Startups: Start Where You Are, Use What You Have, Do What You Can | William Nozak | Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice

Startups: Start Where You Are, Use What You Have, Do What You Can

William Nozak | Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice

In 2014, I had been sensing it was time to jump into business full time. My wife and I had been enjoying a cush DOE job that paid well and had some great perks. At work at 8:30, home by 4:30. Weekends off. For a season, this job helped us to stabilize and pay down debt and to enjoy time together. In December of 2014, I started feeling as if it was time to become a full time entrepreneur. It was going to be a big risk. Deep down, I knew staying there would be an even greater risk. No longer was I going to be able to do the one-foot-in type of entrepreneurship. I knew I would need to give up the teaching job, and say “no for now, but not for ever” to my music pursuits and dive in to business. I sensed it was time, but had a child on the way and felt it would be irresponsible to leave a secure job with no backup plan to find my entrepreneurial niche. In March of 2015, we lost the pregnancy. This awkward pause in life gave us a moment to reevaluate what to do next. Thankfully, we had begun the process of reducing our burn rate over the last year and my wife’s income was just enough to give us room for a “takeoff.” Through much thought and discussion within the month, I turned in my 1-month notice and launched myself into business. Start where you are, use what you have, and do what you can.

Instantly I closed doors. I had fallen sickly prey to the belief that having many doors open was a safety net and responsible. Closing doors brought clarity and confidence. Stuck at the juncture between hope and fear I chose to hope that I was sensing a divine beckoning into business. My spouse and both sets of family were on board and supported this transition. I knew I could navigate through the unmanageable obstacles, because of my past business experiences. Start where you are. Quickly I identified an idea that had proven successful in parts of the city. Shaved ice. It was low barrier, low cost, and low competition. The market was fragmented, there was one dominant player and there were huge geographical areas with no providers. Not having much money, we chose shaved ice as our fountainhead. Most of the legwork I completed from my car and house; I had a make shift office in the corner of the living room. I found a helpful resource online about the products, competition, and industry; I read it and began.

It is funny, before we made this transition, we sold my high maintenance RX8, which averaged 10-12 miles a gallon and required high-octane gasoline to purchase a Honda Insight Hybrid. Little did we know this change was a foreshadowing of the amount of driving I would be doing. Use what you have. We created a business plan and started seeking out investors. We started raising money with a business plan; eventually we switched to a pitch deck. We learned quickly from those willing to advise us and read many books. I used my business background, my dad’s ability to build, my family & network for investors and co-founders and we went to work. I started blindly, but quickly realized I needed help, so I started asking questions and making phone calls and through a meeting with Larry Wofford at TU I was introduced to The Founder’s Dilemma by Noam Wasserman, which was an incredible resource.

I built and executed the plan, my dad built the huts, my wife brought home the bacon and helped me with tasks in this business and our other business, our business partners did their part and we were off the ground in less than a month with our first location. Do what you can. We used our own skills and added talent around us with little strengths’ overlap. Through this, we were able to create a more complete team.

Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can. When you “see the writing on the wall”, focus on the gaps. Inside these gaps are “pain points.” Start your own entrepreneurship based on these “pain points” or customer needs. Find your competitive advantages in these gaps. Do not bet the farm. Squeeze as much of the risk out of the venture as possible, in essence de-risk risk. In new ventures have the ability to fall forward and be ready to acclimate your life to turbulence. Mange your team, time, and money with all due diligence, find your bearings, and keep your eyes on the new horizon. For more business articles by this author visit www.harpershutshavedice.me or Harper’s Hut Blog.

Sales: Transactional Versus Relational | William Nozak | Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice

Sales: Transactional Versus Relational

William Nozak | Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice

Ever bought a home? At closing alone, you sign what seems like hundreds of foreign documents. One after another, with everything briefly summarized. Remember now? Sure, you can read it and if you are an engineer, scientist, lawyer, or some other jargon junky, you do. The rest of us sign document after document with that icky feeling inside of should I be negotiating or price checking. Wondering is this in my best interest, my lenders best interest, the sellers, the seller’s agent. Right? For me, it was more of a blur than marriage was. You search, your agent recommends lenders, your agent talks to the seller’s agent, you search more, identifying prospective homes that fit your needs, wants, and budget. You find the home, make the offer, get inspections done, sign documents, get quotes for this and that, sign more documents, and listen to reflexive jargon-laden speeches, all while wondering did we pay too much? Even in a flattening world, maybe this process never changes. Here is the backup plan. You will never have the time to study and learn the language and how it relates to buyers, sellers, agents, lenders, and regulatory bodies, so stick with relationship.

As a new homeowner, I cannot be more thrilled with the decisions we made choosing Bill and Denise Wright with Homes the Wright Way. My spouse’s parents recommended these family friends to us whom many years ago assisted them with their home purchase. So, these agents are family friends, came with high recommendation, have high integrity, and to boot lived up to every ounce of expectation. We had a month to find, purchase, offer, settle, fix, and close on the home for an end of the month move in and we did it. That is 100% because of our lender and agent. We felt connected, like friends; never like a transaction. At closing, I mentioned to the group, which was like a surgical team that frequently work together, that I found it unfair that buyers had to sign hundreds of documents without truly comprehending what each document entailed. David from Supreme Lending said if you wanted, we would give you 24 or 48 hours to read the documents and I chuckled thinking even if I read it would I truly understand the loaded language, acronyms, policies, procedures, potential hazards, and how it applied today and 30 years from today. Probably not. He then said, but truthfully, that is why you work with trusted people, because of the overwhelming amount of documentation needed. Trust. A word used by many, but practiced by few. I could trust our group. Sitting at the closing table, I chitchatted with the sellers, who were beautiful people, when I mentioned that Bill had helped Lindsay’s mom and dad buy their homes and we trusted them with the process. The seller’s agent chuckled and said, “I bet that is music to Bill’s ears.” I did not chuckle. In fact, I find statements that make me feel like a dollar bill in another’s wallet extremely offensive. It reminded me that businesses still miss the mark by creating Key performance Indicators (KPI) that focus on frequency or transaction number. Chet Holmes an amazing sales machine and author of The Ultimate Sales Machine writes extensively on both aspects of sales, the transaction and the relationship. Easily misunderstand, is the fine line between transaction and relationship. What is certain is the buy, cry, or die mentality, rarely magnifies relationship. In a flattening world, with player’s half a world away competing for the same clients in a B2C transaction, the transactional mindset is dead. Relationship is alive and thriving. I hope, as the population becomes increasingly informed, transactional salespersons become extinct. The world will be a better place for it.

My wife was set to have our first child in 2014 and we knew something was wrong. Several times, we called her OB/GYN and were told there was nothing to worry about that she was experiencing common pregnancy symptoms. Really, you got all that over the phone? So you do not want me to bring her in? Several times my wife nearly blacked out, had excruciating pain, spotting, and other symptoms not typical to the pregnancies in her family. We got in our car several weeks into the pregnancy and drove to the clinic, when I called them on the phone and said we are on our way, something seems wrong, they shooed us off and said everything is normal. I turned around and headed back home against our judgment. A few days earlier we had seen HCGs of 40,000, and our next trip to the emergency room showed HCG levels at 100k+ and still no image of the implanted zygote in the uterus! We knew her HCGs because everywhere we went, during the ectopic pregnancy, they took blood samples, but no one was scheduling an ultrasound. The third trip -thanks to a TV ultrasound- by our repeated request, revealed severe abdominal bleeding and required an emergency surgery, salpingectomy. Her Ex-OB/GYN was clearly operating from a transactional mindset. The OB/GYN had an outdated ultrasound machine, a staff that treated my wife like an overly concerned first-time mom, and frankly never dug into the relationship to find out our real needs. Never once did this OB/GYN offer an Ultrasound. I could go on and on, why, we know what the problem is. A transactional mindset.

Caveat Emptor. At any moment as a prospect or buyer, you feel like a transaction, listen to your internal red-flag alarm system. I bet it will be chirping like a smoke alarm. End that relationship and find a new teammate. When possible, use the recommendation of friends and family. When a business or representative interacts as an “agent of transaction”, run, run, run. Profitability in business and in life is not a competitive advantage. When individuals focus on profits, they are not worried about the relationship. Through relationship come profits. Cathy Truett founder of Chick Fil A reminded us “it is more important to focus on principles than on profit.” If we focus on our principles, our competitive advantages, our product, and our customers profit will follow. Profits are downstream. Professionals operating under a transactional mindset have moved profit upstream. Do not focus on the profit; focus on relationship. Yes, operate with financial intelligence, use software, run ratios, have a CPA, create benchmarks, but keep profitability downstream. Focus on relationship and profits will follow. For more business articles by this author visit www.harpershutshavedice.me or Harper’s Hut Blog.

Time Management: Never Eat An Elephant In One Bite | William Nozak | Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice

Time Management: Never Eat An Elephant In One Bite

William Nozak | Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice

The Law of Conservation, energy can be changed but always conserved, right? At constant temperature for a fixed mass, the absolute pressure and the volume of a gas are inversely proportional, Boyle’s Law, right? I guess I learned these things in college Physics, but the true take away was that you cannot eat an elephant in one bite.

Larger than life are most adventures, ventures, projects, dreams, and plans. If I am 5 inches away from an elephant, I say I am looking at a gray mass, but 20 feet away I can say, ah, that is an elephant with specific parts and motions. When I back away from the “elephant” I can categorize, classify, organize, and orchestrate bites.

When I step back from my own business ventures, I see a leap, the runway, the landing. If I truly want to gain traction with these movements, I might categorize or label the corresponding events and sequences. I might tag events according to priority, content, status, or category. Anything to clear my mind for a focus fire, soon I will have traction and craziest thing is, traction begets traction. I do not advise eating several elephants at once, until you have an idea of how many meals one provides.

Never recommend an elephant for dinner, until you and those guests are prepared to have elephant for leftovers. School, marriage, buying a house, finding the right career are some of life’s elephants. Give yourself time with the big things in life. Plan, work your plan, and throw your plans away when necessary. Not many things are once and done, and sometimes things are thousands of steps long and years in the making. Life gets complicated so eat your elephants gracefully. For more business articles by this author visit www.harpershutshavedice.me, or Harper’s Hut Blog.

The Hind Sight Dress Up | William Nozak | Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice

The Hind Sight Dress up

William Nozak | Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice

If there is one thing learned from being a recording artist for 10 years it is the hind sight dress up. Anyone that has recorded music, started an organization, or spearheaded a project knows the truth behind the statement. In a studio, track-on-track, take-on-take, session-after-session a beautiful product is whittled into existence. Only after the product is fully produced, mastered, and packaged do we talk about how we walked into the studio laid down a few tracks, laid down on the couch, and wham, out came a masterpiece; the hindsight dress up. Easily forgotten are the pre-studio takes and mistakes, bad takes, wasted tracks, and the other miscellaneous nuts & bolts of innovation. Have you heard others talk about how beautiful things are and how everything rather snapped together nicely? Well good for them and I am calling their bluff. Something that was not beautiful talked about as only ever being beautiful is a hindsight dress up. 

My first job out of college was as a youth & worship pastor. Early on, I took a risk and initiated the Otis Spunkmeyer Gourmet Cookie Dough fundraiser with the youth group. A hundred unchurched kids, not fully connected to the church mind you. Terrible idea. It was very messy and this was an established church. Some members did not get their cookie dough on time; other orders were mixed up. No one finds a lemon cookie funny after imagining a chocolate chip cookie for a couple weeks. Eventually we deciphered the cryptic handwriting and identified the hundreds of buyer’s on the wrinkled, washed forms. It was my fault; first, I should have spent more time observing the leadership and deposited some money in the “mistake bank” instead of stepping off the boat with my Superman cape on. (Growing the youth group from five to 100+ in a few weeks put me in superhero mode.) Secondly, I lacked the foresight to troubleshoot the issues and the intelligence to consult fundraiser alumni to identify troublesome situations. In the end, people got their cookie dough and we were able to purchase two 21-inch IMacs for the youth group; hindsight dress up. And before I was done, the youth group added a ping pong table, foosball table, pool table, the 2 IMacs, and several gaming systems in less than a year. Sadly, I never returned to the good graces of the pastor after that experience.

Making mistakes in an established business does not have to be this painful. In fact, companies that provide no space for mistakes, create cultures of fear and limitation.

When I was a college freshman in Comp 101, I used my Resident Advisor (RA), a senior in college, as one of my term-paper references. What a huge mistake. Mr. Gogan, my English teacher gave me the biggest, reddest “F” I ever received on an assignment. Make sure you record your interviews and pick reputable sources! Comp 102 came, and then 201, then 203, followed by several years of grading science papers as an educator, and then poof I could construct a sentence; the hindsight dress up. (Gogan actually still points out my writing faux pas 10+ years later.)

In 2013, I purchased three territories of a franchise. Let me just say, plenty of things went right. So what went wrong? About that. I initially thought Google would honor my UPS stores as my business addresses. No, they penalize P.O. boxes and suites; several hundred down the drain. In the first month of business, an employee in training, wrecked his car and broke his back. I budgeted the start-up cost to be around $20,000 it ended up closer to $45,000. Several years later, it is easier to laugh about Murphy’s Law and to talk about how great and seamless the business is running; the hindsight dress up.

Much of life is a hindsight dress up. America is a hindsight dress up. Christianity is no different. Most professionals acknowledge the myriad of mistakes they made along the way, personal and professionally, and acknowledge the gains from those missteps. Still, employments, friends, families, bosses, and culture in general, project holograms that portend lives of luck, luxury, and fortunate events. Balderdash. Life, friendship, business, and everything else in between are a bit like the birthing of a child, messy. Oh, the hindsight dress up.

Parallel Thinking | William Nozak | Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice

Parallel Thinking

William Nozak | Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice

Every mind wanders, and other minds take the two second rocket ship to space. These are the same minds sitting to the left and right of you at meetings. So how can a group of ADD/ADHD, stargazers, narcissists, and the catatonic produce results in a group setting? Unintentionally, this group dynamic further diminishes outcomes by the production of noise, friction, and destructive interference. Dissonant cacophony. Is that the descriptor for your meeting?

In a court room a judge does her best to listen to the arguments set forth by the attorneys, but what is taking place is the posturing of two perspectives: adversarial thinking. For instance, in this approach if I think of something that will weaken my argument then I would not say it. In this system why would anyone divulge contrary findings? How does this style of information gathering get us closer to the truth? It does not. Instead of adversarial thinking, Edward De Bono Author of Six Thinking Hats proposes the constructive alternative parallel thinking. How does this relate to business owners? Instead of starting meetings from a debate mindset, with two or more stances of opposing interpretation, look in the same direction at the same facts at the same time. Parallel thinking.

Consider each new decision as a destination and each choice as the route to the destination. Without a map, how can anyone with certainty take the best route to the destination? Secondly, how can they consider themselves informed enough to travel to the destination in the first place? Parallel thinking is the building of a map. De Bono teaches organizations six directions a team must look in order to develop the map: (1) facts, neutral and objective, (2) emotional, feelings, likes, dislikes, (3) difficulty, dangers, caution signs, (4) value, benefits and positive optimism, (5) growth, creativity, possibilities and new ideas, (6) the overarching big picture, management of the thinking process, and the control of the process. When we look in one direction at the same time, decisions are more informed, teams are more on-board, and our decision making atlas is more complete.

Too often our personalities trend us toward thinking through solely one “hat.” The example is the critic or the optimist. Parallel thinking forces the thinker to think in one direction at a time. No longer does it allow one “hat” thinking, or is it my idea or yours, but instead, what is the best decision and route to that destination, according to the map that has been constructed. If your meetings are long and unproductive, ruled by the loudest most aggressive, intelligent, or highest ranking person in the meeting, consider parallel thinking. For more blogs by this author visit www.harpershutshavedice.me or Harper’s Hut Blog. For a more thorough understanding of parallel thinking read Six Thinking Hats.

The Multiplier: Teamwork | William Nozak | Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice

The Multiplier
William Nozak CEO of Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice

Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme, get on up, it’s bobsled time.” – Cool Runnings (1993).

The power of team cannot be overemphasized in a culture where autonomy is celebrated and community is criticized. Eighteen hundred years ago, Aristotle said “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” and the Bible eludes to this mystery with “How could one man chase a thousand, or two put ten thousand to flight…” and “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Gandhi recognized the power of team saying, “A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.” So what is with this teamwork thing?

Just like parents, leaders, managers, teachers, and preachers, some diminish and others multiply. We will consider only when a team is functioning as a multiplier and view teamwork through the lenses of synergy. Google defines synergy as “The interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.” Not very different from what Aristotle said in 300 B.C. Although culture occasionally reminds us of the power of teamwork, it is more so the exception. Where Simon and Garfunkel gave us, “I Am A rock I am an island” Tenth Avenue North reminds us “No man is an island.” Where professional musicians and television largely teach me, my, and mine, professional sports teams remind us winning and teamwork are never mutually exclusive AKA 2015 New York Nicks. When the business community glorifies the king-type entrepreneur, President Obama weighs in on the theory of a self-made man reminding us that none exists. Beside a few voices in the wilderness, classroom projects, and team sports, who is championing “Team?” You must champion team.

All I want is a successful small business; I do not need a team I need employees.
So you did not graduate from Stanford, major in social science, and do not plan to move to Silicon Valley with your billion-dollar-idea web application requiring hundreds of brilliant programmers, venture capital, and then an IPO? Well, that is the majority of entrepreneurs. It’s different in the Midwest the verticals are oil, oil, or oil. Where have all the cowboys gone? If you are not moving to California, joining the oil racket, or the billion dollar vertical in another state, what do you do?

I cannot tell you but you will need a team. No matter if you take every class at your Alma mater or pull a Kobe Bryant and go straight out of high school to your chosen field you will need supportive friends and family. You may need co-founders or investors. You need mentors, colleagues, a professional network, peers, and support in general. Every successful person has non-paid team members. I use the term team members loosely as anyone that imparts something of value. You will not have team members if you first are not friendly. Sure people can be successful with very little teamwork. Entrepreneurs do not get this luxury. In the CASHFLOW Quadrant by Robert Kiyosaki author of Rich Dad Poor Dad, he reminded us to live on the right side of the quadrant. Build a system so that people can work for you and/or make investments where your money works for you.

How do I become a better team player?
Start by practicing friendliness and giving of your time to others dreams and projects. Be mindful when your actions diminish others and multiply self. Read Winning Friends and Influencing People by Dale Carnegie, read The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Expend energy in the pursuit of knowledge about communication, body language, and interpersonal skills. See where this is going? Learn how to energize those around you, become a multiplier, reduce your diminishing actions, practice at it, be vulnerable to the team, set goals larger than you set for yourself, and never stop growing. Before you know it, a spark of teammate will grow inside of you and smart people will gravitate toward you, doors will swing open in front of you, projects will appear tailored for you, and at those moments, you will have the skills to find the team to make the dream work. Even Michael Jordan needed a team to win six NBA championships. Teamwork is the multiplier. For more business articles by this author visit www.harpershutshavedice.me or Harper’s Hut Blog.

The Innovative Entrepreneur (Series) | The Rookie Advantage: Speed and Innovation | William Nozak

The Rookie Advantage
William Nozak CEO of Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice

When you were new, you did not give up; you persisted, assuming nothing, frankly, because you knew nothing. You knew there was no way back, so you pushed forward. You made it up, innovated, or found others that knew. You looked for those that had cracked the ‘code’ per se. You saw possibility, moved the world, sought after help, collaborated, read, searched and found what you needed. What a rookie.

There is something to be said about the rookie advantage. How often do those with ‘the answers’ overlook contrary findings? I mean if you are the incumbent, what need do you have of novel thinking? You already know the patterns. Seeking input, finding innovative possibilities, and not being controlled by past scars, gives the rookie an advantage. I do not mean to diminishing experience, which is where journeys lead. The Rookie Advantage must be retained through the journey.

How often does an expert team retort an idea with I have tried that it does not work, thunderously ending all thinking on alternative, augmentation, and approach. For the experienced, often the gap between what is known and what is envisioned widens. All of a sudden, we are naked. Insecurity immobilizes us. Instead of audacious, fearless innovation, we feel panicky fear. The illusionist -fear of failure- is frightening, so we run to security and warmth. Instantly, we morph, devolve into a puppet with tailored contributions, with boxed-up, over-analyzed risk. Never again to discover the big win.

The rookie advantage is speed and innovation. Desperation makes you think and act quickly. The paranoid survive. Through success, contribution happens. Through contribution learning and experience occur. These transformations are inevitable. The erudite thrives by retaining her rookie advantage.

Is the loss of the rookie advantage inescapable?
No. Never get comfortable; never settle in. The following are suggestions to maintain or reunite you to your rookie advantage. If your inquiry came from a form of incompetence or not knowing then spend more time in jobs for which you are unqualified. Approach your work as you are doing it the very first time. Never be satisfied with the new and ever changing status quo. Stay humble and curious. Be willing to learn from anyone and everyone, vertically or horizontally. Allow your work to be fun. Be deliberate. Try to retain your routine that allowed you to tap into your rookie advantage. Remember learning snowboarding or skiing? You practiced on the green slopes, you fell, and then you learned to fall, you tried to turn, failed, then learned the mechanics to turn. You were slow, steady and deliberate, willing and cautiously daring. It was fun, it got your blood flowing, you learned and appreciated the knowledge passed down, but remained willing to try something unscripted. Now that you are on the double black diamonds, you have your style, your way of doing things. Failure can mean injury. To remember what it was like to be a newcomer, the rookie, the first-timer, go back to the greens and revitalize your point of view. Find those rituals that gave you that rookie advantage. Re-read the books that inculcated you to the scholar you are. Rekindle relationships that flourished in your rookie advantage. Visit the coffee shops, the friends, the places.

You inspired others when you were in your rookie advantage shoes. Remember the zeal, passion, energy, and enjoyment that defined your motions and get back to your rookie advantage. Make another million doing it. Every year I taught Anatomy & Physiology, I reread the text, the same material by other authors, and new texts that bridged the knowledge gained to knowledge unknown. This kept me fresh and advantaged. It added more and more to my reflexive memory and reminded me that 10% of everything we do is behind us and 90% is still in front. Find a way to molt your beliefs, practices, routines, and skin in order to occupy your rookie space.

For more business articles by this author visit http://www.harpershutshavedice.me or Harper’s Hut Blog

The Innovative Entrepreneur (Series) | Ambition And Curiosity | William Nozak & Mathew Hunter

The Innovative Entrepreneur (Series) | Ambition And Curiosity
William Nozak & Mathew Hunter

The world as we know it is built on ideas. Anyone can have an idea — a great one, even — but it takes a certain kind of someone to turn an idea into a revolution. Without an innate currency, an idea is just that — a soundless thought in one’s mind. So what currency translates an idea from mind to market? Ambition and Curiosity. Although they are not mutually exclusive let us enjoy them separately as the true storyline of idea.

Ambition is what I would like to term fuel enough. An idea, birthed or emulated, requires human currency to take it from mind to market. Great ideas come to all minds and only the ambitious have the fuel to see these ideas become the collective reality. Oh, the wondrous inventions made possible by those with ideas and ambition enough to make those ideas reality. Thank you Mark Zuckerberg.

Your eyes are not adjusted, something is, but what is does not satisfy the ‘is’ that should be. Enter curiosity. Through new lenses come great inventions. September 28th, 1928, Alexander Fleming, a bacteriologist at St. Mary’s Hospital, returns from his summer vacation to find his Petri dishes contaminated with mold. This mold, he soon discovers, prevents further growth of the bacteria. This discovery, of course, Penicillin. There are no substitutes for ambition, intelligence, and hard work when taking an innovation from mind to market and even more so curiosity when an innovation invites itself upon us. Louis Pasteur said it best, “Fortune favors the prepared mind.”

Ambition and curiosity are not mutually exclusive. Being an entrepreneur does not require much of either. Being an innovative entrepreneur however does. The type of innovative entrepreneur, you see in your mind’s eye, determines the amount of ambition and curiosity that you will want to harness as you evolve. Both are skills to be exercised; it does not hurt to have a little dose of one or both at birth. Can these be learned? Absolutely, but more accurately trained. We often have to start asking the right questions. For more business articles by this author visit www.harpershutshavedice.me
For more articles by Mathew Hunter
Visit Harper’s Hut

The Innovative Entrepreneur (Series) | The Fight To Startup | Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice

The Innovative Entrepreneur (Series) | The Fight To Startup
William Nozak | Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice
Two thousand thirteen I bought a franchise 1700 miles away. Why? Who knows? I could never have predicted the journey ahead. How can I own and operate a business 1700 miles away? I mean if I had an operations manager on the ground, sure, no big deal this is common practice. People own business investments the world over. The world truly is flat. But no, I am the operations manager 1700 miles away, with a lead technician on the ground. How this works I bet you would like to know.

September 2013 I fly into Denver and purchase three Carpet Cleaning territories of a well-known franchise. The territories are 1700 miles away from me. I live in Tulsa; the territories are in San Francisco. Long story short, I purchased a franchise with a dashboard that makes such an endeavor possible. Why going with a franchise was the right thing to do? This franchise came with a built in call center, software that pushes jobs out to individual technicians, product-order tabs, marketing & process material print offs, and technician training. These processes are vital to run my telephone-based business. Just to clarify I own a Shaved Ice Company (Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice) and it is not a franchise; I own and operate all locations plus all are within driving distance. In comparison, a completely different animal.

Franchise Provided Processes

Call Center
You need some form of trained rep that knows the services and products as well or better than you do. For me it is easy, I have telephone numbers in my territories that forward directly to the call center. As I mentioned the call center came with the franchise, which included trained reps booking jobs 7 days a week. A little more legwork is required if starting from scratch. They book for hundreds of franchisees, so they are skilled. These reps know the products, services, and the brand as well as anyone. These call center reps book jobs into a spreadsheet that each technician has access.

Website
The franchise website allows for quotes and 24-hour booking. So the booking software, the expensive website are two necessities to be a remote manager in this situation. Had I built the website from scratch with the platform to schedule jobs, the cash outlay would never have made sense.

Additional Resources
The franchise also has the following tabs that allow easy access to a plethora of business needs. The tabs include Net Promoter Score to monitor customer perception, Email Marketing in order to push out monthly and quarterly emails, Product Ordering, Hiring, Training, software to track marketing costs and ROI’s per marketing piece, and several other necessary tabs. The cost to produce a setup of this magnitude would makes this operation impractical at start up. These are the pros; of course, there are cons, for one this is not cheap! We can go into that another day.

Entrepreneur Innovative Processes

UPS Stores
I flew into San Francisco, rented a car and drove 50 miles north to secure my UPS stores. I have three territories North San Francisco, San Rafael, and Santa Rosa. I secured UPS boxes in my northern territory, where my employees live, in order for easy mailing of the work orders, which accompany each completed job. UPS then forwards these work orders to my business address in Oklahoma. Employees drop to-be-forwarded work orders weekly and deposit checks into my Chase account every other day.

Virtual Office
Since the business is not a brick and mortar, in order to rank with Google, I have virtual offices. A virtual office is an establishment where you can rent a fully furnished office space. Benefits include the ability to rent the office space for a day/week or just hold an hour-long meeting. These virtual offices are unbelievably equipped with state of the art equipment. Sine I am a service company with no brick and mortar I rent a box in their mail room. I pay a monthly fee and am able to use their address as my address. So I have three virtual offices, which are located centrally in my territories and are used for Google verification, etc. I used these instead of my UPS boxes with suite numbers and P.O. boxes, because Google views the virtual office address as a legitimate business address.

PEO
Now I live in Oklahoma and we have lax laws relatively speaking concerning employees. So running a franchise located in California would make my little business a floating log in an ocean of barges. In other words, California is highly regulated. So, I use a PEO (Professional Employer Organization). It works like this. I am in a legal relationship where the duties of the employer are divided between the Employer of Record (PEO) and the Employer of Personnel (me). The Employer of Personnel (me) is responsible for hiring, firing, on-site supervision and all strategic aspects of the business, while the PEO is responsible for payroll and tax administration, workers’ compensation, unemployment, compliance, benefits and benefit administration. Talk about one of the best decisions of my life. One again, not cheap! But Infiniti HR has been worth every penny, so kudos to them!

Hiring & Training
I try to keep things as scalable as possible. So I mentioned the franchise provides a hiring tab. I use it. It connects me to Hireology. I order employment applications to be listed on Craigslist and Indeed for carpet technicians from my home. The more expensive listing options i.e. Career Builder have proved to be a waste of money for my searches. Once Infiniti had given me the rundown of do’s and don’ts, I started interviewing over the phone. The great thing about Hireology is they store the employee’s application, resume, and background checks. It is seamless. Once I had good employees on the line, I was able to run them through an okay training session provided from the home office, which was great concerning understanding the products, but fell very short when it comes to training the technician how to handle the myriad of carpets, upholstery, and tile & grout properly. So I paid my neighboring franchisees to take my new hires under their wings and train them on paperwork, cleaning, and client interactions. It was that simple. Not cheap, but simple. A couple phone calls, 1099 forms, I was in business. Not having neighbors would have made this strategy impossible.

Storage
Before I took my initial trip to San Francisco, I researched a secure storage facility. I set up my business with the facility that would receive my packages and store them in a holding room. I signed a liability release waiver and wham I was in business, shipping my products directly to the storage facility. Very few storage units offered this service and the one that did was not cheap, to the tune of $400 a month. Nevertheless, I had a storage facility that I ran my business. My team would meet at the storage unit, gear up, and have weekly team meetings with me through the iPhone video & voice calling application Tango.

Key Performance Indicators

I try to keep my mind wrapped around three very simple performance indicators. Social media, upsales, and NPS. Positive social media reviews must always be increasing. When I have gone a week or two with no social media mentions, employees must be reminded to keep sounding the alarm. Also, although the built in call center does a great job with quoting, there is additional work to be gained in each home. I expect my employees to average over 20% in organic sales. Lastly, I watch my Net Promoter Score (NPS) very closely. It is impossible to make every customer happy, but it is possible to make him or her happy enough to refrain from posting bad reviews, hypothetically. So we have expectations of how low we are willing to allow our NPS to go. I spend my time managing a few other KPI, but these are the three ‘handles’ on my remote business.

File Storage
Being meticulous with document storage is necessary so we use a system of binders, filing cabinets, and everything that can be stored in the web is stored on Dropbox.

Marketing
Marketing has so many angles; I will cover the simple aspects we used to get our brand out to our territories. Very simply, the franchisor was in the process of setting up a National Ad Fund (NAF), which does help with much of the SEO. Things we did on our end to market our unknown brand was of course through social media (Facebook & LinkedIn profiles) the home office set up the Google+ accounts, which allowed us to set in our Google maps. We set up a YouTube channel to post videos and a WordPress account for local blogging. We pushed both video and text out to as many sites as possible. Referencing cities is vital when it comes to business blogging. The marketing we pay for are Valpak, Money Mailer, and RSVP, and we pay for our Yelp listing, which I do not advise if you do not actively seek out positive reviewers. Social Media Cards that show all the places the client can review your company online is all that you need to get reviewers. We also invest in a lot of POP literature and magnets for each client. We send out monthly emails and quarterly emails to clients that provide a proper email. Local newspapers, AdWords campaigns, Clippers Magazines, Groupon, Living Social, and Amazon are other ways in to increase your client list.

Anything is possible for an innovative entrepreneur. If you can think of it, options most likely exist. Of course, cities that are more populated and technologically advanced will offer more options. These same cities are typically entrenched by competition. Next article in this series will include other innovative techniques for entrepreneurs. For more business related articles by William Nozak visit www.harpershutshavedice.me
For more blogs by this author visit Harper’s Hut

Small Business: Dear Mr. and Mrs. Small Business Owner | William Nozak | Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice

Small Business: Dear Mr. and Mrs. Small Business Owner – Keep it Loose, Keep it Tight

William Nozak | Harper’s Hut Shaved Ice

Did he start this or was it you? No wait you started it together. Okay great. Rare! Either way, you are both in it for the long hall. Whether you married into it or cofounded it, you, he, and it are married! Well at least until you sell it. I hope that the both of you understand the implications of owning and operating a small business, because if one of you does not, prepare for some strange sailing. I hope instead, your kids beg the question how did mom and dad cooperate so well to build their business.

First assumption is that both involved want the business. Second, only one or neither is a type-A alpha. Thirdly, you want to like each other outside of your business. Once we have identified both parties are in it to win it then “keep it loose, keep it tight”. Working with a spouse is not like working with your MBA friends back in college, where progress and quality defined friendship. Spouse teams are traditional in that the players have roles, responsibilities, different desires, and dreams. Unfortunately, a major difference from class and some employments is you do not get to pick new teammates when the going gets tough. Thus, the differing drive & commitment levels, and expected future outcomes create waters requiring cautious navigation. The best way to navigate these waters is to “keep it loose, keep it tight.”

Keep it Loose
In a family owned business, remember whom you are dealing with. This teammate and partner has strengths and weaknesses. You cannot make a clone out of your spouse. You cannot superimpose upon them your greatest strengths; they develop their own. So be mindful of realistic expectations by keeping it loose enough for successful teamwork. Do not lose sight of who they are and who they are not.

Keep it Tight
Businesses do not build themselves and Romans did not build Rome in a day. Consider Rome is still expanding. Structure, expectations, and leadership must be in place or in the works. Someone has to lead and the other has to follow. Who leads is irrelevant as long as it is in place; leadership sharing can work. Furthermore, the team must understand where in the business life cycle their business is in order to operate more functionally as a tandem. Defining the stage as start-up, rapid growth, maturity, decline, rebirth or death will help both partners understand realistic expectations and timelines. Different mindsets are required for the different stages. As business owners, you know these stages do not pay owners equally. Either way, there must always be clear direction, directives, and focused energy. Keep it tight.

Owning a business with your spouse is not for everyone. It can create additional stress in an already stressed situation. Keep your family assets at the forefront of your mind when considering a family venture. Just as it is not time to have a baby when you and your spouse cannot see eye-to-eye on life’s majors, it is also not time to start a family business. The best recipe is talk, talk, talk, communicate, listen, rinse and repeat. Have some form of hierarchy and keep it loose, keep it tight. For more business articles by this author visit www.harpershutshavedice.me or Harper’s Hut Blog.

This business article has influences from Keep it Loose, Keep it Tight – Amos Lee (singer/songwriter).