Share Your Story

It’s the anniversary dance at a friend’s wedding. The emcee announces for all married couples to gather on the dance floor. Immediately, the newlyweds are seated, being the most recently married. Then in five-or 10-year increments, couples are dismissed by the number of years they have been married. One couple remains, dancing hand-in-hand like they have for 57 wonderfully wedded years. Don’t you wonder what their story is? What is the secret to their success?

And now you’re wondering what that story has to do with being in business or more specifically the animal nutrition business. The point is, everyone has a story. Everyone, including you. And it is time to tell your story.

According to the Small Business Administration, there are more than 28 million small businesses, making up 99.7% of all U.S. businesses. That makes your story one in 28 million! Do you know your story? Do you have a 3-minute “elevator” speech to share with someone if you were mingling at a party or at a networking function where you didn’t know others in the room? Think about it. What is your story? What makes you unique? And I know there is something unique about each and every one of our dealers.

First, determine what your story is. Perhaps, you are an equine enthusiast who became passionate about the products and want to share the products with all of your friends at the barn, show, rodeo, etc… Or, you might be a second-generation dealer who is taking over the reins of the family business – the farm and the feed dealership. Maybe, you are young person who felt there was a void in your “neighborhood” for a high-quality mineral program.

Once you determine what your story is and why you’re passionate about helping animals and their owners, determine who your audience is. Obviously, it is your customers. But, there are potential customers in your everyday lives too. Chances are your doctor or dentist has a dog or maybe even a horse. Do they know that you sell a product that can improve the health and well-being of their four-legged friends? And what about the local service organizations? Rotary, Kiwanis, Sertoma. Those groups are always looking for local businesspeople to come share their stories and how they are involved in the local community. Reach out to them to get on their calendar.

How will you tell your story? Of course, speaking engagements and one-on-one conversations are great. But you probably won’t be able to talk to everyone at one time so use other methods to share your story. Share it on social media. What do you do at the feed store on a daily basis? Did you go out to a customer’s ranch and take forage samples to send in? Document that with pictures to share on Facebook, Instagram or your business web site. People are interested. They have a desire to know what you are doing and how you do it. Explain the process. If you have customer newsletter, devote part of that to your story. Or work with your local paper to have a regular column in it to talk about agriculture and animal health – another great way to share what you are doing.

No, it isn’t always easy to talk about ourselves. And we might not think what we do on a daily basis matters. But remember, as a business you are one in 28 million. You have a story. Share it with those around you. You might be amazed at the positive feedback you receive.

How Employee Personality Profiles Can Save You Turnover Loss

If you’ve ever read the book, “Good to Great” by Jim Collins, you will understand getting the “right people in the right seats on the bus.” Companies don’t fail because they have bad employees, employees that aren’t trained properly or employees that don’t have the right personality. Companies fail because they don’t have the right people “in the right seats.” In other words, they have great employees, but perhaps they don’t have them in positions where they were meant to succeed.

Employee turnover is costly. There is no real way to measure it; you have the time and effort it takes to promote the vacant position, another employee has to fill in, resulting in decreased productivity; if the employee that left was one that others liked and respected, other employee morale could be down, also resulting in lowered performance or even causing others to leave their jobs. By the time you replace one employee that already understood your company culture and policies, recruit, hire and train a replacement employee, you are looking at spending thousands of dollars, and potentially having lost revenue due to losses in employee performance.

In his book, Collins talks about getting people in the positions that they are best suited for. Sometimes a company will hire someone on the premise that that person thinks they know their skill strengths, but they might not always realize their personality strengths and weaknesses. Although personality assessment does take time and money, the investment is typically one that pays off in the end and is less costly than employees leaving and having to recruit, hire and train.

At BioZyme, the employees took the Prism assessment. The results revealed insights into the employees “Emotional, Relational and Team Intelligence (ERT-i). This highly relevant and transformative data will provide you with critical information to impact your personal and professional performance, productivity and success.” In other words, the report likely told each individual things he or she already knew. However, it is an opportunity to let others within the company know more about how to work with each other and for supervisors to make sure they have the right people in the right seats on the bus.

Prism is just one of many assessments that companies can utilize. There are many options available at a variety of price points. Some come with further training while others provide a report and guidance on how to use that report.

So just how important is personality? As Virgin Mobile CEO Richard Branson put it, “Most skills can be learned, but it is difficult to train people on their personality.”

Let’s look at this example. For one Ohio-based company, taking a personality assessment helped its Human Resources and Management teams get people in the right positions. They discovered the person they had working the phones in a marketing customer support role was an extreme introvert. And while his degree was in marketing, he had a passion for graphic design. The company moved him into a design position where he could better use his talents and had no interaction with customers. He became very successful in his job. The same company discovered they had an employee who was very outgoing who hadn’t had the opportunity to talk to customers. They moved her into that customer support role, working on the phones. Not only did her career flourish, but customer satisfaction improved too.

Employee satisfaction and attrition go hand-in-hand. You can save the time and expense of employee turnover by making sure you have the right people in the right positions.

How Employee Strengths Help Serve Customers

Customers are the backbones of our businesses. They are the reasons we have a business, after all. And many customers are friends first or become good friends over time. They deserve the best when it comes to customer service, and you want to provide the best to them.

However, it might be that not every employee you have is programmed to provide the customer service your customers expect. And that is ok. Every person has some strength or strengths that make them a valuable part of your team, and it is important to evaluate those strengths, communicate those strengths to them in the form of affirmation and use those strengths to be an important part of your team.

Perhaps you have an employee that is impeccable at cleaning, stocking shelves and maintaining inventory, but finds conversation with others mundane or even uncomfortable. Keep that employee in the back to clean and stock, and only use for customer service if someone needs help loading product.

On the other hand, perhaps you’ve hired someone to load out product and stock shelves, that never can complete the assigned task because he or she is always talking to customers and making product recommendations. That person clearly needs to be in a customer service role. Typically, extroverts who enjoy helping others make great customer service reps.

But what does this have to do with overall customer satisfaction? Employees who are doing what they are good at, show up and are engaged and will provide better service. Better service leads to increased customer satisfaction.

According to an article by Stuart Hearn on www.brandquarterly.com: “A 2016 Gallup poll showed that strength-based companies enjoy more profit, better sales, and higher levels of customer engagement. In large part, this is due to the fact that when employees feel positive about their performance, and they are able to work to their strengths, they feel more engaged, and are therefore more passionate about their company and their work. They’re also more invested, meaning they go that extra mile to ensure customers have a great experience. Employee engagement has been termed the ‘wonder drug for customer satisfaction,’ so every time you emphasize strengths in your employees, you should remember the domino effect it creates.”

It all goes back to getting the right people in the right positions. Capitalize on employee strengths to make sure your customers have the best service around. Customers can go anywhere to buy feed and mineral, but make sure they are coming back to your business to get the best customer service that they deserve!

Dealer Spotlight: Paul’s Feed & Seed

There is no task too big or too small for Paul Delbridge when it comes to his customers. And when they make a request, his mission is to make sure their needs are met. The owner of Paul’s Feed & Seed in Faith S.D., had such a request last year, and with the help of his Area Sales Manager Guy Rusche, the mission was accomplished.

Delbridge had two customers, Ryan Vig and Bart Carmichael, come to him and ask for him to produce a range cake that included a complete mineral package. The customers were already feeding VitaFerm® Concept•Aid® 5/S but wanted it to be part of their range cake. Delbridge said that many feed companies offer a cake or cube with a partial mineral package, but that is not what his customers wanted. So, he and Rusche went to work.

“I knew the Farmers & Rancher’s Co-op made a cake out of dried distiller’s grain, and that is what they wanted,” Delbridge said. “So, I contacted them to see if they could add the Concept•Aid to it, and they said they could.”

Just 280 miles south of Faith in Alliance, Neb., the Farmers & Rancher’s Co-op makes the range cakes with the ingredients that the customers were looking for. Delbridge said the two customers had good luck with the product last year. One customer is a cow-calf producer and the other was developing coming-yearling bulls. He predicts the product will be even more popular this year when producers in his area start feeding the range cake – typically November through March.

“The way we figured it, this was even more cost-effective feeding in the cake versus as a free-choice mineral. Plus, we know each animal was meeting their daily requirements by eating the cake,” Delbridge said.

Although this was his first “special request,” Delbridge was glad he could find a solution for his customers. He’s always glad to find a way to help the producers in his area achieve their goals.

“Snack & Savings” Get Mineral Message to Farmers

Nebraska ranks second in the nation in total cow-calf production, only behind Texas. However, when late spring and early summer roll around, most farmers and ranchers have just one thing on their minds – planting and irrigating crops. Taylor Ruether, Area Sales Manager for Nebraska, was working with a few of her dealers to come up with an innovative way to get in front of farmers during their busy season, when the “Snack & Savings” approach was created.

“One dealership gave me the idea to do this, because I was wanting to work with him, and he kept saying, ‘It’s farming season, you can’t catch any body right now.’ So, I was trying to come up with a way to get in front of farmers during their busy season,” Ruether said.

Snack & Savings gave Ruether and her dealers the opportunity to get in front of farmers – bringing them either a sack lunch that included a sandwich, chips and a drink, or a mid-afternoon snack of a cold-drink and either a bag of chips or a candy bar. Included with the snack was a product guide and a coupon for any VitaFerm® product.

Ruether made this opportunity available to any of her dealers who wanted to set up appointments to meet with customers and potential customers. She had a couple of dealers who really grasped the concept and spent a couple of days with a cooler of water and sodas and met with farmers to remind them about summer mineral programs.

“We felt like it was a good way to give back to farmers when they are crazy and hectic, and it did get most of them to stop and talk to us, even if it was just to remind them about BioZyme. No one usually turns down a pop and a bag of chips. The beautiful thing about this promotion is, if someone didn’t use the coupon, it didn’t really cost anything,” she said.

The Snack & Savings trips were a good investment in time. Ruether said that dealers did make some Sure Champ® Extreme and VitaFerm® HEAT® sales while talking to the famers. Follow-up appointments have resulted in interest in the VitaFerm® Gain Smart® program.

Ruether will work with her dealers again on similar promotions and marketing efforts, taking the message to the customers. She feels the efforts are worthwhile and she will encourage more dealer involvement. She also learned that chips are the preferred snack over candy bars.

“Anytime you do stuff like this, the more people expect it, and the better response you have. We’ve had some follow-up, and that was worth our time and effort,” she said.

Selling a Program Increases Profit

It’s a great feeling when you find a customer that is loyal to a BioZyme® product. But it can be an even greater feeling for you, your customer and both of your bottom lines, when you can convince that customer to buy into an entire program from BioZyme.

Many customers are satisfied with the results of VitaFerm® Concept•Aid®, which is mineral designed to help increase reproductive performance when fed 60 days pre-calving through 60 days post-breeding. Like all BioZyme products, it contains Amaferm®, a precision prebiotic designed to enhance digestibility by amplifying the nutrient supply within for maximum performance. Amaferm is also research-proven to increase the energy available to the animal resulting in more milk production as well as to the ability to initiate and maintain pregnancy and fertility. But what about the time of year when producers don’t normally feed mineral – most likely those summer months? Then, you can encourage your customers feeding Concept•Aid to feed VitaFerm HEAT®, which will help reduce heat stress in the herd, which also helps maintain pregnancy.

If you have 10 customers with 40 cows each, and you sell them Concept•Aid 5/S for two-thirds of the year, you have the potential to make roughly $14,860 dollars. But where is your profit during the hot summer months? Selling those same 10 customer with 40 head VitaFerm HEAT for 120 days could land you an additional $7,420 of profit. That’s a total of $22,280 profit on 10

customers for the year. And let’s face it, most dealers have more than 10 customers. And that HEAT mineral is going to help the cows maintain pregnancy, which produces more live calves for them to market the following year, making it worth their investment in the program.

Just like there is added value to both you and the producer for investing in a year-round nutrition program for your cows, you and the producer will also find added value when investing in the three-step VitaFerm® Sure Start® weaning program or VitaFerm® Gain Smart® Stocker Program. Yes, it might be easy for a producer to buy Gain Smart or a Vita Charge® Stress Tub to put their calves on when weaned or turned out to grass. But did you know that if a producer uses one of our three-step programs, he or she can further reduce illness and get those calves back on feed and water sooner? This means they are putting on pounds of gain more efficiently and growing faster for the producer. Marketing the program will help your checkbook, but it will also help the producer in saving money on vet bills and helping calves realize gains faster.

The Sure Start weaning program includes a single dose of Vita Charge Drench or Paste upon weaning. The second step includes feeding Sure Start pellets to the calves for 14 to 28 days to help encourage them to come to the bunk and eat. After those first 2-3 weeks, you can begin to increase digestibility and maximize the energy value of your cattle’s feed with either the cow-calf mineral or the Gain Smart mineral.

The Gain Smart Stocker Program has a very similar approach to keeping calves healthy and on feed during this stressful transition period in their lives. Step one includes include giving the calves Vita Charge Drench within 48 hours of receiving to help stimulate the cattle’s immune system while allowing for maximum effectiveness of vaccinations. Step two provides the Vita Charge Stress Tub for 14 to 21 days to promote feed and water intake. The tubs also provide MOS that helps trap bad bacteria limiting their ability to do harm. And the Stress Tubs increase digestibility to maximize the energy value of feed for more gains. The final step in the program is selecting the right Gain Smart mineral for your operation and feeding program to accurately supplement those minerals lacking in the pasture and rectify mineral imbalances. Gain Smart will help maintain calf health and immunity, hoof health and support gain, once again helping the producer meet his or her goals quicker with fewer expenses.

The more times you can sell a program, the more you will help your customers meet their goals, but you will also help yourself meet your financial goals. Remember, it’s nice to sell a product, but it’s even nicer to put more profit into your dealership by selling a program.

How to Upsell and Cross-Sell to Existing Customers

Does it ever feel like you have saturated the market and you’ve got all the customers you’re going to get? Your sales are steady, but you’d really like to see them increase for a couple of months. Your customers seem happy with the products they are using; but do you think there’s something missing that your customers haven’t tried?

Perhaps there is something missing – something in your sales technique. Upselling and cross-selling are two techniques that you can use to help increase sales with the existing customer base you have already established. Although they are similar in nature with a similar outcome, the techniques are slightly different. One web site offers the following definitions: Upselling is the practice of encouraging customers to purchase a comparable higher-end product than the one in question, while cross-selling invites customers to buy related or complementary items.

Vita Charge® should be one of the easiest product lines to cross-sell. This all-species product that supports digestive health and promotes feed and water intake is designed for times of stress and recovery. There is no reason that every customer shouldn’t have some form of Vita Charge, or even multiple forms.

“Regardless of the animal you are caring for, they can have a bad day, and that is exactly what these products are meant for. No matter why you are interacting with a current or potential customer these products will benefit every animal during those times of stress. These products are a perfect addition to a current product sale or used as an introduction to what amazing products we have to offer,” said Trent Gabler, BioZyme Sales Coach.

No matter the species or the production goals, you should never leave a sales call without trying to cross-sell Vita Charge. Are you at a cow-calf operation? They are going to calve out cows, wean calves and likely treat for an occasional sickness. Having a few tubes of Vita Charge Paste is a part of a good management practice for those times of stress. Of course, you know the benefits of having a stress tub out with both cows and calves. And the tubs are also effective for bulls prior to and after breeding season.

What about the smaller species? Yes, the Vita Charge products are equally important for sheep, goats and hogs. Keeping Vita Charge HydraBoost in your pigs’ waterer is important, especially at weaning, and the paste is always handy for rapid relief.

Cross-selling is the simple suggestion of adding on a complementary product to something the buyer is already buying. Perhaps they are buying Vitalize® Equine High Performance Pellets. Obviously, they take great pride in taking good care of their horse’s digestive health. But what about helping that horse recover? Have you suggested they try the Vitalize® Equine Recovery Paste? Maybe they don’t know the paste exists or the benefits of the paste, but once they learn about it, they will be hooked. And don’t forget the canine line of Vitalize supplements. According to Internet statistics, 36-44% of Americans own a dog. Chances are a higher percentage of your customers in rural areas own dogs. How many of them have you told about the Vitalize® Dog supplement or Vitalize Dog Recovery Paste?

Marketing studies have shown that existing customers are 60-70% more likely to buy new products while new customers are only 5-20% likely to buy a new product. And, the existing customer is probably going to spend around 31% more. That is why cross-selling and upselling become so important. One product line that we don’t always focus on that would be a great “upsell” is the Vitalize line. We know that horse lovers will go to great lengths to give the best care to their equine companions. Maybe your customer is feeding Vitalize® Equine Free Choice, but has started showing his or her horse, or has a shortage of high-quality hay this year. Now is a great time to suggest the customer try a different Vitalize product like Equine High Performance or the Equine Protein Pellet.

“Cross selling should be very easy since you already have the customers relationship and business. The hard work is done, don’t be afraid to go after more opportunities,” Gabler said.

Remember, your existing customers already trust you. Don’t forget to upsell and cross-sell to get maximum returns from them and watch their results increase.

September 2018 – Letters from Lisa

Think outside of the box – be innovative!

In strategic planning sessions we’re often told to “think outside the box.” Neuroscientific research indicates that it becomes increasingly difficult to break out of our existing mindsets.

Therefore, thinking outside the box is never easy, nor is it a reflection of mental brightness. To leave your psychological comfort zone and explore “solutions in the unknown world on the outside requires large measures of mental agility, boldness, and creativity and/or an inspirational leader who makes life in the old box so uncomfortable that getting out is the only option.” So where does one start to get out of this box?

Make but Challenge Your Assumptions

Assumptions play a vital part in creative thinking. However, challenging those assumptions means questioning the everyday things you take for granted. “The best assumption to have is that any commonly held belief is wrong,” says Ken Olson, CEO of DEC. The natural thing to do is the thing you have always done. Every time you approach a problem you bring your accumulated experience, knowledge and training to the table. But this includes your accumulated assumptions and biases – conscious and unconscious. The more experienced you are, the more likely you are to assume outcomes by extrapolating from the known facts and experiences to predict a result. This mental baggage can prevent you from accepting innovative ideas. Don’t let that happen or you will be stuck in the box.

Ask Lots of Searching Questions

Don’t take anything for granted. Creativity requires an inquisitive mind. Unless you ask lots of “Why?” and “What If?” questions, you won’t generate the brainstorming a team needs to be innovative. Always try to look at the world through more inquisitive eyes to try and get ideas in motion.

Step Out of Your Shoes

Stepping out of your shoes and into the shoes of others may help you surface new insights to a problem. It seems us humans look at most every box through our own shoes.  Walking in the shoes of others and clearly assessing and understanding their perspective is a key to out of the box thinking.

Innovative, out of the box thinking is not easy but is perhaps one of the more important traits of a high growth, performing company. Force yourself to have the discipline to challenge, ask, listen and walk in different shoes.

Learning New Technologies Allow You to Reach More Customers

There’s never a better time to learn than right now. You’re probably thinking of the adage, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” but that just isn’t true. And if you want to grow your customer base and reach more potential customers you need to keep educated on new technologies and ways to reach more people.

According to the United States Postal Service, the amount of direct mail marketing pieces has decreased significantly during the past decade. That doesn’t mean that mail isn’t an effective marketing tool; it simply means the technologies to deliver your messages have evolved during the past 10 years, making the methods of the delivery perhaps more efficient and timelier.

Technology is at our fingertips and accessible to us 24/7, making shopping easier than ever – it also means as a business, you need to step up your game because retail just became more competitive. Take my recent experience. The plumber took one look at our water softener – probably one of the first ever installed – and said, “it’s shot.” He quoted me an outlandish price for a new one with installation. Now, between my husband and his uncle, they’ve made quite a few enhancements to this old farmhouse we bought last fall. I looked online on my phone and found water softeners at one-third of the quoted price that the plumber gave me before he even drove out of my driveway. That is just one example of how technology helps with marketing.

Keeping up with technology will give you an edge over your competition. Develop a website or other social media platform that you can easily be traced to next time someone is searching for “livestock supplement” or “horse mineral.” Make sure your contact information is easily accessible and even start using an electronic inventory system so that the potential customer can see what you have in stock. It is a lot more desirable to drive 30 miles to a dealer when you know they have what you need in-stock.

Technology also lets you share real-time experiences and testimonials from other product users. Hearing from peers in the industry is so convincing when deciding to use a product, so whether it is one of our testimonials or your own customer you have recorded a video of and posted, be sure to share those so your customers and potential customers can learn the benefits without feeling like they are getting a “hard sell.”

Another great use for technology is as a customer service tool. Remember, it is at your customers’ fingertips continually. They can text, message, email or even call you with a question or concern and you can respond almost immediately.

Don’t overwhelm yourself with technology. Just because it exists doesn’t mean it is right for you or your business. Discover tools that are easiest for you to use and the ones that work best for the goals you are trying to accomplish. If you want to share the products you have on hand, any store promotions or educational programs or product testimonials, perhaps a web site or Facebook would be more ideal than Instagram or Snapchat.

Set aside time for technology each day. Make learning and using technology part of your daily schedule just like you do billing and inventory control. Once you become comfortable with the technology you are using, it will become second nature.

Don’t stress. Using technology should be fun, and it should make life easier on you. If you get to a roadblock, relax, take a deep breath, and try something different. Reach out for help or “google” a solution to your challenge.

Technology – it is here to stay and make our lives easier. Just like learning anything, there may be a few bumps along the way, but once you’ve mastered your new skills, you’ll be growing your customer base and reaching more potential!

Investing in Staff Development Pays Off

“The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.” This profound statement made by Henry Ford is just as true with marketing livestock nutrition products as it was in automobile manufacturing. Investing time and money into your employee’s training is vital to keeping good employees.

To you, training might seem like a no-brainer. You hire some people, train them to stock shelves, be nice to customers and run the cash register. However, there are more steps and layers to employee training that a business owner or manager need to consider. Let’s look at four key reasons to invest in staff development.

1. Reduce Turnover 

According to research, nearly 40-percent of all employees leave their job the first year because they are unhappy or dissatisfied with the training they received. That is some big turnover, and every time a company has employee turnover, dollars and time are lost in the recruiting and hiring process. The same study showed that employee turnover costs U.S. businesses about $11 billion each year.

Not only will your employees be more likely to stay with your company if you offer some type of training or development, many potential employees look at training as an added benefit. Benefits are a big deal, especially to millennials, and if you provide the opportunities to grow, those benefits will help recruit and retain employees.

2. Build Loyalty 

Employees who feel like part of the team or business are going to remain loyal to the company. They know you have invested in them, so that loyalty increases. If you equip the staff with proper product knowledge, they become “experts” and can easily discuss the benefits and differences of particular products. Cross-training employees is essential, especially in smaller businesses where just a few people do every job. Make sure your employees are just as comfortable with finalizing a sale and helping load a truck as they are discussing the differences between VitaFerm® Concept•Aid® and VitaFerm HEAT®. Plus, loyal employees are more engaged and motivated and require less supervision.

3. Promote from Within 

Did you know that it is safer and more cost efficient to promote someone to a managerial position than it is to hire from the outside? The loyal employees that you have already invested in training, and who have invested their time and knowledge into your company typically make better managers because they already understand the business and the products and services offered. There is less training needed when promoting from within, and studies show that promoting from within often saves a company about $20,000 in salary, bonuses, benefits and training costs.

4. Ensure Longevity

A lot of credit should be given to a company that has happy employees that stay with it. The longer a good, well-trained employee stays with a business, the more loyal he or she becomes to the company, and the relationships between that employee and the customers has time to grow and flourish. Employee longevity is another sign of trust between the employer and the employee, and long-time employees often give the employers more freedom. In addition, thinking back to retention, a long-term employee also saves on expenses, as it is shown to cost from $1,500 to $5,000 to recruit and hire a new employee.

Now that you know the value of employee development, what tools are available to train your employees? One resource that BioZyme® offers is the Master Dealer Program. This online training program allows dealers to learn about sales and marketing as well as the various product lines that BioZyme offers through a series of online training modules. The dealers work at their own pace to watch the videos and take short quizzes. Once a participant has completed the training, and met all the requirements, they will receive a jacket, signage for the store and a special emblem on the Dealer Locator, indicating they are indeed a Master Dealer.

Master Dealer 2.0 is just being rolled out this summer. New training videos on different topics will be available to those who have completed the first Master Dealer Training Program. A year after your Master Dealer completion, you will receive notification about the second phase, and be able to complete that to stay more current on new products and marketing trends.

And, if you are looking for other ways to train your employees, get involved with local organizations. Chances are the local cattlemen association will offer BQA training or the Chamber of Commerce might have workshops geared toward marketing and customer service. Training your employees, and yourself, pays off. Make the time and make the investment.