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The Bridge To Empowerment

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Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade: The Invisible Bridge

Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade: The Invisible Bridge

Upon entering you feel a sudden calm.  The soft walls and earthy hues greet you with open arms.  The rug that overlays the transition from marble tile to carpet is placed with perfect symmetry.  The autumn-colored desk is clean and extends at an angle.  The detail in design funnels you into the waiting area, welcoming you to the office.  The sole owner/operator of The Muscle Medics, Scott Lindquist, functions with the same detail in mind.

Upon meeting Scott, you get the feeling that you’re both in on the same inside joke.  He locks in with a firm handshake, already half-laughing, “You like the desk huh?  It took them about five tries to get it right, but it was worth the wait.”  You can tell his road to success has been as hard as it has been fun.  We sit on the cozy waiting chairs and begin the interview.

B: “Tell me about your business.”

S: “In my years as a massage therapist, I’ve gotten to know my customers very well.  I have a strong bond with them.”

When looking at the numbers, that bond is evident.  The stout entrepreneur opened his business last fall and is set to break the 100k mark in year-to-date revenue with minimal overhead.

S: “This year has been exceptional.  I’ve been able to pay my business loans down much faster than anticipated.”

B: “I see you have taken a clear stance against Day Spas.”

The chiseled-face, blond masseuse looks more like a college linebacker than your average spa employee.  And his signage boasts it: “No Fluff.  This is not a Day Spa.”

S: “When people walk in here, they know exactly what they’re getting and how much it’s going to cost.  That kind of certainty makes their decision a lot easier.  At other massage places there is no defined goal.  Some people go there to relax, some to alleviate pain, and some with no objective in mind.  And that’s fine, but it’s not for me.  I’m a person who likes to get things done, so I want to have a clear cut goal that I share with my customers.  That goal is Pain Relief.”

B: “So what kind of clientele does that signage attract?  How are they different from day spa customers?”

S: “In a business and in life, you don’t attract what you want, you attract what you are.  It’s funny, because my clients are diehards too.  When winter hits Omaha and there are several inches of snow on the ground, my customers still come out.  They don’t miss a day and I love that.”

B: “What’s the secret to keeping such a staunch client base?”

S:  Scott pauses for a moment, carefully deliberating before the response.“Empowerment.  I give my customers something that no other pain-relief specialist does: Knowledge.  Many people aren’t aware of how their muscles are interlinked.  How a problem in the lower back can cause a neck-ache.  During their initial session, I explain what’s going on visually and kinesthetically.  Visually, I stop and show them the muscular links on the chart.  Kinesthetically, I apply pressure in one area and it shoots pain to another.  We get to the point where my clients’ have this ‘Ah-ha’ moment.  That’s when they begin to understand how everything is physiologically connected.”

B: “When someone walks in here for a massage, what should they expect?”

S:  “Results.  When someone walks into my office, I can see where their pain is by their posture and the way they move.  Each person is a unique case with unique needs.  Dentists have sore necks because they hold their head cocked over patients all day.  Desk workers have sore backs from hunching over a computer.  I find out what they do and how long they’ve been in pain.  Then, I test their muscles.  From here, I can develop an accurate pain profile with an effective treatment.”

B: “I usually get a sore lower back from deskwork, what can I do?”

S: “First and foremost, you can come and see me.”  Scott lets out a chuckle.  “Of any single treatment, this is the most effective because every ounce of massage pressure is focused on your problem.  I go right to where it hurts and fix it.  Clients can do things outside of The Muscle Medics that will help them tremendously.  Learning better work techniques, intraday stretching, proper posture, strengthening, losing weight, exercise – these are all ways to absolve pain and keep it away.   If we can combine some of these with my treatments, that’s the full package.”

B: “Which of those should I do, or how should I start?”

S: “For someone like you who is taller and at a desk, I would suggest sitting on a yoga ball with proper posture.  The posture will cause less stress on your back and the balancing will strengthen your abs so they can absorb more strain when you hunch over.  Also, get up and walk around every hour to stretch out.”
Scott motions me to one of his rooms.  The dimly-lit enclave mixes the efficiency of a doctor’s office with the comfort of a spa room.  The center-piece on the wall consists of a life-size muscular chart.

S: “This is where my customers can see what’s wrong.  They’ve been feeling pain but usually don’t know why.  Here, I explain how their muscles are connected.”

B: “How are the muscles connected?”

S:  “Think of your muscles as two rubber bands that you are stretching against each other.”  Scott finds two bands and connects each one to the index finger and thumb on each hand.  “And think of your fingers as your bones that the muscles are connected to.   Now if these bands are interlinked,” Scott moves one band against the other, “And one of those muscles tightens up, it will pull on the other one.  This stretched out muscle now has more tension and is less flexible in other directions.  If you pull that stretched out muscle in an opposite direction, it will strain or snap.  The less flexible and more tense a muscle is, the less blood flow it receives.  This restricts mobility even more because the muscle is receiving fewer nutrients.”

Muslces Demo

B: “Besides teaching, how do you keep your clientele motivated?”

S:  “Benchmarking.  During the beginning of each session, my clients will feel a certain amount of pain and have a certain amount of restricted mobility.  At the end of each session, we check in on that pain and mobility.  There are vast improvements every time.  We keep tabs as these improvements build up over the weeks.”

B: “What is your current role and what would you like it to be for the future?”

S: “Currently, I see myself as a teacher and a servant.   I teach to empower my clients to do something about their pain.  I serve when I am the tool they use to take control.  There’s no gap in knowledge.  I have muscular charts right there and use them to demystify pain.  In the future, I would like to expand and do more motivational talks and teachings.  I still want to do massages, but I would rather teach.”

B: “Any final advice for anyone starting up a business in this economy?”

S: “The Omaha economy isn’t so bad.  Make sure you have a clear message and specific audience.  Don’t worry about trying to cater to everyone.  When the economy sinks, those businesses will go down first because if the service caters to everyone, then it’s not that special, and most people will be able to live without it.”

Conclusion:

Step 1) Scott’s model can be applied to any business model.   The first step is to ascertain value.  If you can teach somebody something valuable about themselves, or give them a way to express themselves, then you empower them.  Value is measured in relevance.  Scott’s signage prefilters clients into his office that are already concerned with relieving pain.  This is what any good signage should accomplish – delivering a statement of intent.  “We’re this company and here’s what we’ll do for you.”  When clients agree on that message, then relevance (and value) is already established.

Step 2) The second step is to teach your clients about themselves within the frame of that message.  Scott teaches his clients about their muscular pain and how to get relief.  Other businesses may give their client a better product to empower them.  Both ways empower the customer to act on their relevant need.

Step 3) The third step is to show your clients that you are the vesicle to that empowerment.  That your service or product is what will give them what they want.   Scott does this by showcasing his knowledge and conducting benchmarks within each session.  This helps customers ratify the benefits of his service.

Empower people.  Give them a relevant new way to do business, feel, act with greater efficacy, or express themselves, and show them how you are the bridge to that empowerment.  Then be like Scott, be the bridge to your client’s empowerment.

Contact The Muscle Medics:

bizcardf1

-Brian

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Written by reflect7brian

May 6, 2009 at 2:41 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Hold Your Horses!

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Whoa Buddy

Whoa Buddy

A week ago, Reflect7 had planned its first media appearance. Going into it, we were definitely nervous. Not just because we were apprehensive to go on the record, but because our systems weren’t set. As it happens, our gracious host understood, and we were able to reschedule to a later date. So why did we delay?

1) Communication Systems
The most important aspect of any product is the ability to interact with your customers. If you don’t know what they’re thinking, you won’t know where your design implementation worked and where it needs improvement. The App Store has a place for comments and feedback, but it doesn’t let your customers know that you’re paying attention. When you tell your customers, “Hey that’s a good idea, we’ll work on that,” or “We didn’t do that because it would hamper this feature,” they know your listening, even if you’re not implementing their ideas.

Having bilateral communication also gives your customers the ability to affect the product. Where else in this corporate world can you give input that will actually be heard? When a user can connect with the creators of a product, it’s like an investment. The user will monitor it for a while to see if it grows.

We didn’t have these communication systems set (still getting there) and didn’t want to market to a mass audience until we were ready to communicate with them.

2) Event
With any media spot, it’s important to have an event lined up to keep momentum rolling. This event should somehow be linked to your product. We had a great event lined up that was set to use a cool new feature of our Husker App. Unfortunately, the programming for this feature was a little more time-consuming than we had anticipated. We could have just thrown a keg-party with a banner, but what reason would that give for people to use our product? None. With no event, we had no momentum. With no momentum, you’re dead.

3) First Impression
With our website still in its infancy, any sort of mass traffic would work against our favor. You only have one chance to make a good first impression, and if you’re a software company, you better have a decent-looking website. To the regular consumer, software is no different than webpage design; it all falls into some pseudo-geeky, programming category. If your website sucks, your first impression will suck, in which customers will conclude that your software will suck. Here’s some advice: don’t suck.

4) Wow Factor
If we would have held our media date, we would have lacked the “wow-factor” to get people excited. People would have concluded that our program can do everything that one can do on the internet. Although we’ve put the time and effort into organizing that info into a sleek interface, most non-programmers would ask, “Where are all of the cool iphone features? Remember when you first heard about Shazam and were like, “How the F did they do that?” That’s excitement. We want the same thing, which is what our new features are going to provide. Excitement is momentum. Maintain momentum.

5) Marketing Efficiency
When we hit our new media date, we should have at least five more football team apps ready that are all similar to Husker Fan. That’s five more apps to market during out media slot. That’s five more apps people will see when trafficking our webpage. And since the apps are similar, we can still maintain focus on our locally-based one, Husker Fan, and residually score points with people who want more. If you’re lucky enough to get a good media spot, make sure you’re leveraged up to capitalize.

What We Learned:
Pushing back an opportunity to showcase our first product was a hard decision to make but, ultimately, a necessary one. It all comes down to bilateral communication, making a great first impression, and establishing and maintaining momentum. If you can’t do these things, then hold off until you can.

Written by reflect7brian

April 23, 2009 at 3:30 pm

Posted in Marketing, Reflect7

Don’t Pitch, Catch

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fastball-717459

I had just walked into a potential client’s establishment. I was met with a friendly greeting as any ordinary customer would be. But I was no ordinary customer. I needed this business as a launch pad to close other businesses like it. They were the best of their industry in town, and their competitors would follow them off a cliff just to stay within arm’s reach. They had no previous knowledge of my arrival or my business and that’s how I wanted it.

I met the receptionist with a warm smile and immediate rapport about the office décor. I was not a customer, I was selling – pitching an idea that I needed them to endorse. However, I wasn’t wearing a pitcher’s uniform, nor did I have a ball. In fact, I wasn’t even on the mound. I was the catcher, giving the signals and guiding the ball home. How could she know, I came in asking for help about learning their industry. I occupied a gray area and could not be classified as a salesman, and therefore was able to avoid the negative salesman stereotypes. Instead, I was asking for help and the receptionist was more than happy to assist.

With almost every small business, and most medium-sized businesses, receptionists are the glue that holds the company together. They are the mediator between corporate and client, between executive and entrepreneur. Receptionists are savvy to the ins and outs of the business and are willing to work with you as a customer. They also keep the office in order and expound the little details that make it feel like home. A small painting of a farm house or a picture of a girl holding a flower might have even come from their very own personal collection. They fill their home away from home with the same warmth they bring to their households. These are the small things, along with the tidiness to take note of and genuinely compliment upon entering. Receptionists are also the most overworked and underpaid. Their vastly superior organizational skills overshadow their creative skills in their job setting. Executives rarely ask them for valuable creative input. Like anyone, they will do what they can within these constraints to fulfill their creative needs. This is where you can help them.

Your idea is not your idea; it’s an idea of the collective. It’s an idea that has been spawned from your life experiences and the direct application of solutions to a given environment. Ownership of an idea is nothing. Ownership of a business that has incorporated that idea is everything. The difference is execution. In the latter you have successfully executed. That’s why, when you pitch, you don’t pitch an idea, you pitch a frame of mind and the limitations that come with your working environment. Then you ask the right questions, and let others come up with the idea. They throw the idea out and you catch it, congratulating them on their efforts.

If you truly believe that your idea will solve a problem for you client, than other people (including your client) will as well. You pitch that frame of mind to the receptionist first. Ask her for help. People are willing to give you all the time in the world to help you help them, but hardly any time if you are just trying to sell. And that’s why you don’t pitch, you catch. Give her the limitations you are working within and a loose frame on what you would like to accomplish for their business. She’ll pump out a few ideas and you can work together to reach your goal. Or you may come to a new idea that you can both take ownership of. Since you’ve provided the framework, you’ll have the associated skills to go along with servicing that framework. Since she helped create the idea, she’s now invested in that idea and your skills are the conduit to that idea manifesting.

With the receptionist on your side anything is possible. Meeting slots open up like crevices on a melting mountain. Information flows out like a tepid river. The cold lead has thawed to reveal a warm ally. The receptionist has become your evangelist. Even if you are turned down, she is quick to give you a reference to the nearest competitor and may even fight your fight once you are gone. The smaller the company, the more reserve power the receptionist will have.

Utilize the same technique during meetings with bosses and owners. Small startups are very willing to help and if you can create a product to solve a problem for them, then you’re in business. It just so happened that the receptionist I spoke with was also part owner. The owners rotated duties: taking calls and helping walk-ins. This worked out great. The co-owner and I came up with a whole new idea that utilized a framework that our company had already been working on. She even called over the other owners over for advice and all three became invested in the project. The meeting was interactive and symbiotic, much more memorable than the average sales pitch.

When your customers come up with the final product, you can assume the sale. “So, I’ll build a prototype and bring it so you guys can see all the cool features before you sign on.” Promise a prototype as though the idea had just came to fruition within your symbiotic meeting. Since you already have the framework developed, deliver the prototype week early. They’ll be impressed with your efficiency and you’ll be able to close the final deal much easier now that they’ve seen you in action.

Go in on their terms, into their business and you will blur the line between customer and salesman. Use that ambiguity to help you help them. Don’t throw the fastball straight away, you don’t need to. Instead give the right signals (ask the right questions) and let them throw to you. Then, catch your idea.

Don’t throw the pitch, catch it.
-Brian

Written by reflect7brian

March 28, 2009 at 3:07 pm

Posted in Reflect7

Startup Plumbing

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communication

Setting up efficient systems is one of the first projects that a new startup must tackle. These systems include a communication framework, scheduling, job division, and public/client accessibility.

Communication

First and foremost, your team is going to need an efficient way to communicate. For this, nothing beats the freedom and features of Google’s free Apps for Business. Here, you can set up your own email hub with ease. Sign up for an account. Once created, go to Settings->Accounts. From here you can add additional email accounts so you can send mail as though you were sending it from those additional accounts. You can also receive mail into the Gmail inbox from different accounts. For real time discussion, Gmail incorporates a text/video chatting feature.

Scheduling

Next, your team should create a consistent meeting schedule where everyone can come together and map out the goals/tasks for the next week or two. It is important to keep these tasks as short as possible. Long tasks often invite procrastination from the overwhelming amount of work perceived. Give someone a short task, and they should have no reason to not have it completed by the next meeting. Create a log of actions per member and go over them each meeting to make sure everyone is caught up and accountable. Once your team is off and running, you may be able to meet virtually via Gmail and can log in tasks and keep track of workflow there.

Job Division

Delegating member tasks is usually predetermined by the different skills each member possesses. Certain members will be experienced in graphics, while others will be experienced in programming. These are the easy job divisions. The more obscure divisions are on the business side. Like who will keep track of financials/banking, set up public meetings, promoting, create business cards, organize the business, police the website forum, blog, etc. You can split these up amongst members or nominate a member or two to handle the entirety of the business side. Don’t under allocate, because once your business is up and rolling, public contact will be crucial for marketing and user feedback.

Side Note: A great free tool for tracking finances is http://www.buxfer.com. Here, every member of your team can see all of your banks account, checks, and credit card balances from any internet connection.

Public Accessibility

For client and public accessibility, you are going to want to create a webpage at the very least. Our company started off with a blog, Twitter account, and a webpage. WordPress offers free blogs and Slicehost offers cheap VPS servers. It’s also a great idea to incorporate one of the social networking sites. These avenues will improve your social infrastructure and allow the public to follow your week to week releases, while making your company more accessible. Establishing a blog where you can receive feedback is pivotal for customer interaction. When customers are able to give you input on your product, it gives them partial ownership of that product. They are more likely to recommend it to friends and use it for the long haul because they have already invested their time into improving it. Even if you don’t utilize their changes, customers will still appreciate the direct accessibility to support, even more so in a world where everything is outsourced or digitized.

Last but not least, a framework is needed to keep track of clients and contacts. Customer relationship management (CRM) software is the new rolodex. Keep track of all of your contacts, even the people you meet outside of the business setting. Keep track of where and when you met them; knowing someone in the business is a valuable asset. The old adage is true, it’s not just what you know but who you know. Myspace and Facebook are a great free utility for this. An excel spreadsheet would also be a cheap solution.

Getting your systems down as soon as possible is the most important aspect of a new startup. Without this foundation, the house will crumble. Quick, easy, and effective communication will keep your team on the same page so you can focus on product and customer development.

-Brian

Written by reflect7brian

March 25, 2009 at 4:14 pm

Posted in Reflect7

Falling Victim to the Field of Dreams

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FieldOfDreams

“If you build it, they will come.”  So, I thought…

My last startup, Veraspot LLC, was to build high-profile websites to attract users and sell advertising.  This was started in the middle of the Web 2.0 era.  Venture capital was flowing, and Myspace was the one of the most trafficked site on the internet.  After reading articles that Microsoft wanted to buy 100 companies, Digg’s valuation was 200 million dollars, Google bought YouTube for 1.5 billion dollars, and Facebook’s valuation was an estimated 15 billion dollars, I was going to be a billionaire by the following year!

What did I build?

My business partner and I built a website that allowed users to ask questions so that they could gauge other’s opinions.  I was hoping the website would generate valuable discussion and insight on the way that others think.  The website is pollsit.com.  The site is essentially, Digg, but for polls.  It even allows you to put the poll widgets on your own site!  We were very proud of our creation!  We told some of our friends and we told some of our friend’s friends – we expected the site to grow in popularity like a wildfire!  It didn’t.  I got a few people excited about the site.  That’s it.

What did I do wrong?

Well, I did a lot of things wrong actually.  My main failure was that I didn’t market the website.  I didn’t generate buzz about the site.  I didn’t get a lot of people excited.  As Jeff Atwood and Steve Yegge say “marketing is the one thing every software engineer should know.”  Jeff says:

This is painful for developers to hear, because we love code. But all that brilliant code is totally irrelevant until:

  1. people understand what you’re doing
  2. people become interested in what you’re doing
  3. people get excited about what you’re doing

Jeff is right.  I thought the product itself was enough.  Negating the fact of whether pollsit.com is actually a good product or not, I should have spent a lot of time promoting it!  In fact, that should have been my main focus after the product was built.  Instead, I kept adding features and tweaking the code.  Finally, I got sidetracked by a life issue and the site has been stagnant since it was released a little over a year ago.

Are you falling victim to the field of dreams?

Written by JP

March 6, 2009 at 12:57 am

Posted in Marketing

The Time is Now

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About

This  blog is about my path, my adventure, and my struggles in entrepreneurship.  Why am I writing this blog?  I hope that I can accomplish two goals by writing this blog.

  1. I want to document my current startup Reflect7.  Reflect7 is the third startup for me.  The previous two statups failed.  This time, I would like to document my experiences and be able to look back and reflect upon my experiences.
  2. I want to improve my writing skills.  In order for one to improve upon a skill, it is necessary to consistently practice.  As an added bonus, if I can master the art of creative English writing, I believe that it will open up a world of opportunities for Reflect7 and me.

How will this blog benefit you?

Are you an entreprenuer? Are you a tech enthusiast?  Do you read the blogs of Jeff Atwood (Codding Horror), Eric Sink, 37 Signals, or Paul Graham?  Do you read tech news aggregators such as Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, or Techcrunch?  Do you enjoy the writings of Harry Beckwith, Jack Welch, or even Malcom Gladwell?  Are you a software developer that sits in a cube but has a desire to improve your craft?  If you answered a resounding “yes” to any of the previous questions, than this blog can benefit you.

What is a “Techneur”?

A techneur is any entrepreneur who starts a company that efficiently utilizes technology to develop a product quickly and cheaply.  It can probably be stated that most entrepreneurs today are indeed “techneurs.”

The Time is Now

As everyone knows, the economy is in shambles.  However, in economic despair, there is opportunity.  The time is now to start a company and attempt to innovate.  People want you to succeed in a bad economy.  People want to hear what you have to say.  People want success stories.   I’m inclined to agree with John Rockefeller when he said:

“I’ve always tried to turn every disaster into an opportunity.”

Hopefully Reflect7 will be an overnight success story, as I’m sure it will take years.

-JP

Written by JP

February 25, 2009 at 12:34 am

Posted in Reflect7