Determining your worth in your industry
Every now and again, as independent business owners and entrepreneurs, we may question our services and value that should be attached to said services. Who is it that said that “my time is worth a million dollars an hour, but I haven’t found the person willing to pay that yet?” Was it Mr. Buffett? Am I just making that up, because it sounds like something awesome he would say?
He definitely said “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” Think about that, because it will make sense later…
Well, in a networking meeting two days ago, my colleagues were in a deep discussion about how much they should be billing for their particular trades. Should it be the industry standard? Should they do the work job-by-job? Should they consult with other folks within their particular trades so that if they are being put out to bid they are being compared apples to apples? Hmmm. So many questions. This made me think about a particular instance that happened to me, a Realtor who gives phenomenal five star service, just last week.
Flattery will get you nowhere
I was speaking with a referred potential client, and we were hitting it off, yet she was telling me of her woes and how the agent she has been dealing with for a number of years was incredibly unresponsive, apparently gave her “sass,” and even left her to wait sometimes for several hours for scheduled appointments.
This is unheard of in my book! This is just terrible customer service, and in my real estate industry and my personal business ethic, something that would not be tolerated. The potential client went on to go through some particulars with me about how she would absolutely love to work with me and that she had heard such rave reviews. I was thrilled and then… she asked through all of the flattery, “would you discount your service by two percent?”
Discounting Service from Discounting Pricing
Uhm, excuse me? Did I hear you correctly? You give amazing service. You are the person I would like to work with. I want you to do the work that the other person has not been doing for well, a discounted rate…
I don’t know you from anyone… and you are asking me to discount my service after you just told me how amazing I am, and you know what type of service I will provide for you- you practically did my job for me in the “selling of me.” Things were starting to make more sense as to what was probably going on with the other agent. She had gotten a discount agent who was providing discount service; this I don’t know for a fact, it is pure assumption, but it just started to make sense to me in my mind.
My point is… I don’t do that. I know my value. I know my worth, and I don’t discount my service to get a deal locked down. It was such a funny conversation, because she seemed genuinely shocked when I told her that I don’t discount my service like that. This particular potential client was a professional, and she has an amazingly successful business, and business mind- which I truly respect- and I asked her if she discounted her work. She doesn’t.
Interestingly enough, she still wanted to have someone give her a discount. Sorry. As a professional, with specific ethics that I uphold myself to, I would then have to extend that same offer to everyone, and still provide the same level of high-end service that as a one-person operation, isn’t how I operate. We went our separate ways, and she even sent me a very, very flattering note about how she appreciated my passion for my work and how it shines through and all that, but it was muddling.
Be the Master of you Craft- Command What you Demand
Let’s take this full circle, shall we? My networking friends who were trying to identify their own personal value for their business heard me pipe up and tell my “don’t discount yourself because you feel pressured or bullied into it” story.
Know your value. Remember what Warren Buffett said, too. Price is what you pay. Value is what you get. So, again, know your value. Research. Know your trade inside and out, and let people know your passion and why they need to actually pay you what you are worth because they will know that you deliver the best possible product, whether it is a consultant service, a marketing and branding package, or the customer service that goes along with personal real estate sales.
Some professionals will even charge more because they can command it, and people will give them that because those folks have learned how to master their field and earn the trust and respect of their clients and colleagues. These people are masters of their craft. Know your market, and know why you command what you demand.
PopCom designs smart vending machines to automate regulated products
(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) PopCom raises $1.3 million in equity crowd funding to launch smart vending machines that will securely sell regulated products like cannabis and alcohol.
Dawn Dickson is upgrading the beloved vending machine to thrive in the era of COVID-19. Dickson is the Founder & CEO of PopCom, a black-owned retail technology company whose mission is to “equip entrepreneurs and brands with future-ready retail solutions that allow rapid retail expansion, incredible customer experiences, and powerful sales data.”
Dickson started her entrepreneurial career with Flat Out Heels, rollable flat shoes that fit in a purse. The business was an e-commerce hit, relying on online data analytics to drive sales and growth. She found there was a disconnect in leveraging that technology when she looked for traditional vending machines to sell her products in places with high foot traffic like airports. Like any good entrepreneur, she created her own solution to the problem.
PopCom vending machines use facial detection and machine learning to create an interactive and intelligent retail experience. In 2020, the Columbus, Ohio based company is rolling out secure pilots for automated vending of regulated products like alcohol and cannabis. The machines rely on biometric analysis to verify identity, and can even anonymously evaluate age, gender, and emotional sentiment while a customer is browsing to convert sales. Products can therefore be available on demand with minimal human interaction.
The growth of this technology is timely as COVID-19 continues to ravage retail in the United States. “Vending machines and convenience services are becoming more essential, and retailers are looking for more ways to deliver their products direct-to-customer with less human friction. We are excited about what is to come,” Dickson told BlackNews.com.
And what is to come is coming quickly. Dickson just completed a record-setting equity crowdfunding campaign on Start Engine, being the first female founder in history to raise $1.3 million in just 47 days! Previously, PopCom raised an initial $1.07 million from their first campaign. According to SEC regulations, companies can raise up to $1.07 million from regulation crowd funding sources in a 12-month period.
How to choose the right software for your business
(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) What are the best software options for your company? Well, we have a list of suggestions and questions to help you determine what is best for you.
It’s almost impossible to run a successful modern business without some kind of software to help you stay productive and operate efficiently. There are millions of companies and even more independent developers working hard to produce new software products and services for the businesses of the world, so to say that choosing the right software is intimidating is putting it lightly.
Fortunately, your decisions will become much easier with a handful of decision-making rubrics.
Determining Your Core Needs
First, you need to decide which types of software you really need. For most businesses, these are the most fundamental categories:
- Proposal software. Customer acquisition starts and ends with effective proposals, which is why you need proposal software that helps you create, send, and track the status of your sales documents.
- Lead generation and sales. You’ll also want the support of lead generation and sales software, including customer relationship management (CRM) platforms. These help you identify and track prospects throughout the sales process.
- Marketing and advertising. Marketing and advertising platforms help you plan and implement your campaigns, but even more importantly—they help you track your results.
- Finance and accounting. With finance and accounting software, you’ll track accounts payable and receivable, and countless variables influencing the financial health of your company.
- Supply chain and logistics. Certain types of businesses require support when it comes to supply chain management and logistics—and software can help.
- Productivity and tracking. Some software products, including time trackers and project management platforms, focus on improving productivity and tracking employee actions.
- Comprehensive analytics. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software and other “big picture” software products attempt to provide you with comprehensive analytics related to your business’s performance.
Key Factors to Consider
From there, you’ll need to choose a software product in each necessary category—or try to find one that covers all categories simultaneously. When reviewing the thousands (if not millions) of viable options, keep these factors in mind:
- Core features/functionality. Similar products in a given niche can have radically different sets of features. It’s tempting to go with the most robust product in all cases, but superfluous features and functionality can present their own kind of problem.
- Integrations. If you use a number of different software products, you’ll need some way to get them to work together. Prioritize products that make it easy to integrate with others—especially ones you’re already using.
- Intuitiveness/learnability. Software should be intuitive and easy to learn. Not only will this cut down on the amount of training and education you have to provide employees, but it will also reduce the possibilities of platform misuse in the future.
- Customizability/flexibility. Out-of-the-box software products work well for many customers, but they may not suit your current or future needs precisely. Platforms with greater customizability and flexibility are favorable.
- Security. If you’re handling sensitive data (and most businesses will be), it’s vital to have a software developed with security in mind. There should be multiple layers of security in place, and ample settings for you to tightly control accessibility.
- Ongoing developer support. Your chosen software might be impressive today, but how is it going to look in three years? It’s ideal to choose a product that features ongoing developer support, with the potential for more features and better functionality in the near and distant future.
- Customer support. If you have an issue with the app, will someone be available to help you? Good customer service can elevate the value of otherwise average apps.
- Price. Finally, you’ll need to consider price. The best apps will often have a price that matches their quality; it’s up to you to decide whether the extra expense is worth it.
Read about each product as you conduct your research, and pay close attention to reviews and testimonials from past customers. Additionally, most software companies are happy to offer free demos and trials, so you can get some firsthand experience before finalizing your decision. Take them up on the offer.
Finding the Balance
It may seem like purchasing or subscribing to new software products will always improve your business fundamentals, but this isn’t always the case. If you become bogged down with too many apps and services, it’s going to make operations more confusing for your staff, decrease consistency, and drain your budget dry at the same time. Instead, try to keep your systems as simplified and straightforward as possible, while still getting all the services you need.
You won’t find or implement the perfect suite of software products for your business overnight. It’s going to take weeks, if not months of research, free trials, and in-house experiments. Remain patient, and don’t be afraid to cut your losses on products that aren’t working the way you originally intended.
‘Small’ business was once a stigma, but is now a growing point of pride
(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Small businesses make up the majority of companies, employers, and money makers of the American economy, that’s something to be proud of.
Prior to the Industrial Revolution, all businesses were small businesses. Independent craftsmen served communities with vital services. Small merchants opened shops to provide the community with goods. Lawyers, doctors, and other professionals hung out a shingle to offer their services to neighbors. Small businesses were the norm. Some of the most beloved American companies started out local. John Deere, Harley Davidson, and King Arthur Flour, all got their start as small businesses.
Business changes led to a attitude change
It wasn’t until manufacturing allowed businesses to scale and produce more efficiently that the idea of big business became more important. Post-World War II, the idea of a small business became derogatory. It was the age of big government. Media was growing. Everyone wanted to be on top. Small businesses took a back seat as people moved from rural to urban communities. Small business growth plateaued for a number of years in the mid-20th century. Fortunately, the stigma of small business is fading.
Small businesses are the backbone of the economy
According to the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, the “American business is overwhelmingly small business.” In 2016, 99.7% of firms in American had fewer than 500 workers. Firms with 20 workers or less accounted for 89.0% of the 5.6 million employer firms. The SBE also reports that “Small businesses accounted for 61.8% of net new jobs from the first quarter of 1993 until the third quarter of 2016.” Small businesses account for a huge portion of innovation and growth in today’s economy.
Modern consumers support small businesses
According to a Guidant Financial survey, the most common reason for opening a small business is to be your own boss. Small business owners are also dissatisfied with corporate America. Consumers also want to support small businesses. SCORE reports that 91% of Americans patronize a small business at least once a week. Almost half of Americans (47%) frequent small businesses 2 to 4 times a week.
Be proud of small business status
Small businesses are the innovators of tomorrow. Your neighbors want to support small businesses, knowing that their tax dollars stay in the community, and that they’re creating opportunities within their own city. Your small business status isn’t a slight. It’s a source of pride in today’s economy. Celebrate the fact that you’ve stepped out on your own in uncertain times. Celebrate the dirt under your fingernails, literally, or figuratively, that made you take a risk to do what mattered to you.
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Ladies and gentlemen, the U.S. National Anthem
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