. He had allotted $5000 to launch a website for this business and he wanted to spend $3500 on the art and graphic design of the site with the other $1500 to go toward its functionality. He was willing to spend a significant amount of his budget on the site because he wanted it to be a reflection of himself and his business.
Wanting my insight on this decision to invest in a website I made a simple suggestion. Invest $1000 on a Levelfield, Inc. Small Business Website and use the other $4000 of the budget to generate marketing to bring awareness and interest to the business. By only spending $1000 on my product and still receiving a highly functional, quality website interface with design elements, he would free up a large portion to spend elsewhere to gain interest for his business. By using the larger amount of marketing budget to drive customers to the website and create awareness for the business, the functionality of the web site will support the new interest and keep customers coming back.
I’d like to take credit for this idea of functionon and utility being more important than the outward reflection of self but Henry Ford is the one who originated this concept. Because of Ford transportation was of the essence and automobiles became the source of transportation for all Americans. Cars were no longer luxury items and status symbols afforded by only the upper class; cars were affordable. By providing a basic necessity to the American dream, Henry Ford helped increase the quality of life across the U.S. He made automotive transportation a reality for all people not just for the rich. I can only hope to achieve the same when it comes to small businesses and functional websites.
Be aware of where you are spending your money and why you are spending it. Insure that it is spent in a manner that benefits the functionality of what it is you are trying to achieve. A web page can win awards for its design and presence but if it doesn’t support incoming business and return customers its not worth a single penny you’ve spent.
Form and functionality make a website usable for you and your customers. Be conscious of where you spend your money and focus on your business’ marketing efforts. Use your marketing budget to drive interest to your business. If you don't have the ability to update your web site; if your web site doesn’t capture information from your online leads and automatically notify you so you can communicate to your customers immediately; if it doesn’t offer a built in newsletter feature for you to communicate to existing and interested clients; and if it doesn’t offer reporting for you to understand and better focus your efforts according to who has visited your business online your web site doesn’t work for your business. If your web site doesn't offer you all of these capabilities then you are spending too much money without enough return on investment.
Spend Quality Time with Your Website
Not only should we be constantly building relationships with those around us in our personal and professional life we need to stay in tune with our products and our marketing tactics.
Get to know your website and build a relationship with it. Your website is your face on the web. For many of your customers it’s their first point of contact with you and your business. Treat your website like you would yourself and constantly maintain its upkeep. Nothing says “I don’t have time to care for my business” than an unmaintained window to the virtual world.
Much like an interview that makes or breaks your entry into a company, your website can have the same effect on your current and potential customers. The web-face of a company on a website can legitimate the company to its consumers or if it doesn’t meet certain standards of the technologically savvy consumer generation it can distract from a companies legitimacy.
Many business owners reference the fact that time is limited and there are only so many hours in a day to do business let alone to work on a website. Make your website a priority. Make time for building and maintaining your website. Investing time and effort into your online façade will help you promote and validate your company to important early adopters, trendsetters and potential customers who judge your business by the company you keep on the web.
Learn how to blog. Take your most random thoughts and create unique content for your website, put it out their for your customers and search engines to pour over. Blogging on a Levelfield, Inc./Online Agency Site is one of the easiest ways to update unique content and save you time.
Relate to your customer through a consistent relationship with your website. Just like your car, your website deserves and needs regularly schedule maintenance. Create more bang for your online marketing buck and utilize your website and its features to the best of its ability.
The Quality Of The Contacts You Keep
This time of year brings up a lot of memories. Memorable experiences from your past always return to you over the holidays along with thoughts of loved ones missed and old friends misplaced over the years. We’ve been trained by retail America to spend money on cards to send our loved ones and old friends messages of well being. I’ve always wondered why we send messages to our loved ones wishing them well and including the “Year in Review” addendum instead of maintaining personal contact throughout the year. In most cases this addendum is a one or two page overview of all that has happened throughout the present year and all that is hoped for in the next.
In some cases the communication Mecca that we live in has taken over and the traditional Holiday card is overlooked and pushed aside to make way for the Holiday email newsletter. Everything in society has become less personal. We can pay our bills online, we can deposit checks at the bank without any personal contact and we even prefer to speak to our close friends via typed words on cell phones than by using our god given spoken language. During this year’s holiday season let's change that. I’ve always made it my goal to personally converse with old friends over the holidays, people I may have lost touch with over the past year. Rebuilding or maintaining the relationship that you once had via a phone call or a conversation over dinner would mean more to an old friend than a holiday card lost among the masses. Make it your goal this holiday season to rebuild your personal network through solid warm-hearted conversations between old friends. Skip the card aisle this year, save money on stamps and put your free long distance to good use. Make it a point to call the people you care about and reach out to old friends. An unexpected phone call from you is guaranteed to put a bigger smile on the other end of the line than snowflakes and joyful tidings on a two dimensional card. As with most things in my life, I’m constantly working to build stronger and more robust relationships, personally and professionally.
Maintaining contact in your personal life with old friends, acquaintances and family members is comparable to the maintenance of a network in business. There is a pretense when it comes to a business’ network that the more contacts you have the merrier. Lets reverse this thinking. The more contacts in a network doesn’t automatically lend itself to achieving greater results in a business; but the quality of the contacts you keep in your network, the more apt your network is to support, maintain and grow your business.
Contacts in a network should be screened through a double opt-in feature to allow for a solidly built list. Think quality over quantity. An email marketing campaign will be more effective if the targeted list of network contacts are fully aware of their status. Through a screening process, the customer knows and accepts the marketing efforts because they are conscious and mindful of the relationship. This idea can be applied to maintaining those network relationships. The quality of maintenance efforts you put into a customer relationship communicates to the customers in your network that they are important.
What you gain from an experience depends on the effort you put it. You will receive positive impacts from maintaining quality relationships and contacts within your personal life and in your business. Make relationship maintenance and quality communications a viable resolution in all aspects to better yourself in your personal and professional life.
The gift of an invitation
I have 4 amazing children. I have realized that my children and I don't share many interests. I would like to do fun stuff with them but most of the things they want to do are not fun for me. I had almost given up on things that I enjoyed doing with my children. I was happy to participate with them in activities that they enjoyed.
Every Tuesday morning I go to a breakfast meeting. During the meeting I shared my passion for Soccer. One of my friends Darrell Logterman mentioned that his daughter Stephanie Logterman plays soccer for the University of Texas Longhorns and that I should go watch a game.
I went to a game with 2 of my children. We had a wonderful time. I had finally found something all my children enjoy doing together. We are going to another one today. I will have my wife's van and take 4 of my kids with 2 of their friends to the game. I bought a few tickets and have a friend and his 3 kids meet us there. Last week I took 3 business associates to a soccer game.
As a person that usually avoids parties and large social gatherings I have found something that helps me nurture and build the relationship with my children and also business contacts in a setting I enjoy.
The next time someone invites you to something consider it carefully before choosing... You never know....Jude SamsonPresidentLevelfield, Inc.
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