“Up At Night” is an ongoing series of interviews with small business owners. This is interview #12, with Jeff Downie of The Old Firehouse Wine Bar. The goal is to tell a story in which other small business owners will find encouragement, ideas, and confirmation that their experiences are shared by others!
These interviews are about extending our sense of community as small business owners.
Jeff Downie of The Old Firehouse Wine Bar
Jeff Downie is in an industry that would curl most people’s hair. Small business is tricky enough, but throw in a business that is in the B2C space (Business to Consumer: generally more volatile than Business to Business), and in the restaurant market on top of that, and you have an enterprise only someone with a lot of courage, passion, and persistence should even consider. Oh, and did I mention that this is a wine bar, with vintage cocktails as a specialty, and that Jeff doesn’t drink?
Yet in the matter of a year, Jeff has leveraged his place as a respected business and community leader, and his passion for hospitality and the finer things in life, into a thriving business. The wine bar’s biggest challenge? Not having enough seating (restricted by license) to serve all of the people wanting to make the establishment and its wonderful blend of fun and sophistication a part of their weekend.
One of the motivations for my interview with Jeff at this time was that I believe the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island is becoming a food and drink hotspot that is unique in North America. When you look at the dozens of projects and businesses within a few dozen square miles, it gets a little dizzying: Cowichan Chef’s Table, Teafarm, Amusé, Merridale Cider, The Grape Escape, Stone Soup Inn, Makaria Farm . . . → Read More: Up At Night – Interviews with Business Owners: Jeff Downie
Guest Post by James Houde
[Introduction by Clemens]
Recently I wrote an article introducing a number of ‘you’ll need this tomorrow’ concepts for small businesses. In that list I included cloud computing as something to become familiar with as you grow your business.
Some of the most productive cloud-based tools are those designed for team work when your team is not all in one office, or even in one city.
My work for example is all based on Google Business Apps (including my domain) and we use group project and CRM platforms like Insightly and Podio. We also use apps like Evernote and Dropbox to get work done both within the team, and for our clients. Another team I work with uses Basecamp as their group project platform.
One of the ‘big guns’ in this space is Microsoft Sharepoint. SharePoint has a Microsoft Office-like interface, and it is closely integrated with the Office suite. It is a set of web tools designed to be usable by non-technical users. SharePoint can be used to provide intranet portals (web-based communication inside your company; not visible to the public), document & file management, collaboration, social networks, extranets, websites, and enterprise search.
The following is a guest post by James Houde on the steps to migrate an existing Sharepoint installation to Sharepoint 2013.
Prepping Your Company For a Sharepoint Migration
Let’s face it, migrating to a different version of anything we have can be difficult. Updating your operating system from Windows XP to Windows 8, or in our case from an older SharePoint variation to SharePoint 2013, needs a change procedure that preserves the content we are bringing over.
From a business perspective the question matters most is “How do you handle a SharePoint migration without interrupting your company?”
Begin with inventory
The first . . . → Read More: Prepping Your Company For a Sharepoint Migration
This is part 2 of the New Small Business Fundamentals article.
While business fundamentals matter as much as ever, they have evolved. In the first part of this article I covered the role of influence in marketing, and retention in marketing and human resources. In the second part here I cover 3 other ways in which basic business realities have evolved:
3. The blog is the new jingle. One artefact of the Madison Avenue era was the search for ever-more condensed ways to get your message across: from jingles to slogans, from elevator pitches to 60 second (and then 30 second) ads. We can all relax now. Take your time. In fact, we insist. The kinds of messages we want to hear, the human, the narrative, the back-story, the why, will all take you a lot longer than 60 seconds to get through. Nothing that matters can be said in a jingle. >>Tweet<< Whether it is in the marketplace or in the political world, decades of being lied to has made us sceptical and deeply suspicious of anything that can be captured in a sound bite.
In the social marketplace, no one expects you to sum up your whole value to your customers in one tweet. Increasingly we want to know who we are dealing with, where our food comes from, how and where and with what things are manufactured. Pull up a chair and tell us the story. We are increasingly turning to ‘longer forms’ is because what we seek cannot be captured in a few words, and because we need to see you are authentic. Anyone can pull the wool over our eyes with a catchy slogan. It is pretty hard to pull that off in 3 years worth of posts. Sooner or later you are going to slip and show us who you . . . → Read More: New SMB Fundamentals: Part 2
In life and in business, categories can become boxes that prevent us from seeing similarities and connections. But categories can be useful heuristics allowing you to be systematic in maximizing the return on your efforts to grow. In my book Great Performances, I suggest that there are different ways to divide the world of small business into categories:
Three resources that every business must address in seeking growth: time, people, and money. That is all there is, and there isn’t anything else. No number of books with the word “Secret” in them will ever change that. Marketing and operations; the most basic division of a business. On the marketing side you make your promises and generate revenues; on the operations side you deliver on those promise and create costs. Five “classic” functions that must all work together to create a truly successful business: human resources, management, finances, marketing, and operations.
In the 9 years since the birth of “the Facebook” and the 5 years since whatever the heck happened to the global economy, those fundamentals have not changed. In fact if anything, the new forces at play in the markets and in the economy have tested the fundamentals of every business on the globe, and those found wanting sank beneath the waves. Many businesses thought they were doing well because they were doing something right; it turns out they were doing well because you almost had to be a moron not to be doing well before the ‘great reset’ of 2007.
Are you sure your doors are still open because you are doing things right? Or are you just lucky? >>Tweet<<
Today, with the seas still as rough as ever, with hurricanes of change whipping through the business ecosystem, if you don’t have your fundamentals down, you are still at risk . . . → Read More: New SMB Fundamentals: Part 1
I only work with clients who want to grow.
This is for two reasons:
Real growth, relative to the market and the economy is the only way to ensure a positive exit from a business. If your business is the same size (whoever you measure that) when you exit it as when you started it, your exit is going to be ugly. >>Tweet<< Helping a business grow is fun. There is no joy in ‘steady as she goes’. Yes it’s safe, and yes it is better than crashing, but really there is no fun in that approach at all. For the hours I put into this process, there better be some fun in it. >>Tweet<<
One of the challenges for small businesses as they grow is to anticipate the tools you will require to get there. This is the constant process of moving learning from the “don’t know what you don’t know” box to the “know what you don’t know” box. While not solving everything, knowing what some of the acronyms and code words that the ‘big players’ throw around as if they knew what they were talking about, can definitely be one step in learning what you need to grow.
Here are 6 terms and acronyms every small business owner looking at growth the future should know the meaning of.
Cloud Computing. This is the growing world of software and data that you need to run your business but that does not live on your computer. A classic example is Gmail. Gmail is a mail client run by Google that does not run on your computer. It runs on Google’s servers and you access it through your internet browser. Not only the software lives in the internet (the ‘cloud’) but your data does as well. Your emails are . . . → Read More: ERP? CRM? Cloud Computing? Who Needs That Stuff?
In all the mechanics and software and theory, too often the social in social media is forgotten.
At its heart business has always been a social activity. The new economy is simply bringing that back sharply into focus.
Any business seeking to be successful in its social marketing efforts must begin in one place: within. If a business is not social at its heart, then it is not going to be successful in its social marketing and social media efforts.
Here is a brief check-list to determine how social your team or employee environment is.
1. Is everyone in the know? Can every one of your employees answer the most important question in business: why? Why are they doing what they are doing? Ricardo Semler of Brazil is probably the most famous example of a CEO who took this question on most directly. Among the many changes Semler made when he took over Semco from his father, was the creation of ‘participatory management’. Whether you want to take it as far as Semler did or not, the idea that people provide more value when they know why they are doing what they do so they can best add value to the business. The tendency towards secretiveness in so many managers will not only ensure that their teams do not do their best work, it will also ensure the business will never transition successfully into the social economy.
Social take-away: successful social organizations are flatter and more open than traditional organizations.
2. Does everyone know how to make the biggest difference? As a logical next step after knowing why we do what we do, is the knowledge how we can maximize what we do for the benefit of the organization. Most businesses I walk into would fail this test. If I walked up . . . → Read More: Employee Relationships – The Heart of a Social Business
A guest post by Mike Summers
There are a lot of hurdles in trying to start a small business. But one that is particularly common in today’s digitally driven world is a need for more stable communications. Basic email is OK certain business needs, but there comes a point at which you may find that you have need of a higher file transfer capability. Companies like Share File exist specifically to solve this need, so whether you feel that your business is already in need of more advanced digital communication, or may soon reach that point, here are 4 ways in which advanced file sharing may help you out.
1. Share Larger Files
Whether your business ends up dealing with larger individual files (such as video presentations or extensive written documents), more complex files, or simply a higher volume of digital files, an advanced sharing service can handle the load. At a certain point, as mentioned, basic email can’t cut it, and advanced file sharing not only allows you to transfer these large and complex files, but also provides you with a work-based communication service, conveniently separate from email.
2. Gain File Transfer Security
As your small business grows, you may also find that you have greater needs when it comes to the security of your business communications. Fortunately, services like Share File secure file transfer can provide you with various effective means of protecting and ensuring your communications. From sending encrypted files, to protecting computers and files with passwords, and even having assurance alerts when your communications arrive at their intended destinations, this added security can be great for business. In particular, clients and customers like to know that their digital interactions with your business are private.
3. Integrate File Sharing Easily
The other benefit of opting for . . . → Read More: 4 Benefits Of File Sharing For Your Business
A guest post by Jane Huges
Are you trying to launch a startup company? It can be one of your life’s most rewarding decisions, but it also comes with high levels of risk. Here are five tips to reduce your risk and you get your startup off the ground.
1. Evaluate staff costs carefully
Staff levels are often the most problematic issue for a startup founder. Add too many employees to the payroll too fast and you will burn through cash reserves. Add too few employees and you may forfeit opportunities to grow your revenue. Adding new staff comes with steep costs for health insurance, payroll taxes, and disability insurance, making it harder for employers to correctly estimate their labor costs. One way to manage staffing costs is hiring temporary employees on a contract basis until revenue solidifies. Many startup founders enjoy the extra flexibility of temporary workers during the turbulent first year of business.
2. Consider utility costs when choosing a location
Many startup founders forget to consider utility costs when choosing a location. Bills for electricity, gas, water, and garbage can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars each month, eating away at your profits. Try to budget these costs accurately. Some electric providers in Texas can offer assistance in planning these costs for your business.
3. Have a good website
With more than 96% of Americans online in 2013, it is crucial that businesses have websites to represent their services. Even traditional neighborhood businesses – like a dry cleaner or locksmith – are creating simple websites so customers can find them with an online search. Some customers do not trust businesses without a website, thinking they must be temporary or operating off the books. Business owners need to counter this misconception by paying a modest amount . . . → Read More: 5 Tips for Getting Your Startup Off the Ground