October 2016 – Letters from Lisa

Just like a trapeze artist must take a risk when letting go of one swinging bar to catch the next, growing your business year after year involves risk. This month I want to focus on the trust involved in taking those risks – much like that trapeze artist trusts that the next bar will appear just as he lets go of the one he is already clinging to in mid-air. Some risks are easy to execute but take a decent sized bank account while others are hard to execute but don’t take much money at all. I am going to rattle off a list of these options, and then you can decide which one to choose so you don’t need the net.

1. Carve out a new corner of your market
Expanding into new markets provides the advantage of building a larger customer base.

2. Partner with other businesses who are growing in your market
By forming strategic partnerships with other growing businesses that offer complementary products and services, you can cultivate a mutually beneficial relationship that will help both of your businesses grow.

3. Diversify your product offerings
A diversification strategy opens up new possibilities. You can diversify your product offering or your target markets. Think about the things that go along with the items you sell: boots, apparel, shavings and nutrition services for example.

4. Leverage a strong position with your existing core customers
The ability to leverage your existing customer base should be core to better engagement with new prospects and how you funnel them through the sales process more quickly. Don’t take them for granted—your existing customer base can be the key to advancing both marketing and sales activities that lead to significant growth.

5. Acquire or merge with other businesses in your market
Perhaps the most aggressive growth strategy is to buy a company that makes products related to yours. We’ve seen that a lot lately with tech companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon that continue to acquire smaller businesses. If you cannot acquire another business perhaps you can arrange to merge with it.

Choosing the best option for your business is hard work that involves risk. It is no different than the trapeze artists high above the crowd gracefully letting go of their swinging bar flying through the air being caught and then letting go again.

Author Henri Nouwen once had the opportunity to travel with the Flying Rodleighs, a troupe of trapeze artists. Their conversation inevitably turned to flying and how they could possibly do what they did. Nouwen summarizes risk: ͞

A flyer must fly, and a catcher must catch, and the flyer must trust that his catcher will be there for him.

So outstretch your arms; let go, and trust the option you select to grow your business.

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September 2016 – Letters from Lisa

ADD VALUE TO YOUR MARKETING IN A DOWN CATTLE MARKET

During the past few years, beef producers have been experiencing record high prices. However, according to “Money” magazine, “Beef prices, which have been increasing for years, recently hitting rates high enough to inspire outbreaks of steak thefts at supermarkets and even the return of cattle rustling, are finally coming down to earth.”

Down to earth? The magazine goes on to say the decline in price is not because demand for meat has decreased, but because cattle are fatter? The author has obviously never gone through calving, dealt with VFD or tried to find feed when a drought or flood is at hand. He calls prices “down to earth”; the beef industry calls them challenging. In any case, producers will have to take steps to improve margins, and we will have to market our products to them in a way where they will see the added value of using BioZyme® products.

Value is a funny thing. There is no doubt that in the absence of value-added marketing, virtually any product’s price can be driven down to the most bottom line – price. The problem? When you are only selling price you’ll never be able to sell value. Adding value requires creativity, innovation and a willingness to out-work your competition. But the real sad truth is that if you continue to sell the way you always have, price will continue to rule. So, make a change before your competitor does! As the famous confederate general, Nathan Bedford Forrest, once said following a battle, “I won because I got there firstest with the mostest!” You need to do the same thing. The question then is, what do I do? Step one is to keep marketing top-of-mind. Most of us cut marketing in tough times – DO NOT DO THIS! In addition, make sure you incorporate these eight strategies into your marketing plan:

1. Set expectations high – just accepting that times are challenging,    therefore, sales will be down, just isn’t OK.

2. Never stop studying – the products, the market, the attitudes, etc.
    – in every down turn a new millionaire is born.

3. Find your light bulb – if you are turned on, the customer will
    be too.

4. Make sure you can differentiate yourself – be faster, cheaper or
    have a sharper focus on customer service.

5. Build your spokes – hire passionate, experienced team members
    and work with the best partners, like BioZyme, to ensure a great
    product and customer experience.

6. Be bold – just do it!

7. Plan ahead – five minutes of planning saves 30 minutes of doing.

8. Really understand the products you sell.

    – What are the features?

    – What benefits do they offer?

    – Who will buy them?

    – How can you easily match their traits with the customers’ needs?

A value-added attitude must result in an active mind with “Just DO IT” actions! After watching the Olympics this summer, being motivated should be easy.  Let’s go get ’em!

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August 2016 – Letters from Lisa

 

For about six months I worked on a project we called the “messaging matrix.” Its original intent was to ensure everyone in our company was sharing the same benefits and messages about all of our products and brands. This started as a simple Excel spreadsheet, but consumed about 400 hours of my time and had so many columns I felt like a data miner. By the end of it, the project ended up being one of my most difficult, stressful and eye opening. I had never read horizontally across all of our brands and products at the same time. I had always looked at them vertically or one at a time. Sounds silly I am sure, but after much thought I realized “what a mess!” We had products that fit nowhere, branding that was going across multiple sectors within beef cattle and branding that was going across multiple species (VitaFerm® was beef, sheep, goat and dairy).

As a person who claims to be incredibly organized and run an organized ship, I had to go into hiding for a while to save face and then ended up having to take the team on a retreat to get this fixed. The end result of this project has been amazing, and it includes:

  • Strengthening our message so our dealers can benefit from a more consistent message
  • Reorganizing our products in a way that makes more sense for our customers
  • Developing a new searchable product center in the Online Dealer Center for easy quick reference to all these great brands and products (remember 43% of end users expect to get product info from you – their dealer)
  • Building excitement of stronger branding power

brand /brand/
noun
noun: brand; plural noun: brands

1. a type of product manufactured by a particular company under a
particular name.

So let’s talk branding power. Interestingly enough the word came from our roots. More than a century ago, cattle ranchers used branding irons to mark which animals were theirs. As the cattle moved across the plains on their way to Chicago slaughter houses, brands made it easier to identify which ranches they were from.

With the introduction of packaged goods in the 19th century, producers put their mark on a widening array of products—cough drops, flour, sugar, beer — to indicate their source. For example, in the late 1880s as the Coca-Cola Company was getting started there were many soda producers in every market. Before Coca-Cola could get a customer to reach for a Coke, the company needed to be sure the customer could distinguish a Coke from all the other fizzy caramel-colored beverages out there.

In the first sense of the word, then, a brand is simply the non-generic name for a product that tells us the source of the product. A Coke is a fizzy caramel-colored soda concocted by those folks in Atlanta. For more information on brands and brand consistency see this month’s Tell Everyone article on page 8.

I will end this month with a challenge – something I wasn’t doing prior to this 400-hour venture. Are you differentiating marketing from branding? Let’s work together to create evangelists for our businesses.

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June/July 2016 – Letters from Lisa

Proper planning and implementing best practices can help relieve stress due to the seasonality of our industry. From ice-cream stands and landscapers to hotels and feed stores, many small businesses are seasonal — meaning they don’t rake in much cash for some portion of the year. While making seasonality work in a business isn’t typically easy, there are ways to alleviate some of the stress.

Plan Ahead

“Measure twice, cut once” is an old adage that still rings true, especially for a small business. Look ahead at least six months to plan appropriately. To carry the business through slower periods and complete lulls, consider saving cash during the busy months. Look hard at every element, from inventory to staffing, to avoid tying up cash unnecessarily during slow months. And, don’t forget to take advantage of slow stretches to prepare for the peak season.

Work Year-Round

One issue for many seasonal businesses is that they lose visibility in the off-season. So part of the challenge is keeping customers connected, and using downtime as a time to regroup, re-evaluate the business plan and expand customer relations.

Many businesses choose to stay open year-round by switching their focus to a different niche. Many ski shops, for instance, sell bicycling gear or kayaks in the summer. Not only does this supplement revenue, but it also hedges the risk since mild winters may inspire people to ride bikes. Other seasonal entrepreneurs start a new business altogether in the off months. Nancy Swenson and Craig White, owners of Beach Farm Inn, a Wells, Maine, bed-and-breakfast, earn 75 percent of the $75,000 to $100,000 of the inn’s annual revenue between the Fourth of July and Labor Day. A rainy summer, Ms. Swenson says, can take a sizable bite out of revenue. While the couple offers various off-season promotions (like cooking-class weekends) to rev up the inn’s guest numbers, they’ve started another venture in the winter months. Mr. White turned a woodworking hobby into a business making wooden furniture. He now makes $30,000 to $40,000 between December and March selling his handmade furniture — or nearly half of the total revenue generated annually by the inn. He uses the inn to help market the furniture, since the rooms are furnished with many of his crafts. “There are years where the weather is terrible or things happen in the world that you just can’t control,” Mr. White says. “Having that extra income…acts as a buffer.”

Market Creatively

Some seasonal businesses are able to extend their season by finding creative ways to get customers interested in their offerings year-round.

Wayne Bronner, owner of Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, a Frankenmuth, Michigan, Christmas decor store with 260 year-round employees, finds he can keep visitors buying Christmas goods all year by tying promotions and marketing to timely holidays and seasons throughout the year. In the days leading up to Mother’s Day, for instance, he decks out the front of the store with ornaments displaying messages for mothers. In summer, the store plays up wedding-inspired gifts, such as Bronner’s Newlywed’s Ornament Collection, a gift set of 12 ornaments for newly married couples that sells for $67.99.

He also offers sales and discounts in the off-season to spur more sales. For Valentines Day, he has a “14-14” sale — 14% off any item that costs more than $14. The store uses quirky advertising on billboards to attract summer travelers who might be looking for a fun stopover. The store “markets the novelty of shopping for Christmas decorations in July,” Mr. Bronner says.

Seasonality doesn’t have to mean no cash or nothing to do. In fact, if you look at it as a time to turn up your workload it can mean new products. HEAT is a perfect BioZyme® example. Historically in June and July our sales would drop to about 20 percent from normal. HEAT has almost gotten those months right up with all the others.   

Go get ‘em tigers!

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May 2016 – Letters From Lisa

Sure Champ® has experienced significant growth during the past six years. What has driven this success? Supporting young people involved with livestock. I know you are wriggling your nose right now, and thinking this lady is nuts. While whether I am nuts or not is debatable, my response is not. We may believe helping young people doesn’t grow sales or pay bills. However, an investment in youth is an investment in our future. And, making an investment in the future doesn’t always pay off right before your eyes or even in your lifetime. The pay off may be after you are long gone.

BioZyme®, under the leadership of Bob Norton, started supporting youth involved with livestock in 2007 when it became the title sponsor of both the Junior National Hereford Expo and the National Junior Angus Show. Why? Bob believes helping youth matters.

As I was working on this letter, Bob asked what I was doing and when
I told him my topic, he said, “It’s pretty simple to answer that. Livestock families are unique and special and extremely important to the welfare of our community, the state and the country.”

Young people involved in livestock learn from the show ring and the pasture:

How to respect others.
How to receive criticism and how to ask the right questions to improve.
How to work hard and push just a little bit longer.
How to evaluate livestock and to defend themselves verbally in front of a judge.
How one small tweak can be the difference between a win or a loss.

That sounds like the perfect applicant for every position we have at BioZyme. On a broader scale, without this type of a workforce in our future, our country will never reach its full potential.
If you are still asking why we do this, let me reiterate that these young people are our future. More importantly, they are agriculture’s future. For them, the livestock experience matters. And making kids feel like they matter, well… that matters to us.

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April 2016 – Letters From Lisa

’P’ for price

Pricing is one of the four P’s of the marketing mix, the pillars that support and sustain your business. The first is Product; the second is Place (distribution); the third is Promotion and the fourth is Price. All four of these factors must be implemented before you can succeed in business.

I am going to focus on price, which some people consider an afterthought to the other three. But, I argue price is the most important factor, and it’s critical to your business that you get it right. Remember price is the only element in the marketing mix that produces revenue; all other elements represent costs.

Without proper pricing, your gross margin will suffer and that will translate into less profit than you deserve and ultimately limited cash flow. Limited cash flow will eventually impact the sustainability of the business.

One trap that is easy to fall into is thinking that the price must be as low as possible to get any traction with sales. This just isn’t true. We routinely survey our end-user customers to see what matters to them in their purchasing decisions. What they say about price and its importance will surprise you. The following is a list of the top 10 factors to provide proof and understanding of the definition of value, or in other words, why you don’t need to assume your prices need to be kept to the lowest number possible to close the sale.

  1. Product makes a difference in animal’s health & performance.
  2. Product is easy to feed.
  3. Product is consistent in quality.
  4. Knowledge of product by sales personnel.
  5. Reliability of product supply.
  6. Personnel respond quickly to requests.
  7. Ease of contacting the right person for help.
  8. Product is packaged in useful quantities.
  9. Problems are resolved quickly.
  10. Ease of doing business.

So, instead of worrying about keeping prices low, worry about the items highlighted in yellow. Focus your energy on educating, having inventory, responding quickly and making doing business with you easy. If this is your focus, you can use value based pricing, which means believing that you can sell at our suggested retail price plus the freight to get the product to you. No smirking without giving it a try.

To end, I’ll quote Lawrence Steinmetz who wrote a book on sales called “How to Sell at Margins Higher Than Your Competitors.” “The first thing you have to understand is the selling price is a function of your ability to sell and nothing else. What’s the difference between an $8,000 Rolex and a $40 Seiko watch? The Seiko is a better time piece. It’s far more accurate. The difference is your ability to sell.”

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March – Letters From Lisa

Being innovative or doing things a little differently than everyone else – enough to create differentiation – involves risk. It means openly sharing ideas, even ideas that are undeveloped, half-baked and a long way from being concrete. Innovation means not worrying if an idea is not fully formed or regarded by others as irrelevant, or going against the stream. It means it is fine to suggest something truly disruptive.

Status, turf and fear of embarrassment can lead to hesitation, so when you want people in your organization to give their ideas, you must create safety for them. It’s not enough to give your team a venue to share ideas if the atmosphere is pervaded by rules, rigid structure and unspoken judgment. This is true around products, processes, advertising or any area of the business. Instead, do the following things:

1) Challenge, Don’t Dictate

Ask questions and begin conversations, but don’t dictate a path or force a solution. Like General George Patton said, “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”

2) Question, Don’t Reject Outright

Always draw out as many ideas as you can. Don’t reject an idea immediately because you might reject another idea that hasn’t even surfaced yet. Ask why or how to further the idea. The original idea might not be a keeper, but after asking questions, you might find the next great idea. Remember the words of Nobel Prize laureate Linus Pauling: “The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas, and throw the bad ones away.”

3) Maintain Curiosity

Be passionate about finding the right solution or idea. Don’t take breaks, check email, leave the room or take phone calls during the idea discussion. Keep the momentum of these discussions rolling, and remember, sometimes the best discussions happen outside of the office.

4) Be Optimistic, Believe

Innovation isn’t always an overnight process, so it’s important to keep spirits up, cheer, thank and support. Belief is a powerful risk buster. Believe in the idea once in place enough for it to be a no brainer for success.

The VitaFerm® HEAT mineral is a perfect example of how using these steps work. I asked the team in April 2014 to help create ways we could reduce our summer sales slump. After many ideas were discussed in great detail and noise volume for more than two days (that’s a long time for me not to check email), we decided to create a mineral focused on helping with summer heat instead of summer grass. The nutrition team went to work to create a research-based mineral that would lower heat stress, control flies and help cattle deal with the challenges of fescue. After some testing, the product was ready to go and hit the market in the summer of 2014. At the end of the summer we had sold 26 tons – not exactly enough to get us out of our summer sales slump. However, we remained optimistic and worked harder in 2015 to believe this innovative idea was an opportunity. We sold 437 tons. Now, that’s enough to reduce any slump!

P.S. If you haven’t checked into the VitaFerm HEAT and HEAT 3G mineral,
I would encourage you to do so. Seventeen times growth in one year is every business’ dream.

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February – Letters From Lisa

Passion is defined as a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something. 

Whenever I think about passion, I immediately think of my family’s Westie, Lucy. She has a passion – actually an obsession – for tennis balls. She will fetch a typical 2.5-inch tennis ball until she is physically not able to move or you have gone crazy throwing it for her. She will fetch it out of water, a cactus or a basket. Even when the ball ends up in a place where things won’t go well, she finds it and brings it back. She perseveres. This obsession doesn’t stop with a 9-inch tennis ball. Remember, she is a Westie (9 – 11 inches tall). She responds to this ball like a cutting horse with a calf. You move the ball right, she goes right. You move the ball left, she goes left. It’s truly hard to throw it past her. She can move it through an entire 4,000-square-foot house going around, through or over any obstacle and ALWAYS bring it back to you.

In business, they say you cannot teach the intangible
quality that separates average business people from
inspiring leaders . . . they are obsessed with what they do. Lucy would agree. She would tell you the things you are passionate about won’t leave you alone. They’re the ideas, hopes and possibilities your mind naturally gravitates to, the things you would focus your time and attention on for no other reason than that doing them feels right.

So what is your tennis ball? This same question came from a terrific commencement speech given at MIT last year by Dropbox founder Drew Houston. Houston explained, “The most successful people are obsessed with solving something that matters to them. They remind me of a dog chasing a tennis ball.” To increase your chances of happiness and success, Houston said, you must “find your tennis ball—the thing that pulls you.”

So this month, find that thing that pulls you and let it drive your work. If your work is your tennis ball – it won’t be work; instead you will have to force
yourself to go to bed because you will be chasing it without even realizing
the time on the clock.

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January – Letters From Lisa

I know it is the smart way to do everything, but I am not nearly as efficient as I want to be. Why? When 70 to 80 percent of your day is spent doing work about work (multiple meetings, endless emails, etc.) instead of doing actual work, that’s a problem. I have that problem. I love that problem, but I do have it. Isn’t the first requirement of change to acknowledge you have a problem?

Despite its difficulty in life, efficiency in business is imperative to keep pace in an increasingly competitive world. Sooner or later, any company operating inefficiently will be out of business. Being efficient in business means making choices that benefit one sector of a business without taking from another. Knowing the steps to take and the tools to use to make your business more efficient will help you get the best results at the least possible cost.

Here are some tips to help your business work more efficiently, cut costs, improve customer satisfaction and stay ahead of the competition:

  • Deliver anytime, anywhere information access to employees (you too). To stay productive on the move, you and your employees need to be able to reach the people and information they need—anywhere, anytime.
  • Make it easy to work together. Smooth collaboration between employees, partners, suppliers and customers is a sure-fire way to boost efficiency while also reducing costs.
  • Streamline customer communications. Delivering fast, knowledgeable service is the best way to keep customers satisfied.
  • Reduce unproductive travel time. All too often, time spent on the road is time lost. Use travel time to get work done using technology if you have the right tools. The money invested in these tools is well spent.

To me this list of business efficiencies seems challenging, but not impossible. 

So let’s get back to personal efficiency since that is more difficult, at least for me.
I recently read a Robin Sharma article, that was just what I needed, entitled
21 Tips to Become the Most Productive Person You Know.” Of course it is not as easy as it sounds, but here are the five points that I found most interesting:

Sell your TV. You’re just watching other people get successful versus doing the things that will get you to your dreams.

Say goodbye to the energy vampires in your life (the negative souls who steal your enthusiasm).

Run routines. When I studied the creative lives of massively productive people like Stephen King, John Grisham and Thomas Edison, I discovered they follow strict daily routines. (i.e., when they would get up, when they would start work, when they would exercise and when they would relax).
Peak productivity’s not about luck. It’s about devotion. 

Don’t say yes to every request. Most of us have a deep need to be liked. That translates into us saying yes to everything – which is the end of your elite productivity.

Be a contrarian. Why buy your groceries at the time the store is busiest? Why go to movies on the most popular nights? Why hit the gym when the gym’s completely full? Do things at off-peak hours.

Let’s work together to get more efficient – you hold me accountable, and I will do the same for you. Go get big things done this year!

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