#Smallbizchat Podcast LIVE is a monthly video interview show where small business owners can get answers to their questions. The focus of #Smallbizchat is to end small business failure by helping participants succeed as your own boss. Please join us live every third Wednesday of the month from 8-9 pm ET Live on my SmallBizLady Facebook Page, YouTube Channel and LIVE on Twitter.
A Pandemic Survival Story
Eric Brown is serial entrepreneur, pioneer in digital marketing and an expert in urban housing development. He has built and developed over 16,000 market-rate apartments on a national scale. He founded Urbane Apartments in 2000 in suburban Detroit, MI. He oversees new business, general operations, marketing, and branding at the company. He is long recognized by the multi-family housing industry as a vanguard of cutting-edge social media marketing. For more information: https://urbaneapts.com/
SmallBizLady: Was the Pandemic of 2020 a Gift or a Dagger to your business?
Eric Brown: I really had to ponder this, Was it a Gift or a Dagger? 2020 eased us into complacency, maybe even a numbness, accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies. Melinda speaks of this explicitly in her book, Fix Your Business. But at 22 plus years in business with our boutique apartment management company, and 45-years into my career, I was asleep. Our Urbane Apartment Brand commanded a local, regional, and national presence. We fetched a top dollar in the rental space until we didn’t. We lost three clients, a total of 4-properties over a few months before I “Woke Up:” We lost some of our relevance in the marketplace. A better competitor gunned us down. I ignored it the first time it happened in April 2020, it was easy to blame it on the Pandemic. When it happened again, they took 2-clients and 3-properties, and I was stunned! To make matters worse, this company kicking our kiester were four hotshots that my wife and business partner hired years ago when we both worked in the corporate world. They “grew up, wicked smart” and formed their own company in 2019.
SmallBizLady: How did you handle losing business like that after being a market leader for so long?
Eric Brown: As I started to look around, and I fell into fear. But at this point, I had to, Check-in for Clarity. Falling asleep or into complacency is easy to do, and I never thought it would happen to me. Life happens, but if we get clear with ourselves to become acutely aware of What Is, we can begin to think differently. To quote Albert Einstein, “You cannot solve the problem with the same level of thinking that created it.” Once I “Accepted, Where We Are” and started to see this as an opportunity, the path forward emerged. At past 60, I never imagined having to work that hard, but I did.
SmallBizLady: So how did you turn the corner and recover?
Eric Brown: We turned the corner with diligence and perseverance. We upskilled our staff, cleaned up our product offering, retooled our marketing, and blasted ahead when all I really wanted to do was stay in the Pandemic, but I had to push through. I’m happy to report that the effort paid off. We enjoyed our best first quarter in 2021 in the last four years in Revenue/Income and Occupancy. We feel like we have our mojo back. That is not to say there isn’t more important work ahead, but we have steered the ship away from the rocks and into deep waters. I am in Gratitude for the Gift of the Setback, and Seeing the Opportunity wrapped differently.
How to Rid the World of Innovation Desserts
Felecia Hatcher is an innovative powerhouse, personal transformation speaker, entrepreneur and author, who’s work shapes the way individuals show up, are valued, and financially benefit from playing full out in the innovation economy. Companies like, Google, Spotify, Door Dash, Target, Samsung, and Etsy call on Felecia to help them empower their teams and shape their inclusive innovation strategies. Felecia has been featured on the NBC Today Show, MSNBC, The Cooking Channel, Wall Street Journal, and White House Champion of Change Honoree. For more information: https://www.feleciahatcher.com/
SmallBizLady: When you say,” execution is personal,” what do you mean?
Felecia Hatcher: It really boils down to a few things. One is really looking at your vision and your goals and getting granular about what they actually mean, so that you know, that you’re on track because you know what it looks like. Oftentimes I take people through my genius jam framework to define their zone of genius, and then we give it a destination, like where do you want your genius to take you? And what doors do you want it to open for you? What new conversations do you want to have? Too often, we’re told to set goals that lack intention. We all need to get to a granular level so that we actually know the steps that we should be taking to get there. And more importantly, we know what success looks like because we’ve defined it in the beginning. When I say execution is personal, setting the goal is something that all of us are more than capable of doing, but then actually making that happen requires intention.
SmallBizLady: What is your plan to rid the world of innovative desserts?
Felecia Hatcher: My plan to rid the world of innovation desserts is a pretty audacious plan. I co-founded the center for black innovation with my two partners. One is my husband, Derek Pearson, and then my other partner Starks Smith. Seven years ago, when we were building the Miami startup ecosystem, we realized that it did not include any black people. We also took note of the gap in resources that existed within the startup and tech ecosystems as a result of not including the black community.
And so when we talk about ridding communities from being innovation deserts, we coined that term mostly because we, all three of us came from the food space before launching the innovation center. And, you know, people are very familiar with food deserts having to travel miles, oftentimes to get access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Well, the same thing has been happening from an innovation and tech standpoint. People are having to leave their communities and travel oftentimes miles to be active participants, but more importantly, a financial beneficiary of everything that the innovation economy has to offer. And that’s just not okay. It sends a message that innovation doesn’t happen where I live, meanwhile, our communities should be a magnetic force for attracting those types of resources because we have all the characteristics of what people say they’re looking for in startup founders and top tech talent, right in the community. We have solved very sophisticated issues within our communities, mostly because of a lack of government infrastructure, support, and dollars.
But because we only look at black communities for their obstacles and not the opportunities, people never took innovation there that seriously. And if you did, you would have discovered ride-sharing in our communities 40 and 50 years ago, as opposed to 10 years ago when Uber first started. The Jitney taxi was able to solve a transportation issue in little Haiti and Harlem. So as a savvy investor, if I’m looking to get in on things early, I cannot overlook the Black community. I cannot overlook Brown communities. I cannot overlook immigrant communities because they are solving problems as if they had the right amount of resources and funding. Can these problems impact a global marketplace? Nine times out of 10 I believe the answer is yes.
SmallBizLady: How do you start a business on a ramen noodle budget?
Felecia Hatcher: Thank you for asking about my book, Starting a Business on a Ramen Noodle Budget. The first part of that is a mindset. The very beginning of the book actually talks about how ideas are worthless and execution is absolutely everything. And that has everything to do with having very little money, but always have a lot of resources. And that was our story. And so that’s where that comes from. And so the joke with the book is back in the day when we were all in college having a pack of ramen noodles, which is a 39 cents meal, maybe 59 cents these days. But if you could get really creative and fancy, which a what a lot of people did, you got a pack of chicken and some candle lights and some extra spices and that same creativity, turning a 59 cents meal into a pseudo-gourmet meal.
And now we see ramen bars all over the place that are not charging 59 cents. They are charging about $14. If you could channel that same kind of creativity when you had something so little and minuscule in comparison to what you can create when you add other elements and components to it, then you can channel that same kind of creativity and energy into starting a business. And that is it, right? So, a lack of dollars doesn’t equate to a lack of resources. And if you can channel how you’re looking at the resources you have, how to assess the resources and relationships to leverage to grow your business, then you can start a business with very limited resources. Get creative with social grit to create your MVP (minimal viable product), your sales process, even get creative with how you build a team and an advisory board. And that is how you break down the process of getting to a point where you can start with a ramen noodle budget, and then grow it over time.
How to Build Stronger Sales Systems in Your Business
Ryan McCrary is known as “The Funnel Doctor.” He’s a seasoned digital marketer, speaker and author who loves to share his knowledge on how to build a strong sales system in your business. His passion lies in helping entrepreneurs and authors get their message and products in front of more people. Ryan’s digital marketing agency specializes in building online sales funnels that generate massive ROI. He’s helped ecommerce brands, service-based businesses, and infopreneurs sell-out events and 10x their revenue, and maximize the return on Facebook ads. He is also author of the best-selling book, Mind Over Money For more information: www.yourfunneldoctor.com
SmallBizLady: What is the definition of a sales funnel?
Ryan McCrary: A sales funnel is a step-by-step process or system a small business owner uses to sell their products or services. Some people may also refer to it as “The Customer Journey.” I believe that every small business owner needs a sales system, and a sales funnel system is key to generating consistent and predictable revenue.
SmallBizLady: What are the top 3 reasons why many small business owners struggle with developing a strong sales funnel system?
Ryan McCrary: The most common reason is not focusing on customer acquisition enough. Many business owners do not have a lead generation system and then they do not have a sales funnel to convert leads. The second reason is not understanding direct response marketing. Direct response is the customer journey map process of using email to build a relationship to drive sales. Another reason is not looking at their business from the value ladder perspective. By only selling the main product or service at face value and not offering anything else, they are not able to build a value ladder to drive ongoing sales.
SmallBizLady: What are some of the best tools to use when creating a strong sales system online?
Ryan McCrary: You need a sound CRM system. It also depends on the specifics of what your business is, what you sell, who your target customer is, price point etc. The main thing is to develop your sales system FIRST and find the tool that works best with that system. Many small business owners do the opposite.
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