3 Things I learned from Ned Harper
Last Thursday, I attended a seminar offered by the Daytona Beach Small Business Development Center, taught by the SBDC Director, Ned Harper.
Topic? “Listening to Your Business.”
I walked in the classroom five-minutes late, and my learnings started right away. Just as I sat in my chair, the person to my left was done with her introduction and it was my turn to talk about my company’s marketing statement (aka elevator pitch), with a limit to do it in 30 seconds.
Typically I’m pretty good about this kind of thing; but I had just sat down, and was still in the process of getting settled. I guess I wasn’t quite ready to speak, so I haven’t done as well as I otherwise do with my marketing pitch.
What we do at Office Divvy ™ can be confusing for some folks. Understanding what we do, and how we help business-people and professionals reduce overhead, outsourcing certain operations to our team, to enable them focus on their core-business may require a paradigm shift. It’s not easy to describe how we do that in 30 seconds. And that is why, we even require our team at Office Divvy ™ to work on their “elevator pitch” –including myself. However I could see from the expressions of some folks in the workshop, they were not clear about what we do after my 30-second pitch. I could tell that my marketing statement didn’t do what it’s supposed to.
So, the first thing I learned (or got reminded of) is:
Always Be Ready for Your Elevator Pitch!
The elevator pitch is called just that because most times, and in most settings you only have a few moments to talk about your marketing statement. So, always be ready with your elevator pitch for your company. Rehearse it until you are completely comfortable with it, and until you can even recite it in your sleep.
Listening to Your Business was a terrific seminar/workshop. The curriculum is based on Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, and it was offered free of charge by the Daytona Beach Small Business Center. The seminar took place practically right in my backyard, at the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce in Palm Coast, so it made it easy for me to peel off and attend it.
I truly enjoyed the workshop. It focused on areas such as:
- Understanding Business Life Cycle and Transitions
- Understanding where your business is today in that life-cycle
- Visualizing where you want your business to be in three years
- Identifying how to get there
- Learning about planning tools and competencies
- Transition Tactics
Many of the topics and discussions were dedicated to a “three-year vision” and “planning for business success.” Now let me make it clear that I’m not writing this blog-post to repeat the class-curriculum here. I’m not going to do it… Daytona Beach SBDC offers this seminar few times a year (and so do other SBDCs around the country), and you can attend it yourself.
I will say though, that I found the seminar very educational. It was stimulating to step-back, to take a moment from the daily-routine and the-grind, and to participate in a learning experience with other professionals, entrepreneurs, and business people.
That brings me to the second thing I learned:
Say It The Way It Is!
One of the ‘students’ in the workshop was a solopreneur specializing in wall-coverings. She mentioned that her products and services were upscale, in the luxury category. When the business cards were passed around, Ned noticed that her business-card did not stylistically represent her service/product. I would describe it as an average, or even “cheap” business-card. No, Ned did not say that; that’s my own impression, and possibly others thought the same. But Ned chose to speak to what he noticed; recommending that she considers upgrading her business card, so it can better represent her business. She didn’t seem exactly happy to hear that; but pretty much everyone else saw it was useful feedback.
What did I learn from this? If you are in a position to teach, or when sought to give feedback, do not hold back what you need to say, just because your protégé may not like it.
After the class, I invited Ned for lunch, but he declined. He asked me if we could do it some other time. He had another commitment that afternoon, and the same night he was going to drive to Florida Keys to take a week off, and sail his boat back to Daytona Beach.
And that’s the third thing I learned (or got reminded of):
Business is not Everything!
There is more to one’s identity and life than just business and career. A successful life should be well balanced, allowing you to do other things you like.
As I conclude this blog post, I’ll leave you with some of Ned’s quotes during this seminar:
“ We spend little time working on our business, we spend more time working in our business.”
“ 15 to 20% of your customers are bad for you, you gotta get rid of them.”
“ If you put the right Processes, Systems, Procedures in the right place, you can affect organizational and team-member behavior.”
“ If you want to increase the value of your business, you have to live above your business and shed emotions such as: This is my baby.”
“ Have fun with your business, making it what you want it to be.”
Ned is a true entrepreneur-turned educator. He has significant business experience, a tremendous ability to connect with others, as well as the ability to identify talent and good business ideas. He is totally passionate about what he does today, as he was in his entrepreneurial days. You can find him on twitter under @DaytonaBchSBDC tweeting and sharing information with the startup community, or on LinkedIn connecting and networking with others. Oh, and here’s the website for Daytona SBDC.
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