August 31, 2001
From: Robert Massa
Sent: Friday, August 31, 2001 5:04 PM
Subject: Portal Partner Press 8-31-01
HOW TO AVOID A STATE OF CONFUSION
Let me start off by saying that I am going to be making some statements in this issue of the Portal Partner Press that may come off sounding like researched facts with reputable sources providing the data. I want to make it clear that the statements I make today are only my own conclusions and are of a purely editorial nature. The views I express are my views alone and not necessarily the views of SearchKing, Inc. or any other person or organization that may have some involvement with SearchKing, Inc. These statements are intended for informational and motivational purposes only.
Why is that the American business landscape is no longer dominated by Mom and Pop shops? How did we go from the majority of businesses and services being provided by small companies that had a real human at the helm running the show, to faceless corporate megaplexes where it seems the purpose of the business is to keep customer service to the bare minimum?
There was a time, not so long ago where we knew the people who operated the businesses that provided us with goods and services. We knew the names of the people. We cared about them and they seemed to care about us. Now, our money is taken by teenage, gum-popping girls who seem to care less about whether we got what we expected from shopping at this place as long as we just pay what the machine says to pay and move on so they can get out of there.
In spite of all the signs and ads spouting off about how much this company cares about the service they provide, the actuality is that there is no service at all. Ever try to get someone to help you at a Home Depot? You can finally cause enough of a distraction to actually get a human being's attention for a few moments, but it seems obvious that you are only creating a problem for that human being and keeping them from doing what they see as their real job and that is to provide the absolute least amount of actual personal service so they can hurry up and provide no service to the next person trying to cause enough of a distraction to get some attention. What a joke.
Wal-Mart has actually come up with a pretty good way of giving the perception of service. They actually pay cute little old men and women minimum wage to stand at the front door all day long and say "hello" to everyone that walks in. Gives you a warm fuzzy feeling having a little old woman say hello. That fuzzy feeling quickly turns into a hairball in your throat though as soon as you have to ask someone if the $400 digital camera comes with any accessories. Now you're saying hello to that teenage, gum-popping girl who wants you to just pay what the machine says and get the hell out of there.
McDonalds loves to see us smile. Sounds like they like us huh? Well, take a look at the expression on that 17 year-old's face when you have to ask for ketchup three times. He jerks your bag open and dumps 40 packets of ketchup into it, (one of my little pet peeves). You think he does that because he wants to show you how much he wants to see you smile, or is it because he has no respect for you or the place he works? What a joke.
So why isn't there a little family owned hamburger joint down the street that doesn't treat you like that? A hamburger joint that actually appreciates you spending about $15 on a meal for a family of two and doesn't act like you're really messing up their schedule by standing there waiting for your order. Why isn't there one? Obviously there's a market for a place that would give plain, simple customer service instead of just advertising that they do. So, why?
Popular opinion would say, there's just no way for a small guy to compete with the "big boys." A small guy can't afford the advertising, the payroll, the building, the signs, the inventory. That is NOT the reason.
A lot of surveys and studies have been done on what people want form the places they shop at. Price is rarely the number 1 reason. Things like clean restrooms, friendly employees, easy to get in and out are at the top of those lists. Customer service. The one thing that most people say most often that they want from a business, small businesses can provide and do much more often than the "big boys." So, why are there so few small businesses if it's not the money?
The one thing that those "big boys" do that a small business rarely does, is plan. The lack of strategic planning is the single biggest reason that businesses fail. Ever heard that over 75% of all small businesses fail in the first three years? Lack of planning is, by far, the single biggest reason.
What do you think one of the aspects of those big companies strategic plan is? Maybe to eliminate the competition? Well, if Wal-Mart plans to eliminate the competition, (you), and you don't have a plan of how to stop it, regardless of who's got what money, who do you think is more likely to succeed?
I realized this fact a long time ago and if you're smart and really want to succeed, you'll accept this concept and realize it too. So, why aren't I rich? Why am I not one of those "big boys" that small businesses blame for all their problems? The honest answer is that I have failed to plan effectively. I have had a lot of small businesses and I have had a plan for every one of them. That plan is what made all of them start generating money. The problem is I didn't plan effectively. I always did what I needed to get it going, but then dropped the ball, eventually lost interest and ultimately failed. That is going to change!
So, what is the problem? If all you have to do to succeed is plan, why isn't everyone doing it? Well, the biggest reason is that small business owners just don't realize the importance. They fall into the trap of thinking the most important thing is to take care of customers. Take care of the bookkeeping, take care of the maintenance, take care of the inventory, take care of everything but the planning. Now all those things do have to be taken care of, it's just that without planning, you eventually end up with no customers to serve, no books to keep, nothing to maintain and no inventory to take care of. Of course, this can take years. Most small business that have been in business for any length of time, you can quickly see that they are just holding on and not moving ahead, and the few small businesses that are in fact moving ahead, those are the ones that have developed and followed a plan.
We end up with a situation where the owner of a small business is so busy taking care of all the details, that he feels he doesn't have time to do the planning and it gets put off. He starts working 12 and 14 hours a day and just getting further and further behind. This is a mistake and a killer. The only way to reduce the amount of effort to increase production is to plan and then manage the plan.
The second problem that comes into play is that most people don't know HOW to plan. They feel like it is something that must be studied for until you finally possess a degree in business management. Again, this misconception is totally wrong. Anybody can do it and everybody should.
This is important enough, that I have decided to share my own mistakes of the recent past and to share what I've learned about strategic planning over the last couple of months. Yes, what I've learned. I've spent a lot of time recently, reading and studying the basics of planning and management because it has become glaringly apparent that SearchKing, the small business I'm responsible for, is working way too hard for the amount of production that is getting accomplished. It's like we're all standing in a small room facing different directions and someone shouts "RUN," and we all start bumping into each other. I have a lot of dedicated, loyal, intelligent people all standing by wanting to help. Wanting to do whatever I feel is the best thing to do. I'm just not doing a good job in letting them know what to do - management.
There are as many ways to plan and as many plans as there are people capable of doing the job of planning. While there is not any real right or wrong way to do it, (the important thing is to just get it done), there are proven steps that you can take that help to structure and train you to plan quickly and more efficiently. Using my own company as an example, I will show you what those steps are. Keep in mind that I am in a position of having staff already available and many of you are not. You have to focus on understanding the concept and not the procedures and figure out for yourself how to apply those concepts to your specific situation. Also, this is my way of showing my clients and portal partners what direction our company is heading and what you can expect from us.
Let's get started.
(This is simply writing down what you want in a given time frame.)
SEARCHKING SHORT TERM GOALS
To build SearchKing.com into the foundation and traffic generating center of the world's largest network of independently owned and operated topic and regionally specific, community focused, search services.
To become recognized on a global level as a developer and provider of easy to install, easy to maintain, affordable products and services geared toward the search service, web promotion and e-commerce market.
To build SearchKing into a top 1,000 internet destination in terms of traffic and be recognized on a global level as a viable alternative search service.
(This is just a general statement of why you have the goals you have.)
To become profitable by offering our custom programs and services to the general public while focusing on empowering our portal partners to attain their own goals through education, motivation, custom tools and support. To further enhance our portal partners' and clients' success by delivering qualified traffic to our entire network
(This is an important step as we'll see in the next step. In order to have a strategic plan, you must establish a general attitude about you and your company. This could be considered a statement of ethics or a code of conduct. Without a code of conduct that your strategic plan can be aligned with, your plan can very easily get out of line and end up being unrealistic. If you have policies that say one thing, but your plan says something else, it isn't going to work.)
We treat all clients, employees, customers, stockholders, partners and associates with honesty and respect.
We always handle bad press or negative image problems honestly, openly and as quickly as possible.
We always handle tech support, complaints or problems as quickly as possible, without dodging our responsibility, at the lowest level possible within the organization.
We never forget that our words and actions reflect the image of not only our own business, but also the businesses of every individual, company, organization and website that carries so much as a link to SearchKing.
We pay our bills when they are due and we expect the same from our clients and partners.
We believe we are leaders and it is our responsibility to lead by example.
We tell the truth.
We keep our word.
We accept that we have a responsibility to our stockholders, suppliers, partners, clients and our families to attain and maintain profitability.
We accept that SearchKing's success is measured by the success of our clients and partners.
We accept, understand and never forget that not everyone is as technically advanced as we are and that in no way diminishes their potential. Therefore, we focus on providing tools and custom solutions that are extremely powerful yet can be operated and maintained by people at the lowest technical skill levels
We respect the rights of others.
(This is just a statement that should sum up the entirety of the policies. Something that is easy to remember and easy to communicate to others.)
We do the best job we can do. We take pride in what we do. We do what we say we will do.
(Now you should be able to see the importance of establishing policies BEFORE you begin your strategic planning. For example, if your policies state that you respect the rights of others, then you plan to send out a million spam e-mails, that is not in "line" with your policies and your entire plan is doomed to failure.)
(This is the way to establish what general obstacles you want your plan to overcome. This identifies why you are not already attaining your goals.
SearchKing is not profitable. This puts SearchKing in a position of being unable to invest in acquiring and training more competent personnel. It also inhibits our ability to invest in and utilize presently available and emerging hardware and technology. It also limits our ability to develop new products to improve our search service, our portal hosting program and our promotional and development services.
Within our entire organization, we have a very high degree of dedication and activity but we are operating at very low production levels. In other words, everyone is working hard but as a group, we are getting too little done too slowly. It's time to start working smarter instead of harder. We lack organization and planning.
(Don't confuse strategic planning with procedures. The strategic plan is simply a broad, general overview of how you are going to structure the procedures to accomplish your goals.)
SEARCHKING'S STRATEGIC PLAN
The most immediate and important action needed is to get SearchKing organized into specific departments with individual managers of those departments, responsible for planning and implementing operating and reporting procedures that align with the company's purpose and goals, and to do so without loss of present income or a reduction in the present level of quality in customer service.
We will bring all Bob Massa products, services and properties under the SearchKing "umbrella" in order to form a more streamlined, effective management system.
We will focus on cleaning up the clutter within all our domains to present a more focused, easy to understand, branded service for the purpose of increasing sales and profitability.
We will focus on improving our image and educating the public to the benefits of our products and services through effective public relations. Since we are an internet company, we will put our greatest efforts into utilizing internet PR services such as E-zines, review and award sites, newsgroups, forums, and viral marketing.
We will build, support and maintain a large, well trained and highly motivated affiliate/reseller sales force. We will accomplish this through a simple process of communicating clearly, often and honestly with all our affiliates and resellers and by paying them fairly and always on time.
All right, are you with me so far? Is any of this making any sense? My point with all of this is that once again, if I can do it, ANYBODY can do it.
So we have our goal, our policies, our motto, our situation and our strategic plan. Now we start coming to the management part. We are still in the planning stages, in fact we have quite a ways to go, but the purpose of management is to see that plans are carried out and in keeping with our strategic plan, it's time now to start setting up those departments because we need to locate and authorize the people needed to see that the plans get carried out. So, our next step is to determine those departments and what will be required from each one.
Whose major objective will be to identify markets for custom products and to give general projections on cost and time to complete a project.
This job's major objective will be to generate search engine traffic for our new products and clients' products. As the product gets developed or a client is secured, there will be an order form generated. This form will be sent to the promotion manager who will then study the product and develop a promotional strategy. They will then secure the domain and develop a site. Once the site is completed and ready to submit, the affiliate manager will be notified.
The major objective of this department is to identify the sources of traffic to the promotional domain and use keyword delivery to direct that traffic to a "sales" page written by the affiliate manger's department. Since the page that places well often is not the page that sells well, keyword delivery will address this issue by taking qualified traffic directly the information that will results in a better conversion rate.
Once the keyword delivery system is in place, the affiliate manager will then notify all affiliates of the new product, the destinations and where to get promotional material for their site.
The major objective of this department will be to establish and build a database of internet sources such as newsletters, e-zines, software review sites, award sites and press contacts. As each new product is developed, Bob will write press releases and articles highlighting the benefits of the new product and then the PR manager will be responsible for distributing this information to targeted sources.
As traffic starts to be generated, all sales, (including free sales), will go directly to the sales manager whose major objective will be to collect the funds and deliver the orders to the installation and tech manager. They will also be responsible for collection of revenues owed and notifying the installation manager of any customers accounts that need to be altered such as being deleted due to default.
Installation and Tech Manager
The major objective of this position will be to see that all orders are installed and working properly in a timely fashion, and to see that all tech problems and complaints are handled at the lowest possible level and directed to the proper departments for resolution.
The major objective of this position is to collect and maintain weekly reports from each department manager showing the activity and results of those activities from the previous week. To then post the results in a graph form that will be visible to all staff members. The stats are the way to let everyone in the organization know how effective the company is being. Without being able to track stats, there is no way of knowing when we're failing or succeeding.
My job will be to oversee and supervise all departments with my major objective being to produce the articles and press releases needed to keep the partner and the public informed as well as to head the strategic planning board.
Now are we starting to see how all of this fits together? I really hope so, because I just can't over-emphasize how important this planning stuff is.
I hope I have at least been able to show you two things. #1.
- It isn't that hard to do and it is the best way to reduce your workload and get more done
- No matter how hard you think it is, it HAS to be done. Effective planning is the difference between success and failure.
This is enough for this week. Next week, I'll tell you what I've learned about setting up lines of communication and how without effective communication, your plans just sit there and never seem to get done. I will show you how to "make it happen!"
See ya' next week.
Publisher -- Bob Massa
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