The Well-Worn Path

There is a place … a wonderful place … a place where most everyone wants to be. It is a place of wonderful natural beauty and worldly riches. It is a place of personal freedom and family security. It is a place where others sing your praises as someone of integrity and wisdom.

There are two paths you can follow to get to this wonderful place. The first path starts with a slow trudge, cutting a swath through 25 miles of dense, inhospitable swampy jungle. Then just outside the jungle is a raging river one must carefully traverse, testing leg strength and balance. Finally, once across the rapids, one must ascend a challenging mountainous 5,000-foot climb to the wonderful place.

A well traveled trail covered with footprints and hedged in by a wooden fenceThe second path is a well-worn one. This path starts on a well-defined trail that provides for easy passage through the swampy jungle. Then the well-defined trail leads to a sturdy, wooden footbridge that allows one to safely cross the raging river. Once across the bridge, the well-worn path leads you to a series of stairs that allow for a challenge-free ascent up the mountain to the wonderful place.

Whether you choose the well-worn path or the challenge-riddled path, you end up in the same place. Either path will take you to this wonderful place, where you can enjoy a magnificent life of reasonable freedom, moderate fame, and relative fortune. You just have to choose the path and begin the journey.

Like this destination, being in business for yourself is a wonderful place. It offers financial rewards, freedoms, and security, as well as accolades from family, friends, and peers in the local community.

Like traveling to the wonderful place, however, there are two paths to business ownership. One path is challenge-riddled. You will need to blaze your own trail … trudging through decision after decision associated with pricing, quality, and strategies to take on well-funded competitors … carefully traversing ordeals related to branding, marketing, and advertising … and handling the daily issues related to legal matters, employment concerns, and government regulation.

Or, on the road to business ownership, you could choose the well-worn path: Purchasing a Franchise. You will still need to take the journey, but on this path, most of the challenges, issues, and pitfalls along the way have already been worked through.

Either way, in the end, you still end up in a wonderful place. The question becomes, on the journey to get there how much risk do you want to take and effort do you want to expend?

If you are interested in the wonderful place known as “business ownership” and want to do it through AmSpirit Business Connections, contact Frank Agin, President of AmSpirit Business Connections, at frankagin@amspirit.com or visit http://www.amspirit.com/franchise.php.

A Piece of Cake: Business Success Through Franchising

Chocolate cake with piece take out, on white backgroundWho doesn’t love cake? No one, that’s who. Some might like one kind more than another – white, chocolate, sponge, angel food, upside down, or whatever. Nevertheless, everyone loves cake.

There are two ways of baking a cake. With the first, before you bake the batter you have to gather up all the various ingredients. You will need things like all-purpose flour, salt, milk, shortening, flavoring, and baking powder (not soda … very important). Then you will need to correctly measure each, being sure not to confuse cups, teaspoons, and tablespoons. Finally, you need to mix it all up in the right order.

With the second way, you buy a box of cake mix, add some milk, a couple eggs and you are good to go. Either way (after 25 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees and some frosting), you have delicious cake to enjoy. Yum!

Success in business is much the same. Who wouldn’t want to have their own successful business? Any reasonably intelligent person, like you, would. After all, who doesn’t love freedom, pride of ownership, and the ability to chart their own course?

Again, there are two ways to accomplish this. With the first, you need to develop the concept, including the product or service, pricing, as well as means of distribution. Then you work up the branding, such as logos, marketing materials and advertising programs, and diligently protect it all with copyrights and trademarks. Finally, you pull this all together in a process, which might include legal agreements, training and
development programs, procedures for dealing with employees and unhappy customers, as well as researching equipment, technologies and other infrastructure. Whew!

With the second way, you simple buy a franchise. Either way (after infusing commitment, energy, and enthusiasm), you have your own successful business. Cool!

The only question remaining is whether you want to undertake the incredibly complicated (and risky) process of building a successful business from scratch or essentially grabbing one ready-to-go off the shelf? Remember with franchising, business success is really a piece of cake.

If you are interested in exploring a unique, professional franchise opportunity, consider AmSpirit Business Connections. For more information, contact Frank Agin, President of AmSpirit Business Connections at frankagin@amspirit.com, or visit http://www.amspirit.com/franchise.php.

The New Corporate Alchemy: Gold Watches To Pink Slips

There once was a nobler time. You studied hard. From there you learned a trade or earned a degree, which you could parlay into that first job. It wasn’t just a job, however. It was the beginning of a career. Sure, you started at the bottom, but there was plenty of opportunity to work your way up. One rung at a time you climbed the corporate ladder. Associate. Senior associate. Supervisor. Manager. Junior assistant. V.P.

In addition, the environment was positive. Pay raises were always respectable. Time off was seldom an issue. Moreover, by working diligently from nine to five during the week, the evenings and weekends were yours.

After 40-or-so years of this, you had done your time. Surrounded by admiring co-workers, your service to “the company” was celebrated. Gold WatchSeveral heartfelt speeches from people who considered you a friend. A big cake. And a gold watch. Finally, an appreciative higher-up, walked you to your car and sincerely told you, “Be well … See you around … Don’t be a stranger.”

From there, you settled into retirement. Drawing on a well-funded pension, social security, and health coverage, you did not have a care in the world. It was a nobler time.

That nobler time, however, is not now. Somewhere along the way, the world changed. No one is to blame. It just did. Whatever the case, the change was not to your benefit. No longer is a degree or a trade good enough to steer you clear of a dead-end job. You might need additional certification or a Masters, if you are lucky enough not to have to start over because technology made your “stock in trade” obsolete.

Even when you find that job with career potential, you are not set. Wage freezes and shrinking benefits are now the norm. Moreover, you seem to be permanently stuck in a no-advancement mode. Any hope of change is the result of a lateral move, either internally or to another company.

While the overall compensation and opportunity dwindles, the work doesn’t. Even starting work at 0-Dark-30 does not immunize you from having to work into the evening and over the weekend. As such, you sacrifice time with friends, family, or whatever.

Moreover, no matter how hard you work (or how little you accept) the whispers persist. From behind closed doors in offices far away, these voices are the higher-ups you have never met. They’re pouring over nameless and faceless numbers, pondering as to whether “the company” can replace you with someone or something less expensive.

While today that answer may be “NO,” it won’t always be. One day, that “pondering” will not come out in your favor. In an era of downsizing, off-shoring, and automation, it is no longer a question of “If” but “When.”

A pink sticky note sitting on a computer keyboard You are firedAt that point, a stranger abruptly escorts you to the door. There is no celebration. There is no cake. There is no explanation other than, “Your services are no longer necessary.” Just like that in a perverse sort of alchemy, “corporate America” has transformed your gold watch into a “pink slip” and nothing more.

This is the new corporate reality, like it or not. While you have little control over it, you have options to avoid it. One is to become your own boss and acquire your own piece of the American dream. Statistics show that the best way of doing this is through franchising.

If you are interested in exploring a unique, professional franchise opportunity, consider AmSpirit Business Connections. For more information, contact Frank Agin (frankagin@amspirit.com), President, AmSpirit Business Connections or visit http://www.amspirit.com/franchise.php.

The Era Of The Franchise

Empty Conference RoomNearly one-hundred-some-odd years ago, in a dusty field, somewhere in middle America, a Son told his Father that he was no longer going to farm.

The Son announced that he was joining Corporate America. Although farming was the only way his generation ever conceived of earning a living, he knew that farming would no longer pay him what he was worth.

Even though those who continued to farm ridiculed his optimism about the potential of Corporate America, the Son believed that the World was changing. The demand for industrialization created a tremendous market for his labor, and the Son knew that Corporate America would pay him what he was worth.

The Son was right. The World was changing and Corporate America paid him what he was worth. However, those who continued to farm, believing that life would never change, were left struggling, earning only a fraction of what they were worth.

While the Son continued to labor, Corporate America realized that if it just paid the Son a little less than he was worth, then Corporate America would generate more wealth for itself. The pay reduction, however, was so small that the Son didn’t even notice. As the Son didn’t notice, the next year Corporate America held back a little bit more. Again, unnoticed, Corporate America held back a little more the next year. And then the next. And then the next. And then the next.

FranchiseOne-hundred some-odd years later, somewhere in a stress-laden office, a Son is telling his Father that he is not going to work for Corporate America. The Son announces that he is going to purchase a franchise. Although working for Corporate America is the only way his generation ever conceived of making a living, the Son knew he could no longer earn what he was worth working for Corporate America. Again, the Son was right.

Rapidly the World is changing before our eyes. Consistent pay raises have given way to ongoing wage freezes. The notion of lifetime employment is being replaced by downsizing, outsourcing, and off-shoring. It is no secret: to build wealth in America you need to build business. To ensure success, however, you are best to not go at it alone, which is where the notion of franchising comes in. We are now in the era of the franchise.

Knowing this, are you going to take advantage of a changing World, or are you going to let a changing World take advantage of you? In thinking about your answer, if you are interested in exploring a unique, professional franchise opportunity, consider AmSpirit Business Connections. For more information, contact Frank Agin (frankagin@amspirit.com), President, AmSpirit Business Connections or visit http://www.amspirit.com/franchise.php.

Networking: Is It More Than Just Finding People?

“It’s Not What You Know, But Who You Know.” Chances are, that is something you have heard once or twice in your life … a well-meaning parent, a mentor, or supportive colleague. This begs the question, “How much truth is there to this?”

In reality, this is sage advice, but at the same time, it is also partially a myth. Who you know is more important than what you know. The world has more than its share of brilliant people that fall far, far from their true potential because they study away on incredible scholarly projects all by them self. At the same time, far less brilliant people rise to great heights merely on the connections they have. For example, Bill Gates was not the smartest computer person going. He was simply a smart computer mind with a plethora of connections.

But as much as who you know is important, the world also has more than its share of individuals that seemingly know lots of people but get very little from this network. How is this possible? Quite simply, it is more than who you know.

Effective networking is not just about knowing people. And it is so much more than making dozens of calls, posting on LinkedIn, and attending events. This is the simple reality: Effective networking is not just about connecting with and being connected to others. Effective networking is about having meaningful relationships with those you are connected with.

Success will not come from filling your database with dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people. You will achieve success by creating relationships with a reasonable number of people. These can include centers of influences (such as, bankers, attorneys, accountants, outplacement professionals). These relationships could also be with existing professionals, which have a network of family, friends, and acquaintances that want a similar professional existence. These relationships could be with a wide variety of different types of people directly, indirectly, and even seemingly completely unrelated to what you do. Whatever the case, the important thing is that you have a solid RELATIONSHIP with them.

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Networking Activities

Networking opportunities fall into three distinct categories: Face To Face … Electronic Encounters … and, Social Media.

business competition

Face To Face networking opportunities including, various activities when you are out and about with people. These include:

  • Structured Networking, including Toastmasters, Rotary, Lions’ Club, or organizations like AmSpirit Business Connections.
  • Networking Events, include trade shows, volunteer activities, business after-hours, Chamber events, seminars, and even social events like tailgates.
  • Free-Form Networking, includes perhaps a round of golf, meeting over a cup of coffee, just getting together.

With respect to networking in the modern age, much of what you can do face to face, you can accomplish via ELECTRONIC ENCOUNTERS. More specifically, you network over the telephone, over e-mail and through texting. Remember networking is more than selling and prospecting. It is two or more people working towards their mutual benefit – sharing referrals or contacts, passing on information, being encouraging and supportive.

Finally, in the 21st century, technological innovation has given way to social media websites. These are nothing more than virtual venues where you can network – again, share referrals or contacts, pass on information, being encouraging and supportive.

The main three social media applications are LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, but beyond these are dozens and dozens of others. If used properly, social media will allow you to network on a massive scale, on a worldwide basis, 24 hours a day and seven days a week, and do so with incredible information about your networking partner before you even make contact.

LinkedIn Active Use 2 of 4

Being Active on LinkedIn is key. From time to time, however, people are reluctant to do anything on social media simply because they feel woefully behind. They say or think, “I have not done anything on LinkedIn and so I am connected to so few people. What is the point of doing anything now?”

Embarking on LinkedIn can seem daunting, especially when you see what others have achieved in terms of connections, activity and traction. It is easy to have that “I will never catch up” feeling.

Do not despair. There is a quick and easy way of becoming networked on LinkedIn. The second active use of LinkedIn is to take advantage of groups.

Again, social media is nothing more than a giant networking event. Imagine that within this immense, continually-running and information rich event, there are rooms off to the side. Within these rooms are people who all have a common bond or interest.

For some, it is the fact that they are all involved in small business or a particular company. For others, it is based on where they live or went to college. And for others it is just a general interest, such as marketing, engineering or accounting.

For the most part, these groups are highly welcoming and continually interested in new members. So find a group or groups that interest you and sign in. And if you cannot find a group that you would like to be part of, LinkedIn allows you to create a group and start to grow it.

Here are a couple neat things about groups.

First, normally on LinkedIn, you can only invite to connect those that you already know somehow, some way. So if you are just getting started and only have a few (if any) connections, you might feel as if there is no way (or no one to turn to) to get additional connections. Once you are admitted to a group you are able to invite to connect people who are within the group. So get into a group and seek out interesting people to connect with.

Second, normally on LinkedIn you are only permitted to communicate with the people you are directly connected to. So, again, if you have few connections, you have few people to communicate with. Once in a group, however, you are able to directly communicate with all the people within that group.

So joining or starting groups and then interacting within it is a powerful active use of social media.

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Creating A Referral Machine 7 of 7

You have established relationships and you have empowered that network. Great! Know this, however, there is no such thing as perpetual motion. Far too often, people work hard to create a referral machine only to watch it “peter out” or break down altogether because they erroneously assume that an empowered network will just keep kicking out referrals.

Think of creating a referral machine like pushing a car: You have to work really hard to get the car rolling. Once the car is rolling you do not have to exert much force to keep it moving, but it still takes mild effort (and you dare not let it come to a stop, because then it is like starting over).

With creating a referral machine, the establishing relationships and empowering the network is the Herculean push to get things moving, the mild force to keep it all moving involves three things.

Ask … Continue to ask for ways you can help your network. Yes, continue to ask for referrals, but also ask for things that your network might not see. From time to time, someone will become frustrated with their network because it is not referring something that seems obvious to them. Remember those who make up your referral machine do not live in your world. They do not always see it the way you do. Do not be afraid to ask.

“Can you introduce me to this person?”

“Could you get me an opportunity to speak at this event?”

“Would you keep your eye open for this?”

keep the gears

Do not be afraid that your network will be annoyed. Remember, if you do it right they know you, like you, and trust you.

Appreciate … Second, no matter what your network does for you, thank them. If they send you a referral or do anything of value, fall all over yourself thanking them. Celebrate your joy with them.

If a referral goes nowhere, fall all over yourself thanking them. Why? First, the glass is always half full. The fact they are thinking of you is an excuse enough to celebrate. Your referral machine is working!

Second, appreciation is a wonderful motivator. You dole it out and people want more. And they will do what is necessary to get more. Know this, few people “thank” others. Therefore you will really set yourself apart when you show appreciation towards others.

Clarify … Finally, no matter how well you educate and empower, your network is going to get it wrong from time to time. They want to help you, but they are going to send you referrals that are, well, bad.

So what? Don’t get frustrated. Remember, the glass is half full. They want to help and they are trying. Take the opportunity to reconnect with them and clarify. One small correction in how they are perceiving what is a good referral for you could spell the difference between continued bad referrals and a great new client.

Creating A Referral Machine 6 of 7

If you do a spectacular job educating your network on recognizing referrals, great. That, however, is not enough. You need to empower them with the ability to talk to prospective clients about what it is you do.

For example, if they recognize that the displaced executive is a potential client to refer to you, great. Encourage them to strike up a conversation with the person (and they will if they know, like and trust you). And transition into a discussion about franchising. Here is an example:

“I am sorry you are in transition. What is your next move? Have you considered becoming your own boss? I understand that franchising is almost a fool-proof means of successfully being in business. I know a great franchise broker … there is no obligation to meet with him and his services are essentially free, as the franchisors pay his fees.”

In addition to general conversation, empower your referral machine with non-technical buzz words and catch phrases about your industry (as well as what they mean) … Franchise Fee … Ongoing Royalties … FDD … Earnings Claim … Discovery Day. Your network should know enough to talk about what you do but not enough to do it.

Finally, encourage your network to hook you into the situation. In short, encourage the person to talk about you in a connecting sense. Returning to the example from before “I know a great franchise broker. There is no obligation to meet with him and his services are essentially free, as the franchisors pay his fees.”

keep the gears

Creating A Referral Machine 5 of 7

Establishing relationships is an important first step. In so doing, you have built a network of people who are really behind you. Again, they know, like and trust. This alone does not create a referral machine, however. Before your network can refer you, they need to be empowered. Empowered to recognize opportunities for you as well as empowered to talk or communicate about you.

People within your network do not magically know how to refer you. First, they need to know who to refer you to and they need to know when to refer you. To make this happen, it is entirely up to you to empower them to recognize these opportunities.

Consider franchise brokerage (though this applies to any business or profession). Certainly if someone comes out and says, “I am looking to buy a franchise”, your network should know to think of and refer you. But what about all the times that someone could be a great client but does not say they are looking to buy a franchise (or they do not even know that franchise ownership is an option).

keep the gears

EXAMPLES:

What about the person whose spouse is looking to have their own business?

What about the displaced executive who might not be interested in getting back into the grind?

What about the mid-level manager that wants a way out of
the grind?

If you want to create a referral machine, it is your job to paint a picture in the minds of your network as to who is a good referral candidate and what is a good situation. Here are three great ways to do this.

(1) Develop a series of short 30-second commercials that concisely convey what you are looking for and what you do. Again, develop a series, so that you have a varied message. Writing these out and practicing, then use them as often as possible. For help on this find the short series on 30-second commercials.

(2) Even if you have a great 30-Second commercial, people are not going to fully remember what you have to say. To overcome this, develop (again) a series of short summaries outlining what you are looking for. Make these short and simple (so simple that a 5th grader could understand them) and either have them professionally done or neatly type and lay them out with a computer. Then hand and mail (and e-mail) these out consistently.

(3) If you give people the basic facts, they might politely listen. But if you weave those facts within a compelling story, an example or analogy, they will be enthralled by what you have to say. If you have experiences, share them. If you do not have experiences, then talk to someone who does and borrow theirs. If you have neither experience or access to someone who does, make it up. In this situation, it is not stealing to make someone else’s experiences your own. It is not lying to craft a story that has not occurred. You are doing this to paint a picture of what a good referral looks like. In part 6, we will address empowering your referral machine.