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.

Students and Commuters: Hooray for eBooks!

Students and commuters have something to look forward to both in class and on the bus, train, or plane because of the ereader revolution.

The first digital nomads, students and freelance entrepreneurs have been mobile computing at Starbucks and other WiFi hotspots for years using first laptops, then smartphones like the iPhone, and now tablet computers, slates, and ereaders. Ereaders are primarily for reading books, but can read magazines and newspapers too, some free, some by subscription, and some by one-time purchases. Some ebook readers like Barne’s and Noble’s nook let you share ebooks using a feature called LendMe. Publishers have not been as willing to sign up for LendMe as much as users would hope, but that trend may change in the future. And now ereaders are starting to be able to do more than just read ebooks. For example, the Nook just got an upgrade to allow it to play games and surf the web, but Apple’s iPad is a computer with an ebook reader.

Student Life

One can imagine that students going back to school this fall may have a completely different experience, one which may be missing one heavy staple from the past: textbooks. Instead of carrying large books around in a book bag, one could see students carrying nooks wrapped in their nook covers containing their nook ebooks. This would be quite a contrast, but will publishers buy into it and publish their textbooks in ebook form? Will students buy enough ebook readers to support it? Will schools and teachers allow the ebook readers in their classrooms? We won’t know for sure until later on this year.

Commuting: More Green Benefits

Not only do commuters help the environment and their wallet by sharing rides or riding public transportation, but they also help reduce the amount of paper and distribution cost of that paper when they choose an ebook over a traditional paper book. Car drivers everywhere, while they can come and go as they please, have higher costs from maintaining an automobile, create more pollution, and don’t get to relax with a newspaper, whether that newspaper be in paper form or as an ebook. Will subway trains be full of ebook readers in the future? What will people hide behind when they don’t want to look at the person across from them on the train, plane, or bus? Maybe they’ll all just get along a little better, and maybe share an ebook too.