In response to my recent post, “Be the River, Not the Rock,” reader Karen Dinitz wrote:
“My website is coming 🙂 I have the opposite problem – I feel I can’t start my business until I have a website! Possibly I am a rock or in this case a boulder!”
— Thank you for reading! Good for you, Karen, getting on the WWW bandwagon right from the get-go. Websites seem to be what it all boils down to nowadays. Back in the pre-historic era of the internet (about 5-7 years ago it seems!), a website was merely an appendage. The true reflection of corporate branding at that time was still delivered through a company’s print ads, posters and pamphlets.
But somewhere along the line, the reverse became true. Now, a website is so much more than a digital business card. On the rapidly-evolving internet, a website of the 21st century represents a company’s face-forward to the world. And the web knows no geography. Through a website portal, any business can go global.
It has reached the point where “having a website” could almost be considered synonymous with “having a business.” The absence of a website is not only highly unusual, but users seem immediately suspect of any business that has zero web presence.
If users can’t visit your site, they may not want to visit your store.
Some business owners may feel resistant at first, as did I in the beginning. But rejection of conformity solely because of maverick ideals would in this case only serve to send the wrong message to would-be customers.
When representing your business on the web, consider the fact that your user is your customer. What would your user like to see? Do users want to interact with you through your site? Are you providing information? Could you provide a service through the site?
On the New York Kids Club website, recently redesigned, we added photos of beautiful NYKC children and videos of our staff and space. Customers can sign up for newsletters, download ringtones, and even sign up for classes right from the comfort of their own homes. We aimed to offer a “web experience” to our customers – past, present and future – to present a site that is informative, not invasive. Private, but communal. Professional but personal.
Our main objective was to create a site that effectively mirrored the strongest qualities of our stores. Consider your site and your storefront as one entity; an extension, not a departure, from bricks-and-mortar-based businesses.
Harness the power of the internet and make it work for you. Think outside the box, creatively, freely. Do maintain your core values where the integrity of your business is concerned, but don’t be afraid to capitalize when you’re presented with a great opportunity.
Some people think that “money” is a dirty word. I don’t think it’s a dirty word at all. In fact, I think that the word itself, as well as the full scope of its meaning, is quite nice.
When people ask me, “Why did you start The New York Kids Club?” it is always a very complex and yet a very simple answer. Essentially, I started it for the same reason anyone starts a business: to make money.
I say complex as well as simple, because I consider it an incredible bonus that I happen to be passionate about my work. I adore children (my own four and everyone else’s too!) and my work brings me a great sense of fulfillment and joy. But just because I love my work doesn’t mean I’m willing to go bankrupt over it. In my view, passion on-the-job is great. But profitable passion is better.
Welcome to my personal blog. Here you will find my musings on business, female entrepreneurship and practical parenting tips, as well as the latest news on developments at the New York Kids Club. The only thing you probably won’t find on this blog is sugar-coating.
Now let’s get down to business!
I think that New Year’s resolutions are a total buzz kill.
Yes, a buzz kill. On New Year’s Eve, you might find yourself at a party, toasting with friends, making merry, and then all of a sudden, New Year’s resolutions come up in the conversation. Seriously? There you are, having a blast, and then you’re supposed to name all the things in your life which aren’t going well, to the point where you have to make a resolution for improvement? What an anticlimactic way to end one year and begin another!
It’s not that I have a moral objection to making resolutions, but I don’t feel January is the best time to make year-long promises to oneself. December/January is usually a time when people eat or drink too much; people are overtired and having a hard time getting back into the swing of things. To then paint with the broadest stroke by setting huge goals such as “I will lose ten pounds this year,” or “I’ll start going to the gym” or “I’ll get that raise I’ve been wanting to go for” — are all tough to follow through with, in January, when it’s cold and miserable outside (in New York, at least). By setting large, unattainable goals, you might well be setting yourself up for A) failure or B) repeating the same New Year’s resolution, year after year…after year!
Year-long resolutions can be very deceiving. Come April, you might think to yourself, “I still have seven whole months to lose those twenty pounds” or “I still have seven months to speak to my boss.” By putting it off until the very last minute, it’s almost inevitable that last year’s resolution will suddenly roll on over and become next year’s!
I am a big fan of the 90-day resolution, with my family and in my business. On January 1st each year, I sit down with my executive team and we go around the table, listing our personal and professional goals. Then, we list goals as a team — specifically, what we can conceivably accomplish by April 1st. We are very exacting in choosing April goals. We make sure they are realistic and then we map out a precise route to accomplish them.
We announce these goals out in the open because we want to live up to what we promise ourselves. When dealing with 90-day increments and choosing realistic goals, the probability of success doubles, triples–no, quadruples!
(Try it out: The phrase “I will lose two pounds by April 1st” sounds a WHOLE lot more attainable than “I will lose ten pounds by the end of the year.”)
With the 90-day resolution, when it comes to April 1, my team and I regroup and assess our progress. Have we met our goals? Why celebrate resolutions once a year when you can celebrate them quarterly?
Of course, I never ignore things which I want to accomplish over the course of an entire year. I always keep them in the back of my mind. But I never make resolutions that span the course of an entire year, because I want to live in the here-and-now, in-the-moment. After all, the distance from Point A to Point B isn’t half as important as the journey.
- Noun – A motherless calf.
- Noun – An unorthodox or independent-minded person.
In business, a maverick is someone that will make it their business to spread word about your business, like nobody‘s business. They are obsessed with telling as many people as they can about your product, store or service, and they are worth more to your business than any advertising could ever hope to be.
At the New York Kids Club, we have always kept our eyes peeled for the “resident mavericks” – the ladies with the golden voices – the ones who ensure growth and seal the deal by finding new customers for us.
Statistics have shown that if a woman likes a product, she will tell up to 14 people a day about that product. 14 people in one day. Since mavericks often travel in packs, let’s assume that half of the people your original maverick tells are also mavericks, and they, in turn, go on to tell 14 other people about you. And suppose the cycle repeats itself one more time. At the end of only one day, over 200 new people know about your business. After five days, over 1000 know. In a month, over 4000. And so on. The figures can grow to staggering proportions! So is it really any wonder why businesses LOVE their mavericks?
Positive PR from mavericks is more valuable to a growing business than print ads, web marketing or any other strategy. A maverick works hard to promote your business—as hard, if not more so, than your employees. They send out e-mails. They get on the phone. They become the neighborhood megaphone.
Therefore, it is important to take care of your mavericks. Treat them well. They are your VIPs. Give them complimentary services. A special holiday gift. Undivided attention every time they visit. Show your gratitude. Call them personally to say thank you for spreading good word.
Many mavericks are savvy and offer their advertising services as part of a trade-off. When the time comes, your maverick might ask you for 10% on a sale when you are only offering 5%.
They take their roles very seriously. They do the research about your business and industry; they know their stuff when they walk through your door. They will come to you with suggestions for what could improve your business, they will have opinions on everything from pricing to service. But remember, even if you can’t meet every single one of their suggestions to a tee, mavericks want to be heard and recognized, and really, you owe them at least that much!
As a business owner, you must search for your maverick and love your maverick. You must reward her, but above all, you must listen to her.
Be compassionate about your maverick’s requests, and try to meet them as closely as possible. Do as much as you can. Deny a maverick their request, and their outcry will end up posted on blogs across America. Plus, if you don’t cater to your mavericks, one of your competitors surely will!
All things considered, a business’s time and money is better spent keeping your mavericks happy and well fed than fixing the fence only after they have moved on to greener pastures.
In any business, it is vital to evolve with the times. My goal has always been to be “the river,” flowing downstream through the rapids and over the falls, trickling, rushing, always moving. I have never wanted to be “the rock,” wedged somewhere far upstream, breaking the rhythm of the current and bound to a bank of sediment forevermore.
But at one time, I was in fact “the rock”:
To say that the Technological Age took me by surprise would be a gross understatement. I grew up in a pre-computer world (imagine that). Even until a few years ago, the word “technology” still conjured images in my mind of the first memory-typewriter, a “cutting-edge” innovation which I was introduced to in college.
I never thought of computers as an intrinsic part of life or commerce, and then suddenly, in the blink of an eye, I found myself staring (blankly) at the blink of a cursor almost every day. When we first brought computers into the New York Kids Club offices, I played it off with great panache, asking others to “check my e-mail” or “pull this document up” for me. My staff probably thought I just liked having things done for me – but NO! It was worse than that, far worse, my dirty little secret: I didn’t know how to work the computer!
My staff encouraged me to have a website built for the NYKC. “Why?” I would ask indignantly. “Our work is so personal! Websites are so impersonal!”
Then, for my 40th birthday, my brother had a website built for the New York Kids Club. Apparently, he agreed with my staff. And that’s when it hit me like a ton of bricks: I was being a rock.
Like a whirlwind, a new kind of learning sparked to life for me. Terms such as “Search Engine Optimization,” “Keyword Copywriting” and “Viral Marketing” suddenly became commonplace. Now I had the “user experience” to consider, in addition to my face-to-face clients. Customers who might log on to the NYKC website at 11pm, after a long day and a busy schedule with the kids – what did they want? I was stunned to discover that many of our customers actually preferred a private experience through the computer to speaking on the phone with a live human being. Foreign as that idea was to me, I was (and still am) determined to be “the river.”
When I look back on it now, I realize I should have reacted faster to the advent of the Internet, and I consider the fact that I didn’t to be a failure to some degree. But failure is a part of business. Without failure, there can be no growth. And without growth, you will forever be “the rock.”