All Good Things Must Come To An End

I’ve been radio silent for a while. A LONG WHILE.  In that time, it seems that I’ve been absence from Intel Boutique, but I’ve really been quietly working on a couple other projects I’m excited about launching at the end of this year and early next year.  One of the projects I’ve been gradually building is Resume Mojo — an idea that has been very close to my heart for quite awhile that I’ve decided should no longer be on the back burner.  Another in-the-works venture is what Intel Boutique will dissolve into.  During this “quiet” time, I’ve spent working with a long time friend and colleague of mine in regards to elevating our respective business ventures that will bring the best of talents and time under a unified effort.  Yes, at the end of October, Intel Boutique will be phased out.  Remnants of its presence will still be — as I hope it would be — but what it’ll be merged into will be something much greater than its solitary mission.  What Intel Boutique will look like with a new vision and new aims, I cannot say at this moment.  Actually, I won’t say.  The preparation for its incarnation is something I don’t want to tease just yet with tidbits here and there.  The target audience will still be aimed at those in business for themselves and those aspiring to self-employed, but the execution will be much more direct.

In the meantime, I will sprinkle the best information and resources I can find for business owners, as Intel Boutique comes to a graceful close.  They say all things must come to and end.  But endings are usually just another beginning transformed.  As is this.

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Ask The Right Questions, Find The Right Clients

We put so much emphasis on finding clients.  And rightly so.  They are the bread and butter of our businesses.  Without them, we wouldn’t have a business  — we make our money  by selling products and services to our clients.   It’s as simple as that.  But not really.  Because although we may position ourselves to be of service to someone  for a fee, not everyone who needs what we have t is someone who should be our client.

Sounds a little conceited, I know, but there’s a reason to this rhyme.

Every so often I’m given a little wake up call — by my own doing or otherwise — of the certain elements I need to tweak here and there for Intel Boutique.   One of the things were brought to my attention by a colleague and long time friend of mine who asked  if I was still using my questionnaires.  I genuinely like to help people, especially when it comes to my area of expertise, which gets in me in more trouble than I like because there are instances where I’ll just drive right in.   But I needed to revisit this questionnaire to keep grounded and be more discerning.  So I ended up  re-writing it from a simpler but more direct questionnaire focusing on my needs and my prospect clients’ needs.  What is this questionnaire I’ve apparently been neglecting for too long?  It’s a client questionnaire.  It’s purpose is to help me gauge whether or not a client is worth taking on.

Yes, I said ‘worth’.  Because as blunt as it may sound, not everyone is worth the time and energy.

So, after I rewrote this questionnaire and gave it a few look-overs, I realized why I’ve been teetering with so many of my recent  clients is because  I never did a questionnaire on them to explore what they were looking for and what they really needed.  And of course, to see if the time I would put in would be worthwhile.  Needless to say, I’m glad I rewrote it.  And I rewrote with specific intentions:

  1. I need to know what the client is looking for — often people are so overwhelmed themselves, they want to unload everything onto you, making you their own little generalist.  That’s an immediate no-no.
  2. I want to find out they’re immediate pain points, what are they struggling with the most. I want to find out if it’s in my scope or not and how is it affecting their business and why.
  3. I need to know if they have a budget for outside help/vendors/services– whatever you want to call it.  I found that most people know they need someone else to help them, know they need to pay them for that help, but don’t know how much or can’t afford a lot.  And because I don’t believe in leaving  money on the table, I work within their means — but not outside my standard.  In other words —  I give them what they can afford and no more than that.  It’s not a selfish act, but a conscientious act.  I’m sure they don’t give out much for free and neither do I.  And the quality of my work doesn’t diminish, just the quantity.
  4. And of course, I want to know — how long will they need my services for.  Everyone likes long term clients, but in some cases, not so much.  Clients who start showing issues with making payments or become unbearable to work with, we want to make sure there’s an exit route for that client.

My questionnaire is about 10 questions long — not very intensive, but it asks all the right questions I need to know to make a decision whether you want to work with that person or not.  And the better prepared I am knowing what I client needs and if I’m willing to work with them, the better prepared I am in building that business relationship.

Hit CTRL

I received a question from a prospect client through my website’s contact form in which the person asked me about what kind of services Intel Boutique offered.  I’ve never been bothered about going into great depth about explaining the services I provide through IB.  In fact, it’s an opportunity to shine.  This is the opening that allows me to showcase with more elaborate descriptives about what my business does, what it focuses on and who I’ve worked with in the past.  But this short note I received, maybe a day or two ago, struck me as odd.  In order for anyone to send a request to be contacted for further information, they would have to bypass all the other tabs that explains what those services are to ask me what services are offered.

Theoretically, regardless of how a question is posed or what is asked, once I’ve been contacted by someone interested in my services, I should just answer.  But in answering a question someone could have answered themselves, I feel as if I would be over-catering.

In the early, early days of business, I would  rush to answer every question a client had and try to appease all their concerns.  I was basically begging for their business.  But that feeling of being interrogated by people who weren’t even guaranteed to use my services started to turn into resentment.  I resented having to answer all these questions only to learn, I didn’t offer what they were looking for.  But the truth of the fact was, I really resented myself for not taking better control of the dialogue and not asking some (or not enough) questions of my own.  Just because I was the one being potentially paid didn’t mean I had to keep my trap shut.  I needed to do some probing too.  See what my clients were looking for, what were their needs were, and where they were coming from.  Given enough time and practice, I learned when to ask the right questions and when not to offer up so much unnecessary information until there’s a green light.

And I’ve think we’ve all done that before at some point. Either being too eager to please or too excited to win them over, that we’ve let the clients take the reins of the conversation, or of the negotiations –and God forbid — even the transactions.  It’s not about trying to dominate over your clients or impress them with the tricks of the trade you’ve learned over the years.  It’s about not being a passenger in your business; being in as much control as the situation requires. Put yourself in the client’s shoes — would you want to do business with a push-over?

Social Media Management

Did you know that Intel Boutique offered Social Media Management services?  No?  Really?

It’s a little bit what it sounds like.  However, this isn’t a service in which you hire someone to manage your social media platforms for you, i.e. a contract social media manager.  Intel Boutique’s Social Media Management service is where you — the client and business owner — invite Intel Boutique to show you how to become adept (if not more) in managing and tackling your business’ social media presence.  We all know how important it has become for businesses to create a social media image.  Today, much of the marketing that is done is through social media and/ or uses social media channels to carry the message of a business or brand.  But using social media goes beyond setting up an account and a few links to the business website.  I’ve had multiple people admit they got their nephew or niece or neighbor’s kid to help them start their ‘socials’ for their business because it was easier to have them do it and they understood it better.  I understand that Gen Ys know more about using it.  After all, Gen Ys pioneered social media.  That’s fine and dandy, but how much do they know about marketing? How much do they know about creating a campaign or selecting the right social sites?  How much do they know about applying all of this to your business?

This is where Intel Boutique steps in.  Intel Boutique offers a choice of two intimate settings (one small and one large) for business owners in the Greater Los Angeles area who know a little sum-thin’ sum-thin’ about social media but haven’t yet used it or aren’t using it to its greatest value.   The service isn’t a lecture about how to harness the endless potential of social media.  It is a ‘walk-through’, if you will, in which how to best use best social sites for your business based on your business needs and audience.  No generics, no what has worked for others, no empty promises, no buying a whole bunch of fake followers and likes.  The Social Media Management service simply sits you down and explores how you need to reach your target market via social media channels.  You get to select the right sites for you — no matter if you’re selling a service or product — set up those accounts and profiles, create a campaign right then and there and get reading material (that’s been collected from various resources) that discusses how small businesses should use social media.

But why doesn’t Intel Boutique just manage the social accounts of other businesses that don’t know how or don’t have the time?  That’s not a ruled out service, however, the point of the service is knowledge and know-how.  That niece or nephew those people hired don’t really know what those kids are doing because they don’t know how to use it themselves.  That leaves them to trust a bunch of young’uns to represent their business on platforms that thousands on top of thousands will see.  These are the same kids that struggle to use a fax machine.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong in hiring someone who knows better than you what you need done.  But you also shouldn’t be so in the dark that you’re just blindly following them hoping for the best.

Stop by intelboutique.com and take a gander. You can still hire that kid on the block to set up your Facebook account.  But at least you’ll how he’s doing it and what he should be doing.

Social Media Management

The Good With The Bad

I’ve had the opportunity during my employment experience to work for half dozen small business owners or so– graphic designer, loan modification agents, caterer, writers/authors, financial adviser, real estate agents.  That’s partly how I created Intel Boutique, through my service with them, I started seeing the needs of business owners in a whole new light.   But not all my experiences were positive and rewarding.  Some of them were a warning of who not to do business with and how not to manage my business in the future.  And because my goal had been to go into business for myself, I kept my eyes peeled all the time, observing as much as I could and learning my lessons vicariously through them.  And boy, oh, boy — there are some lesson I’ll never forget.  But just as in life, you gotta take the good with the bad and even with the ugly.

Loan Modifications – I didn’t know how off centered this entire operation was until I was a month deep into it and those who had been there longer started revealing all the you-know-what that had hit the fan.  Needless to say, I was there for 3 months and was happy to say good-bye.  What I took with me:

  • Never EVER make a client feel your absence.  I don’t care if it’s some kind of ploy or tactic, it’s just bad practice.  And it makes the client feel uneasy, especially when you’re handling their personal financial records.  And anytime a client feels that uneasy, they bring in a lawyer to make you feel that uneasy too.
  • Don’t change the rules/policies with your employees every 2-3 weeks.  It’s ridiculous and it’s unprofessional.  If something needs to be changed give them ample warning and reasons as to why you’re shifting gears.  Bring them into the process rather than keep them from it.
  • No micro-managing…EVER.  If you can’t trust your staff to do their job, then you shouldn’t have hired them.  Make the competent so you feel assured in their work.

Writer/Author– Such creative spirits to be around.  But creativity doesn’t substitute for business sense or time management.  What I learned:

  • Always agree upon working schedule in advance — depending on works best for you and them .  If they always need reminders the day of — it becomes more of a burden and not worth your efforts.  Time is money, on both ends.
  • Do not work outside the scope of which you were hired.  You’ll be doing multiple jobs and getting one check.  If they wanted you to handle more, then they need to compensate you adequately.
  • Agree on a productive working environment condusive for success.  Yes, you’re there to do a job, but you’re also there to do the best damn job possible.  Keep your interest in mind too.

Financial Adviser – Talking about multi-tasking, this guy did it all from financial services, to managing commercial retail property in another state and to being health agent broker.  I’m a firm believer in creating multiple income streams, so I don’t knock him there, but without help, he almost always seemed lost.  What I saw wrong:

  • Don’t let your staff create the systems you run your business with.  When they go, so could those systems.
  • You may not have the best memory, so take good notes. Keep track and follow up.
  • Train all staff to do all tasks, or assigned specific tasks to specific staff members,  Giving unfamiliar duties to staff members will lead to errors.   Make it so that their jobs can run smoothly and that your business can run smoother.

You’ll find that in most of your work, whether it be for someone else or yourself, there are more lessons than there is actual work.  Look for the lesson and see if that improves you work at all.  You might just find a golden opportunity to be your own boss, too.

Make Every Experience Count

In order to be successful in this life and never work a day in our lives, we must find what we’re passionate and pursue it.  We’ve heard this and we know it.  So we have.  We’ve tapped into the activities and hobbies that make us smile and laugh.  We found the things that we could do endlessly without ever looking at the clock and we’ve even manage to find company that supports our exploration and business ventures.  But when we follow our passions, are we suppose negate every experience, every job we ever held?  What about those valuable lessons and skills we picked up along the way?  Should we forget about the things we’ve learned when we follow passions?

Subway

I worked at Subway for a couple of months during the year I took off from college.  It was actually a second job I took on to help supplemental by tuition going back to school.  This was the only fast food job I ever held and believe you me,  that was alright by me.  And don’t kid yourself, Subway may tell you to ‘eat fresh’ but it’s still fast food.

  • Watch those that have been doing the job longer and pick up on the tricks they’ve learned to make the job easier to perform.  It takes everyone some time to get the hang of any new skill and after awhile, you develop a knack for doing tasks so that they don’t become overwhelming.  The take-away — no matter which business you decide to pursue and no matter what passion drives it, someone out there has done it before.  Find them, study them, mimic them if you have to.  If they’ve been in the game longer than, they also a system in place that you can follow until you get the hang of things.

Dillard’s

I worked there my all of my junior year and part of senior year in college.  I worked in Men’s Fragrance.  Just a little FYI, men rarely buy men’s fragrances.  Only during the holidays did we see a substantial amount of foot traffic and it was mostly from women buying for their significant others.  So most of the times, our counter was dead quiet and had next to no business.

  • Create business.  While cleaning out our own tester inventory closet, I had an idea about offering tester fragrances we no longer carried to those customers that applied for our store credit card.  Needless to say, within two weeks time, it was a smash.  Customers heard about the promotion and would stop in just to apply for a credit card for a free fragrance.  While they were waiting for the approval, they would look around to see what else we sold.  Traffic increased and so did business.  The take-away — business is not going to come to you unless you take action.  It doesn’t have to be grand or over the top, it just has to be something people are going to be interested in.  Grab their interest them and you’ll get them coming to you.

RGIS Inventory

This is one of those jobs I hated.  The hours were long and no one could ever tell you how long the job was going to be.  Breaks were short and sometimes forgotten.  The company is surprisingly still around despite the many class action suits they’ve had regarding employee breaks and proper compensation.  I worked this job while in school too.  It consisted of going to various retail stores and counting their inventory for them.  And because these businesses ran during normal business hours, the job always started in the evening, like after 8pm.  Night owls need apply.  But in 5 months time I was promoted to a Team Leader position with my own team of 8 people.

  • Jobs come and go, so make your peace with that.  Do the job as best as you can and  be willing to help others along the way especially when it benefits the whole.  I was promoted not because I was the fastest counter.  I was promoted because I was always looking to get the job and get it done right the first time.  If that meant jumping on board someone else’s section and helping them get it done so we could all leave, so be it.  The take-away –  Teamwork is the best avenues towards success.  People feel more confident in completing a job when they’re not doing it alone and/or they have someone who is willing to help.  Get in the trenches and help when you can.

I’d like to think I’ve been structuring Intel Boutique from a wonderful perfectly laid out dream.  But it truth, it’s summation of all my experiences.  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s a passion of mine to help people get the information they need to live out their passion, but it wasn’t something I fell into overnight (I wish!).  I’ve made sure to put every experience to use.  Everything I’ve done, every job I’ve held and every experience I’ve had, I make it matter.

A Very Happy And Prosperous New Year’s To All!

2013 New Year's

 

Just wanted to take this time to thank everyone who contributed to the ongoing success of Intel Boutique this year.  Thank you to all the Entrepreneurs who were willing to share their stories in the monthly Entrepreneur Spotlights.  A debt of gratitude to my support team, the wonderful heads of Bold Magazine (Ms. eLLe) and The Barra’s Just Homemade Foundation (Ms. Barra)  as well as Bry Delicia of Photography Bry Delicia, Carlos Mayorquin of Atlas Iron Gym, Marlene Myrie of FlavaCooks, Booker of BookerVision and Cheryl and Harris of Kelly’s Hot Sauce.  I wish you immense success in your various ventures and upcoming projects.

I would also like to thank everyone who stopped by Intel Boutique’s blog (this very one!) and read a posts, liked posts and commented.  Your feedback and interest helped fuel the fire.  I look forward to seeing all of you in 20-13 turning everything you touch to gold (without killing anybody).

Have yourselves a Happy and Prosperous 2013!  See you in the New Year!