6 Ways to Save Your Business

The American Conservative recently wrote an article about 10 Ways to Save Barnes & Noble, which caught my eye for a couple of reasons. For one, I’ve not only made a lot of money from supporting the Nook ereader both online at Nook Share and offline with Geek Hand, but I also made money from buying and selling books from Barnes & Noble. Second, as a business consultant, I have my own ideas about how Barne’s & Noble could adapt to the new environment they find themselves in. One idea I had that was not mentioned in the article involves Barnes & Noble creating a nationwide coworking facility that promotes the idea of entrepreneurs using their facility as office space. To bring this idea full circle, the original idea behind Nook Share was to build a coworking facility with that name, but after Barne’s and Noble, Inc. registered “Nook” as a trademark on June 4, 2009, the site pivoted to sell Nook covers and accessories. But this article isn’t about me or even about Barnes & Noble – it’s about you and your business. Gracy Howard, the author of the “10 Ways to Save Barnes & Noble” article, summarizes her thoughts in a way that I felt was beneficial to more than just Barnes & Noble:

Maximize your strengths: build a comfortable, nostalgic ethos. Try making your stores more personalized and local—perhaps build a community library vibe with fun events. Hire people who actually read books, and who love talking about them.

  1. Maximize your Strengths – In the book, Now, Discover Your Strengths, authors Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton argue that instead of trying to repair our weaknesses, we should focus on improving our strengths. Unfortunately, not everyone knows what their strengths are so there is a Strengths Finder test to help you (or your business) with this. In 2009 I wrote about how to identify strengths and revenue streams, which has a mini-test of 10 questions that will help you find your strengths.
  2. Build a Comfortable, Nostalgic ethos – “Ethos” is a synonym of “character” and envokes, “the characteristic spirit of a culture, era, or community as seen in its beliefs and aspirations.” “Comfortable” is just another word for “familiar” – and since “consistency” breeds familiarity, one way to be more comfortable to customers is to be more consistent. Consistency is one of the 3 C’s of creating trust, which is the third leg in the buying cycle of “know, like, trust.” So the advice here is to have a consistent character to your company.
  3. Make your Business More Personalized – Personalization is changing the world and it’s one of the easiest ways to add margins to your bottom line and differentiate from the competition. When you can personalize a product, you make competition irrelevant. Even Nike and Lands End are getting in on this trend with “mass customization“, but there are other ways to personalize your business such as by remembering your customer’s name, asking them how they are doing, or just saying hello.
  4. Make your Business More Local – There are certainly SEO benefits to making your business more local, but the advice here is to tap into the advantages that a local, brick-and-mortar store has over a online presence. While Amazon has local distribution centers and Local Deals, they do not have local events. You cannot go have coffee at Amazon and you cannot use their bathroom.
  5. Host more Events – “Events” are one of the most underused, but most powerful ways to market your business. From hosting a local meetup to posting a party on Eventbrite, there is power in meeting people face-to-face as it builds the word-of-mouth marketing that is so powerful. On the flip side, going to conferences and trade shows is another great way to get in front of potential customers or to make relationships with other mutually-beneficial companies.
  6. Hire Good People – In the article they suggest hiring people who actually read books. What a novel idea. I have seen first hand how changes in the hiring process affects the overall success or failure of your business. It is a core part of everything you do. Almost every person in your organization has the ability to improve or decline your business so getting the right people on the bus is very important – and quite possibly the most important. It’s one that should be done before any process, technology, or marketing changes are done. Yes, it’s that important.

Is your business on the brink of collapse? Focus on your strengths. Examine your people, processes, technology, and marketing. Create a list of next action steps and do one of them. As Terry Lin likes to say:

One is better than none.

For Those About to Make, I Salute You

In the late 70’s there was a DIY revolution happening in computers at a time when early adopters were literally building their own PCs. A few of these builders got the notion to turn this hobby into a business and we got businesses like HP and Apple out of it. Now the same type of revolution is happening with Makers because of advances in tools that have allowed the everyday man with a passion to build something a few years ago that would have been financially implausible.

Chris Anderson of WIRED magazine has written extensively about the Maker movement and has written a new book about it called, Makers: The New Industrial Revolution. An excerpt from this book was included as an article in WIRED about how the New MakerBot Replicator will change the face of desktop manufacturing. In the article, Anderson describes the two main modes of manufacturing, “When 3-D printers make an object, they use an ‘additive’ technology, which is to say they build objects layer by layer from the bottom up. (By contrast, other computer-controlled machines, such as the CNC router and CNC mill, are ‘subtractive’; they use a spinning tool to cut or grind away material.)

A Maker, Michal Zalewski, has created documentation for one type of subtractive milling called the
Guerrilla guide to CNC machining, mold making, and resin casting; Benchtop CNC manufacturing tutorial for robot builders, model makers, and other hobbyists. He writes, “For the past decade, we were being promised a revolution in desktop manufacturing – but unbeknownst to many, a simple, affordable, and home-workshop-friendly solution is already well within the reach. The only problem with [CNC] is that the workflows and materials suitable for small scale, hobby engineering are almost completely undocumented, and difficult to discover on your own.” Zalewski has turned this frustration into a passion and has documented what he has learned so that all can benefit. He got started by buying, “a small CNC mill (Roland MDX-15), set up a resin casting workshop, and invested months of intermittent trial, error, and triumph to understand and befriend both technologies – and document them so that others don’t have to go through all the pain.” While the additive MakerBot Replicator2 is currently hovering at around $2500, Zalewski states that you can get a CNC workshop setup for around $2000. Contrast that with CEREC crown machines, which are subtractive mills that make crowns for teeth and cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Co-Working Spaces for Micro Manufacturing

If you’re not interested in buying your own equipment and are close enough to one of these co-working facilities for Makers, you can experience the DIY revolution together:

    Canada

  • MakerSpace – Victoria, BC, Canada – a 3D printer, laser engraver, welding, woodworking, electronics, and a blacksmith shop (with casting furnace)
  • Site3 – Toronto, CA – a variety of milling machines as well as a laser cutter, 3D printer and a new DIY 3-axis CNC that we are putting together right now. Membership works on a monthly fee like you might expect, and each member is given responsibilities for maintaining the shop.
    Australia

  • Robots & Dinosaurs – Sydney, Australia – a couple of cnc mills, a choice of several 3D printers, a laser cutter, and a whole bunch of other useful gear, and people happy to show you how to use them.
  • Make, Hack, Void – Canberra, Australia

If you know of more, please add them to the comments below.

Nook Share Seeks Coworkers in Central Indiana

Nook Share is an idea for a coworking facility to be housed in central Indiana. Their motto is Work Together™. Erich Stauffer helped design and build a website they could use to attract coworkers around Indiana to help volunteer or join the future facility. Erich Stauffer designed the logo as well. “The asterisk symbolizes the various nooks in a room, with the center being shared by all,” said Erich Stauffer’s lead designer. According to Wikipedia, “Coworking is an emerging trend for a new pattern for working.” Those who use coworking facilities are called coworkers who are, “Typically work-at-home professionals, independent contractors, people who travel or just work independently, but who share values and who are interested in the synergy that can happen from working with talented people in the same space.” If you would like more information about coworking in Indiana, check out http://www.nookshare.com or follow Nook Share on Twitter.