The Name Badge Does Not Sell Your Business

Blank name tagAt the close of a large entrepreneur event, a small business owner came up to the registration desk and offered a suggestion. He felt like his name badge should have more than a name. He wanted a badge filled with all his information: name, company, title, website, email and phone. Then, he would talk to more people and more people would talk to him.

In an effort to help himself, he went ahead and scribbled all his identifying details in fine print below his name. Unfortunately, his details were written so small it required someone to lift his badge up close to read it.

In his view, his networking experience was hindered by only having a name to identify himself and others. The name-only tag “forced” him to have a conversation, instead of oddly reading someone’s detailed badge to self-select whether he should engage them.

My empathetic response, “I understand how you might feel more information on the badges could help you. I appreciate your suggestion. I do feel that you can open more doors, when you directly talk to people. Perhaps we have a different view of the value of these type of events and networking.”

My non-empathetic response, “Your name doesn’t open doors. It won’t sell you or your business. Your story, your enthusiasm and your passion are what engages others. It’s awkward to read someone’s name and then turn away. Then again, maybe we have a different view on what sells you and your business.”

What was not revealed to him was that it was intentional to only have a name on each badge. Why? To provide an everyone the opportunity to connect, share and learn. A convenience for each attendee to have an open door to sell themselves, their solutions and their business. Written words never sell. Written words affirm. It is the verbal story, the questions, the conversation that closes the deal. It is the interaction that really matters. It is looking someone in the eye and asking, “What do you do?” The name on your badge only facilitates an easier way to start the conversation.

No matter how many words you use to invite someone into to your lair, the offer is only as good as what you have identified through an engaging dialogue. A conversation. A two-way exchange. It answers, what can you do for me and what can I do for you? Value is created by the time you invest to ask, listen and qualify. It is the ongoing assessment that takes place during the conversation that defines opportunity. The number of conversations you have helps you measure the success or failure of your valuable time spent at an event or networking.

Business owners sometimes feel if they are equipped with mountains of content, leave behinds and written justification, the buyer will sell themselves.  In fact, written content is just an invitation. Invite to learn more. Invite to perk interest. Collateral and content does not sell a product or service. Collateral documents and illustrates. People are best for selling goods and services.

Networking and events give you a formalized occasion to have a dialogue. To learn and share. Those that will not talk to you because of your name-only tag are short sighted and often losing the opportunity to learn the real value of you, your offerings and your ideas. Conversation requires a back-and-forth tailoring of information that can be customized to your address your precise needs.  We only buy what we need. The listener is always waiting for you to make it about them. In their mind, they are waiting for you to tell them how you help them or solve their problems.

Less information on a name badge gives you the polite excuse to inquire, “Tell me what you do.” A badge or name tag should never give you reason why not to engage. Ask. Inquire. Question. That is how you benefit from any event. Do not hide behind a 3 x 4 card hanging around your neck. Use it as a chance to address the person by their name. “Jim, what is your reason for attending the event today?”  “Mary, are you an entrepreneur?”  This provides you the best opportunity to qualify, inquire, learn and discern if the person has something to offer you and you have something to offer them.

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. – William Shakespeare

By Jamie Glass, President and CMO of Artful Thinkers, follow: @jglass8 @artfulthinkers

The event noted in this post was the Innovation Arizona Summit 2013.  Read more about the event here.

When Do You Create a Board of Advisors

iStock_000005458028XSmallThere comes a time when assembling a group of experts to help grow your business is considered smart leadership and a business best practice. When you reach a stage in your business where you have exhausted the collective internal experience, knowledge and skill to achieve your next phase of growth — create a Board of Advisors.

Every purpose of creating a board will differ for each organization. A business owner may be faced with great opportunity for rapid growth or significant challenges from conquering the next ascent in revenue, market or product expansion. The appropriate time to consider assembling a board is when the business path forward is less clear or cluttered with obstacles that could derail you from achieving your business goals. You have reached that period in your business when their is more “unknown” and you fear what you don’t know.

A Board of Advisors is different from local peer groups, leadership councils, service providers and executive mentors. Your board is a committed team of individuals working on your business. Advisors should have congruent skills that compliment your leadership. As an example, you may find that by adding a distinguished industry expert or technical guru best serves the next phase of your business  Adding market or sales expertise can open new doors, while a finance or legal expert can provide insight to reduce risk.

Experienced executives want to help entrepreneurs, startups and leaders that seek advice to grow their business.  It validates their business “wear and tear”, while providing meaning and value to their experience. The board should round out your executive court, as these advisors are typically not available to hire as full-time employees and can be “unaffordable” for smaller businesses. They also may be those exclusive experts that will always be in a role of advising and never work for a single entity.

The reason you bring experts together as board members is to increase effectiveness and efficiency in decision-making and strategic planning. A board will perform best when there is an exchange of ideas in an organized environment, centered around a single business issue. The board format is designed to solve problems. Each board member brings a different set of experiences, viewpoints and resources. Having a board working together with you to assess challenges and discuss opportunities, gives you invaluable advise that can save you significant time and money versus the “learn as you go” approach.

Board of Advisors are not in a role of governance. They do not have fiduciary responsibility to protect shareholders or investors, though they should be very responsible in providing any guidance related to financials or spending company money. Only an elected Board of Directors for a public corporation or non-profit have governance over a company. The Board of Advisors is a non-binding group of mentors and experts that work collectively with company leadership to achieve your business goals.

Advisors should be completely aligned with your goal and mission and also be able to challenge you by providing recommendations and views that will differ from your own. You do not want a board that agrees with all your ideas or thinks as one. Why waste your time.  They should differ in expertise and have the ability to assess short-term and long-term strategies, out load in a group discussion, without fear of reprisal.

A board is typically five to six members, excluding the CEO or business owner.  A Board of Advisors should consist of experienced and skilled individuals in varied areas where your business is lacking in comparable talent. In the early stage of a business, Board of Advisors are typically unpaid and may or may not have a long-term financial commitment through future equity.  As a business leader, be cautious of giving away ownership in your company early, this could be a note of contention with future financing.

The commitment of an advisor should be a minimum of two years.  It is valuable to set a term limit in reviewing board members, as you company is expected to grow and you need to be able to add new board members with different skills during later stages of your business.  Board members must also be committed to attend meetings.  A small business will typically meet with the entire board every 8-12 weeks.  If a board member misses more than two meetings a year, consider replacing the advisor.

Board members should not be family members, employees, contractors or service providers you pay for other functions in your business. It creates conflict of interests. Though a board of advisors are not employees, you should treat your advisors as accountable members of your C-suite. Set expectations, ask for help and use your board to help you achieve your goals.  If you simply assemble your Board and provide an update report on the business, you are wasting valuable resources and time.

Board of Advisors are trusted members of your inner circle. You can share with them confidential information and discuss highly sensitive matters that are not open for discussion with anyone else in your company. Your board should consist of credible experts that will provide insights you can not gain from any other resource. They should open doors, help you gain new customers or strategic partners and provide actionable ideas to help you achieve success. If you want to grow, create a Board of Advisors.

“You sit at the board and suddenly your heart leaps. Your hand trembles to pick up the piece and move it. But what chess teaches you is that you must sit there calmly and think about whether it’s really a good idea and whether there are other, better ideas.” – Stanley Kubrick

Jamie Glass, President and CMO at Artful Thinkers @jglass8

Arizona Capital and Business Growth Resources

300X300Meet Arizona Capital and Business Growth Resources on June 11, 2013 at the MIT Enterprise Forum and Arizona Commerce Authority Innovation Arizona Summit.  Full details and registration available at www.mitefphoenix.org.

There are many organizations in Arizona that support innovators, startups, entrepreneurs and the established business community from early stage to exit.

This is an easy to use reference of various groups, associations and service providers in Arizona that help businesses with financing, strategy, venture development, M&A, growth and mentoring services and business networking.

Accelerators, Venture and Growth Advisors

Investment Bankers (FINRA Registered)

Angel Investor Groups

Venture Capital Sources and Funds

Collaborative and Shared Work Space – Map

Associations and Support

Pitch Contests & Competitions for Capital

Chambers of Commerce

Additional Resources:
 If you know of an organization that fits into the categories above, you can add the reference in a comment or email jamieglass8@gmail.com.

This list is maintained by Jamie Glass, President of Artful Thinkers.

Flying as a Solopreneur

The Flying Solopreneur – Life as the Independent Consultant

Your mind is a beautiful thing, so don’t waste it.  Put it to use as a business.  All of your collective experience gained through enterprise successes and failures can be commercialized into a service business, if you are willing to fly solo.

“Solopreneurs” is the trending word for self-employed entrepreneurs, also known as independent consultants.  On the networking circuit, they are called “single shingles”.  Solopreneur means the business is you! Your commodity is available time.

Business professionals worthy of being hired to fill a gap in an organization based on skill, knowledge and experience, should be open to the opportunity that multiple businesses may benefit and pay for that expertise.

The first step to determining if you are a good candidate to be a solopreneur is to convert your resume into a list of “product” features.  Once you have a good product description, then you need to determine if there is a market for what you are selling. In other words, will businesses pay for your time and the benefits you can provide?

As a solopreneur, you can save time and money by first drumming up attention from those that have witnessed your expertise in action.  Reach out to test your market viability through your network. Using the standard sales technique of asking for a referral, let people know you are open for business and ask your network to share your availability with others.  You may further extend your marketing message by offering referral fees to groups, partners and business associates that help you retain clients.

As a solopreneur, make sure your professionalism is demonstrated in your communications and social profiles.  Have a business card and professional web site that details your “product” and services. Create a professional business email account and secure your social site URLs, if you are going to brand your business beyond your name.

Working independently requires discipline and good time management.  You have to work on your business every day. Solopreneurs typically spend 20-30% of their time working on their business, leaving only 70% of the day working for paying clients.  Expect to dedicate at least three hours a day to marketing, meetings, invoicing and selling your services.

If you choose to be a solopreneur, build an advisory group of successful solopreneurs with expertise different than yours.  Meet once a month to share industry information and advice on how to best manage your business.  As a benefit, they may extend your reach by talking about you to their clients and network.  They should be your best unpaid marketers!

Solopreneurs succeed when they can fill a day of hard work, sharing knowledge and expertise and producing results for those that pay for that mindshare.  I am proud and excited to be flying solo as Artful Thinkers, it is truly an adventure.

Be not simply good – be good for something.” Henry David Thoreau

Best Networkers Go Where Others Won’t Go

Yesterday I met with a successful executive coach who is starting to explore opportunities of expanding her business. She was sent to me by a trusted colleague and notable networking expert.  The typical goal of these meetings are to learn about our respective businesses and then make introductions or provide advice on how to reach new clients.  It’s the life of an independent business owner and consultant.

One of the questions I always ask people looking to develop more business is “who owns your customer?”. Often there is pause. Yes, I want to know who owns the relationship with your customer, not who is your customer. The reason I ask this question is to identify the strongest influencers of those potential new customers.  In my experience, it is the shortest path to multiple buyers.

An influencer provides reach and accelerates your ability to grow market share.  Research suggests that we “buy” when we are influenced by someone we trust.  In fact, ninety percent of consumers surveyed in a 2009 Nielsen Survey said they trust recommendations from people they know.

This is not only applicable in retail situations or online recommendations, but also in business services as well. The business community often gives their business to those that come through their trusted network of peers or with whom they have a past relationship. Why? It eliminates the vetting and testing. In the old fashioned sales vernacular, it saves time and money.

Here are a few recommended steps to reaching your influencer:

1.  Identify your influencer, ask yourself who “owns” your customer.

2.  Research your influencer.  Where do they meet?  Who is in their network?  Who are their customers?  What events do they attend?  What association and industry groups do they belong to?

3.  Start following. Not literally stalking of course, but follow companies and connections in LinkedIn, through social media channels like Twitter, Facebook Fan Pages and Google+.  What are they talking about?

4.  Go to events where they gather and start building your circle of influence.

The biggest mistake I see others make in networking to find business is they go to where their friends and competitors go. For example, I am probably less likely to get business at another marketing event, as opposed to hanging out at a physicians conference or speaking at a non-profit event about advisory boards. My competitors do not go to these events, or at least very few do. I get more time to interact.  I can learn more about their needs in a particular industry or market vertical.  More importantly, I can start to build a network of influencers face-to-face.

How do I get those in the room that have nothing in common with me enter into a trusted relationship? I start by listening.  I then offer to make introductions to my trusted network, when there is a good match. I share my knowledge to see where we have similar business interests, like expanding markets, growing revenues.  Sometimes I offer to participate in events as a speaker on mutually defined topics of interest. Finally, I look for ways I can help them achieve their business goals and give them a “sample” of what I have to offer at no charge.

The saying, nothing ventured nothing gained seems to work well in the world of networking for business.  Sole proprietors and consultants have little time to work on their business, as they are the business.  You need to be your own best PR agent and maximize your limited selling time effectively. If you are competing for air time in a room of people that look and talk just like you, that is an educational or skill expanding event. Learn about your craft and further your expertise.  Don’t expect to get customers at these events.

When you want to network for business, go where you expect to see the least amount of your competition. The fewer people that are “talking just like you” that are in the room, the better chance you have to find business. You also create more awareness about your services because you are not a peer. You have more “meme” time. That will drive curiosity, and that opens a door to “sell yourself”.

Venture Out and Be DifferentNetworking is a skill.  Before you say no or turn away from the idea of going to a meeting or speaking at an event of complete strangers, realize that this is where business starts.  Venture out.  Be different. Go where others won’t go.