Systems That Lead To Profit

It’s the American dream – own your own business and work for yourself. But don’t let that dream become a nightmare when you are working 18-hour days and then laying awake at night wondering if you are going to turn a profit this month. Yes, owning a business takes hours of effort, but make sure that your effort pays off by posting a profit.

According to Patricia Sigmon, author of the book “Six Steps to Creating Profit,” two-thirds of small businesses either didn’t post a profit last year or did not increase their profit from the year before. Let’s look at how strategizing your business systems will help you turn a profit and grow your business.

Evaluate Operating Procedures. The key to increasing revenue is to increase sales and decrease expenses. Think about up-selling or cross-selling or bundling products to increase sales. To decrease expenses, examine all recurring costs to see if there is something you can eliminate or cut back on. Do you really need an extra full-time employee during certain days or hours? Could a part-time employee get the same amount of work accomplished?

Stay Visible and Connected. Using the marketing strategies you have already put into action, keep your business name top-of-mind, especially when you have direct competition in the area. Use signage, advertising and social media to stay connected with your customers and potential customers. If there is an agricultural event in the local area, consider having a trade show booth for maximum personal exposure.

Maximize your Cash Flow. This might be the most important and yet most challenging step to getting your system to turn a profit. Cash is what keeps your business thriving, but so many people like to be billed, only paying once a month. Offer small discounts to customers who pay cash upon delivery of their products. Another way to manage your cash flow is to control your inventory. Excessive inventory that sets in a backroom or warehouse for weeks at a time is money that isn’t moving.

Streamline Management Costs. Are your employees reaching their highest potential? How much are you owed in accounts receivable? How many new sales leads have you generated this week? These are all questions you should be able to answer at the drop of a hat. If you can’t answer these questions immediately, you need to automate some of your systems, and provide employees access so you all are kept current on what is happening. An automated system, such as customer management software, will help you keep current on who your sales team has contacted, who needs to be contacted and what your financial status is.

Raise the Marketing Bar. Your marketing system must be one that is effective, immediate and measurable. Are you getting the best ROI for your marketing investment? Are you using effective marketing channels that reach your audience? Because of social media, today’s marketing initiatives are much more immediate than even five years ago. Start using social media to announce new products, new promotions or educational producer meetings. But be sure to measure the effectiveness of your marketing. Ask customers where they heard about a product if it is the first time they purchased it. Find out if you are spending your marketing budget wisely.

Make everyone a Salesperson. And a customer service rep. A stock person. An educator. A marketing guru. And a janitor. As technology replaces so many of the jobs humans used to have it is vital to cross-train everyone that works for you, and provide them with the skills they need to sell the products and provide customer service all at the same time. Teach them to make a pretty display, shoot a photo of that display and post it on your social media channels, all while waiting for the next customer to approach them. Teach them to stock shelves with products from the warehouse, but to be friendly and answer customer questions. If your employees are cross-trained, that means more flexibility for you.

Yes, the American dream can become reality, and it can even be profitable. Employ the proper sales, marketing and administrative systems and let your business work and grow for you. Not only will you start to see a profit, but your business will be more marketable in the future as an entire entity when and if you ever want to sell it.

5 Key Steps To Quality Customer Service

You know most of your customers’ names and greet them with a warm hello, but do you truly provide quality customer service? Although resolving issues and helping your customers find the products that best fit their needs is important, it is just one of the five key components to a system that provides great service.

In addition to contact resolution, here are four other customer service goals that will have an impact on your customers’ experiences:

Creating an emotional connection

Preventing future issues

Up-selling and cross-selling

Input into the Voice of the Customer (VOC) process

When businesses deliver on all five of these objectives, they often earn the reputation as the place to do business with. In a growing and competitive marketplace where brands must differentiate on experiences instead of product or price, customer service is one experience you can’t let slide. Let’s explore each of the five customer service goals.

First Contact Resolution. First contact resolution or getting a customer’s question solved within one communication touch is key. Studies steadily indicate that customer satisfaction will drop 10% or more if a customer must contact a business more than once to get its challenge solved. You might feel like your FCR is on point because once you answer a question, you don’t hear from that customer again. Remember, that is just one reason a customer doesn’t return. It could be that he or she is totally dissatisfied and decided to take business elsewhere. Be sure to track your customer communication and ALWAYS follow-up to make sure the questions were answered and challenges were resolved.

Emotional Connections. Product and price are not always the biggest factors in customer loyalty. Experiences are just as or more important, and 80-percent of consumers will pay more for an outstanding experience. Can you think of a time when you had a less than desirable customer service experience? Did the sales person or customer service rep sound like a broken record reading from their script, how they are sorry for the unpleasant experience, but they would take your contact information and relay it to the management? Nothing makes a customer feel less emotionally connected to a brand, product or business than feeling like a number rather than a person. Train your staff to form emotional connections with all customers. Replacing a faulty product now might cost you a little money, but losing a customer will cost you more in the long-term.

Preventing Future Issues. Being proactive is a better problem-solving method than being reactive. Making sure you have answered questions fully and provided enough information about the products you’re selling before the customer makes a final purchasing decision should help eliminate the need to solve further questions. Have you been selling Vita Charge® Stress Tubs to a producer prior to weaning? If so, you might also suggest the Vita Charge Drench to make sure the calves stay healthy from the get-go.

Up-selling and cross-selling. Once you feel like you truly know your customers’ goals and have formed an emotional connection with them, you can start up-selling and cross-selling. Growing your customer base is important for sure, but it is also just as important to make sure current customers realize the benefits of how all products work together. For example, you might have a customer that needs Sure Champ® for their show livestock projects heading to the winter jackpots or major stock shows. You might also want to suggest Sure Champ Climate Control or Vita Charge Liquid Boost® to help keep their animals healthy and eating on the road.

5. Voice of Customer (VOC) input. Getting input from your customers is vital to your business’s success. VOC can assist your business in making decisions about products, services and marketing strategies. There are various ways to gather input from your customers. You can have a short 2-3 question survey at the end of each transaction. Change up these questions monthly or quarterly to get more information from your customers. You can also email or mail a short survey out to your customers and attach a coupon or other incentive to the survey as encouragement for completing it. Pay attention to the VOC and analyze what your customers are saying on a regular basis. It will make them feel valued and can also add value to your business.

Follow these five steps for a quality customer service system. Your customers will feel valued, and you will see benefits to your business as well.

Source: https://www.astutesolutions.com/blog/articles/whats-the-point-5-key-objectives-for-customer-service-systems

January 2018 – Letters from Lisa

Ready or not, it’s a new year. I am not going to go into the whole New Year resolution thing, because I am no expert on that tricky little mind game. However, the other day when I was going through my usual late December routine reminding myself of my much-needed resolutions, I wondered why it is so hard to start “new” things.

Habits are powerful. We persist with many of them because we tend to give undue emphasis to the present. Trying something new can be painful: I might not like what I get and must forgo something I already enjoy. That cost is immediate, while any benefits — even if they are large — will be enjoyed in a future that feels abstract and distant.

In business, we often find ourselves in a similar catch 22 situation. We have no time to work on the business because we are too busy working in the business. And we can’t get away from the business because we haven’t developed the documented systems and processes needed to make such a concept a reality. So, we’re stuck in a business that has become a self-made trap. The only way out is to make time to create and document the business systems. And for most of us that means doing something new.

Business systems start with documented procedures and processes that allow your business to run without you. And yes, you read that correctly.

There are two major reasons why business systems are ignored by many small business owners:

Reason #1

Business systems are “back office” functions. Unlike the latest
marketing strategies, sales techniques or other highly visible aspects of business, good business systems are considered by some as boring. While building them may indeed be boring, the incredible power they give is anything but.

Reason #2

Business systems are neglected because of a perceived lack of urgency. When a business is small there are seemingly much more important things to do like sales, marketing and order fulfillment. With all of these important things vying for our increasingly scarce time, business systems seem like something that can be put off until later. However, just like any other accumulation of neglect over time, it rarely ends well.

There are numerous benefits to implementing new systems in business. Here are some of the most important:

It supports consistency

Consistency is one of the keys to delivering an excellent customer experience. You may not like the food at McDonalds, but one thing you can say about them is that wherever you go they deliver a very consistent experience.

It stimulates creativity

Ask any highly creative person how they continue to innovate and express themselves in new ways – they’ll tell you the key to their success is a commitment to trying new things. When you try new things, you put your brain into unique situations that force it to really think. This stimulates creativity, which eventually rubs off in other areas of your life. As a result, you begin to think about everything in a new light.

It makes money

When you and your staff don’t have to waste time and effort re-inventing the wheel each time, you improve efficiency and reduce costs.

It builds a valuable asset

It’s nice if your business gives you a great cash flow to fund your lifestyle. But wouldn’t it be fabulous if one day when you decided it was time, you could sell your business and have the biggest pay day of your life? You can only do this if you build the value of the business, and that can only happen if it is based on a system that can continue running without you.

Whether you realize it or not, you spend the majority of your day doing things you’ve already done hundreds or thousands of times before. Very rarely do you actually try new things. There are many benefits to doing new things – don’t cheat yourself out of them.

Featured Dealer: R&L Feeds

Adolescence can be a scary time in a young person’s life. High school is busy with homework, FFA and cheerleading. Serving as the Northeast Kansas FFA Vice-president, Kansas Angus Association Ambassador, working cattle with family and going to shows takes up a lot of time. Those activities might seem like enough to keep a junior in high school busy, but add in a BioZyme® dealership, and you’ve got the life of 16-year-old Eva Hinrichsen of R&L Feeds near Westmoreland, Kan.

Eva, whose parents, Ron and Lynne, have been BioZyme dealers for nearly five years, decided she would like to take over the dealership and make it her FFA SAE (Supervised Agriculture Experience).  She had total support from both her parents and her FFA advisor.

“My dad has been in sales pretty much his whole career and I always thought it was interesting,” Eva said. “I wanted to develop more sales skills and help with my business management skills and this is a different way to get an opportunity to do that.”

While it was slightly daunting for her at first, Eva said the positives definitely outweigh the bad. She has honed in on her sales skills and increased her product knowledge, which was the biggest challenge she faced.

“I was a little nervous at first because I was so young to be doing this,” she said. “I didn’t know how it was going to work out trying to talk to producers about changing their mineral. It was a little nerve-wracking. I just try to convince them to spend a little more money so they have a better return on their investment, and I think I’ve been pretty successful at that. It’s been a great opportunity, and it’s been fun to do that.”

Eva has set goals for both R&L Feeds and her SAE. For her business, she wants to increase the total tonnage she sells on annual basis and expand her product line. For her SAE, she wants the project to be successful and show some revenue. She said there is a lot of records to keep with both.

Initially nervous, Eva says she now talks to producers with ease, and that they have been pretty friendly. She takes advantage of the weekends and evenings to do most of her work for the dealership, and makes contact with a lot of her customers at the cattle shows she and her family compete at on weekends. One of her highlights so far, has been attending a new dealer orientation.

“Getting the knowledge has been beneficial to me owning cattle myself.  I went to Saint Joe and went to a class with other dealers, and I learned about the Amaferm® advantage and how that can increase the digestibility, and how gut health increases immunity. All that helps increase genetic potential. So that has been helpful for me when developing my own feed rations,” she said.

Eva encourages others who are interested in starting a business or becoming a dealer to find the courage to do so.

“It’s a little scary at first because you know you aren’t going to be as good as the trained, older dealers, but it is fun, and I’ve really enjoyed being able to do this.”

Courage to Compete

Competition is not a bad thing. In fact, competition is important to the overall growth of your business and has the potential to impact your bottom line. As more competition surfaces, it is important to tell everyone why they should buy their animal nutrition products from you, and to have the courage to set yourself apart from others in the business.

Be innovative.

Chances are you aren’t the only livestock nutrition company in your town or county. You are going to have to get creative in ways to draw those customers in to your business and keep them coming back. You will likely need to adopt new business services or marketing strategies to get customers to try your products. Is the local cattlemen’s organization having a meeting? Offer to provide part of the program in exchange for some time to talk about whatever
product best fits the season.

Provide service.

It’s one thing to sell an outstanding product. But how does your customer service stack up again the competition? Outstanding service will go a long way. Do you live in an area where there are “hobby” farmers who work a 9-5 job? Stay open late so they can pick up their products after work. Delivery is a big service that many offer, but making sure that the product is delivered on time to the proper place is important.

Know your customers.

Even though you think you are in the feed business, livestock business, equine business, nutrition business, the number one business that everyone is in is the “people” business. Building a relationship with your customers shows that you are genuinely interested in them and their program. Often business relationships evolve to friendships that evolve into long-standing customers. Know what products your customers need and when they will need them.

Tell your story.

It is ok to “toot your own horn.” You’ve got a good product, so let others know about it. This might be on your social media channels, a sign along the road or even at the local auction barn. Get out and spread the word, and encourage your customers to tell their neighbors if they like the products too. Positive peer reviews are a positive marketing tool.

Get motivated.

The fact you have competition should motivate you to be a better business person. You will need to be highly motivated to remain the better business owner. Be proactive, alert, creative and above all focused. Always think of better ways to satisfy your customers.

Staying competitive in the marketplace does take a certain amount of courage. But if you remain innovative, build relationships and provide outstanding customer service, you will edge out the competition.

Tackle the Tough

Does it ever seem like your to-do list grows by the day and you never get to check anything off of it? Are you working longer days and not feeling like you get to spend as much quality time with your family and friends? As your business grows (and that’s a good thing), so do your responsibilities. But how are you ever supposed to get everything done?

Perhaps you are like the cowardly lion from the movie, “The Wizard of Oz.” He said in the movie, “I haven’t any courage at all! I even scare myself. Look at the circles under my eyes! I haven’t slept in weeks!”

If everything you have to do to keep your business growing is making you lose sleep, grab some courage and tackle the tough tasks first. Set aside the first two hours (or whatever amount of time you choose) of your work day to do the work you feel will be the hardest part of your day. This might be a sales call with a new customer who you’ve been working on for months. Or it might be talking to an employee that you’ve had challenges with. Maybe you don’t like sitting at a desk and working on financials,

so you need to do this the first thing every day or every week and get the tough tasks out of the way.

What is your time worth? The adage, “time is money” is true, and if you ho hum around avoiding the tough tasks on your to-do list, you are losing time and potentially losing profit. By facing the toughest tasks first, you have the opportunity for further growth. Maybe you have been working with a potential customer for months, and if you contact them early in the day and make a sale, you are already growing your business first thing. Have an employee that isn’t meeting expectations? Tackle that issue first thing in the morning to start improving productivity.

When we have the courage to face the toughest tasks or the jobs we are dreading, we get those out of the way, and the rest of our day, can only improve. And what if something good comes out of that sales call you’ve been dreading to make? Then you are starting your day on a high note, after you’ve checked that task from the to-do list.

On Inc.com, Jeff Haden suggests choosing the 2-3 most important tasks (MIT) to tackle each day. As you make your daily to-do list, put these MIT at the top of the list with a goal to have them accomplished by noon each day. That gives you time for other tasks that need be accomplished.

It is human nature to avoid the tough times. But if you focus on the tough tasks in your job first, you will notice increased productivity, the potential for more financial growth and days that will fly by more quickly.

Courage to Ask

It feels pretty good to have a loyal customer base that you’ve built relationships with while growing your business. You know their needs, and they have learned to rely on you to have the products they need when they need them. However, you can’t continue to grow your business if you aren’t constantly seeking out new customers and leads.

It isn’t always comfortable to make that first call, but seeking out new customers is imperative to continue growing your business. Surely not every livestock owner, cattle feeder, horse and dog owner in your sales area is familiar and using BioZyme® products, and if they are, kudos to you! So, find those who are not using the products and reach out to them.

Not sure the best way to find those prospects? Here are a few simple suggestions from Inc.com to find new customers.

Cold-calling. This involves reaching out to someone you’ve probably never talked to before and know very little about. Perhaps you scour the ads in the local shopper paper each week for people who are selling livestock. If you see someone in your area who isn’t a customer, they automatically become a potential customer. Chances are if they aren’t a customer, the reason is because no one has ever asked them before.

Networking. There are several opportunities for networking in the agricultural business world. Perhaps you have a booth at a local cattlemen’s meeting or extension field day. You might even attend the weekly sales at the local livestock auction barn or the county fair to visit with people that you know are not current customers.

Ask for referrals. Ask your satisfied customers to send their friends and customers your way. Perhaps you can work out a deal to get a buyer’s list from a seedstock producer who hosts an annual sale. Peer reviews go a long way, and especially if other producers see positive results, they are going to want to get similar results with their livestock.

Affiliate marketing. Partner with a non-competing ag company like a bull stud or fencing company to share contact names to get the maximum exposure. Perhaps its as simple as inviting their customer list to an open house or producer meeting.

Once you’ve found new prospects, be sure to approach them in a way that that shows you are interested in learning more about them and their operation and offer solutions to their challenges. Mike Wadle, Director of National Sales – North, offers three pieces of advice for approaching prospective customers:

Listen, listen, listen. Ask open-ended questions and let the prospect talk. If you ask the right questions and listen more than you talk, you will learn a lot about the prospect. The prospect will feel like you care, and that you are sharing genuine interest in his or her operation.

Do not go into a call with a predetermined sales route you want to follow. If you think you are going to sell tons of one product without even knowing the needs of the prospect, you will likely have deflated goals. Once you know what the needs are of the prospect, you can start recommending products that best fit his or her needs.

Follow up is very important. Wadle says it is important to follow up with the prospects to show that you care about them and their needs, and the sooner the better. Don’t put off follow-up. Perhaps before you leave the initial call ask when a good time is to reach back out to them to answer any questions they might have thought of.

Finding new customers is all about building relationships. Relationships start with simple questions, showing you care about a person, their animals and their bottom line. Expand your relationships, and watch your customer base grow.

December 2017 – Letters from Lisa

Christmas is my favorite time of year. The birth of Christ and its meaning has been a monumental part of my life, and my birthday is December 24 – that is a story of courage in itself.

There is a much better story of courage that took place at the first Christmas. We often miss it because our focus is on a young mother and a baby. This character heard first hand that his bride-to-be was pregnant, and it was not his child. He experienced a personal message from God because of the extraordinary event. He stood by the manger where the baby was laid. He provided protection for the mother and child during the early years of the child’s life. The man’s name of course is Joseph. What the story of Joseph tells us is that:

1. God gives courage to ordinary people.

2. God gives us courage to overcome our doubts and fears.

3. God gives us courage to face the future.

God provides the same courage to business leaders, but we try to complicate it by making rash, unproductive or irrational decisions.

The word ‘courage’ derives from the Latin word cor, which means ‘the heart.’ Courage originally meant “To speak one’s mind by revealing all one’s heart,”in other words, to speak openly and to act honestly with integrity. It means to tell your story how it is – even at the risk of being rejected, ridiculed or misunderstood. Do you have this type of courage in your business?

The good news about courage in business is that it is not something you either have or don’t have. Courage can be learned, cultivated and practiced.

Six processes can help you start down this path: setting goals; determining the importance of achieving them; tipping the power balance in your favor to precipitate action; weighing costs against benefits and moving forward with that balance in mind; selecting the proper time line for action and developing backup plans.

Changing our lives, and eventually creating an entire culture of courage, starts with small acts which then produce micro-changes in each of these processes.

As we enter into the Christmas season, do you need the courage of Joseph to boost your business? Joseph took what he perceived at the time to be small steps, but those courageous steps made our world and our lives a better place.

Featured Dealer: Dailey Ag

Mike and Nancy Dailey weren’t initially looking to get into the farm store business. Nearly eight years later, the farm couple from Oskaloosa, Kan.,
has built a successful farm store that carries everything from fertilizer
and fencing supplies to fuel and feed, including a complete line of
BioZyme® products.

“Our old co-op went out of business and we bought it so we’d still have access to fertilizer and the other resources we needed to continue farming,” said Nancy Dailey. “And the business just kept growing bigger.”

The family-owned and operated business also includes two daughters, one a student at Kansas State and another in high school that both help as their schedules allow; a son who farms and helps as he can, and a future daughter-in-law, who also works at the store. In addition to the family members who help as they can, Nancy said she has a great team of employees who live by the store motto, “Ag is a Dailey Job.”

“I enjoy seeing my children interested in our business. We want to
continue to build a business that we can be proud to leave them
someday,” Nancy said.

As the Daileys see a need in their rural community, they try to fill it. When the local gas station closed, the Daileys bought those tanks and started offering both off- and on-road diesel. And the same can be said about the BioZyme products. A local livestock producer inquired at Dailey Ag about VitaFerm® HEAT®, and so the Daileys did the research and became dealers
to meet their customers’ needs.

“We didn’t have to do too much advertising. I put on our sign out front that we were VitaFerm dealers, and people would come into me and make their requests. We started with HEAT, and then added Vita Charge® Stress Tubs and now carry a full line,” Nancy said.

Nancy says they have seen tremendous growth in the sales of the BioZyme products since they became dealers in 2016. One advantage she says their dealership has is they can keep their prices lower and pass that cost savings to their customers since they are located about an hour from St. Joseph, and often send their own semis to pick up orders.

She has also taken the opportunity to work with ASM John Jeffrey to learn from him and use him as a resource. At a producer meeting Dailey Ag hosted in August, Jeffrey took the time to talk to customers and potential customers to educate them on the benefits of BioZyme products and to answer their questions individually. Nancy said she appreciated the information as well, and at least two customers told her it was the best meeting they have been to where information, rather than a pushy sales talk, was presented.

“People are familiar with the BioZyme products and they like them. If there is something they need or want they will come in, and we will get the product for them,” Nancy said.

With a customer-service attitude like that, Dailey Ag is sure to be a business to thrive for generations. For more information about Dailey Ag, visit www.daileyag.net.

Displays That Excite!

Customers shop with their eyes, and their eyes need to land on a display that is exciting enough to entice them, yet simple enough to understand as well as being simple for you to assemble in the limited space that you have available. Here are a few ways you can spice up your displays to make them eye-appealing and useful to the consumer:

Keep things at eye level. No one likes to bend down to read a product label, so it is important to stack product high enough that customers can see what it is without getting on their knees. With that said, be sure to stack bags at a safe level and neatly so they don’t slide around and fall over.

Group like products together. Keep similar product lines together, so customers can see the various options that are available to them. They won’t want to go back and forth between products to compare labels.

Place small pack products up front. These smaller, usually less expensive items sometimes get left behind in the stacks of 50-pound bags and tubs. Place smaller items up front and train employees to suggest them as customers are checking out, especially if they complement other items customers are buying or are in season. Is it calving time? Be sure to suggest some Vita Charge® Neonatal or Vita Charge Paste. If it is the summer show season, and a customer is buying Sure Champ® keep Climate Control near the counter, and remember to suggest they add a few tubes of that to their order.

Displays don’t have to be extravagant to be eye-catching. Some signage is nice, but flashy neon signs and streamers aren’t necessary. Contact Kristi Stevens, Marketing Project Manager at (816) 596-8795 to order pre-designed, eye-appealing signs with the brand logos on them to hang above products your store offers. These vinyl signs are easy to clean, easy to read and will lead customers to the products they are looking for.

Add product information to your displays. Information is power, and it is always a good idea to add support materials like a product brochure or spec sheet close to the products you have on display. You might be busy with another customer, and the brochure might have just the information a customer was looking for to make the decision to buy the product.

Be sure to add any special pricing or promotions. Once again, signage doesn’t have to be extravagant, just easy to read with a clear message.

Display at least one of every product you offer. You might not have a large area to bulk stack multiple bags of the same product. Then use a table to put out one of each product or literature on the products you do have available. If the customers don’t know you have it, they can’t buy it.

Making an effective display takes time and energy, but it doesn’t take an advanced degree in artistic design or carpentry. Use the resources available to you, make it easy to see and add signage and supporting materials to provide information.  Keep small-pack products close to the front where they can be easily discussed at check-out, and keep items out on a seasonal basis. Follow these basic reminders, and you will be able to show everyone the great products you offer.