Networking: It's Not Rocket Science

When you picture yourself networking what does it look like?  Are you juggling a wine glass, a plate and your business cards?  Are you nodding along to someone's voice but have no idea what they are talking about?  Are you counting the minutes until it is time to leave? 

Networking doesn't have to be that way.

There is an easy way to make networking actually work for you. There is an effective way to network without feeling like you are spinning your wheels.

The Power of BNI

BNI is a networking organization with chapters all over the world.  Chapters meet each week to have lunch or breakfast together in an organized setting.  No more juggling your plate and wine glass.

Members do share information about their businesses but they also listen.  They live by the motto, "Givers Gain."  BNI members understand that by looking for referrals each week for other BNI members they are creating relationships that work for all members. No more listening to someone drone on and on about their business.  Instead everybody has the opportunity to share their business in turn and we all listen because we know that will help each of us. We all become a sales force for the other members of our group.

More importantly though, BNI Members become friends, they build relationships and they connect in a way you can't at the occasional happy hour. And because you create relationships you look forward to weekly meeting.  Members of BNI Millersville have been known to call Wednesdays the best day of the week.

Finally, because we are all busy with our businesses, BNI understands that your time is valuable. That's why we stick to an agenda, always arriving on time and always being done on time.

Networking is an important part of any business but if it is the thing you most dread, it is probably not working for you.  Give our chapter a try.  Register to have lunch with us Wednesday at 11:30 at Libations in Millersville.

Contributed by Ann Brennan. Ann is the Social Media Coordinator for BNI Millersville.  She is also the CEO of Ann's Social Media & Marketing. One of the services she offers as a social media specialist is content writing.  Contact Ann here.

How Social Media Helps Small Businesses

Written by Ann Brennan - Ann's Social Media & Marketing

Social media is a great source for every business but I believe it is even more important for the small business owner.  Small business owners cannot afford the big budget television and newspaper ads that larger businesses can.  But they can reach people in their target market for very little cost.

As you begin to think about what that means for your business I offer 5 ways social media can help your small business.

Social Media Marketing For Small Businesses

  1. Core Values - Branding is important.  You want to make sure people recognize your logo and your colors. However you can go a step further with social media marketing by making core values a part of your branding.  What makes you stand out from the competition? Why should people pick you over the guy down the road?  A great example of this is chapter member Tony Ferrer at Warriors of Grace. Warriors of Grace is a faith based karate school with a focus on helping students develop their character through karate.  We are able to use his social media platforms to get that message across and attract new members.
  2. Reach More People More Often - The old adage goes that it takes 6-8 exposures to a potential client or customer before they will buy from you.  This still holds true but social media gives you an opportunity to get in front of potential customers over and over again for not very much money at all.
  3. Find Out What Your Customers Want -  Building a community around your brand is a wonderful advantage to social media.  Runners will flock to a running store's website.  But more important even than having more people visit your website, this affords you the opportunity to find out what your community really likes.  A great example of this was a local running store that hosted two group runs a week. But the attendance was spotty with sometimes 2 people showing up and sometimes 10.  Through a social media campaign the store posted about an upcoming FREE yoga event they were hosting and over 100 people showed up to the event.  From this the store was able to learn that runners do like to run but they also like to do other sports to compliment the running.  They created an entire series of events based on this desire and were able to create 100+ attendance at dozens of events over the year. 
  4. Bring potential clients further into the sales funnel - With very few exceptions Facebook is not where you make sales.  It is however an avenue for driving potential clients further into the sales funnel, sending them to your website to create more traffic or having them actually pull the handle of your front door to see what you really have to offer.
  5. It's Still New - As a social media consultant it makes me sad how few people are taking advantage of digital marketing.  But, for a small business owner this is an incredible opportunity.  When you really take social media in hand you are head and shoulders above your competition.  You can create a presence they have only dabbled in. 

To learn more about social media marketing and how to create a campaign for your small business without spending a fortune visit Ann's website or call her at 443-852-5274.

 

Magothy Payments Helping Draft Bill Protecting Maryland Businesses

This week we had the pleasure of hearing a presentation from Jaron Rice, owner of Magothy Payments.  He explained what he has been up to with the House of Delegates and how it will help Maryland Business Owners.

Jaron Rice, owner and operator of Magothy Payments, a Pasadena based company, is working with Maryland Delegate Seth Howard to sponsor House Bill 1400.

 

House Bill 1400 is meant to prohibit service agreements between a credit card processor and a business entity from including provisions authorizing liquidated damages or specifying exorbitant fees for the termination of services. Instead the cancellation fee will be capped $99. It goes further in prohibiting said credit card processor from debiting or accessing the bank account of the business entity after a 60 days and authorizes the Commissioner of Financial Regulation to establish penalties for violating this Act. 

 

 This bill came about when Jaron Rice was introduced to Delegate Seth Howard.  As the owner of Broadleaf Tobacco in Severna Park, Howard had been referred to Rice as a potential client. As the two spoke about their respective businesses, the subject of the unethical practices of many payment processing companies.

 

Jaron Rice said, “We talked and talked about things that I had seen in the field, customers getting ripped off, being taken advantage of, etc. After telling him about an especially egregious case I'd witnessed I said, "That should totally be illegal."

 

Howard then asked Rice if he would be interested in helping draft a bill to protect Maryland business owners from this practice.  Shortly thereafter the two began working together to draft the bill.  On March 10th, Rice is scheduled to speak before the House Finance Committee.  On March 21st he will return to Annapolis to testify before the Senate Finance Committee on the senate version of said bill.

Message About Business Practices

Written by Tony Ferrer of Warriors of Grace Karate School

In today's presentation I spoke about some of our business practices, in the hopes that our experiences will be of help to someone else.

In any business it is critical to know your numbers. There has to be some way of determining whether you are operating at a profit, whether you can afford whatever it is that someone is trying to sell you, and most importantly, whether you are meeting the goals you set out to meet when you first opened for business.

We had a mentor walk us through many steps in the process of growing our business.

Defining Our Mission

The first step was to take the time to really think about our vision for Warriors of Grace – what we really wanted to achieve, what we consider a success. We then crafted a mission statement that has impacted almost every decision we make.  That’s not to say that once we went through that process it was over. We reexamine and revise our vision and mission statement pretty regularly – at least once a year.  This is crucial for our own motivation – feeding our passion to continue to do what we do.

By the Numbers

The next step was in tracking numbers. In our business our main number is headcount. Our vital equation is new students minus lost students equals net new. If the intent was to grow (which it was!) we had to keep track of that equation. Additional numbers regarding revenue, expenses, where the leads were coming from are also important.

Change Is Inevitable

One of the tenets of business, is that you have to keep changing, keep growing, keep improving. Otherwise someone else will come up with a better way to do whatever it is you do, and you’ll wind up slowly(or in some cases quickly!) losing business and having to close your doors.

In order to have a rational way of improving our school, the next step was to break down our business into all its parts. In our case, we have classes, instructors, the new student process (the process that every student goes through from first contact until the day they leave – what we also refer to as retention), marketing, the physical dojo, and the financial/admin piece or pieces that every business needs to have in place. Everything we do falls into one or more of these parts.

We know we can’t change all aspects of our business all the time. So we focus on one area at a time. Sure we may end up making a minor improvement to the dojo at the same time we’re training new instructors, but our main focus is on just one part at a time. At least in theory that’s the idea.  First quarter focus on staff development, second quarter focus on improving curriculum, third quarter focus on improving administrative systems, etc.

For over a year now, what actually happened is that we have been trying to tackle EVERYTHING at once: trying to bring on, train, and motivate staff; overhauling our whole administrative AND financial systems; changing our children’s curriculum; implemented regular student contact (2-4-6 calls); increasing focus on marketing; and we’ve even improved the dojo and equipment in the same time period!

Learn From Mistakes

I am here to share from my experience: DON’T do it!

Don’t tackle everything at once! Did we survive? Barely! (And we’re not yet through all the changes and really don’t know yet whether we WILL survive!) The result was major burnout. Constant sickness. Being overwhelmed leads to self-doubt and dwindling confidence.  And the worst moments come when you think you don’t even want to be doing this any more!

Without the grace of God, I do not think we would still be open. What we were first taught by our mentor – taking on one thing at a time to focus on – was wise counsel and I want to strongly encourage you to do the same! Your business won’t suffer from the areas you aren’t getting to YET. But it very well may suffer from the resulting consequences for its leader for taking everything on at once!

 

Welcome New Members

Our chapter continues to grow.  This week we welcome two new members.

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