Why Your Small Business Has the Motivational Edge Over Big Companies

motivational edge0Are you looking to hire employees this year, wondering how you can keep the employees you do have from heading off for greener pastures, or struggling for ways to keep them motivated?

Sometimes it seems like small businesses are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to hiring, motivation and retention, compared to big corporations that can offer higher salaries, posh benefits plans and luxurious settings. But a recent article by McKinsey (targeted, ironically, at big companies) points out the advantage small businesses have that they may not realize.

McKinsey looked at how business leaders can develop and encourage top performers in their workforce and found that, while both IQ and EQ (emotional intelligence) are important skills for bringing out the best in your team, what truly matters is the “meaning quotient” (MQ) – in other words, offering them the chance to do work that’s meaningful to them.

How can you create meaning at work?

McKinsey makes three recommendations that are far more easy and natural for a small business to implement than a big one:

Don’t Just focus on How a Person’s Work Benefits the Company

Focus on how it benefits four other elements:

  • Society as a whole.
  • The customer.
  • The work team and the individual worker.

When you drill down to the individual level, whether that’s the customer or themselves, employees become more motivated. In a smaller business, it’s easy to think in terms of smaller groups and units and to see how what you do on a daily basis affects those around you.

If Steve in fulfillment doesn’t pull his weight, Cindy in shipping suffers for it.

Let Employees Write Their Own “Lottery Ticket”

In other words, let them choose what they want to work on and how they want to improve themselves and the company.

While you can’t give employees unlimited freedom here, you can (and should) encourage them to think about what aspects of your business they want to learn more about, what new skills they want to develop, where they want to be next year and the year after – and how this can benefit your business.

Motivate Employees with Small, Unexpected Rewards

Can’t afford to give a big bonus at year-end?

The good news is maybe you don’t need to. McKinsey cites studies that show smaller, random rewards given at unexpected times can prove just as effective.

In fact, because they never come to be seen as expected, such “surprise” rewards can be even more valuable in motivating workers. A thank-you note, small gift or random afternoon off are examples of ways to motivate with the unexpected.

Of course, the bigger picture when it comes to creating meaning at work is that as a small business owner, you’re closer to your employees. You can learn what matters to each of them, and what meaning they find in their jobs – whether that’s solving customers’ problems so they leave with a smile, meeting increasingly higher sales quotas every quarter, or helping the others on their team.

Then, you can make sure each person gets more of what gives his or her work meaning.

How do you create meaning at work in your business?


Entrepreneurship Requires Working Like the Future is Already Here (Watch)

If you’re a movie buff like me, you may have thrilled to the spectacle when movies like “Star Trek” and the latest “Star Wars” hit the screen.

The exciting possibilities of a future in which intelligent robots, speed of light space ships and travel to far flung planets have all become realities are inspiring to say the least.

But as entrepreneurs we don’t have the luxury of waiting for the future to realize our dreams. Instead, the challenge is to make the future a reality today.

Business is a Wild Adventure

But of course, business is more than all this lofty stuff too. Business is also an adventure.

It’s about getting out of your comfort zone, building a team, having fun and building something that will endure for your family.

First, remember that getting into business for yourself in the first place requires leaving your comfort zone behind. You’ll have to put yourself out there to promote your business.

Nervous about meeting new people? Tough! It’s now part of your job description.

But despite all of this, you’ll have to recognize that, in most cases, you still can’t go it alone. You’ll need to find others — people with skills, integrity and the willingness to pull together as a team — to make your vision a reality.

Here at Small Business Trends, for example, it would be impossible for us day in and day out to do the work we do without a dedicated team and a larger community of freelancers and contributors, everyone of which has played a part in our success.

You also need to remember to have fun, of course. Starting a business certainly has its ups and downs. And though it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day — and even to become discouraged during the hard times — remember that those triumphs will come around too. So don’t let the challenges get you down.

Finally, if you’ve launched your business with the hopes of providing something more permanent for your family — perhaps something that can even be passed on to future generations — take pride in that.

And try to make time for them no matter how busy you get.

Work Like the Future is Already Here

Remember, how we talked about making the future a reality? Well, there are a lot of tools and resources that might have once seemed like something out of the future

But they can now help you build your business like never before.

For example, running a business might once have required a lot of overhead in terms of office space and expensive equipment to do the job right.

But today you can often run — or at least start — a small business from the kitchen table or the den using just a laptop or perhaps even a smartphone.

Once upon a time only multi-nationals could gather global teams and compete to market their products and services all over the world. Today both are possible for small businesses with the right technology.

It should be obvious from all this that business really is a great adventure. The possibilities for small businesses seem endless. All you need to do is take that first step.

Rafting Photo, Monkey Driving Photo, Hands Photo, Monkey Computer Photo, Dog Manager Photo, Selfie Photo, Dancing Clip, Tokyo Clip via Shutterstock

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Motivation Makes The Sale: Stay Optimistically Focused


One of the most challenging aspects of sales is staying motivated – especially in the face of objections or rejection. A lot of salespeople engage in distraction or busy work instead of productive activities. Remaining motivated is essential to sales success.

You have to keep moving forward no matter what you encounter.

What Drives You?

In sales, the most successful people are those who can set goals and then establish systems for achieving those goals. They treat every step of the process as an appointment. They even put these steps on the calendar. These salespeople use CRM systems that provide reminder tools so they aren’t leaving anything to chance.

There is more to goal setting than just deciding what you want to achieve. You then have to put the plan in place to make it happen. Staying motivated is easier when you commit to that plan.

Being a team player is also key to staying motivated and successful. Imagine selling something that your operations team can’t follow through on. The frustration alone would be enough to demotivate you. You need other people to carry out what you sell in most situations. Working well with them, listening, collaborating, and considering other viewpoints makes your sales job easier.

At the same time, you should be able to initiate programs and plans. Successful salespeople don’t wait for others to get things done. They initiate. An example of this is making sure you have next steps with your prospect. Some sales people tend to let the prospect lead next steps. They’ve effectively given the power to the prospect and are no longer in control of the process.

So what happens when the prospect doesn’t follow through? You’re stuck.

Stay in control. Initiate the meetings and contacts during the sales process.

All of This Starts With Focus

There are a lot of parts to a sales job. Focus helps you manage those moving parts effectively. Ensuring that you make your sales calls, attend events, create and deliver proposals are critical. Creating proposals requires true focus as each prospect is different. The proposals require individuality so the prospect believes you are really thinking about them in particular.

Now let’s talk about optimism. Nowhere is optimism more important that in sales. You have to believe that you are going to succeed. You have to believe in your product or service and how it really helps your clients solve their problems. Can you imagine making cold calls if you aren’t optimistic? Right! That’s one of the reasons people struggle with cold calling.

To stay optimistic focus on your successes – no matter how small. Accomplishing even the simplest thing in sales and acknowledging that achievement will increase your optimism and your results.

If I were to pull all of this together, I would say that the way to stay motivated in sales is to be optimistically focused on your collaborations, initiatives, goals and plans.

This motivation will be instrumental in making sales over and over again.

Optimistic Photo via Shutterstock


You Can Play Doom on the MacBook Pro Touch Bar

You Can Play Doom on the MacBook Pro Touch Bar
An iOS engineer has made Doom run on the MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar
Of course this is the original Doom, not the 2016 version
It runs at the Touch Bar’s 2170×60 resolution
The 2016 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar has elicited a range of responses both lauding and criticising the new addition. Regardless of your stand on the topic, you can play Doom on the MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar.

No, not 2016’s stellar reboot of the seminal franchise — that would be too much to ask for. Rather the original Doom is playable on the 2170×60 resolution of the Touch Bar.

(Also see: MacBook Pro 2016 With Touch Bar Gets Lowest Possible Repairability Score)

And while we have our reservations on what “playable” means in this case, that hasn’t stopped Adam Bell, an iOS Engineer at Facebook from making it happen.

“Doom runs on pretty much everything… but can it run on the new MacBook Pro Touch Bar?” Bell tweeted, linking to a YouTube video of the game running.
(Also see: Touché Lets You Add the Touch Bar to Any Mac for Free)
While Doom’s latest instalment was met with critical acclaim, one of the original game’s creators John Romero made a return to the first-person shooter genre. This started with him designing his first level for it in over 20 years. And then announcing Blackroom — an FPS that has him working with fellow id Software co-founder and artist Adrian Carmack. The game was on Kickstarter and then pulled until a playable demo has been made available.

Although this specific hack, while amusing, may not be entirely useful, other developers have found ways to add a virtual Touch Bar to existing Macs for free.

Tags: Doom, MacBook Pro, MacBook Pro 2016, MacBook Pro Touch Bar, Touch Bar


NFL Cancels First Game of the Year Due to Taffy-Like Field Conditions (Watch)

Imagine a bunch of NFL players running around on a field made of taffy. That was almost the case this Sunday during the league’s annual Hall of Fame Game, the traditional kickoff to pre-season football.

The unfortunate field conditions came as a result of using the wrong paint. And so the field became gummy and sticky as it dried. But instead of allowing the players to put on a comical but potentially dangerous show, the NFL cancelled the game.

It’s not an ideal situation for any business. If the NFL is a brand, each game is its product. So cancelling the very first one of the season doesn’t give a great early impression to fans.

But making a great first impression, while important, isn’t the end-all-be-all for brands. If the NFL had allowed the game to continue with those field conditions, players might have been injured. Then the NFL would be delivering a subpar product during the rest of the season, as opposed to just putting off the first game by a few days and actually doing it right.

Always Consider the Implication of a GO NO GO Decision

The next time your business is considering releasing a product before it’s really ready just to meet a deadline, consider the consequences. If it could hurt your chances of delivering a great customer experience going forward, it might be worth putting it off.

NFL Football Photo via Shutterstock

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Tickle Your Funny Bone: 20 Desk Toys for the Office

033015 drinking bird toy

Personalizing your work-space can boost your moral. Fun gadgets and toys can keep you company during those long work hours and provide some amusement to break the stress. A hilarious or unexpected knick-knack can spark conversations with co-workers or maybe even customers and clients.

Check out this list of 20 desk toys for the office that can bring a smile to your face.

Pick Up the Cent Bank


Loose change can be a bother, but here’s our two cents. Turn those spare coins into a source of amusement with this Pick Up the Cent Bank available at ModCloth. Just place a coin on the button and wait for the kitty to pop out and swipe it away.

5 Years of Dino Land Planters


Get a blast from the past with one of these assorted 5 Years of Dino Land Planters from Etsy member crazycouture. The humble plastic dino gets a new life as a place for your favorite office plant. There are also a selection of animals planters if you prefer. Besides bringing a smile, there are also the added health benefits to having a little green in your work space.

Cell Phone Fiddle Plaque


Place this Cell Phone Fiddle Plaque from Perpetual Kid in your office for a two-fold effect. Get a laugh from co-workers but also give them a friendly reminder to be considerate.

Blox Ice-Bat


It’s so ugly, it’s … or, who are we kidding, it’s just plain cute. This blox ice-bat from Uglydoll is one of a menagerie of cool little creatures. Anyone of them could be a welcome addition to your office space. You can’t really help but stop and laugh when catching site of this little guy’s face. Who knew a vinyl figurine could lift your spirits?

Snowtime Anytime Snowballs


Keep this pile of plush Snowtime Anytime Snowballs from Think Geek around and you can start your own office snowball fight. You never have to worry about them melting and creating a mess. They are fun year-round. Bonus points for being machine washable!

Genius Paperclip Holder


No digging for paperclips in the bottom of a drawer for you. This Genius Paperclip Holder keeps your supplies at hand and a smile on your face. Who knows? It may even help you come up with that next brilliant business idea.

USB Pet Rock


The ordinary pet rock is getting a high tech upgrade, though it’s kind of hard to see how it could improve its usefulness. This USB Pet Rock from Firebox.com may just sit on a desk all day. But it can also provide a sense of amusement for you, co-workers or visitors to your office. Best pet ever.

Maki Tacks Sushi Pushpins


Is that sushi sitting on their desk? Nope, but it is a fun and useful office accessory fit for raw fish lovers. These Maki Tacks Sushi Pushpins from Perpetual Kid are a charming point of interest and can be used to pin important memos to the corkboard. Just don’t be tempted to eat this sushi for lunch.

Captain Jules’s Useless Box


As the name suggests, Captain Jules Useless Box from Think Geek is …. well, useless. That is unless you think getting a laugh from your co-workers is a valuable commodity. Press the button and watch the gears turn as the box opens. Then watch it promptly shut again. Yep, that’s all it does. But it may also put a smile on your face after a long day.

Gnome-Be-Gone Decision Maker


This one is for the indecisive individual with a taste for humor — and the need for a place to put your pens. Spin the base of the Gnome-Be-Gone Decision Maker from Uncommon Goods and get an answer to your pressing questions. Plus it’s an amusing piece of reclaimed steel design that’s sure to be a conversation starter.

Shot From a Cannon Bookends


So this one isn’t necessarily an office toy, but it is a whole lot of fun. These Shot From a Cannon Bookendsadd a touch of amusement and whimsy to any work place. They can be displayed on your bookshelf or even desk.

Pop! Animation


This line of vinyl figures features characters from countless movies, TV shows, games, and more. The signature big eyes and head sit atop little detailed bodies for an undeniably fun toy. With so many to choose from the problem becomes where to stop.

Tengu USB-Powered Character


It will keep you company during those long hours at the office. Tengu lights up to brighten your day and lip syncs to music, your voice, or other noises.

10-Doh! Figure


Its name is a pun. This figurine is crafted to look like an old Nintendo game cartridge and can grace the desk of anyone with a gamer heart. You can even personalize it with an option to design your own game label.

Tabletop Air Hockey


Here’s one for the arcade lovers. This tabletop version is a functioning mini replica of the ever popular game. Keep this on your desk and you’ve got a boredom buster that you can share.

Stuffed Blobfish


He’s hilarious because he’s so ugly. Ugly and yet lovable. This pink plush is in the shape of the endangered blob fish, considered by some to be the ugliest creature in the world. But hey, blob fish need love too!

Desktop Dumpster


Do you find yourself in the middle of the day and itching to express your graffiti art? With this desktop dumpster you can have a convenient and legal place to tag right at the office.

Mini Wind-Up Robot



Wind-up robots are a classic and showcase your fun side. Sit this guy on your desk and you’ve got a space-age buddy that offers laughs and entertainment.

Panda Pile-Up


No one will be expecting this one. A pile of pandas is fun enough but this desk toy is also a game. See how many you can manage to stack on the tire using a pair of chopsticks.



These odd creatures sit on your desk and can receive messages. Messages are sent through an app and your desktop pet will snort, wheeze, howl or growl to let you know. To add to the humor messages can be read back to you in a funny voice.

So there it is, a list of fun and hilarious desk toys for the office you might not have seen before. Hopefully it’s given you some inspiration and laughs. Don’t be afraid to add a little humor to your day at work.

Drinking Bird Toy Photo via Shutterstock


Can Anything Prevent Another Internet Shutdown in the U.S.?

Can Anything Prevent Another Internet Shutdown in the U.S.?

An internet shutdown in the Northeastern U.S. happened roughly a week ago, and the experts are looking for ways to prevent this attack from ever happening again.

Websites like Twitter and Spotify were inaccessible for thousands of people following the distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on Dyn, a major domain name system (DNS) host. DNS, the technical network that converts web address names into numbers, is essentially the “yellow pages” of online addresses.

The perpetrators likely “hijacked the devices [equipped with internet] by installing the malware and then conscripted them into a ‘botnet,’ which is essentially an army of electronic devices unwittingly controlled by an unauthorized individual or entity,” Jeff Baron, a web pioneer who owned an accredited domain name registrar business, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. (RELATED: Internet Crashes Will Be Hard To Stop After Obama’s Internet Giveaway)

The DDoS attack reportedly infected hundreds of thousands of devices around the globe and than directed those electronics to flood servers with artificial traffic. The compromised devices include anything connected to the internet, which nowadays can be mobile phones, televisions, home security systems, vehicles, refrigerators, and even toasters.

How Can We Prevent Another Internet Shutdown?

But there are ways to combat such attacks.

“One self-help mechanism would be for a ‘good’ hacker to write a virus that finds insecure devices and simply disables them. This would remove insecure devices from the pool of computers that could be used as bots,” Eli Dourado, technology policy director at the Mercatus Center, told TheDCNF. “It would be inconvenient to consumers whose devices suddenly stopped working, but that inconvenience may be necessary to prevent more serious attacks in the future.”

There are also security network services available, like Cloudfare and Akamai, but they can be expensive, said Ryan Hagemann, technology and civil liberties policy analyst at the Niskanen Center. “As with any decision, a company or individual will need to assess whether the benefits of employing such a service outweigh the costs.”

This technology is labeled under the “Internet of Things,” or IoT, which is a system of interrelated computing devices, digital machines, or objects that can transfer data over a network without requiring human help.

“IoT development is only in its infancy, but embedded intelligence and connectivity could have a wide range of benefits, including reduced cost, better product reliability, enhanced personal safety and better use of resources,” William Rinehart, director of technology and innovation policy at American Action Forum, wrote in an email.

Adam Thierer, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center, wrote a book called Permissionless Innovation, which outlines the number of benefits IoT technology will have, from wearable technologies to recreational and commercial drones.

IoT application is estimated to rake in $11.1 trillion per year by 2025, according to a report conducted by the McKinsey Global Institute.

The comprehensive study demonstrates how IoT will help various industries, including healthcare, manufacturing, retail, urban development and infrastructure, among many others.

“For example, in health care, a dashboard that simply shows a physician a patient’s heart rhythm could be convenient, but a system that can put together a variety of personalized data and determine that the patient’s condition is deteriorating before that danger shows up in an electrocardiogram could be a life saver,” the McKinsey report explains.

But the assessment acknowledges that these benefits will not be automatic and that maintaining or balancing privacy concerns will be important.

“There’s no silver bullet that will provide an easy remedy to this problem,” Hagemann argues. “As such, it is incumbent on users to educate themselves in online security best practices and for industry to take more proactive steps to optimize the security of their devices.”

Thierer agrees, adding, “If policymakers want to foster the growth of the IoT…they will need to resist the temptation to base policy on worst-case thinking about these technologies.”

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact [email protected]

Republished by permission. Original here.

Green Keyboard Photo via Shutterstock


Ways Your Small Business Can Capitalize on the Internet of Things

IoT car

Note: The following is coverage of the Solid conference, with a specific focus on micro-manufacturing trends that are arising from IOT, trends on which small businesses can capitalize.

What if I told you that your next business venture may involve manufacturing a car? Or that your next startup will include the programming of microbes?

Those ideas, according to the O’Reilly Solid conference, are not only within reach, but are progressing rapidly into reality today.

I attended the conference to view presentations for new combinations of manufacturing, biology, and programming. These concepts, rooted in Internet of Things (IoT) tech, stirs grand imaginations of devices making people’s lives easier.   The ideas can also stir how your next business idea can be best positioned for a significant industry shift rather than a mere customer trend.

When most people hear or read IoT, they rightly think of consumer devices such as the Nest thermostat.  But through keynotes and shared stories, the speakers introduced the audience to how straightforward many ideas are.

At first glance, the keynote topics seem too far advanced for small business owners.

But when thinking of business opportunities, one should examine how this technology filters down to everyday uses or how they create access to new industries.  That means a focus on how things are produced with small teams or with tools that allow for scale while leveraging limited resources – concerns that worry any entrepreneur.

Joi Ito Safecast Geiger Counter Open Source

One example came from Joi Ito, director of MIT Media Labs. He described how the cost of innovation for biology-related technology is dropping substantially, creating a faster timetable for implementing innovation than that established by Moore’s Law for processors.

His example included the dramatic cost drop of gene sequencers, from a $2.5 billion estimated in 2003 to a $1,000 handheld sequencer.  Imagine what this means. Such a drop in cost lowers the barrier of entry for new businesses involved in high tech.

Ito also noted advances that have cut development costs. His example is  Sorona, an engineered microbe that convert sugars to polyester at 30 percent higher efficiency than fossil fuels.

Economic results like these have shifted costs to a minimal level that engineers and designer can try to build devices and eventually businesses.  Ito also notes how kids in Shenzhen, a Chinese province nicknamed the “Silicon Valley of China”, make cells phone “the same way people typically build websites and apps.”

There are other IoT opportunities besides biological.  A tech company Divergent Microfactories debuted the first 3D printed sports car built on a subsystem that offer micro-manufacturing possibilities.  Another, Digital Lumiens, had sensor-equipped lights that cut on and off by activity in a given room.

Danielle Applestone, of The Other Machine Company, shared her thoughts on influences and similar advances in manufacturing. She’s also the person behind The Other Mill.

There can also be partnering opportunity with protocols.  Douglas Woods, president of the MTConnect Institute, presented MTConnect, an open-source, XML- and HTTP-based communications standard. The protocol lets manufacturing equipment and devices coordinate production instructions seamlessly, improving management ability to monitor and extract data related to the device communication.  The institute offers partnerships for those developing devices that incorporate the MTConnect protocol.

Your business should pay attention to IoT conferences as the volume of conferences increase.  The expos are great exposure for learning about technical challenges are being experienced and what has been attempted to date. They are also great locations to network with the speakers.  I usually learn a ton of ideas from speakers when there is an chance to speak to them directly.  And I love showing gratitude  – sometimes the keynote material was so terrific, that I would just say thank you to the presenters afterwards, because I recognize the tremendous effort that had to go into the keynote material.

Finally, many IoT conferences will take place in a number of locations.  The O’Reilly Solid conference was in San Francisco this past summer (next year is planned for spring), but many marketing and tech conferences in other locations are transitioning to IoT themes.  So places such as Atlanta, Chicago, and New York are sure to have opportunities for small businesses nearby.

So what are you waiting for?  To get started on following IoT ideas online, do a search on common subject hashtags such as #IoT and follow the associated tweets. I keep a column dedicated in Hootsuite for such hashtags, but you can also create groups in Twitter as another means to follow tech trends.

Images: (top) Kevin Czinger, Founder and CEO of Divergent Microfactories, with the 3D car Blade; (middle) Joi Ito, director of MIT Media Labs/By Pierre DeBois


Here’s What Happens in 60 Seconds on the Internet

60 seconds on the internet 2

Consider this: Every minute of every day, staggering amounts of data are being generated as consumers connect to, search for, watch, create, download, and shop for content.

Making sense of what all this data means is critical for the success of your company or brand.

So what are the 3.2 billion people who make up today’s global internet population doing online?

Business intelligence startup Domo recently released the third installment of their infographic, with 15 mind-blowing statistics for 2015.

Every Minute:

  • YouTube users upload 300 hours of video, an increase from 72 hours a year ago.
  • Netflix subscribers stream nearly 80,000 hours of video.
  • Vine users view more than 1 million videos.
  • BuzzFeed users watch more than 34,000 videos.
  • Instagram users like more than 1.7 million photos.
  • Snapchat users share nearly 300,000 snaps.
  • Pinterest pinners pin nearly 10,000 images, up from 3,400 a year ago.

Did I blow your mind yet?

Here are Five More Huge Stats:

  • Facebook users Like more than 4.1 million posts.
  • Twitter users tweet more than 347,000 times, up from 277,000 a year ago.
  • Apple users download 51,000 apps, up slightly from 48,000 a year ago.
  • Amazon sees more than 4,310 unique visitors.
  • Uber passengers take nearly 700 rides.

See all 15 statistics here:

60 seconds on the internet

[Click on image for larger version]

Image Credit: Domo Data Never Sleeps 3.0

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How an Old School Business Discovered the Internet and Grew 350 Percent

toronto 3

What do you do when you’ve been in business for years, and have a crisis of confidence?

One day something happens that forces you to confront some cold hard facts:

  • The world has changed.
  • Your business hasn’t changed with it.
  • And now your business is in jeopardy.

That’s exactly what happened to Brian Young, owner of Home Painters Toronto.

He discovered that his customers had changed their buying habits. They were going online to find a house painter. Yet his business was literally nowhere to be found online.

Many times, a story like that would have a bad ending. Some small businesses would succumb to the odds, and become the next failure statistic. But that’s not the case for Young’s business. In his case, he managed a stunning turnaround.

And this is the story of how he did it.

Cold Calling Made His Business Hot

Young started the business 25 years ago, while he was still a student in college. Back then, when Student Painters came to campus offering its franchise-style model, he jumped at the opportunity.

“It had always been my dream to run a business since I was a kid growing up watching my dad. Student Painters was recruiting on campus, and my friend did it and recruited me into it. I thought, ‘this is my shot at running my own business,’ so I was really excited about that. It was my dream come true,” recalls Young.

That was in 1987.

He discovered he was good at growing a painting business — mainly because he was good at cold calling.

“I learned how to do cold calling really well,” he said. “At the time I was young so I had all this energy. And cold calling didn’t take much time. You just had to go knock on doors and give them quotes on the spot. It’s more of a heart thing. Just go out and be as aggressive as you can. That was the way of marketing back then.”

toronto 1

Young, at age 19, cold calling for Student Painters.

Upon graduation in 1991 Young went off on his own as an independent business owner.

Business was good. “I think our first year I was doing about $100,000 to $150,000 in revenue, in that range. It was pretty good back then,” he added.

Year after year, sales continued to climb.

His cold-calling marketing approach worked well for about a decade. Up through the late 1990s, “cold calling was the way to go,” he said.

The Internet Changes Everything

By the year 2000, though, the Internet had started gaining ground in the painting industry. Young began to notice consumers were going online to find painters.

Young’s world had irrevocably altered. He just wasn’t ready to admit it.

“I saw what was happening but I didn’t want to change. I’m like, ‘you know what, I’m a cold caller.’ I just kept knocking on doors,” recalled Young.

Yet, deep down, Young knew things were changing. “It was tough because I could feel my market going down, shrinking more and more and more.”

He soldiered on for another decade, watching sales gradually decline even though he was working harder than ever.

It All Came to a Head – Literally – in 2011

“I was canvassing a neighborhood and a potential client was upset that I’d interrupted his dinner. He came out and punched me in the face,” remembers Young with a rueful smile.

Young ended up with a black eye and the incident made him reevaluate his company’s marketing.

“It hurt me emotionally even more than physically. I am really passionate about my business. But it also knocked some sense into me. I realized, ‘Brian, I have to change or else my business is going to die.’”

“I call it the million dollar punch,” he added.

Playing Online Catch Up

Young took stock of his business’s situation and it wasn’t pretty.

Up to that point, in 2011, his business was nowhere to be found online. Yet, that’s where his market was.

“My business was offline, totally. I didn’t have a smartphone. I didn’t believe in email. I didn’t believe in websites. When it came to technology, we were bare bones. I mean, I had a Blackberry that I could type short messages on and that was it,” he recalls.

“So, I hired a consultant who helped me get my business online almost overnight. We worked ninja style. I was like, ‘What do we need now? And what do we need next?’ So we got a website. We joined some review sites. We implemented email marketing. One by one, we just kept nailing them,” said Young.

A major milestone for Young and his Home Painters Toronto business came just a month or so into the online transformation.

One of his first steps was to advertise using Google AdWords. “We had to do it because we were nowhere to be found in Google search results at that time,” he pointed out.

Advertising with AdWords required a huge leap. It meant spending more money than he had ever spent on marketing.

Prior to that time, his marketing budget was just $500 a year. “I’d do my lawn signs, and I would buy business cards. That was it. I was really cheap,” he laughs.

But almost immediately he saw the benefits of marketing online.

“For the first time in my life I didn’t have to cold call a house. That was significant. I was getting leads coming in – they’re called inbound leads — and that pretty much was the start of how things worked out. As more people found us online, things really started taking off.”

The Online Strategy to Refresh a Home Painting Business

Starting in Spring 2012, sales exploded.

“We started 2012 at $375,000 in revenue. Now after 2014 we’re at $1.3 million,” said Young. By his calculations, that amounts to a 350 percent increase in just three years’ time.

“I’ve been working like a madman ever since trying to keep up with the growth,” he added.

“Our goal now is to grow 20 to 30 percent a year. At the same time, I want to get my customer satisfaction ratings higher. We’re at 98.5 percent. We’re going to shoot for 99 percent customer satisfaction and encourage more online reviews. That’s how you have to market a business like this, is through reviews, “ he added.

“Before, in my business, you could upset someone, and then you could just not work on that street for the next five years and they’d forget. But now online, everything is exposed and you’re vulnerable that way. So you have to be impeccable about making sure every customer is taken of, no matter what. It raises the game of the business owner, and gives the customer more protection.”

In addition to advertising with AdWords, developing high customer satisfaction rates and encouraging positive reviews, there are a few other arrows in Young’s marketing quiver.

The company also pursues content marketing and search engine optimization as part of its strategy. ”For a year solid I’ve blogged two or three times a week,” points out Young.

Articles such as “What Causes Paint to Bubble, Crack and Peel?” and “Bringing Warmth to a Room with Ceiling Paint” give consumers the sort of relevant information they are looking for when researching painters, Young says. Content marketing also has helped the company’s website rank well for Toronto painter searches.

Even though his company was playing catch up, Young soon discovered that most of the painting industry was “still way behind.”

“Now they copy what we do. But they can’t keep up. Not that I’m trying to put the competition down — just saying that’s what is happening. My business has become the pacesetter,” asserts Young.

Growth Brings Another Set of Challenges

Another important element of the success story is how the company implemented Infusionsoft marketing automation software.

It wasn’t long before Home Painters Toronto became the victim of its own fast growth.

The more client leads the company got, the harder it became to manage them and keep track of what stage they were in.

“We had all these lead sources, and needed a way to organize them,” said Young.

In fact, Young insists that without automation there’s no way his company could function.

“Today, we quote anywhere from 200 to 300 leads a month. Trying to follow up manually with that many leads is nearly impossible. Automating our follow-up sequences saves us hours and hours each week,” he added.

He also needed to be able to hire and train people to help him. His vision was to create a platform to run the business off of, so he could duplicate his system and grow without increasing his personal working hours. That’s another thing Infusionsoft gave them, he said.

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Young, of Home Painters Toronto, channeling Rocky Balboa, with partner Jill Littlejohn.

But implementing Infusionsoft wasn’t smooth sailing at first.

“I was excited by our growth, but Infusionsoft was driving me crazy because I just wasn’t ‘getting it’.”

He knew from his father’s role model (his father also is a small business owner) that perseverance and hard work would pay off.

“Even if I had to stay up for 24 hours, I was willing to do anything because I saw in the first two or three months what the Internet could do for my business. This was my dream shot at turning this thing into something big. I couldn’t sleep. I was like ‘there has to be an answer to this, and if answers aren’t apparent, then we’ll find them’,” he added.

While on a retreat to Puerto Vallarta, Young coincidentally met Kelsey Bratcher of Hired Gun Solutions, an Infusionsoft expert. Eventually Young hired Bratcher as an outsourced member of his marketing team.

According to Bratcher, “small wins lead to big wins.” So, he focused on helping Young break things down into small pieces so they could quickly achieve some successes. The first thing they did was break down the Home Painter Toronto sales process into 12 stages and automated some of the stages.

Almost immediately, Young got his first “win” through Infusionsoft. The company sent out a reminder sequence about an upcoming appointment. “For the first time,” Young recalls, “I actually got a confirmation email from the client saying ‘we’re good to go tomorrow for 7:30’ without me having to call.”

“A light bulb went off. Previously I’d have to make multiple calls and leave voice mails. It got me thinking in terms of automation — versus of me doing all the work in my business. I realized it would free me to focus on strategy,” Young added.

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Young, with Kelsey Bratcher of Hired Gun Solutions, after accepting the 2015 ICON Award.

What It Takes to Transform an Old-School Business’s Marketing

The transformation of this once tech-phobic painting business is so dramatic that Young and Home Painters Toronto won the 2015 ICON Award. The Award is presented by Infusionsoft to small businesses demonstrating outstanding marketing success.

According to Marketing Coordinator Jill Littlejohn who was on hand at the 2015 ICON Conference (dressed in painter’s clothes just like her boss), under Young’s leadership they have embraced marketing automation completely. The Infusionsoft marketing automation software has been woven into the company’s processes so deeply that it is now “essential,” she said.

Today, Young sounds like a marketing tech whiz. But according to Bratcher, at first he was anything but. “I had to explain how the technology worked.”

But what Young had going for him was his drive. “He listens, and he goes with it. We’ve made some mistakes over the years and made some people angry with emails. But he doesn’t have this fear component. He just moves ahead — not recklessly, but he doesn’t spend much time worrying about his decisions,” added Bratcher.

That drive has caused Young’s business to be recognized as one of the top home painters in Toronto. The business has even been featured on several home decorating and makeover TV shows.

Young had some final advice for other small business owners — of any industry. “No matter how bad things are going, no matter how long it’s been going, there has to be a solution. Someone in the world has succeeded and overcome that problem. If they can overcome it, you can. You’ve just got to pay the price. If that means working a little harder, you have to work a little harder. Or work a little smarter. Or learn a new technology.”

“I watched the movie “Rocky” growing up. I’ve watched it so many times I know almost every line. I could almost recite it. I look for that movie whenever I’m having a tough time because this guy came from nowhere. He got a shot at the title and he just gave it his all, and he was standing at the end of that first movie. Motivation like that gives me the pigheaded determination to overcome anything no matter what,” he added.

And what about that $10,000 check that Young received as part of the ICON award? “I donated half of it to an entrepreneur cause — and am thrilled to help other entrepreneurs make their businesses a success.”

Image credits: Small Business Trends, Home Painters Toronto