Monday, September 26, 2011

Semi-Bi-Annually-Sesquicentinial Business Update

I just posted about re-discovering this old blog. Now I want to give an update on the business.

We celebrated our 5th year in business this past Summer. We made it past the dreaded "BIG PERCENTAGE NUMBER of businesses fail within 5 years" pitfall. Have you seen stats on businesses that cease to exist between 5-10 years? Kinda scary too.

We own our Google rankings for our market, all organic search rankings, no paid ads.

We have competition, and are doing well.

We won two awards this year in a local "Best of Little Rock" poll for music studio and birthday party location.

We have 10 teachers, 1 employee, a instrument repair shops and my wife is in the process of leaving her part time job (kept for health benefits) to help run the business full time. (Now that's scary!)

We incorporated this year (self employment taxes ate our lunch for 2010) and hope to see tax benefits from that.

I still clean the bathrooms and am amazed how clean the women's room stays day after day while us filthy beasts (men) are able to destroy the bathroom day after day. (goal for 2012 - hire a cleaning service).

I still love what I do, play guitar a lot and am able to spend quality time with the family.

Life is good!

That's all I've got right now. Bounce a few ideas off me for articles and I'll see what I can do.

Lost Blog Alert ...

Time flies!

This blog is a side project to discuss my thoughts on small business, specifically, running/owning your own business.

Have you heard the phrase "out of sight, out of mind"? That's what happened here.

This fun "side project" was overlooked for a while as I focused on the business. Then it was forgotten. I did remember from time to time, especially when I find gum in the men's urinals.

This morning, I received an email from an old website that tracked this blog. It was like finding a $5 dollar bill in last years winter coat. SCORE! I can't believe two years have passed since my last post.

If anyone stumbles across this blog, I can't guarantee there will be a steady stream of posts going forward. But I will drop one from time to time!

Monday, August 24, 2009

When is the best time to plant an apple tree?

20 years ago...

By now, you would have a beautiful tree, full of fruit and shade for the hot summer.

When is the second best time to plant an apple tree?

Right now!

At the start of the summer, I had several business ideas that I felt were best for my business, but I was scared of implementing them. Raising fees, moving from manual payment to a monthly auto draft, implementing a new cancellation policy that would make it harder to just "stop coming", etc.

All of these, individually or as a group, have the potential to drive customers away. However, once implemented, both current and new customers are very sticky and loyal to the business ... just the type every business desires.

So, I made the decision to implement all changes starting 09/01/2009. Since July, I have been working hard on getting everything ready - new forms - conversation points - registration dates - etc. Implementation and registration started 08/15/2009.

I'll not lie, we've had some grumbling from customers. We've lost a couple of customers. But on the other hand, we've signed up the majority of students - all pre-existing students - with our fall registration and "new" students under the "new" policies all yet to come.

I wish I had all these processes in place from day 1 - it would make my life today soooo much easier. But, since I didn't plant that apple tree on day 1 - I decided that I want to taste that fruit soon - so I've prepared the garden and will plant the seeds for my improved business starting 09/01/2009.

Apple pie, you will soon be mine!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Letting loose with the $$$

If you're an optimist, the news is giving the appearance that we're at the end of the recession and will be turning back to growth by 3Q09 or 4Q09.

If you're a pessimist - well, lighten up! You're going to stroke out or something. Eat a cookie.

One thing that I've done over the last 6 months that my competitors have not is spend money on marketing. Print media, online media, website updates, etc. Some cash here and there to keep my business in the view of my target demographic.

It works - but you have to track it. Most people who don't believe in marketing are likely those who spent money without thought to target audience or tracking. Then complained that it was money washed down the drain.

Well, I'm starting a new method this month. Direct Mail.

I've printed up 6000 postcards, I have a demographic list pulled for my target audience and will mail two separate groups of 3000 (the same 3000 homes). One at the end of August promoting our back to school programs and a mailing 4 weeks later promoting Fall registration.

Notice that I'm sending two postcards to the same 3000 homes rather than 6000 homes in one shot? Well, I'm doing that because approixmately 3043 homes met my demographic criteria. By sending two mailings, for those that I don't lock in immediately, I'll have planted the seed for future calls (Christmas, Spring Registration, Summer Camps, etc).

This direct mail, in addition to my print and online ads, is a big hit on my income. Tracking will be critical. If my ROI is met and exceeded, I'll continue this method of mass saturation to the target demographic.

If it fails to deliver - I'll have to figure out how to tweak it. After all, if you don't advertise at all, how will anyone ever hear about you?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Synergy - Part Two

Hi there...

If you've browsed through the bulk of my 5 or 6 posts (humor attempt), you likely saw a post about Synergy and your business.

That relationship is still going strong. His business is doing absolutely fantastic ... to the point of his purchasing his own advertising - which brings additional customers into my studio at no cost to me.

Well, I stumbled upon another business idea that I would not have thought of had it not happened out of necessity.

My daughter turned 13 last April. Instead of having two separate parties for both sides of the family, we wanted one, big party. We decided to have it at the studio because we could crank the music for the girls, have a nice quiet area for the grandparents and plenty of room for the kids to have a great time.

Here is the interesting part ....

Even though the closed sign was up, with all the lights on and the music playing, people kept coming into the shop. When I explained we were closed due to having a party, three different customers asked how much we charged for birthday parties.

DING DING DING DING - the proverbial light bulb going off - DING DING DING

In reasearching my market, I found that private, themed birthday parties fetch $250-$500. Additionaly, there were very few choices for boys. Most themed parties were princess parties, tea parties, etc.

So, after some internet research, I developed a music themed party - One for boys built around Guitar Hero and one for Girls built around American Idol.

So, we're now doing birthday parties at the studio on Saturday's. And you know what? It is a great recruiting tool for new students. The kids come in, we have cool music going, we have Guitar Hero or Karaoke hooked up, we have the lights and the fog machine going and a cool vibe happening.

By the end of the party, most of our studio brochures are in the hands of the kids/parents for private music lessons.

So, not only am I bringing in additional revenue with the parties, I'm also keeping our teachers booked with a steady stream of new students - made even more important that we're now in our slow season, summer.

So in conclusion, keep your business radar on at all times for new ideas. You'll never know when something will come up that will take your business to the next level.

Until next time, work hard and best of luck to you!