Four things you absolutely must know when buying online

Who can you trust when buying products or services online?

Sorry to sound cynical but there’s a reason:

As a buyer or consumer these days even off-line you have to be ultra careful. For example, take your credit card or ATM card. You have to watch out that no one sees your three-digit number at the back of your credit card or your pin code. In the wrong hands, you can lose a lot of money. So many people get caught. Continue reading “Four things you absolutely must know when buying online”

One sure way to beat this fire walk

Aren’t you just tired with people who make statements about small businesses but are far removed from the trenches of real business?

Politicians make yada yada in the media about supporting small business.

Academics chirp in on how jobs should be created by small business.

Conferences and summits with hefty admission fees are held on the state of small business where there’s much dreary theory but little hands-on practical advice. Continue reading “One sure way to beat this fire walk”

It took 5,000 ideas to take this product to market

James Dyson came up with an idea for a bagless vacuum cleaner — inspired by an industrial cyclone at a timber mill — in the late 1960s.

After five years of testing and more than 5,000 “mistakes”, or prototypes as engineers call them, his vacuum cleaner concept was ready to take to market.

But all the big brand manufacturers slammed doors in his face.

Why?

Their business model was selling vacuum cleaners and bags — which made them lots of money.

He had to eventually launch his vacuum cleaner himself – in 1993.

He became a billionaire.

It’s hard not to admire this guy. Think of the many rejections he had to face. Imagine having to deal with all the people who must have thought he was crazy.

“What’s important is that I didn’t stop at the first failure, the 50th, or the 5,000th,” he wrote in a news magazine. “I never will.”

Such persistence is incredible. How many times have we come up with promising ideas and keep working on them for years?

In my case I had an idea for a website similar to www.ideaaccelerator.co.za that I started in 2005 for entrepreneurs. But I packed in it after a year because of competing interests.

It was only in 2010 that I decided to start a new blog on the easier WordPress platform. Keeping the momentum for the first year was difficult but now it has taken on a life of its own.

Persistence, someone said, is to the character of people as carbon is to steel. It’s hard to define but so essential for bringing a product or service to life.

How often do we have ideas and just give up at the first obstacle? How far would you go in pursuing your idea for a product or service? Would you keep at your idea for several decades until you finally brought it to market? Could you keep going, refining your idea after 5,000 mistakes?

Look at it this way, each one of Dyson’s 5,000 mistakes actually involved coming up with a new idea each time. It’s a myth that innovation is one single event or flash of inspiration. You sometimes need to build ideas upon ideas as you refine your product or service for the market place.

It’s ironic that Dyson was forced to sue one of the companies that had rejected his design years back. Success leads to copycats.

Want to come up with and develop ideas of your own?

Tune into www.ideaaccelerator.co.za for ideas and articles.

Stay inspired

Chesney Bradshaw

Who ever heard such nonsense about negotiation?

Whether you run a small retail or manufacturing business, a service outfit or act as a solo consultancy, you must have at one time or another been personally involved in some difficult negotiation that tested your mental powers to the limit.

As you wracked your brain for solutions, thought up ways to secure the best deal for yourself and visualised solutions to protect your interests, it’s hard to argue that your imagination wasn’t being stretched.

I came across some research the other day about creativity not really playing a significant role in negotiation. I’m not sure I even understand these academics but in my experience and observing other business people locked in negotiation I’m absolutely convinced that creativity does make a difference in negotiation.

Before we see how creativity influences negotiation, let’s look at what negotiation means. In the real world, all the academic definitions of negotiation don’t make much sense. What’s more grounded in reality is that negotiation is really about finding some sort of agreement that is mutually acceptable. It might require compromise. But if you don’t like the envisaged outcome you can always say no and walk away.

Negotiation is important to all of us because we do it all the time. At home, at work, at play.

I recently participated in several role playing negotiations. What I was struck by was that the negotiations deadlocked every time for these reasons: The negotiation team members did not creatively imagine their opponents’ world. They did not fully understand the world of their customer or seller and therefore could not make a fully imaginative assessment of their needs, wants and desires. With more creative thinking, viewing the problem from different perspectives, they could have immersed themselves more fully in their customer’s world.

The other area where they could have used more creativity was to brainstorm and invent more options for mutual gain. And in instances where there was no hope for this, they could have walked away from the deal.

Making conditional proposals, so the other side can’t get what they want from you without you getting what you want from them in return, requires creativity. So does setting the agenda or order of business. Deciding what issues to discuss first and which ones to deal with later is a very creative act especially when the stakes are high.

These are just a few instances of creativity in negotiations. In these economic times it is crucial that you negotiate the best deal with your customers, suppliers and other business people.

Leaving money on the table doesn’t only leave a bad taste in your mouth, it also hurts your bottom line.

 

Stay inspired

Chesney Bradshaw

 

 

Caught in the act

Doesn’t it make you angry when a large company that knows better copies an idea from a smaller entrepreneurial business?

A large retail food company was recently taken to court by a small beverage company that makes cool drinks with a distinctive retro brand image. The larger company thought that it could just “swipe” the branding slogan from the smaller supplier and stock its shelves with its own house brand product.

Click here if you want to see details: http://mg.co.za/article/2012-02-01-asa-orders-woolies-to-remove-frankies-slogan

Just do a Google search and you’ll see many large companies all over the world have been taken to court for copyright infringement. It happens in many industries – music, books, software.

But it’s not just large companies that do this. People do it all the time in all walks of life.

For business people, entrepreneur’s and solo artists it’s important to know your rights when it comes to copyright, company names and trademarks.

The first thing that you’ve got to understand is what is covered by intellectual property rights. Although ideaaccelerator.co.za is domiciled in South Africa its subscribers are from all over the world. We therefore would prefer to quote as our reference the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

You’ll see from the WIPO site that intellectual property includes rights relating to everything from literary, artistic and scientific works to industrial designs, trademarks, service marks and commercial names and all other rights from intellectual activity in the industrial, scientific, literary or artisticfields.

If you’d like to find out more, go to the WIPO website: http://www.wipo.int/about-ip/en/iprm/

This international website will give you an idea of what to watch out for. Make sure you check out information that applies to the country where you do business.

For entrepreneurs, consultants, small manufacturers and even coaches who sell specialised systems, make sure when you dealing with anyone from business partners and family to suppliers that they sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA). It’s not an absolute guarantee that you’ll stop someone from trying to use your idea but it makes the disclosure of your ideas to others a serious and formalised process.

When you go about producing your own ideas for profit just make sure that you don’t inadvertently or unconsciously copy from others whether big or small.

It’s far better to do your own idea generation and idea combinations to come up with products and services.

If you feel unsure of anything when it comes to copyright or trade marks, make sure you consult with a legal professional.

Stay inspired
Chesney

Watch out – this number can be dangerous

A company relied on one business line to carry it through the digital camera revolution. Other digital camera makers and then cell phone manufacturers made the market too fiercely competitive. The company tried one big thing– to use its chemical know-how in film to produce pharmaceuticals but did not succeed. The company: Kodak.

Out of the blue a business person was told that he was no longer needed at the company which he worked for. His one source of income was cut overnight. Unable to get a job again, he dabbled in this and that but could not create a regular source of income.

A successful entrepreneur invested most of his money in one asset class – property. Over the years property became virtually worthless after political upheavals in the country where he lived. He’s broke now … living on family handouts.

Sobering stories. All demonstrate a common lesson. If you rely on one thing, you could put yourself at serious risk. Number one can be a dangerous number: one income source, one product line, one large customer, one key supplier, one marketing approach, one investment class, one source of electricity (for on-line marketers with no offline presence).

Here’s an example of a business that has placed small bets not on one income source but several. The business owner runs an up-market restaurant, accommodation for tourists and a car wash.

Some people start other income streams of income by buying a second-hand business or franchise. Although a reputable business or franchise minimises risk, the cash outlay needs to be repaid over a number of years.

Why not try come up with something of your own?

Could you take a hobby or sideline business and turn it into something that could provide you with an additional source of income?

You could try brainstorming three ideas a day for the next 30 days. Or you could try other idea generation techniques to stimulate your thinking: freewriting, random words, word combining, mind mapping or a simple nature walk.

Whittle your ideas from your list down to the most promising three. Evaluate which ones would work best in the marketplace.

Test your best idea with a small trial market to assess demand. Make sure that your business idea satisfies a real need with customers.

In this economy, it’s risky to rely on any one thing – take a first step to avoid becoming a statistic.

Stay inspired.

Chesney Bradshaw

Rather don’t try this to perk up slow sales

A “perfect” family moves into an upper middle-class neighborhood, invites their neighbours over and proudly shows them the products they’ve bought from high-tech toys and designer clothes to luxury cars.

Perfect couple Steve and Kate Jones, and their gorgeous teen-aged children Jenn and Mick, are all in it together – they’ve signed up as professional product promoters.

Unsuspecting, envious, neigbours buy high-tech golf clubs, high-priced jewels and gourmet food to keep up with the “The Joneses”.

Soon some of their buying behaviour starts to have tragic consequences.

“The Joneses” is a movie that shows the fictive world of stealth marketing gone crazy.

Stealth or undercover marketing involves inducing consumers to buy without realizing they are being marketed to.

Small businesses wouldn’t stoop at using such dubious techniques but with their biggest problem being weak consumer spending they need to find out more about their customers – why they are not buying and, when they do, what kinds of purchases are they making.

Formal market “research” – focus groups, interviews, questionnaires — costs a lot of money. You don’t want to do that if you’ve got a small business.

To get a better handle on what your market wants and needs generate ideas on how to find out your customers’ problems, how they use your products and what keeps them from buying more from your business.

You’ll get a better understanding of the realities your customers face when you get out and listen to them. You may find opportunities to better serve them, which could mean more business for you.

By taking time out to talk to your customers and observe them, you may find that they need associated products and services that you may not have thought about.

Knowing your market, what your customers want and their changing needs, is what all small business people need to know.

Especially when sales are down and could slow some more.

But how often do we assume we know what’s best for our customers, try outguess them and arrogantly decide what they should buy?

To keep in touch with what customers need, want and desire you have to get into their world and understand their problems.


Stay inspired.

 

Chesney Bradshaw

 

Would you handle innovation this way?

What does it take to be successful? Is it innovation, adaptability or striving for a clear goal? Or sheer luck?

Here is a sobering statistic often touted in the success literature: If you take 100 people and follow their lives until retirement, something like only five will be successful, meaning they will retire financially secure. The rest, well you know how it is, they’ll still be struggling until the day they die.

After 60 or 70 years how many companies are still successful? How many are still around trying to survive in the modern world with new digital technology, global markets and brutal competition? Are they also the five percenters?

Two companies thirty years ago were aware of the coming digital technology in film and took steps over time to protect their businesses. One is now at death’s door, yet the other one is thriving.

The one company ramped up digital cameras and expanded its chemical side into pharmaceutical drug products without success. It was slow to change and introduce innovation. Smart phones pummeled its old film and camera making business. This company filed for bankruptcy today.

The other company also went into digital photography, innovated a line of cosmetics and branched out into optical films for LCD flat panel screens. This company enhanced innovation making fast changes. Though it’s been a difficult ride with restructuring, slashed costs and jobs, the company is doing well despite the economic times.

The two companies are Kodak and Fujifilm. You can read more here in a business briefing on technology change called “The last Kodak moment”.

http://www.economist.com/node/21542796

Also look at “Gone in a flash”

http://www.economist.com/blogs/schumpeter/2012/01/kodak-files-bankruptcy-protection-1.

Our lives might not parallel the trajectory of large companies but the lessons that stand out are that change requires innovation, doing things differently and acting when we see the alarm bells rather than waiting until the wolf is at the door, breaking the house down.

Faced with the challenge to change what will you do? Wait or act?

How can you make the changes necessary to thrive in the year ahead and coming years?

The techniques and methods in www.ideaaccelerator.co.za can help you whatever business you’re in. Why wait? Go take a look at the articles and links now. Send us an e-mail to find out how we can assist you.

 Stay inspired.

Chesney Bradshaw

PS If you know anyone who is interested in subscribing to these e-mails and blog posts from www.ideaaccelerator.co.za, please forward this e-mail to them. Let us know who you sent this mail to and you stand to win a free special report on generating ideas for profit.  All your networking friends have to do is to go to http://www.ideaaccelerator.co.za and fill in their email address and first name in the subscribe panel on the top right-hand section of the screen.

What does 2012 hold for your business?

At the beginning of the year it is customary to look at trends. In this post we briefly examine a trend that businesses need to follow or they will fall behind.

Will things get worse? How will I keep my business afloat? Where can I find opportunities to grow?

In the midst of economic uncertainty at the start of the New Year questions like these may cause anxiety but they are essential to avoid stagnation and decline. Looking at trends in your business and market is one way to orientate yourself and your business to the pathways that lead to growth and to avoid those that are heading smack into a solid wall.

Trend spotting can be valuable for any business. It goes without saying that whether you are part of a large corporation, a business proprietor or entrepreneur, a solid understanding and knowledge of economic trends is vital for adjusting and even capitalising on the expected economic conditions whether fair or foul.

Watch customer buying trends

Industry or market trends that directly affect your business are just as important. Buying trends and preferences, whether you are in business-to-business or consumer markets, are vital and need to be closely watched. To be on top of the labyrinth of your customer’s mind, you need to spend at least a few hours a week studying their needs and desires.

Trends for the smaller entrepreneurial business this year that need looking at include the continuing growth of business on the Internet, cloud computing, the ever-growing cell phone market, the need to reduce costs and find more effective ways to market products and services using traditional and on-line methods, particularly social media — all of which means creating greater customer value.

Terminal decline?

Magazines provide a case in point. As traditional media, magazines need to play catch up with using social media as part of their reader retention and acquisition strategies. The integration of social media with traditional offline media products such as magazines certainly looks set to grow. For those magazines that ignore this trend or are too slow to adapt, the consequences could be fatal. A woman’s magazine recently closed with the publisher saying that they took too long to integrate with social media and come out with a user-friendly digital edition. These digital editions or many of them are so cumbersome that it is hardly worth the effort trying the view them online. I subscribed to a newspaper digital edition and did not renew my subscription. Fortunately, it was only for three months.

But the malaise with magazines is deeper. In a highly competitive media space magazine content is just not cutting it with readers (circulation figures are drastically down) — not for all magazines but most of them. They just have not done enough reader research. They haven’t used creativity processes to find solutions to keep readers and deepen their reader experience. This is what comes from myopic thinking, looking at what the industry is doing and not examining other industries for break-out ideas.

Quickly grasp this

One trend that continues to grow and which is of great interest to us at ideaaccelerator.co.za is innovation. Riding out the economic storm, leading companies and entrepreneurial businesses have quickly grasped the importance of innovation — from new technologies, product development and marketing to consumer insights and business models.

Small businesses have innovated by reducing the costs of doing business, being more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly, finding ways to attract good employees, and effectively marketing their products and services offline and online. Sadly, given the number of business failures, it’s clear that too few small businesses are innovative. But for those that continue to grow despite the current economic malaise, continuous innovation is core to their success. Among these innovators are those business owners who are quick to use the methods and techniques for new idea generation and creative strategic approaches that we have covered in past updates on ideaaccelerator.co.za.

Keep innovation constant

It’s not just the big ideas that are important for innovation. Take, for example, the following analogy from the cricket world. If we look at the double-century cricket score of Jacques Kallis, South Africa’s greatest modern-day batsman, we see that in the match between South Africa and Sri Lanka at Newlands, he scored 224 from 325 balls. In that score only 31 balls were 4s and one was a 6 (325 balls, 31 x 4 1 x 6). It was the constant batting of smaller scores that allowed him to reach his record score.

Innovation needs to be a constant part of our business lives. A steady, constant flow of ideas is necessary if we want to be successful. Yes, sure the big idea can be earth-shattering, game-changing or make a large impact to our business or in the marketplace. But the big ideas are often few and far in between. We need to innovative every day even if it is sometimes in small ways. These have an accumulative effect.

The choice is yours if you want to stand still in such an economy. To stop growing, to hesitate and wait for change to happen to your business, means that you are prepared to put everything at risk. New ideas meet change head on and spur growth. If you want to embrace change, to not stop growing, then use innovation to keep your business from stagnating or even running into terminal decline and eventual closure.