Solutions Unlimited - February 2020

February 2020

The Best Day of My Life

The Day I Met My Wife

How many of you reading this remember when the 1998 movie

“You’ve Got Mail” with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan came out? Well, that was the same year my wife and I met, back when dial-up internet and flip phones were still cool. And, just like in “You’ve Got Mail,” we first started talking to one another in an AOL chat room. For weeks, we emailed and chatted with one another without meeting in person. I found out she was a teacher from Oklahoma who had just moved to South Carolina. Over the course of those weeks, our conversation deepened past the usual chitchat. We really liked each other. She was nice and friendly, and we decided we were ready to meet each other in person and go on a date. When I think about how that first date went, I can’t help but be thankful she still wanted to date me afterward. On the way to pick her up, I got lost. This was in the days before GPS, so I didn’t have any sort of map with me. I also didn’t have her phone number, so I couldn’t call her for directions. Like a lot of guys, I didn’t like asking for directions or admitting when I was lost. So I drove about 20 miles past where I was supposed to pick her up, and I probably would have kept driving if she didn’t call to ask where I was. To make things even worse, I missed her first call! If she

despite everything that seemed to have gone wrong. In fact, she took me to meet her family right afterward. We dated for two years before we got married in 2000. Later this year, we’ll celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. The day I met my wife was the best day of my life. To this day, I feel fortunate that she gave me a shot. There were a lot of things that could have gone better on that first date, but I guess when two people are meant to be together, somehow it just works.

hadn’t called me twice and told me how to get to her house, we probably never would have met in person. We had our first date at the Greenville Zoo. After walking around and looking at all the animals, we got some food at the zoo concessions. We both got hot dogs, but I was so nervous wondering how everything was going that I spilled my meal all over the ground. I thought it was the end of the world. To this day, she still makes fun of me for dropping my food on our first date. But I guess if she’s still around to tease me about it, it must not have been as bad as I thought! (I found out later that she thought it was cute.)

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

Evidently, she must have liked the impression I made on that first date,

–Kevin Smith 1

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The line between technologies that are beneficial for large businesses and those beneficial for small businesses continues to blur. While the latest software programs were once only available to large companies that could afford them, some of these programs have also become available and profitable for small businesses to use. In an age of increasing connectivity, these are a few tech trends that small businesses should watch out for. interaction, using AI software programs for small tasks — like email marketing, data entry, accounting, and some low-stress forms of customer service — is invaluable to small businesses. Delegating menial tasks to AI can free up time for you to focus on those more important face-to-face interactions with your customers. Increased Use of Data Analytics “Big data” is intimidating. For years, sifting through customer data and extracting valuable information that can be used to grow businesses was something that only the largest companies had the time, funds, and expertise to do. However, more programs that reduce the upfront investment and expertise necessary to contextualize customer data are popping up. If you can make use of your customers’ data, you can give them an experience with your business that they won’t find many other places. Continued Reliance on Social Media Social media marketing remains an effective tool for attracting customers to your small business, even if the tools continue to change. While marketing on Facebook and Instagram might seem like old news, marketing on trendier apps, like TikTok, Pinterest, or Snapchat, can still work to your business’s benefit. A recent study showed that 45% of consumers head to social media when they have a question about something — are you going to be there to answer it? 3 Tech Trends to Accelerate Your Company KEEP UP WITH THE BIG BUSINESSES Collaboration With Artificial Intelligence While it certainly shouldn’t replace every customer

TWITTER ME THIS The Storied History of Evan Williams’ Journey to Success

The journey of entrepreneurship is akin to finding your way through a jungle with a poorly drawn map. Navigating all the obstacles can be terrifying, but thankfully, the many entrepreneurial odysseys that came before us offer great opportunities to learn. Evan Williams, co-founder of Blogger and Twitter, went on a wild journey himself while finding his way out of the metaphorical jungle and into success. Williams began his career running irrigation for his family farm in Nebraska. After only a year and a half of working for tech startups in Florida and Texas, he found his way back to the farm but didn’t give up. He persevered, moving to California and eventually working with Meg Hourihan, pioneer of online blogging and fellow internet entrepreneur, to co-found Pyra Labs in 1999. Together at Pyra, they developed Blogger, a journaling platform that became the launch pad for Williams’ entrepreneurial prosperity. Unfortunately, after venture capital and company resources were depleted, Pyra Labs’ employees, including Hourihan, quit en masse, and Williams forged on alone to keep Blogger afloat. In 2003, Google acquired Blogger, which is successful to this day and credited as one of the first blogging sites. Fun fact: Williams also coined the term “blogger”! After Blogger’s acquisition, Williams' new startup, Odeo, was poised to be a premiere platform for podcasts and podcasting software. However, due to a laundry list of problems, including a lack of vision and the rise of Apple, Odeo experienced a less-than-stellar launch and simply could not compete with iTunes, a platform already holding a major foothold in the podcasting community. At that point, Williams turned his attention to another side project under Odeo’s umbrella: Twitter. Learning from their abysmal launch, the team focused on making a social networking service. With this singular focus, Twitter’s popularity exploded and garnered attention from entrepreneurs and consumers everywhere. Today, Twitter is the sixth most visited website in the world and boasts 330 million active users. In the third quarter of 2019, Twitter’s revenue amounted to $823.7 million. Evan Williams’ journey to success is one for the ages, and it’s a lesson every entrepreneur can learn from while trying to find the one opportunity that will launch them into the big leagues. If you’re interested in learning more about Williams’ path to entrepreneurial glory, check out the bestselling biography “Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal” by Nick Bilton.

Keeping up with the latest and greatest tech trends in small-business management can be exhausting, but in an age where

technological advancement is accelerating faster than ever, it’s necessary for the survival of businesses of all

shapes and sizes.

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‘Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman’ How Patagonia’s Founder Set a New Standard for Environmental Responsibility

From the very beginning of his 2006 memoir, “Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman,” it’s clear that Patagonia's founder, Yvon Chouinard, is not the typical entrepreneur. As a kid, Chouinard wanted to be a fur trapper, and rather than going into business with dreams of getting rich, he started making climbing gear to fund his passion for scaling cliffs and adventuring in the outdoors. “Let My People Go Surfing” follows Patagonia’s meteoric rise through its victories and rough patches — including the stalled growth that led to layoffs of 20% of the staff in the 1990s — but its main focus is on the company’s ideals. In plain, forthright, and sometimes irascible language, Chouinard lays out Patagonia’s growth goals, culture aims, and environmental stewardship efforts. The last of which is truly the core of the brand. Patagonia prioritizes minimalism, function, durability, and reparability in all of its products, from backpacks to jackets. It tracks the energy and water use of its facilities, works to eliminate pollution, focuses on recycled and recyclable materials, participates in environmental activism, funds environmental organizations worldwide, and even encourages shoppers to send in worn-out apparel for reuse and repair. In short, over HAVE A Laugh

the course of 272 pages, Chouinard proves he not only talks the talk but also walks the walk — and has made millions championing his cause. He encourages other entrepreneurs to do the same, laying out Patagonia’s footsteps and philosophies for readers to follow. Many already have. “Let My People Go Surfing” was updated and rereleased in 2016, but either version will make entrepreneurs think twice about their environmental impact and what they can do to reduce it. As one Amazon reviewer wrote, “Whether you're a manager or business owner looking to motivate your employees and create a sustainable business, or a fan of Patagonia, or someone curious about how to live a life you can feel good about, this book should work for you.”

PUZZLE

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Inside This Edition

1.

The Day I Met My Wife

2.

Important Tech Trends for Small Businesses to Keep Up With Evan Williams’ Entrepreneurial Journey Yvon Chouinard’s Rise From Wannabe Fur Trapper to Billionaire Entrepreneur

3.

Have a Laugh

4.

Selling With Compassion

Sell With Your Heart Avoid a Bad Sales Reputation With These Tips

a referral. It also lets you learn from happy and dissatisfied customers. You can discover what worked, what didn’t, and what they wish they had known before buying. Picking up the phone — or dropping in — to leave a post-sale impression could be more valuable than you realize. Just Listen A good salesperson knows what their customers want. They actually listen to what customers are saying and don’t second-guess customers’ needs. Many people associate salespeople with smooth-talking and wittiness. But in reality, a good salesperson just needs to be a good listener. When a customer says, “I just want something that works,” they are not looking for the latest and greatest model. They just want something that works. Selling with your heart is easier than it appears, and these methods are a solid foundation for creating strong, lasting customer relationships.

Let’s face it: Salespeople get a bad rap. Scammers, con artists, and inexperienced or unempathetic sellers make it hard to convince customers you have their best interests in mind. Here are three qualities every salesperson must have to convincingly sell with heart. A Win-Win The most important trait of an ethical salesperson is having a product or service that is honest and true. You can’t ethically peddle something that doesn’t have value for your potential customers. Sure, it’s exciting to make a sale. It gives you a sense of accomplishment, and the payout isn’t too bad, either. But if what you’re selling doesn’t also benefit your customer , then you’re no better than a swindler. Your product has to be a win for the customer, and you have to believe in it wholeheartedly to succeed. The ‘How Ya Doin’?’ Call The sale is done. The dotted line is signed. The customer is happy, and you are excited. Time to forget about them and move on to the next sale, right? Wrong. You have to follow up with customers after a successful sale. If anything has gone wrong, checking in will allow you to be proactive in fixing it. Being proactive builds trust and bolsters your chance of

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