Have You Considered Buying a Franchise? Learn More from Owners of a Top-rated National Franchise

July 17th, 2017

“My husband and I were in our mid-60s and retiring from corporate America when we considered opening a business together. Friends suggested that we go into franchising and offered resources that could help us decide if franchising would work for us,” explains Gale Cohen-DeMarco.

After lots of research and working with the franchise consultancy FranNet.com, Gale and her husband Peter began to clarify their interests, professional strengths and goals. They identified three possible franchise opportunities. One was Sport Clips Haircuts, which focuses on men and boys’ haircuts in a sports-themed environment. “After more research into Sport Clips, we were comfortable with its business model and potential for us, challenging as this new venture would be.”

“Peter and I also complement each other’s strengths. He understands the financial side of businesses, and I am experienced in operations, and sales and marketing.”

Started with 3 Locations  – Growing & Learning

“We chose to start with 3 licenses which gave us the potential to open 3 stores.  When we looked at the financial impact of the Sport Clips business model, and spoke to existing owners, it was apparent that we needed 3 sites to be profitable enough for us.”

Gale and Peter’s new venture began in 2010 with lots of training and significant Sport Clips support. “We learned more about their local and national franchise policies, technical concerns, business, marketing, and real estate issues. We interviewed current franchise owners, former owners, and much more.”

“We had applicable skills and experience, we knew ‘best practices’ that were transferable to different businesses, and we accepted that we would be working long hours. We realized there was no such thing as a dumb question and could have gone on much longer asking more and more questions!”

Among the challenges in the hair stylist profession is the availability of licensed stylists who want to cut men’s hair. “We’re always in the hiring, referral and marketing mode, and there’s lots of competition.” To address this, Cohen-DeMarco’s marketing activities include Facebook, advertising, referrals from stylists and clientele, networking, membership and volunteering in local organizations.

Is Franchising for You?

Gale offers important advice as you consider franchising. “Peter’s financial experience has been critical, including his understanding of due diligence required by both franchisor and franchisee.”

Sport Clips gave them a list of current and former franchise owners who could explain the pros and cons of owning a franchise. “Over the past 7 years the business has continued to evolve. We currently face a national shortage of licensed stylists which has become the most limiting factor to growth that we now deal with. Even though we investigated the Sport Clips opportunity for several months, there was no way we could have seen this issue developing. Ultimately, you make the best decision you can with the information you have at hand, and then you dive in and work your heart out!”

“Being financially capable is very important, because it took us three years for our franchises to become profitable.  It’s an expensive learning process, but our success has been rewarding.” Today, the Cohen-DeMarco’s own 6 locations and plan to open 2 more.

To succeed in franchising, Gale offers tips and insights:

  • Lots of research is necessary before making a decision.
  • Being self-directed is important.
  • You should understand finances and requirements in franchising.
  • Do you have good relationships with other people?
  • Would you like being in a store-front business?
  • Do you have lots of time, which is required?
  • Networking in your community is important.
  • Marketing and a positive feedback is critical and ongoing.

And, Gale adds, remember this:

  • People – clients, staff and others – are your most important resource.
  • Don’t just think about money. How can you be the best and contribute to your community? Reciprocity becomes profitability.

Gale Cohen-DeMarco, gcdemarco1@comcast.net

Public Libraries Help Communities Grow in New Ways through Community Engagement

July 5th, 2017

 

While the Skokie Public Library has always been active in the community, the library formally established its Community Engagement department in January 2014. “Besides programs held at the library, we have been continually involved in a variety of outreach activities. However, as we researched our 2013-2016 strategic plan, we looked for a community engagement model that would help guide the new department’s work,” explains Susan Carlton, the library’s Community Engagement Manager.

They found it in Turn Outward, The Public Innovators Lab for Libraries, a 2 ½ day training class presented by The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation and the American Library Association. The Lab helps library directors and staff to more effectively interact with their communities, develop and implement new programs and work with library supporters. Seven libraries in the Chicago area have participated in this training session over the last three years.

“Harwood’s model for engaging the community helped us identify the residents and groups that are in need, how we can improve library programs and initiatives to better address community needs, and how we can partner with others to help the community solve problems.

“The results are mutually rewarding for the community – from individuals with ideas and questions to community organizations with their goals and unique needs. We all collaborate to see what’s possible,” says Carlton. The Community Engagement department now has nine full time and four part time staff members including Bookmobile staff.

Skokie and Community Engagement

Skokie is a unique community with a population that includes more than 65,000 diverse residents speaking more than 76 languages. As a result of facilitating a series of community conversations with Skokie residents Community Engagement staff identified three major themes that resonated with participants: the importance of a sense of safety; the wish for a vibrant downtown area; and the desire for a sense of belonging in this very diverse community. In an effort to find ways to address these themes the Community Engagement Department brought together a group of seven community stakeholders including school districts, village departments, social service organizations and the Niles Township English Language Learners Parent Center.

The group, SkokieCares, has been meeting to discuss how they can work together to help address some of the community’s needs. “As libraries rethink their roles in their communities, they understand that they are key, trusted entities and they bring numerous resources in addition to well established relationships and partnerships to the table. We want to partner with other organizations to address some of the community’s aspirations and challenges.” Carlton notes.

For example, the library sits on the Village Health Department’s Strategic Planning Committee contributing research skills and information resources as well as information about immigrant communities in Skokie. The goals of the Health Department’s strategic plan cover senior citizens, adults and youth with disabilities, school children, and others facing health challenges.

The Skokie Public Library’s Business and Career Center and the library’s business librarian are examples of how the Community Engagement Department works to identify and address the needs of business owners. Using information gleaned from conversations with small business owners throughout the community the business librarian designs trainings and conducts individual consultations targeting their information and technology needs. The library’s Business and Career Center was developed based on input from business owners and the local Chamber of Commerce to provide space for meetings, training sessions and appointments with clients.

Turn Outward

“We have an awesome staff that has enthusiastically helped us shepherd the Community Engagement’s new department and programming. It’s amazing what libraries can offer their communities.  Libraries need to help communities see the role they play and what they can do. It’s really exciting and the opportunities are endless,” Susan Carlton enthuses.

https://skokielibrary.info/

 

Want to Connect with the Media?  Time for a Pitch Letter!

June 12th, 2017

Are you a  public relations pro or citizen journalist who wants to share a newsworthy subject with an editor or producer, the “gatekeeper” to your targeted audience? Then you should know how to approach them because they want to hear from you.

The following pitch letter resources include pointers, samples and a quirky pitch letter.

How to Pitch the Media

Pitch letters target a specific publication or media outlet (local newspaper, radio or TV station), explains David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR, latest  5th Edition.

In his book, Scott elaborates on these “How to Pitch the Media” bullets.

  • “Target one reporter at a time.
  • Use the tip line if the media outlet you are targeting has one.
  • Help the journalist understand the big picture.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Try newsjacking! (use current events as hooks)
  • Explain how customers use your product or work with your organization.
  • Don’t send email attachments unless asked.
  • Follow up promptly with potential contacts.
  • Don’t forget, it’s a two-way street – journalists need you to pitch them.”

Scott also quotes a newspaper editor: “The single most effective thing people do is watch and read my stories and send me personalized, smart pitches for stories that I am actually likely to cover.”  In other words, your pitch should reflect your familiarity with the medium and reporter.

Learn how to effectively connect with your target audience through pitch letters “social media, online video, mobile applications, blogs, news releases & viral marketing to reach buyers directly” in The New Rules of Marketing & PR.

Pitching Media – Samples

“Sample Magazine Query or Pitch Letter”  https://www.thebalance.com/sample-magazine-query-or-pitch-letter-1360426

“The Pitch Letter”  http://www.sandralamb.com/writing-grammar/the-pitch-letter

Quirky Pitch Letter http://www.sallychapralis.com/pr_letter4.htm See below.

Editor/Producer/Contact
Medium/Beat

Dear (name of editor),

The shoes you wear take you to work, to the ball game, to the mall, to school, on a hike, or stepping out for a special event. If the shoes you wear are perfect for the occasion – comfortable as well as stylish – they help you feel more confident anywhere you go.

Into Shoes knows about the shoes you wear. Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the downtown Somerset shoe store has fitted scores of women and men with shoes that take them everywhere. As one of the relatively few independent retailers, Into Shoes serves the young and older, liberal and conservative and all those walking spirits who want comfort, quality and style.

As part of its celebration, Into Shoes will donate two percent of its anniversary month’s sales to the Somerset Child Care Center and the Somerset Social Services Agency.

When Into Shoes initially opened, it focused on a few brands of comfortable shoes. It now offers more than 50 brands of women and men’s shoes from many international designers, attracting local customers as well as those from miles away who appreciate the eclectic variety, comfort, quality and style.

We think (name of medium) your followers will be interested in a sole-searching feature on shoes. We, of course, will be delighted to step into it, offering our 50-year perspective.

We look forward to talking to and walking with you.

Sincerely,

Bob Grant
Owner

###

Visit Sally Chapralis & Associates, Business Communications & Public Relations, www.sallychapralis.com

Could You Take Over a Business If the Owner Was Closing It?

May 25th, 2017

It now seems inevitable that when Yolanda Simonsis entered the package and converting industry in 1978 by working for a B2B publisher and within five years on a magazine as an editor-in-chief and associate publisher that she would one day establish an online magazine.  Sometimes, however, an opportunity suddenly emerges and you know it’s time. If you have entrepreneurial inclinations, Simonsis’ sudden transformation from employee to owner offers interesting insights and suggestions.

From Employee to Boss

“In August, 2011, we were advised that Paper, Film & Foil Converter magazine, which had been established in 1927, was closing along with other properties and employees would receive severance packages. In discussing our futures, three of us with long industry experience considered buying it, since the website and e-newsletter were very successful,” Simonsis explains.  “We did, and in addressing the new challenges, we have learned a lot and have been rewarded by the industry, advertisers and readers.”

By September, 2011, YTC Media, Inc. was established as the new owner of an online magazine: www.pffc-online.com. The new owners are: Yolanda Simonsis, President and Editorial Director; Timothy Janes, VP Online Sales; and Claudia Hine, VP Managing Editor.

In September, 2011, Simonsis attended an industry exhibition/conference in Las Vegas. She told attendees, including advertisers, about the new ownership and that Paper, Film & Foil Converter would no longer be a print publication.  Because PFFC had a prominent history and exhibiting participants knew and trusted Yolanda and the YTC staff, advertisers were very receptive. “They believed in us and our ability to make the new online site a success. PFFC also publishes a weekly newsletter via email. In fact, since 2011, we have increased revenues by 35% and have seen growth each year.”

Simonsis started her career in the packaging and converting industry at the former Delta Communications and immediately knew “I loved publishing, particularly trade publishing. In fact, it prompted me to seek additional training and education in publishing to prepare me for new responsibilities.”

When she and her colleagues began to set up the new YTC Media publishing company, Simonsis, Janes and Hine’s goals included maintaining their positive reputation, not disappointing staff and partners, and responding to subscribers and advertisers interests and feedback. “Our Online Buyers Guide, for example, is very popular.”

How to Purchase the Company You Work For – Simonsis’ Advice & Suggestions

  • Find a good lawyer who has experience in buying/selling in the trade publishing industry or your industry.
  • Be sure your key contributors are on-board before sharing any news about your new ownership with others. Once you are sure you have the elements in place, move on to the next step. . .
  • If you require “angel investors,” line them up before talking to your lawyer and accountant.
  • When starting out, it’s important to deliver your new message of ownership to key advertisers in person. You are asking them to place their trust in you with a monetary investment that you expect to return with a surplus of advantages.
  • Develop a reward system for those who are loyal to you as charter advertisers.
  • You don’t have to spend a ton of money in legalizing the formation of the corporation (we used LegalZoom), but you do need to do your research prior to forming the corporation in order to decide what fits your needs best. Will you form an S-Corp, an LLC, Inc., etc.? My advice is to check first with a CPA who will be doing your taxes. Tax law can make or break your fledgling company.
  • Create a detailed press release announcing your new company’s ownership and spread it far and wide. In a competitive situation, you don’t want fake news to become the reality for your potential advertisers and/or subscribers. The best scenario is to share your news at a large industry event/conference/trade show where people can ask you questions and you can provide the final word.
  • Don’t forget to take advantage of past relationships to navigate where and how to set up reliable vendors who will provide valuable services.
  • Don’t commit to using service providers whom you’ve never used in the past. Network and use your past experience to find the best vendors.
  • This is your chance to implement new concepts that will make your product better than in the past. Identify those concepts and innovations and “make them so.”
  • Constant communication is your best ally. We worked very long hours with not much sleep when starting. But, our constant communication made sure we were all on the same page. We opted for three partners, and it was the best thing we did. All of our decisions come down to majority rule. It makes the difficult decisions much easier.
  • Make customer service a priority. Go above and beyond, and people will remember.

At first the challenges of keeping track of all you must do seem endless. Keep a running list and cross off each item as it’s accomplished. This is incredibly important to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. Identify whose responsibility it is to do what. While these responsibilities may change in the future, someone must take on even the most onerous of duties at first. And you or a partner may discover that you surprisingly enjoy doing what you may have hated in the past. Somehow it’s different when you become the person in charge rather than doing work for someone else.

Rewards

It may take a good two to three years of maintaining the status quo before you start to see real growth. Don’t be frustrated. If you’re slowly but surely paying off your start-up loans and meeting your fiscal obligations, then your third or fourth year will be gratifying.

 

 

“Conversation cleanup – The way you communicate at work may be hurting you.”

May 10th, 2017

 

We may have some annoying communication habits “that are driving people crazy.” It’s probably time to address them. Author Kat Boogaard discusses “eight common faux pas” in her (Inc.) article, “Conversation cleanup.” Here’s a brief intro to each one, and you will find more information in the article itself at: http://digitaledition.chicagotribune.com/tribune/article_popover.aspx?guid=ac32ff11-f660-4dc2-bd29-c98aefaf117b

  •  “Constantly Interrupting. We all have one thing in common when talking. We want to be listened to. So if you’re one of those people who tend to jump in and interrupt or – even worse – try to complete people’ sentences for them, you need to…”
  • “Multitasking. Conversations deserve your full attention, not the halfhearted glances you’re willing to give them when you manage to rip your focus away from your iPhone screen. Multitasking is a habit we’re likely all guilty of, but…”
  • “Using Qualifiers. ‘Don’t take this personally, but…’; This might be a bad idea, but…’; I know what you’re thinking, but…if you tend to overuse them, you may be driving people up a wall. Why?”
  • “Equating Your Experiences. Someone is explaining a difficult problem he is currently facing. You immediately respond with ‘I know exactly how you feel,’ and then launch into your own long-winded tale … that’s not really relevant. It’s important to remember…”
  • “Floundering. We’ve all had to deal with those people who seem to just ramble on endlessly without a point and appear to be talking simply because they like the sound of their own voices. … When you decide to speak up, make sure…”
  • “Avoiding Direct Contact. …The never-ending assortment of communication tools available today has made us less willing to actually talk to one another. So before hitting send on a message, …”
  • “Waiting Instead of Listening. As my mom always loves to tell me, ‘There’s a big difference between hearing and listening!’ And when you’re having a conversation with someone, you should be actively listening. That means…”
  • “Using Filler Words. ‘Hey, Jason, Umm, I’m just checking in on that, uhhh, report to see if you think you’ll, like, have that done by, like the end of the day.’ This is perhaps the toughest bad verbal habit to break. … But…”

It’s time to tune in and address our conversational issues. For great advice before your next conversation head to:

http://digitaledition.chicagotribune.com/tribune/article_popover.aspx?guid=ac32ff11-f660-4dc2-bd29-c98aefaf117b

 

Books for Business and You

April 27th, 2017

Here are a few of the many, many books that offer incredible information and insights to help you grow your business.

Getting to YES with Yourself and Other Worthy Opponents, by William Ury, Published by HarperCollins, 2015.

  • Put Yourself in Your Shoes
  • Develop Your Inner BATNA
  • Reframe Your Picture
  • Stay in the Zone
  • Respect Them Even If
  • Give and Receive

The New Rules of Marketing & PR, 5th Edition, by David Meerman Scott. Published by John Wiley & Sons, 2015. How to Use Social Media, Online Video, Mobile Applications, Blogs, News Releases, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly.

Guerrilla Marketing In 30 Days, 3rd Edition, by Jay Conrad Levinson and Al Lautenslager. Published by Entrepreneurial Media, Inc., 2014.  This book gives you:

  • “Disciplined 30-Day Plan: One Action/Day
  • “Bonus Days and Actions for Maintaining Momentum
  • “Proven Tactics Adapted to New Customer Demands, Markets, and Technologies.”

Workbooks and other resources are also available.

The 25 Best Books for Entrepreneurs

“If you have your sights set on building a massively successful company where you call the shots, you might want to start with the following books.” by Jenna Goudreau, Inc.Magazine, First appeared in Business Insider, http://www.inc.com/business-insider/best-books-for-entrepreneurs.html

If you want to suggest your favorite books or resources for business, please do.

Want to start a website without using a designer? Consider WordPress

March 27th, 2017

 

If you want a website but don’t have the budget for a designer and don’t know how to create one yourself, then consider WordPress. “It is a common and popular web design solution, and most web-hosting companies offer it as an option,” notes Christopher Merrill, Christopher Merrill Web Design, www.christophermerrill.com

“I caution people to use WordPress through a web-hosting resource such as GoDaddy, Network Solutions or DreamHost. but not a free version. These web hosters usually provide a simple way to create a WordPress website offering many templates and design options. WordPress acts as a content management system that helps you create and manage digital content. So, with WordPress you can add text, images and links to your menus.”

Christopher also suggests that if you have questions about WordPress, you can also type that question into Google. For example: How do I create a website page in WordPress? Or, How do I add images in WordPress? Search engines are smart and understand the full question and your goals, leading you to answers.

“If you want to create a template yourself, then you must create a ‘child theme’ based on that template,” Christopher explains. “A ‘child theme’ is a universal theme in WordPress that you select, and it’s the only theme you will use.  And, once again, Google the question: How do I create a child theme in WordPress?; and up comes an  explanation. If you’re not comfortable doing it, then you may need professional assistance.

“On another note, you will need to learn how to upload files from your computer to your server, where your files are stored, using the file manager that comes with your account, or an ftp (file, transfer, protocol) program. You might need a professional’s help with this.

“If you’re the adventuresome type, you might want to know the difference between a widget and a plugin and other ‘fancy stuff.’ They may not be necessary, but WordPress offers the basic plugins you need. And, of course, you can Google: WordPress Plugins vs. Widgets: What’s the Difference?

“Finally, when WordPress asks you to update your website or your plugins, do it. This is important for keeping your WordPress site secure. This also reflects the importance of the “child theme.” Without it, you will lose updates. WordPress and your website can give you power and can be an exciting and rewarding adventure.”

 

 

 

How to Grow Your Network and Your Business in 100 Days

February 17th, 2017

“When growing a business, networking can be an effective part of our marketing and public relations strategy because it can expand our sphere of influence and extend our message to an ever widening group of individuals,” explains Reno Lovison, owner of Reno Lovison Marketing, who introduced the100 DAYS Challenge to Grow Your Network & Your Business:  http://renoweb.net/100DAYS

“I have a networking connection,” Reno says, “who I met several years ago when I first did this challenge. Over the years he has referred me to several companies who have used my video services. These included two very nice pieces of business this past year. This became my inspiration to repeat the challenge because I realized that the concerted effort I put in over four years ago was still paying dividends. So this time I invited a few people to do it with me. I thought I would be happy with ten participants but I ended up with19 including myself.”

The primary goal of the 100 DAY Challenge is for each of us to meet 100 new people in 100 days. This is accomplished through the regular course of business, referrals, as well as attending networking events and other business related functions.  As a group the 19 people involved gather at various business locations every 10 days to check in on each other’s progress, share ideas and strategize. “People need to be challenged in order to move out of their comfort zone.” Reno notes, “If you’re not a little uncomfortable during the process, you may not be as engaged as you should be. When meeting new people it is essential to share contact information, typically a business card. Then have a plan to follow in order to develop new relationships and explore potential opportunities.”

Reno Lovison Marketing provides marketing services including web video production for businesses, authors, and artists. Mr. Lovison is the author of “Turn Your Business Card Into Business” and offers a self-directed online course designed to improve your networking skills.

Isn’t it time to grow your network and see what you can do to grow your business over the next 100 days?

Resources:

Effective Face-to-Face Networking:  www.BusinessCardtoBusiness.com

Video for Authors & Book Lovers:  www.AuthorsBroadcast.com

Web Video Marketing: www.RenoWeb.net

Presentations and Interviews — Actor’s Advice: Memorize and Rehearse

December 13th, 2016

If you are giving a presentation or getting ready for an interview, and want it to be a mutually rewarding experience, consider actor Jim McCance’s advice. “Actors have to memorize their parts and rehearse with other actors for a performance, which is also similar to public speaking and customer service.”

Jim’s more than 40 years as an actor and voice-over pro includes his current commitment as an understudy for the title role in King Charles III at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. “We have to memorize all of the lines. It’s challenging and engaging.”

Presentation

Your first step in a presentation is to make an outline of what you want to say and what the audience would appreciate. Discuss it with the program director. Does it respond to participant expectations?  Try to engage them with a story or experience.

“Even though you will have a written presentation that you can refer to, memorize it and, if possible, rehearse it with colleagues or friends to help you stay on track during the actual event…especially important if something unexpected should occur…as it can in a theater performance,” Jim McCance notes.

Interview for job

Whether your interview is for an internship, temporary or permanent position, do your research about the organization so you’re knowledgeable about its activities, customers and goals and can respond or ask questions during the interview.

Then, Jim adds, “memorize small portions of the interview, and prepare your points. If you and the interviewer get sidetracked, take the conversation back to the focus. Always be ready with a story that reflects your experience.” You might also rehearse an interview with a friend or relative who can act like a prospective employer.

An interview and an actor’s audition are similar. Be clear about what you want to accomplish, enjoy it, and learn from the experience.

Jim can be reached through the Stewart Talent Agency at 312-943-3131.

Your First Person Public Relations

November 15th, 2016

For various reasons, every so often most of us re-evaluate our lifestyles and explore possibilities that might exist and offer new opportunities in our lives. In our explorations, we may discover a new road and our next chapter, or we may confirm that we’re doing exactly what’s right for us.

Here are a few personal and professional suggestions that offer insights that could help you with your First Person Public Relations goals.

►When Strangers Meet, book by author Kio Stark

http://www.citylab.com/navigator/2016/09/the-case-for-talking-to-strangers/499376/

►“Ink Factory graphic artist shows that doodling can be your career,” Blue Sky, Chicago Tribune

http://www.chicagotribune.com/bluesky/originals/ct-ink-factory-inside-job-bsi-20161031-story.html

►“To Be a Lot Happier, Stop Doing as Many of These 11 Things as You Possibly Can,” by Jeff Haden, Contributing Editor, Inc. Magazine.

http://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/to-be-a-lot-happier-stop-doing-as-many-of-these-11-things-as-you-possibly-can.html

►“Dream Job or Sweatshop? 12 Things to Look for When You Interview,” by Jessica Stiillman, contributor to  Inc.. Magazine

http://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/dream-job-or-sweatshop-12-things-to-look-for-when-you-interview.html

We would appreciate your suggestions and comments.