Put A Label On It

Put a label on it 4

Putting a label on things used to be bad. The 90s were interesting that way. We wanted to have a DTR, “Defining the Relationship Talk”, but because we thought labels were so bad we made fun of the fact we had a label for it. . Then we got into slogans, mantras and mottos for people, products and places. Now it seems like everything has a label on it. I hadn’t even noticed, but then the other day I was out shopping and bought instant soup. There were two kinds of powdered instant soup and one kind said, “Made with responsibly grown New Zealand pumpkins.” Can you guess which soup packets I bought? Yes, I bought the reconstituted pumpkin with maltodexin thickener, sugar, creamer, glucose syrup and hydrolyzed corn protein. I felt good too, until I realized how ridiculous that was. I mean what does responsibly grown even mean? On top of that, it is powdered soup so does that even make it taste better? Does anything make powdered soup taste better? I guess in the end I am really happy for those pumpkins because they were raised well. The label did make me feel better though. It made me feel better long enough to pick up two packets of that soup and bring it home.
After I thought about how silly my responsibly grown pumpkin soup was, I started to wonder how many labels were on things in my house. I found quite a few. My lotion says, “Gentle formula for sensitive skin.” Our peanut butter said, “Never oily, always smooth.” I am not sure how on earth peanut butter is ever not oily. My tomato sauce says, “No artificial colours, flavours or preservatives”, but it lists sugar and food acid as main ingredients. My brownie mix says, “premium brownie mix.” Any time you put premium on a mix I PUT A LABEL ON IT 2think a chuckle is deserved. My coffee has a fair trade logo on it but I will be honest and say that I don’t know exactly what the details are of why one product is allowed to put fair trade on it and another product isn’t. Is it actually a fair product which helps people in need or does it just make me feel less guilty? Does it make me feel like I have done my part without actually researching what I am putting in my pantry? I found a drink mix online and its slogan was, “There is love in every cup.” It also said, “Australian Brand.” I am not sure that love is something I can taste, contrary to what pop culture might tell me. Also, being an Australian brand doesn’t actually guarantee that the product is made, packaged or grown here.
Now if you think I am getting snarky, well maybe I am, but my point is not that the products may be misleading us, but that we like to read those things on our products. We buy those things for our house and feel just a put a label on it 3little better, maybe we even feel a little healthier because someone wrote five words on a plastic bottle.  Maybe you don’t, maybe it is just me and my premium brownie mix but I felt good about that too. I may buy brownie mix instead of making brownies from scratch but gosh darn it is premium brownie mix. It says so right there on the box. My zip lock bags have, “Secure lock guaranteed”, printed on the front. I don’t know for sure that they work better than the other brand but I sure do like it when someone prints guaranteed on the front of something. My dishwashing liquid is apparently, “safe for hands and for the environment.”  I am not a scientist, so I have to trust that the label on that dishwashing liquid actually means what it seems to say.
Some of those labels mean something so I don’t think we should do away with labels all together, no matter what the 90s taught me. I just think we have to be really careful about letting the labels make us feel better about the kind of person we are. Do I feel like I am a better person because I have a label on the soup in my pantry which says the pumpkins are responsibly grown? Does the fair trade label on my coffee encourage me to feel superior?  Sometimes we just let it makePut a label on it 1 us feel healthier. My soup must be healthier because it says the pumpkins are responsibly grown. I let that label make me think that, even if only for a short while. I think marketing companies are talented and I think sometimes I am silly. I do not think you will see me reading the back of every product in the grocery store, but if you have time to do that then more power to you.  I don’t think you should put the fair trade coffee back and go home and research the fair trade stipulations on the internet before you purchase coffee again. I would be in real trouble if I suggested that, because I can’t make sense out of the written word until I have had my coffee in the morning. I just think we need to buy what we buy without thinking it changes the person we actually are. No matter what those labels say it does not make me healthier. I am an exercise-hating, chocolate eating and coffee-drinking booklover and no amount of responsibly grown pumpkins is going to change that.

Get Reading with Free Magazines

ZinioI am always telling my students to read, read, read – whatever you can get your hands on!

Well today I have a great offer for Stacey College blog readers: 10 free magazine subscriptions from Zinio of varying lengths.

All you have to do is fill out the form below with your full name, email address and title of choice. Once all ten subscriptions are taken I can send the details to Zinio and you will be sent your free magazine.

Stacey College will not share your details with anyone other than Zinio.country style june cover

You can check out the range of magazines at www.zinio.com

For English as a Second Language students here are a few recommendations:

National GeographicIntermediate: Taste , Your Garden, Country Style

Advanced: National Geographic, Forbes, The Economist

As the magazine is free why not pick one on a topic that interests you and check it out.

NOTE: Stacey College has not received any payment or free products for this post.

Facing Failure

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Maybe it was when I booked the rooms for our first classes? Or maybe when I started paying out money for insurance, business cards, advertisements and teaching resources? It’s been creeping up on me for a while. The possibility of failure looms ever closer, as I take the steps towards launching Stacey College from idea, to service.

Maybe you are the eternal optimist and don’t have to face these thoughts. Most entrepreneurs though have to face the possibility of failure. Now I’m not saying Stacey College is going to be a failure. Stacey College is going to work, I have no doubt in my mind. But there is a very real possibility that the first two classes we are planning, and promoting, may get no students. My business partner describes it as eliminating options. Thomas Edison famously declared,  “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.  While I am hoping that it does not take 10 000 tries to make Stacey College a success, I know that I must be prepared for this not to be an easy road.

Henry Petroski’s book argues that “time and again, we have built success on the back of failure–not through easy imitation of success“. Petroski is looking at the history of design, but his insights equally apply to so many spheres of life. As a bit of a perfectionist, I am not someone who has traditionally accommodated failure. And yet this new experience of entrepreneurship has freed me to take risks, to face my fears of failure, within an overall framework of positive thinking and determination to succeed in the long run. So as I stare possible failure in the face over the next few months, I will try to remember that this is part of the journey of starting something new.


101 Ways to Advertise Your Business

I have begun planning our first advertising campaign. Andrew Griffith’s book makes a number of helpful points.

1. Keep your advertising simple – have one message.

2. Make sure your advertisement is seen numerous times, ideally in different formats/ locations.

3. Use a call to action, including how and when this should be responded to.

4. For start ups, your budget should be approximately 10% of turnover, for ongoing business, target 5%.

5. Analyse the success of your campaign.

6. Make sure your ad stands out in the right place.

Obviously there is a lot more material in the book but this is what I found helpful for my particular situation. Always great to be reading an Australian author too!

So keep your eyes out for our ads in the Joondalup/ Wanneroo Times (local paper) in July. Also poster and leaflet should be flying around and landing in various places.

No idea what sort of response we will get – but we are in there having a go. Will let you know!

The Decisive Moment

Henri Cartier-Bresson,  French photographer, is famous for his concept of the Decisive Moment:

 “the decisive moment, it is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as the precise organization of forms which gives that event its proper expression.”

The photograph on the left inspired Cartier-Bresson to give up painting and pursue the art of photography, becoming the Father of modern photojournalism, and inspiring generations of photographers.

Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind had her decisive moment  as she declared to God and the world that she would never go hungry again!

This weekend I read the very interesting story of Brunello Cucinelli in The Australian Weekend magazine. His decisive moment came watching his father cry in humiliation and frustration at having to perform factory work after having been a farmer and working his own land. Brunello has gone on to build a massive cashmere empire (worth approximately $A500 million) employing over 700 workers. His methods have been deeply influenced by that decisive moment long ago. His workers are trusted, respected, work in a beautifully restored 14th century castle, and are fed 3 course meals for lunch. Just as importantly Brunello works in a small town which directly benefits from the business’ profits through the construction of public works.

The importance of this ‘decisive moment’ cannot be underestimated. It provides a stake in time that one can return to over and over in order to gain motivation to continue pursuing your goal. I have had my decisive moment (actually I think I’ve had a few). What was your decisive moment? What were the emotions attached to it? What was the goal made as a result?

The power of Collaboration

These days at universities the lines between faculties are becoming blurred. People are mixing ideas and coming up with grand new ways of looking at things. I read in the QANTAS magazine about a chance meeting between a psychiatrist and an engineer. A product of their resulting collaboration is a device that tests brainwaves for mental illness diagnosis! It’s called EVestG  and their company is Neural Diagnostics.

On a much less grand scale, this week I have been working with my cousin helping him with his website for Vose College. He has an Arts background and like me has strayed into the dark side (business). As I listened to the pitch for his new college I was almost ready to sign up for the course. What he brings is a new perspective on business study. One that suits those of us with a heart for people and changing the world. Often the divide between profit and non-profit leaves those with business skills on the profit side, and those with compassion and people skills on the other. Wouldn’t it be great to empower both sides with the gifts that the other side brings. I am guilty of business bashing for a long time. But the reality is that if you don’t know how to run a business well, all the heart and people skills in the world won’t pay the bills.

Check out Vose College for their Diploma of Management starting soon.

Inspiration: Naomi Simson founder of RedBalloon

The Australian today had an article by Richard Blandy. He says, ‘Business ownership among women is growing at almost twice the rate of business generally.’ Women are sidestepping the glass ceiling issue and taking the opportunity to shape their own work-life balance. He also identifies small business as a means of fulfilling ‘higher order needs’ (from Maslow’s heirachy of needs) as opposed to large corporations.

So I have begun reading “I want what she’s having: the experience of creating a pleasurable business”, an ebook by Naomi Simson, Australian female entrepreneur, founder of RedBalloon.

I’ve used 7 of her points to then reflect on my own experience so far with Stacey College.

(1) Extract what you’ve learned from past experiences to help you now.
This is something that I’ve really been enjoying about starting my own business. Everything that I have done and experienced in my past, seems to be helpful in shaping what I do now. Skills as diverse as photography, youthwork, being a ‘check out chick’, customer service, research, marketing, cold calling, have all been helpful. My experiences as a student, a mother, a wife, a consumer are all helpful to draw on as I shape my business.

(2) ‘NO’ provides opportunity to find an alternative way.
Already I have found this to be true. As we are struggling to find a premises I have come up with a plan to create a web of services across Perth that will eventually work in with a building and ‘hub’ in the city. It will be a great beginning with less overheads, and a way to begin to learn the business through hiring staff, renting spaces, and fine tuning courses.

(3) Business is just a game and its ok to inject fun into your day.
Two important and very different teachers of mine have championed this same principal of ‘fun’. The first was a theology lecturer, the second my trading mentor. The lightness this philosophy tries to bring sometimes clashes with the intensity and passion of a student or worker. We like to think that we are indispensable, and that brings with it a certain heaviness. ‘Fun’ on the other hand still feeds on passion, but a passion that knows that this opportunity may only be for today, that I could be helpful and of service somewhere else, and that life doesn’t demand perfection, but engagement.

(4) Make full use of the technology available to you.
Perhaps this is why GenY is the breeding ground of many entrepreneurs. They are willing and able to adopt any new technology that allows them to do the job better, more efficiently, more creatively, or just in a way that it hasn’t been done before. For those of us who are more technologically challenged (I am only a GenX, yet that means I remember a time before the internet and when having a mobile phone was a luxury not a necessity) it means diving in and learning, and learning about learning. It’s funny how the more you learn, the easier it is to learn more. Because once you figure out how to figure out a new technology, you are a little more confident, and a little more able to know where to look for help, and a little more understanding of the processes involved. Little bit by little bit. That way there will always be something to learn – because the new technology just keeps coming.

(5) Why have talented people if you have no intention of listening to them or nurturing their initiative?
This seems like a no-brainer to me, but I’m sure most of you would testify to jobs you’ve had when you have been neither listened to or nurtured. As a leader I don’t want to be intimidated by the skills of my staff, neither do I want to assume that I know better than them about everything. Surely if I hire talented people, I want them to contribute.

(6) You have great people being unproductive if they don’t have the tools they need.
‘A bad worker blames his tools’ is the phrase that comes to mind. And yet, without certain tools a job cannot be done. My husband is one who has taught me to invest in quality tools. Firstly they do the job better, and secondly they last longer, and usually end up costing you less in the long run. There is nothing worse than a talented teacher wasting all her time fighting a photocopier, or a salesman trying to use a payphone.

(7) It’s not the size of the budget that counts. It’s what you do with it.
This is great to hear for me – because I don’t have a huge budget. Like most start ups I am more time rich than cash rich. And it’s good to recognise this. A lot of things you can do for yourself, and bigger companies only outsource the work because they have too much else to do. Making my budget count means making wise decisions, being creative, making the most of what is available out there free.

So that is what I got out of the first bit of Naomi’s book. Please let me know what you think.

Reading about Business

Here are some books that I have read recently and enjoyed related to starting a small business.

6 Secrets to Start Up Success: How to turn your entrepreneurial passion into a thriving business. John Bradberry, New York, 2011

Great to start thinking of myself as a entrepreneur (and also learning how to spell it!). Helpful to learn a few things from people who have done the start up thing before me.

How to organise & operate a small business in Australia (10th Edition), John English, 2006.

It’s so hard to find good books by Australians but this is one of them. Obviously other people agree with me as it’s in it’s 10th edition. Being by an Australian means that all the links and organisations it mentions are directly relevant to me. A great book to have on the shelf as a resource. Other websites who also recommend this book:
Community Cultural Development in Australia
Danielle MacInnis

Small business, big opportunity: winning the right customers through smart marketing and advertising, Rob Harnett & Sensis, 2006.

I read this book while I was organising the logo, website and marketing design. It was really helpful in helping to understand the industry jargon and get a handle on what I wanted to achieve out of marketing and how to go about it. This can be downloaded for free here.

Online marketing: a user’s guide, Murray Newlands, 2011.

This book grew out of a blog – a bit of encouragement to all us bloggers out there. By the way – did you know that wordpress estimates that 120 000 new blogs are started everyday. So if you’re not getting much traffic (like me) don’t despair – the competition is fierce – but the drop out rate is also high. So the longer we hang in there, the greater the chance of winning readers and gaining a presence on the web. Back to the book – it is a helpful introduction to all things online marketing in a easy read fashion. This seems to be a growing area (that of online or social media marketing support). One thing to keep in mind is that the book needs to be new as this area is changing so rapidly all the time.

Social media marketing for digital photographers, Lawrence Chan, 2012.

This covers a lot of the same material as Newlands, just with more of a focus on the photography side of things. Up to date, helpful with a quirky sense of humour which makes it a little more readable. Chan is also a blogger (aren’t we all these days). Being a bit of a photographer, and recognising the power of the image, I found this book good to help me think about how to improve my use of images in marketing.

I hope you find this list helpful. I will continue to share other books as I come across them that I think small business start ups might appreciate. Please feel free to recommend good books that you have read to me. These books were all found at my local library. This demonstrates my good financial management (not spending money on books when I can get them from the library for free) which is important as bad financial management is the main reason for 1st year failure in small businesses as all the books will tell you!