Is your business ready for terrorists?

23 Jun

Would your small business survive a terrorist attack?

Come on, why would terrorists attack my small business?

That’s probably just what some south Orlando business owners were thinking until the morning of June 12 when a deranged man with a semi-automatic rifle barged into a neighboring gay nightclub and gunned down more than 100 people – killing 49.

The Pulse Orlando nightclub on Orange Avenue – scene of one of the worst mass shootings in recent American history – is surrounded by nearly 60 small businesses. In the aftermath of the massacre many of those businesses – some a couple of blocks away — were shut down for more than a week during the official investigation.Pulse pix

Our hearts go out to all those who were slain or injured, but let’s also remember that local businesses were victims too. Businesses lost thousands of dollars in sales. Many employees in those businesses didn’t get a paycheck. I fear that like many of the human victims, some of those businesses were mortally wounded and won’t survive the summer.

Fortunately, most small businesses will never experience a terror attack, but disasters come in many forms — from terrorists to tornadoes. Here are some tips that might help you:

  1. Have a formal disaster plan. Don’t laugh, I know a woman who runs a small janitorial service in Orlando who has a detailed disaster plan to safeguard her key equipment and files so that she would be able to resume operations within a few days of a disaster hitting her business. Click here for more information.
  2. Make sure you have your key business records – financial records, customer contact information and such — in more than one location. There are a number of services available that you can use to back up your computer files in a remote location or in the “cloud.”
  3. Maintain a strong social media presence – not just a website. You need a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others so your customers know how to contact you. Use your social-media channels to assure customers that you’re still in business. I know a local restaurant that burned down and the owner was able to retain his fans for more than 18 months when he was able to rebuild and reopen his door.
  4. Have business insurance – lots of it. I know this is one of those things that many small businesses tend to scrimp on. You’ll wish you made the insurance investment if your business ever experiences a disaster. Recently I heard that some insurance companies also offer “terrorist” coverage. Again, it sounds farfetched until it happens.
  5. Have a good relationship with someone in the same line of work as your business can also be a godsend. Depending on your line of work, you might be able to run your business from someone else’s location. Also, invest the time to participate in a local business organization, such as a Main Street Association or Chamber of Commerce that may be able to help you if the worst happens.

David D. Porter is principal/owner of www.DavidPorterCommunications.com, an Orlando-based public relations and marketing firm serving small businesses. The firm publishes www.B2BFlorida.com and www.SunRailRiders.com

 

 

Why your business should worry about traffic

20 May

If you own or run a business in Metro Orlando, you should be thinking about traffic – a lot.

A study recently released by Tom Tom, the GPS folks, shows that here in the Orlando Metro area we have the 15th worst traffic congestion in the United States. Our congestion is worse than the traffic in Philadelphia, Denver and Dallas/Fort Worth to name a few.

The issue is not that traffic congestion is aggravating. Traffic congestion is costing Central Floridians a fortune – up to $1.2 billion annually. Stats provided by MetroPlan Orlando shows we spend up to 46 hours a year stuck in traffic.

This means a service company, such as a plumbing contractor, might have totraffic-blog-pix hire more techs and buy more vans because it would take too much time for a plumber working in Winter Park to service another customer in St. Cloud. How many customers decided not to visit your store because it’s too much of a headache to fight traffic to the other side of town.

It’s easy to blame the congestion on those darn tourists going to the Magic Kingdom. Let’s be honest, though: How many Disney tourists are driving on Lake Mary Boulevard during rush hour?

The problem is US – the people who actually live here. Metro Orlando’s current population is 2.8 million. Expect another 1 million residents by 2040. The population growth and greed have fueled haphazard land use with too many residences built too far from places of work. We never adequately planned for the people who are here now, nor for those who will come (including those yet to be born).

As for congestion some futurists (yes, there is such a job) actually predict that traffic might get even worse once self-driving cars arrive on the scene.

Currently the Florida Department of Transportation is wasting $2.3 billion on the I-4 Ultimate project to rebuild our main highway. It’s a waste because soon after the construction is completed in 2021, you can expect the wider road to be exceed capacity and slow to a crawl.

We cannot build our way out of this congestion problem. Did you know it costs $6.7 million to build 1 mile of highway? And that’s in today’s dollars. Imagine what it will cost in 10 or 20 years.

Unfortunately, what we call mass transportation – LYNX, SunRail and Votran – is pitiful. LYNX does the best it can. Its fleet of buses is half the size needed to provide convenient, rapid, reliable transportation. SunRail is a good idea, but its schedule is a joke – 2 ½ hours between trains at off-peak hours, little service after 9 p.m. and no weekend service. Votran, which serves Volusia County, is another joke.

Considering what too much traffic and congestion is costing our economy, business owners and operators have a horse in this race. Business owners need to stand up with residents to tell elected leaders that we insist on smarter land use and a public transportation system that really works.

This community can’t afford to be one of the worst metro areas for traffic congestion.

 

This Money Talks blog post was written by David Porter, principal and owner at www.DavidPorterCommunications.com, an Orlando-based public relations and marketing company. We also publish www.B2BFlorida.com and www.SunRailRiders.com

 

Harness your business star power

3 Apr

Is your small business a rock star?

If not, why not?

Every rock star has a video, and your business – regardless how small — needs a video, too.

Next to a telephone and a website, a promotional video is probably one of the most important marketing tools that can benefit every business.Video-blog

You know the old saying: Seeing is believing. That’s what makes video an extremely powerful tool to show prospective customers why it makes sense to do business with your company.

I know what you’re thinking: Man, a video, that will cost a fortune.

Sure, if you hire a Hollywood studio, or some outfit from Madison Avenue, a video could cost thousands of dollars.

By the way, notice I wrote, a video, not a commercial.

My company can make a 30-second business introduction video for $300. A video like that could easily help your company increase sales by thousands of dollars.

A 30-second video is perfect to show prospective customer who owns the business; your team’s expertise and passion for the product or service you offer; your inventory and other factors that set you apart from the competition.

Sometimes a video can help you solve a simple problem. Recently, we produced a video to show diners how close a restaurant is to a train station.

Remember, I suggested producing a video, not a TV commercial.

If you want a video to put on TV first you have to pay a crew to shoot the video, and then you have to pay thousands of dollars for a TV station or cable company to air the commercial at times when customers may see it.

The videos my company produces can be presented on YouTube, or your company’s website or social media channels – Facebook or Twitter – for little or no cost.

If you’re still trying to decide, Bloomberg Business notes these three reasons to add video to your website:

  1. Video makes your Web site sticky.Videos provide a dynamic, interactive experience for site visitors. By using videos, e-businesses can highlight promotions, provide tutorials, and show customers how products operate. The engaging nature of video encourages users to spend more time on a page.
  2. Interactive videos help you “upsell.”Videos can convey more essential data in a shorter time. The viewer does not have to read long texts or jump between pages. Instead, he or she gets “fed” exactly the data you want to deliver. That’s not to say that video makes the user passive, however. Videos with clickable links direct users to appropriate pages in the website or to other video selections, providing additional opportunities for you to cross-sell and upsell.
  3. Videos drive traffic.Search engines now offer video as part of integrated search results. With proper SEO, videos can drive traffic that might otherwise be directed elsewhere to your website instead.

The marketplace is very dynamic, and an introduction video is an inexpensive way to get an edge on the competition.

 

This Money Talks blog post was written by David Porter, principal and owner at www.DavidPorterCommunications.com, an Orlando-based public relations and marketing company. For info on a small-business video, please call us at 407-965-0080.

 

What’s shaking?

2 Mar

Dixie1When is the last time you shook up your small business?

Not in a major way, like firing everybody or changing the main product. I certainly would never recommend that, but experience shows me that every business can use at least a little shake every now and then.

Case in point is Olde Dixie Fried Chicken, a little eatery near my house. Though I’m not particularly fond of the antebellum name, this place serves the best fried chicken I’ve ever tasted, even better than my Mom and she knows how to fry chicken.

Most everybody who has lived in South Orange County for decades knows this place famous for its fried chicken and crinkle-cut French fries.

A few months back they started offering fried corn on the cob and fried macaroni and cheese. Goodness gracious! I don’t know what kind of oil they fry in, but these new dishes are absolutely amazing. Everybody I know who’s tried it loves it.

The folks at Old Dixie came up with a brand new way to surprise and delight their customers. What’s the downside of shaking things up?

I can’t think of one. Of course, any time you introduce a new product, there’s a chance you might have a stinker. That’s why you never want to make radical changes to your main product or service.

No matter how loyal your customers are, you want to keep things fresh and keep them coming back. That’s one of the reason why Big Box stores occasionally reset the inventory on the shelves. That reset can knock you off balance for a moment, but when you’re searching the shelf for your favorite widget, there’s no telling what new product you’ll spot and buy.

So how about it? Ready to shake things up?

This Money Talks blog post was written by David Porter, principal and owner at www.DavidPorterCommunications.com, an Orlando-based public relations and marketing company. For more, please visit www.B2BFlorida.com

 

 

 

Uninvolved is not a business option

22 Feb

Most of us are so involved serving our current customers and finding new customers that we don’t have time for anything else.

Yet even as we’re so focused on our businesses there are things happening in the community where we work — as well as in local, state and federal government — that can have a profound impact on the success of our businesses.

We can either wait for those changes to happen and pray they will benefit our business. Or, we can help shape the future.

Here are two questions for you.

  1. Is your business a member of any local organizations?
  2. If your business does belong to a local organization? Do you regularly attend meetings, and do you serve on any committees within that organization?

If you can’t answer YES to both of those questions, then I have one more question: What the heck is the matter with you?

That’s plain bad business.

Local organizations are one of the best ways of learning what’s happening around you. If you sell regular widgets and a Super Widgets store is planning to open down the block from your shop, you may want to know that.

Or if the city is planning a 5-year-road rebuilding project in front of your store, you probably need to know that too.

What about the city planning to increase the cost of business licenses? You need to know that too.

That old saying: “Unity makes strength” is really true. Local organizations – merchants’ associations, chambers of commerce, main street associations and such — give small businesses a powerful voice to support, or oppose proposals.

In addition, local business organizations are also great places to prospect for new customers and opportunities. (Click here for a list of some Central Florida business organizations.)

You can’t afford not to be involved.

This Money Talks blog post was written by David Porter, principal and owner at www.DavidPorterCommunications.com, an Orlando-based public relations and marketing company. For more, please visit www.B2BFlorida.com

 

 

 

What I learned at my local mall

17 Oct

There’s a lot to learn at your local shopping mall, especially if you’re a small-business owner of a retail brick-and-mortar shop.

Recently I started mall walking for exercise at 9 in the morning — before my local mall gets flooded with shoppers — and it dawned on me how much careful planning, research and marketing experience is invested in almost every store at the mall to poise them for success. And it pays off. In 2012 shopping centers in the United States rang up $2.4 trillion in sales – half of total retail sales in the U.S. that year.

Mall1a

Considering that it is not uncommon for mall stores to pay monthly rent of $20,000 or more, they can’t afford to be wrong. A couple of bad months when the store doesn’t earn enough to cover expenses and it’s game over.

So here are a few business best-practices I learned while mall walking:

Cleanliness and order are job 1. There is not a dirty spot or streak on the display windows. Inside the stores there was no clutter, hand-written signs or dirty flooring.

Theming, merchandise and decorations complimented each other. The walls were painted to highlight the merchandise. The same thing goes for the flooring. Say the shop sells merchandise for older teen girls, then all the decorations in the store helped to frame that merchandise with colors and lights.

Creative use of visual media. Many stores have gigantic LED TV screens playing video, or displaying photos or art. It’s noteworthy that most of the screens were not being used to promote items of merchandise. The images they used were used to reinforce the store’s theme, such as a shop selling action wear for young guys might have a video of guys engaged in extreme sports, such as BMX bike riding or surfing.

The art of window displays. Nearly all the mall stores make fantastic use of their front-window displays to show off their goods. While a few managers posted professionally printed signage in the windows announcing special sales – most did not. In addition, merchandise in the stores was carefully arranged to give you a good view of almost everything they had to offer.

Clever use of music. Just like they use art and visual media to set the store’s theme, they also use music to draw you in. Once you step into the store you can’t hear noise outside the store.

The employees fit the store. In almost all the cases the employees were wearing some type of uniform, or at least a monogrammed polo shirt. Personally I detest tattoos, but in some retail settings the tats work if they reflect the clientele the store is trying to attract.

Branding is king. The branding begins with the name of the store and extends to the merchandise. People come to a store because they know they can find the brand they like there. Personally, I don’t care about what brand is most popular, but I’m an oddball. Most shoppers do care and it’s critical for retailers to know what brands consumers like, and also for retailers to figure out how to offer something special to separate themselves from the competition.

So, why don’t you go for a walk at your local mall and let me know what you learned.

This post was written by David Porter, owner and principal at David Porter Communications Inc., an Orlando-based PR and marketing firm that serves small businesses. The firm also owns www.SunRailRiders.com and www.B2BFlorida.com

Same old, same old

24 Sep

Admit it. The same old, same old feels good, just like your most comfortable pair of shoes.

But in the business world you better watch out because the same old, same old can be a killer.

If you’ve gotten too comfortable doing things the same way “they did things” 10 years ago, you could be headed for big trouble.

Let me show you what I mean:

Back in 2000 my wife and I bought a retail flower shop. To be honest, I didn’t know jack about the flower business. By contrast, though, my wife had been in the floral industry for more than 30 years – as a designer, a manager and a floral buyer for a well-known big box store.

For more than 50 years wire services, such as FTD, had been a mainstay for retail flower shops throughout the country. The florist around the corner depended on wire services to get orders from out-of-town customers. Many florists depended on that relationship as a second – vital – revenue stream. Back in the day your corner florist enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship with the wire services.

Yet over time, the wire services changed the pricing formulas to the point that they became almost predatory – like those payday loan businesses. A local shop can fill dozens of wire orders and end up owing thousands to the wire services. This is what happened to us and many of our friends in the business.

I’m no math genius but I can add and subtract. The more I crunched numbers the more it was apparent that receiving and filling orders for wire services was costing us a fortune (thousands of dollars). I told my wife that we need to drop the wire services. She looked at me as though I had three eyes.

“We need the wire services,” she insisted. “Florists all over the country have been using wire services for decades. What makes you smarter than tens of thousands of florists?”

What separated me from all those florists is that I HAD NOT been relying on those wire services for years. I had the benefit of an objective point of view, and the ability to do a little analysis.

Eventually, we did drop the wire services and we saw the improvement in our books because we stopped doing the same old, same old.

Whatever industry you’re in, please stop doing the same old, same old. You’ll be happy you did.

By the way, if you need to send flowers out of town, just get on your computer, do a Google search for a florist in the same town where you’re sending the flowers. Make sure to ask them if they’re a real brick-and-mortar shop. Talking directly to the shop will get you the best value for your order.

This post was written by David D. Porter, owner and principal at David Porter Communications Inc., an Orlando-based PR and marketing company that provides services to small businesses. The company also produces the www.B2BFlorida.com and www.SunRailRiders.com