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September 8, 2015

Written by Bob Meyer, Editor of BarterNews

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From the desk of Bob Meyer... 09/08/2015

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13 Essentials You Won't Learn in Business School (Continued from Tuesday Report 09-01-2015)

Hire people you like, then help them blossom. In other words, don’t hire solely based on someone’s technical skill set. You can always teach that. Instead, hire people with foundational qualities you can build on: integrity, enthusiasm, a willingness to learn, a sense of humor, and a sincere interest in your business, to name a few. A good way to test this is to give job candidates a verbal run-down of the position, your company's challenges, and your expectations for the position. Then, have the candidate send you a one-page summary on a deadline. This will tell you volumes.
"You can always train good people later, after you've made them a part of your team," he assures. "And be sure to create an environment where your trusted team members can feel free to grow, take risks, and even make mistakes. Employees who aren’t supported and who are afraid of doing something wrong will never live up to their full potentials.
"Lastly, to really get the best out of your people, find out what they excel at. Then, redesign their jobs to fit those skills. Ask others to pick up the aspects of the former job that still need to be done. You might be surprised at the positive response. Don't put the square peg in the round hole. Build a square hole."
Meet deadlines (and when you can't, be the first to call). It goes without saying that you should do everything in your power — such as work longer hours and ask for help — in order to meet deadlines to which you’ve previously agreed. But sometimes, it happens to the best of business owners: Despite your best efforts, there's just no way the product, service, or payment will be ready on time.
"When that's the case — and especially when it is related to paying a bill  — call ahead and let the other party know that you'll be late," Houlihan instructs. "Explain what the holdup is, extend your sincere apologies, and explain how you're going to make things right. If the other party has to call you, they'll have a much more negative feeling about you and the situation.
"I remember during Barefoot's early days, Bonnie and I had to tell some of our creditors that we wouldn't be able to pay on time. And several of those creditors extended our credit on the spot. They said we were the kind of customers they wanted!”
Respect salespeople's time. Dealing with salespeople isn't high on most business owners' lists of priorities. These owners often brush salespeople off or leave them waiting for long periods of time. They may even treat salespeople with annoyance or disrespect.

Don't make that mistake. The salespeople who call on you have much more to offer than the products and services they represent. They are a gold mine of information and are in a position to significantly help your business.
"For instance, the salesperson calling on you may have special 'pocket' deals to help close new customers or gain larger orders, such as reduced interest rates or extended terms," Harvey points out. "Even if she can't offer you a deal outright, she can still be your advocate for better terms with her company and give you insights on how to maneuver successfully.
"And that's not all," he continues. "Salespeople can also help you to anticipate a competitor's move, or to be prepared for a new opportunity or a change in laws or business practices. After all, it's part of their job to stay on top of the ever-changing marketplace. Why let your competition get the latest industry information, best deals, special closeouts, and credit terms just because you treat salespeople poorly?"

Don't have preconceived notions about bankers. Often, entrepreneurs think bankers don't care about their businesses, and as a result, don't make an effort to develop positive relationships with them. But the reality is, bankers usually aren't unaccommodating bad guys. They're anxious because they don't know how you'll behave when times are tough.
"You certainly wouldn't want to increase terms or make concessions to someone who might blindside you with the information that a payment would be late — or might not pay at all," Houlihan points out. "Once you realize that bankers and creditors have fears and goals just like yours, it will be much easier for you to be friendly, transparent, and informative. And when you are, you'll see that these professionals are more likely to help you out. The truth is, they want you to succeed because when you grow, they grow."
Don't be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes, entrepreneurs have an "I'll do it myself or not at all" mentality. They believe that asking for help reflects badly on their capabilities, and they don't want to seem weak. They may not want to risk proving naysayers right or appear to be a bad investment. But the truth is, unless you're independently wealthy with a team of experienced, trusted advisors to guide you right out of the gate, you’ll need some type of help sooner or later.
"In the case of all vendors and creditors, and other strategic allies, honesty regarding where you are and what you need is the best policy," Harvey confirms. "Also, don't be afraid to ask for advice, guidance, and aid from mentors and other industry professionals. When you're starting a business with a tight budget, you literally can't afford to make mistakes — and that means there's no such thing as a dumb question.
"I'll never forget asking one supermarket chain's gruff wine buyer explaining what our logo should look like. In colorful fashion, he told me exactly what to do and what to avoid. Turns out, that advice was solid gold, and I didn't have to pay a dime for it. All I had to do was ask a question.”
Have heart. Heart isn't something you can learn from a book, class, or seminar. It's not a skill you can master. Instead, it's something you have to find within yourself. And when you tap into this wellspring, you'll have grasped one of the most valuable tools you can possess as an entrepreneur.
“Heart is what drives you," Houlihan explains. "It's the way you look at the world around you. Heart is about your belief in your own eventual success, regardless of the odds, the naysayers, or the time it takes. It's the tenacity that keeps you going. Heart is having a sense of humor in the face of hardship and not taking yourself too seriously. It is about being true to your core values by supporting causes that are near and dear to you. It is helping your community improve itself, thereby giving others a social reason to buy your product. Heart is what makes you feel good about what you do.
"Finally, remember that it's easy to do the right thing and act with integrity when business is good," he concludes. "It's when you're really strapped for cash, between a rock and a hard place, or facing some other major or minor crisis that you'll be tested. And make no mistake: Customers, employees, vendors, and others will judge you by how you conduct yourself and lead your business when the going is toughest.
"Here's the good news: Whether you're sailing stormy seas or making more progress than you ever dreamed possible, the habits encapsulated within the Barefoot Spirit will keep you on a track you can be proud of and maximize your chances of eventual success."

(Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey, authors of the New York Times bestseller The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand, started the Barefoot Wine brand in their laundry room in 1986, made it a nationwide bestseller, and successfully sold the brand to E&J Gallo in 2005. Starting with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles and create new markets.
They were pioneers in what they termed "worthy cause marketing" and performance-based compensation. They held a comprehensive view of customer service, resulting in the National Hot Brand Award for outstanding sales growth in 2003 and 2004. They now share their experience and innovative approach to business as consultants, authors, speakers, mentors, and workshop leaders.)


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