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Tip Sheet

8 Tips to Help You Do Better Business – And Be a Better Person

We give you the secret for getting a finicky cat to eat.

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CAT FOOD

Sneaky Feeding

Is a customer having trouble transitioning her cat to raw food? Tracey Rentcome of Bones2Go in Houston, TX, shares this advice: “Be as sneaky as they are. ‘Accidentally’ drop a little on the floor by their dish.” For customers who also have a dog, she suggests dropping the raw cat food by the dog’s dish. “Cats love to steal from dogs.”

POSTURE

2-Second Fix

Your parents were right: Stop slouching. “If you take on a collapsed position, it really shifts the physiology,” Erik Peper, a professor of health education at San Francisco State University, told Bloomberg, adding that tests have shown that slouchers’ testosterone levels go down, cortisol levels go up, and they have more helpless thoughts. Luckily, the opposite happens when you sit up, stretch or even better, skip on the spot for just 10 seconds. People can’t sit or stand at attention all day, though, so pick your battles, says Peper.

On their sidewalk chalkboard, Green Spot offers a free treat for any pet whose name is featured that day.

PROMOTIONS

Feeling Lucky?

The Green Spot in Omaha, NE, has a cool promo we just had to share. On a chalkboard sandwich sign (and, of course, on social media channels), The Green Spot folks have a daily offer of a free treat for any pet whose name is featured that day. It keeps folks checking back and gives them a reason to pop in, if they happen to be one of the lucky ones.

INNOVATION

Failure Wall

If risk-taking, innovation and transparency are habits you want to promote in your business, you may want to consider a “failure wall” — a flat space preferably in your back room where you and staff can share your “growth lessons” with each other. “Something magical happens to failure when it’s openly acknowledged,” writes business author Jeff Stibel in a column for Bizjournals.com. “Paradoxically, it becomes less of a big deal. The idea of failure is often the elephant in the room that no one wants to mention.”

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STAFF

Write at the End of a Day

Is your staff is showing signs of stress? Ask them to do this simple act: Spend 10 minutes at the end of the day writing about three things (work related or personal) that went well that day. According to a report in the Harvard Business Review, a University of Florida study found that such a gratitude exercise lowered stress levels and physical complaints by roughly 1percent.

SELF WORTH

Cross It Off

If you use a to-do list to guide your task choices through the week, leave your “done” items at the top as you knock them off, suggests productivity website Lifehacker. The feeling of accomplishment will help you get through other items over the course of the week.

ONLINE

This Email Will Self-Destruct

Ever wanted an email address that you could discard like a pair of disposable chopsticks? 10 Minute Mail (10minutemail.com) is for you. The service sets you up with a self-destructing email address that expires in — yep — 10 minutes. Your temporary inbox works just like regular email, allowing you to forward and respond to messages, and you can add extra time if 10 minutes isn’t quite long enough. Whitepaper downloaded, anonymous comment posted, whatever — once you’re done, pull the pin and walk away.

HYGIENE

Oral Exam

Need a break from the sales floor? Take a dental hygiene break (brush gently, floss, rinse): “It can do wonders for your mood,” says online business publication, Quartz.

Since launching in 2017, PETS+ has won 11 major international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact PETS+'s editors at editor@petsplusmag.com.

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FEATURED VIDEO

JIM ACKERMAN

Digital Marketing Is Great, but It Can’t Solve All Your Problems

You’ve probably been hearing experts talk about digital marketing as if it would be a panacea for pet-business owners, says marketing specialist Jim Ackerman. But for most owners, it hasn’t worked out that way. In this video, Ackerman explains why digital advertising should be just one arrow in your marketing quiver.

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Tip Sheet

A New Store Every 3 Months? Here’s How — And 8 Other Tips

Don’t miss: a really easy way to power up sales.

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INSPIRATIONBe an Idea Machine

Write down 10 ideas a day. “Do it for six straight months and see what happens. It actually turns into a super power,” says serial entrepreneur and author James Altucher. To collect his ideas, Altucher buys 1,000 waiter’s pads at a time from restaurant supplies websites (10 cents a pad). “They’re great for meetings because I have to keep concise lists, and they’re always good conversation starters.”

BRAINSTORMINGThe Power of OneNot making any headway with your brainstorming sessions? Go it alone, writes Seth Godin in Free Prize Inside, citing a study that found a team of four people, each brainstorming alone, came up with twice as many ideas as when they tried it together. Best approach? Assign team members to brainstorm alone, then bring everybody together to share — and critique — the ideas generated.

MERCHANDISINGA New Store, Every 3 MonthsIf a customer enters Urban Pooch Canine Life Center in Chicago, IL, after a three-month absence, he finds a completely new store. How? Owner Ed Kaczmarek told a panel at Global Pet Expo that he rearranges the floor every three months, “so customers have to re-experience it.” They also have to ask where items are, which encourages interaction with staff that can lead to more sales.

MESSAGINGYour Bud: RepetitionThere’s a reason infomercials drag on forever: our human weakness for pattern recognition. We’re programmed to think that something we’ve heard repeatedly is more important than something we’ve heard only once. Yet, as a blog at Entrepreneur.com points out, many business owners believe that if someone doesn’t immediately latch onto an idea when it’s said the first time, a different way needs to be found to say it. “If you have a well-honed idea, and you’re simply trying to market it better, get comfortable saying the same thing multiple times,” writes Martin Zwilling. Trust, care, professionalism. There aren’t too many messages you should stray from when it comes to marketing pet services.

SALESNo More Stone FaceNegotiating tip from Selling Power magazine: Forget the stone face. When a customer balks at your price or asks for a discount, go ahead and cringe. The flinch will put your opposition on the defensive and force him or her to try to justify the request or offer a concession. Don’t appear terrified, merely surprised.

EVENTSSell The SizzleA bank in Seattle, WA, lets prospects know about its “hot” loan rates and friendly service by holding a Friday barbecue in the parking lot. The manager cooks the hot dogs and hamburgers, folks come by to talk and eat, and all receive info on the bank’s services. Perhaps you might let your customers know about your “hot” summer deals in a similar manner?

ARITHMETICWhy Didn’t We Learn This in Fifth Grade?If quickly working out percentages, such as a 4 percent discount on a $75 item, trips you up, keep this hack in mind: It’s often easier to flip the sum. So, 75% of $4 — even we got this — is $3! 18% of $50 (50% of $18 = $9), 14% of $300 (300% of $14 = $42) Genius, right?

MARKETINGIn Ads, Paint with Narrow StrokesKeep your advertising focused. Take Coca-Cola, for instance, writes Luke Sullivan in Hey Whipple, Squeeze This. The company owns nearly 80 brands of drinks, but they’ve never run an ad for all of them at once. If you feel you have three important things that you absolutely have to say … well, then just buy three ads.

LEADERSHIPManage the MiddleDon’t concentrate too much on the top 10 percent of your performers. They can take care of themselves, says Susan Lucia Annuncio in Contagious Success. And the bottom 10 percent … they will be gone soon, or at least they should be. Instead, spend most of your time and attention on those in the middle, who are already doing some things right but need more instruction and support.

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Tip Sheet

Give the Bad News First, Distribute Swag, Spill Your Coffee During an Interview and 5 More Ingenious Tips

And throw a party!

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TESTIMONIALS

Throw a Party

What month was your business born? Throw a birthday party, and ask your customers to bring “gifts” of testimonials that you can use in your marketing. Including such third-party recommendations on your website and in your ads is one of the best ways to convince others that your store is, indeed, the best place to shop, says Entrepreneur magazine’s Idea Site for Business.

AMIABILITYSmile Right

A smile originates in two places — the mouth and the eyes, says Paul Timm in “50 Powerful Ideas You Can Use to Keep Your Customers.” Give your customers a mouth-only version, and it looks like your smile was pasted on. It’s like saying “Cheese!” for a photographer. But your eyes are the true window to your soul. If you can’t muster a convincing smile, practice in front of a mirror until you get it right.

EMPLOYEESDistribute Swag

Next time you return from a trade show, give all your freebies and product samples away to staff members … with one caveat: They have to review the new products. “This shows that you value their opinion,” says Shawna Schuh, president of Women in the Pet Industry Newtork. It’s a win all around: “They get free products, and they also become experts featured at the store.”

INTERVIEWSTime for Oops!

A good job interview idea from Selling Power magazine is to have a little accident. Tip over a trashcan or spill a cup of coffee on your desk. If the job candidate immediately leaps up to help … well, then they have cleared another hurdle in the interview process.

CREATIVITYOn a Roll? Take a Break Anyway

According to a Columbia University study, the key to taking breaks — meaning to maximize their impact on your creative thinking and to ensure you stay refreshed — is to stop even when you don’t feel like it. “Participants who didn’t step away from a task at regular intervals were more likely to write ‘new’ ideas that were very similar to the last one they had written,” the authors explained in Harvard Business Review. So, “if you’re hesitant to break away because you feel that you’re on a roll, be mindful that it might be a false impression.” The “break” in each case merely involved switching tasks. A change, it seems, really is as good as a rest — so long as you do it on schedule.

MARKETINGUse Sign Language

When you go to a trade show, you ask your vendors what’s new, right? Of course you do. Merchandising consultant Larry B. Johnson says the best way to draw customer interest from regular clients is to put a whiteboard on an easel (total cost: $79) just inside your door with all of your new products written on it.

MANAGEMENTYes, They Want The Bad News First

When you’re delivering good news and bad news to employees, always give the bad news first, says Daniel Pink, author of When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. Pink acknowledges that many bosses hope to cushion the bad stuff to come. “But that is wrong,” he explained to The Washington Post. “If you ask people what they prefer, four out of five prefer getting the bad news first. The reason has to do with endings. We prefer endings that go up, that have a rising sequence rather than a declining sequence.”

RECRUITINGAdjust Your Expectations

The strong economy, heightened competition for good employees, and societal changes mean the guidelines you used to hire may not be as useful as they once were, says Kate Peterson of consultancy Performance Concepts. “Employment history can’t be interpreted the way it used to be,” she says, noting that workers are much less likely to hold jobs for long periods of time. “Stop tossing applications because the candidate has had five jobs in the past 10 years. It’s the way of the world today.”

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Tip Sheet

Yet Another Excuse to Bring Donuts, Brighter Trade-Show Mornings and a Sly Way to Fire a Customer

Plus: A new perspective on vacations.

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RECUPERATION

Short and Intense Wins

There seems to be a belief that a “proper” vacation requires at least a week off. But as psychologist Thomas Gilovich told the Boston Globe recently, “If you have to sacrifice how long your vacation is versus how intense it is, you want shorter and more intense.” That’s because we remember and judge our experiences not in their entirety but according to how they felt at their emotional peak. Yes, time feels scarce. But you have no excuse for not having a memorable vacation this year. Start planning!

MANAGEMENT

Does and Donuts

Want to add some fun to your store? Take a tip from Sherrie’s Jewelry Box in Tigard, OR, where “you’re never late to work if you bring donuts,” owner Sherrie Devaney says.

HIRING

Add Value to Interviews

Anand Sanwal, the co-founder of tech company CB Insights, has an interesting take on the best question to ask a job candidate: “Tell me how you prepared for this interview.” Not only will the reply reveal the person’s commitment to the position — does she care? — but it hints at her work ethic and analytical capabilities, he told The Twenty Minute VC podcast.

TRADE SHOWS

Good Expo Days

Headed to Global Pet Expo or one of the other expos or fairs this month? Follow the advice of marketing consultant Andrea Hill and take along a collapsible instant hot water carafe “because coffee is the beginning of a good day,” and those Starbucks lines can be brutal.

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MANAGEMENT

Ask This Question

According to the management guru Peter Drucker, the one question that will trigger more improvement than any other in your staff: “What do I do that wastes your time without contributing to your effectiveness?” Ask it without coyness.

MARKETING

Insider View

Want to give customers the feeling of being inside your store? Do as Blue Collar Working Dogs in Los Angeles, CA, does (bluecollarworkingdog.com/location) and use Google Maps extension of Street View, called Business View. Look for a local photographer who specializes in the 360-degree imagery needed here: google.com/streetview/hire.

CUSTOMERS

Passing the Buck

A neat — and cheeky — way of dealing with overly demanding customers from a fellow independent retailer in the vision business: BJ Chambers of Carrera Optical in McQueeney, TX, keeps business cards of other optical shops on hand and gives them to problem patients and suggests they “go visit.”

MANAGEMENT

Remove Emotion from Meetings

Stride into a meeting, dominate the dialogue and just repeat your point insistently, and you’ve a good chance of winning the day, thanks to a human weakness for interpreting confidence as expertise or competence. But it doesn’t mean you’ll arrive at the best solution for whatever challenges are facing your business. To prevent this happening at your meetings, reframe them as fact-finding exercises, says Bryan Bonner of the University of Utah. Keep a running list of conclusions on a whiteboard, or do anything else to switch the focus from who is being convincing to what they’re saying.

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