It’s an Opportunity…

Source: What was once a sales call for getting a business to advertise in a publication, is now an opportunity . . . what was once an invite to a sales meeting for a direct marketing company, is now an opportunity . . . so what does an opportunity really mean?

How many times have you had a conversation with someone and the word “opportunity” popped up in the discussion? What does opportunity really mean? By traditional standards, Webster Dictionary defines the word opportunity as a favorable juncture of circumstances, or a good chance for advancement or progress.

There are many cliché quotes which you might have heard over the years such as, “When opportunity knocks at your door,” and “Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation,” said by Zig Ziegler.

However one of my favorite quotes about opportunity was by 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team coach Herb Brooks, who said, “Great moments are born from great opportunity.”

As explained by Dan Hollis, the author of The Magic of Selling, “Opportunity is when hard work meets timing.” Dan Hollis knows this story well, as he has lived it in his own success. Dan is master salesman professional, author, and trainer; and has a sales career that has resulted in millions of dollars’ worth the contracts signed during his time as a sales representative in broadcast media and commercial film services, offering marketing, advertising space, and brand placement spanning a career over 20 years.

“One of the keys to seizing opportunity is relationship building, bonding, and serving the needs of others. When you have achieved all three with a prospect, the flood gates open to be rewarded for your efforts and additional opportunity presents itself,” added Hollis.

There is the general understanding that an opportunity is a chance for one to make a decision if a set practice or method will provide the advancement of an idea or create wealth. This is where many folks from the direct marketing, at home business industry usually focus on when building a legion of affiliated sales representatives. These business entities have a system of “downlines” which a representative can establish a team of people who are duplicating in the efforts of promoting and selling a company’s product lines; while making a commission on other affiliates or sales reps below them; thus coining such business models as multi-level marketing companies. These companies refer this as your “organization.”

Many of the sales reps of this type of organization will usually focus on building out teams of sales reps on downline levels, believing that such an “opportunity” has the ability to create residual income; thus reps will place a priority on offering the “opportunity” instead of focusing on the products and services which are the true value proposition.

Sometimes a telemarketer will call you in trying to sell a product or service, and call their value proposition an “opportunity,” instead of what they are actually offering, which is to get you to buy a product or service from them. I have seen sales reps overuse the word “opportunity,” in trying to pitch their product or service offering; in trying to hype up the value proposition, or the benefits of the thing they are selling; when they should be focused on building a relationship.

Though in recent years, the word opportunity has gotten a bad rap, in the past, the word opportunity always was associated with a positive, uplifting projection.

For instance, if we look at depressed neighborhoods (in the city or country); which have a lack of a standard of living, it was found in a number of studies, the reason why selected neighborhoods had poor economic foundations were the lack of opportunities. These opportunities absent from the community included better education options, the availability of better paying jobs, affordable housing, and community focused programs that encourage individuals to engage in activities that would uplift and improve their surroundings. Thus was born the idea that in trying to improve neighborhood conditions, town and city planners would try to incorporate more opportunities as they became more available.

The legendary iconic comedian Milton Berle once said, “If opportunity doesn’t knock; build a door.”

Sometimes the opportunities we seek may not be available, thus entrepreneurs are born. A person might be working for a company, and that company might not want to invest into their employee’s idea, however that potential idea may lead to a new invention which the world will find valuable. If the demand for the invention rises, the law of supply and demand takes over, thus creating an equal or greater wealth value exchange. So the employee decides to go at it on their own, develops their idea, takes it to market, and capitalizes on the value of the idea, product, or service they have created; and in this case, the entrepreneur is creating their own opportunity.

The creation of one’s own opportunity is common in the world of small business ownership. Though there are many reasons why a person decides to start their own business, one of the main reasons a person will open shop is to have more economic opportunities to create wealth for their family, friends, and community.

In creating your own opportunity, you must keep in mind that it is your decisions, your dedication and commitment, your perseverance, and your own work efforts that will ultimately shape whether your opportunity was a success or failure. Even in failure, opportunities are born.

Before you discount or accept an opportunity, it is a safe practice to measure the pros and cons of opportunity. Some measurements to consider is the financial cost or investment; the investment of time and length of time the opportunity will require before you see a return on your investment of money or time or both; an accounting of the risk involved; and what are the benefits of the opportunity.

Understand that not everyone is in the same position to absorb all of the risk that may be associated with an opportunity, so if you are the one presenting the “opportunity,” you should not be angry at someone if they decide to take a pass on your proposed offering. Only that person knows their own situation 100 percent, and it is the responsibility of that individual to take stock in measuring the opportunity to see if it lines up with their set of circumstances.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

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Is Main Street on the Rebound?

Source: With large retailer box stores shutting their doors, and the surge of small business community advocacy on the rise, is it possible for Main Street to rebound from the bleak decimation left in the wake of big box stores duking it out?

Is Main Street on the mend? There is a resurgence of small business on the rise in America. Visit any community where there streets lined with mix use commercial/residential buildings, and where the larger big box retailer has failed, and you will find a movement in motion. The family owned small business is making a comeback. So what is driving the trend?

With the big box discount retailer Kmart and one of America’s oldest retailer institutions, Sears-Roebuck with final plans to close hundreds of stores, towns and communities which relied on these mainstays are forced to find their needs somewhere else. These large retailers that offered a multitude of combined products and services have left a void in and a vacuum, which is in quick need of being filled.

The traditional Sears department store offered products and goods such as clothing for the family, to appliances and tools for the household, gardening equipment, to jewelry and housewares. In addition, Sears also provided services including a full service automotive department service center, on site appliance repair, and even other services such as photo studio and salon.

Kmart became the mainstay discount retailer once brand name variety stores such as Woolworth, Caldor, Bradlee’s, Jamesway, and Ames, which closed their doors as a result of the very aggressive rise of Wal-Mart and Target. Now Kmart is following in the footsteps of retailers now only a memory.

The demise of the big-box retailers such as Sears and Kmart leaves the path open for opportunity. New housing developments constructed around these mega malls which housed these former retailer giants, and with the expansion of the modern-day suburbs, support services are needed to keep these communities moving.

Though as in the past, when one large retailers’ space would go dark and vacant, another store would eventually fill its place; the retailer of today is so much more specialized. Instead of the all-inclusive full service retailer model, most retailers are experts in one area of goods. With rising cost of property taxes and lease rates at an all-time high, the turnaround time to replace an anchor retailer takes years when in the past it only took a few months. This leaves consumers looking for shopping alternatives. Hence the vacuum and need for the return of the family owned small business.

So which types of businesses are benefiting from this type of recovery? The trends which have been observed are the rise of the specialty boutique. Specialty stores which cater to a particular product or good are finding themselves the benefactor. These businesses become very good at providing one or two types of services or a set of exclusive product lines, establishing themselves as the go-to authority in the area.

Traditional service businesses such as the dry cleaner, barber shop, hair salon, corner pizzeria, or local pharmacy have always found themselves surviving the rise and fall of the big-box retailer when other businesses have not been so lucky. What is so interesting is the stores that have beaten the odds are stores that have a long history of developing relationships within the community.

Small local businesses that have outlasted the larger big-box retailer wars have also been found to be problem solvers. A pure example is the local hardware store. From offering everything for home and business improvement to expanded departments that offer home goods and custom kitchen and bath services, the local hardware store has evolved from being the last stop on the list when you need a nut and bolt to being the go-to expert in home improvement.

It has been found that there is a life cycle to the big-box retailers, as they do come and go. First there was Channel and Rickle’s. To replace them was rise of Home Depot and Lowes. Most homeowners have changed their attitude about the way they spend money on home improvement. Now they are returning to the local retailer, the name and store they can trust on providing quality products for the home; thus allowing the home owner to get a better return on investment when recouping home improvement cost.

Consumers are also finding the quality of what they purchase from the big-box retailer related to big-ticket items have stark differences to the quality of their purchase made from the local provider.

“There are different grades to tools, appliances, and even some of the housewares,” as explained by Richard Fitspatrick, from The Hardware Store, located in Sparta, New Jersey. “Though the packaging may look the same, the outside of the product or tool may appear to be the same, the inside components are not.

“There are two grades of the same high-end ticket item in many cases. Manufacturers of power tools, for example, in order to fulfill the need for volume quantity versus quality, will often cheapen up the inside parts on a saw or drill for a larger retailer who has the desire to offer the power tool for almost half of what you would pay at the local hardware store, but so goes the quality. Unfortunately the consumer does not find this out until after the tool breaks or wears out faster than expected,” continued Fitspatrick.

“We have seen some consumers still fall into the big-box store trap. For instance, we sell the same type of Ahrens Snow Thrower that Home Depot would sell, and our price is ninety-nine cents more, however we assemble the machine, test-fire the engine and will deliver it in town for free. Consumers will want us to match what Home Depot offers the machine for, without recognizing the value in the service that we provide that accompanies the snow thrower when someone purchases the machine from us.”

With the rising cost of most consumer goods, and the cost of replacing cheap goods an inconvenience, people are finding themselves willing to pay a little more for quality that may last double or triple the lifespan of the identical cheaper version which may only last months. Is it possible that consumers are waking up to these kinds of tactics that have been under their noses for years?

The internet is highly responsible for providing information for consumers on where to turn when a consumer is in search of a product or is need of a problem solving service. Websites such as Manta, Merchant Circle, and Yelp are supplying potential consumers with data and reviews of other consumer purchasing experiences. Whether it is a retail product or service-driven business, these reviews are helping drive consumer traffic or deter consumer traffic to the doors of businesses. Businesses receiving the flow of consumer traffic are those documented for going beyond the call of duty in serving their clients.

How do they get these great ratings? What has been observed is that the businesses where the owner is fully invested in the success of the business, and has a passion for the best customer experience possible, will do far more for their clients so they keep coming back, than the big-box retailer whose executives are not working the floor, but rather a legion of low-wage entry-level clerks who see their position as temporary just until something else better comes along.

Even with so much technology integrated into our lives, communities thirst for relationship engagement, a trust in knowledge, and peace of mind that the person on the same side of the transaction of the cash register cares about their needs. This is where small businesses blows away the competition and thrives.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

How the Internet Has Affected the Interstate

Source: Right after World War II, in the 1950s, America was on the move. With the completion of the Interstate Highway System, and more families owning more than one vehicle, families took to the open road to explore, connect, and become educated. Six decades later, fewer families see their vehicle as the expression of their freedom; and find access to the world through the internet.

How amazing it is that in just 60 years, how far we have come in declaring our expression of what gives us the tools to feel mobile and free from the confines of our own zip code?

Six decades ago saw the golden age of the auto industry in America; with the Big Three—General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler-Dodge dominating the majority of the vehicle ownership sales; where machines and men made America a country that became completely mobile.

Fast forward 60 years and you find the digital technology revolution is helping families become mobile again, and is changing how people define their mobility.

Now in the palm of your hand, one can access information from almost anywhere in the world. They can learn how to cook a specialty dish on Youtube, or read about historical event by “Googling it,” or even watch their favorite movie or television show on the go via an app on their cell phone. One can even shop for a new pair of jeans, pay for it, and have the jeans delivered to their door in less than 24 hours. The interstate has fallen to the internet.

America use to be completely reliant on their vehicle for everything; to go shopping, to pick up the groceries, to go downtown to see a movie, or to go visit a friend. An entire culture was developed around the premise that Americans identified mobility and freedom to travel with their cars. A variety of business models even developed to cater to the rise of the interstate. Service businesses were built around the idea of a driving culture behind the wheel. Drive-in movie theaters, the drive-through fast food take out restaurant window, the roadside attractions all were a reflection of the pride that many had as vehicle ownership.

Vehicle ownership also allowed for the shaping of modern-day suburbs to flourish. The commuter was born. Individuals were no longer relegated job opportunities as far as their local metro transit system (if any even existed) would take them. Vehicle ownership allowed for a person to live in the countryside where homeownership was less costly; as more people found it more affordable to live outside the city, but yet still work there; the car became a vital tool in developing personal wealth.

The family car, the extra car was also seen as a sign of status. At the top, luxury brands of the likes of Cadillac, Mercedes, Jaguar, or Lincoln, would echo and reflect where on the social economic scale an individual would rank. Today, that hasn’t changed, but the vehicle is no longer viewed as the pride and joy as it once was. Today it is treated and viewed more like an appliance; with an expected shelf life and is disposable.

The new status symbol of mobility is the very mobile device that many carry in their pocket. The digital era and the convenience of the mobile device (cell phone, tablet, kindle, etc.), has allowed for people to stand in their living room access the world. With this tool, the internet superhighway is the road that is most traveled over any other physical road in our current society.

Apple, Samsung, and LG are now the Big Three that offer the vehicles that provide access for people to get information, connect with people, and experience life in a way never thought of. The development of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, allow for people to connect with a click of button without having to put an ounce of fuel in the tank or drive not even a mile down the road. Just about any book once found in the library is now found in a digital format that can be read on a screen.

Programs and services like Skype, Google Hang Out, and Go to Meeting, have given people the ability to have one-on-one communications, seeing each other on a screen and hearing their words, where people can be as physical distant as the other side of the world. These services allow for people to communicate and build relationships beyond the boundaries of how far a car can take them, and are limitless to the boundaries of continents.

New businesses that cater to the new form of mobility include a host of app, ranging from apps that allow you to download coupons and deals from your favorite retailer to keeping track of your steps and physical fitness, are downloaded by the millions each day. There is even the business of add-on hardware to keep your mobile device in shape (cases, ear phones, etc.). Not to mention all of the tech improvements that has made the mobile device more functional, integrating camera, internet, video capabilities.

The internet has most certainly captured the imagination of the youth. They have grown up with the idea that the internet is as much as part of their lives as vehicles once did to our parents. Modern generations don’t know any other life but that of the one in the digital age. With the press of a button they can reach people in other countries, find out information on any subject, and view a video related to any interest.

Such technology has even entered the classroom. Virtual learning, by way of connecting by video over the internet allow for students to attend classes and seminars or view lectures from anywhere in the world. The internet has demonstrated it offers mobility to all those young and old regardless if they qualify for a driver’s license.

It once was said, “Mobility is life,” and so when there is a traffic jam on Interstate 80; remember you could have chosen to route yourself by way of wi-fi.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

No Farmer, No Food: Support Your Local Family Farm

Source: Are you hungry for healthy food? Does your current food supply have the right nutrition content? Where do you go to get your supply of fresh produce, dairy, and meats? Do you trust your current food supply? If you have any doubt about your current food supply, you may want to get back to basics and support your local family farm.

Most households get their food supply from the local grocery or convenience store. Communities have been waking up to the notion that they need to be aware of where their food comes from, how their food is raised or made, what chemicals are introduced into their food supply chain, and about the impact in which factory farming and long-distance farming has on the environment. The answer to the demand to better food sourcing has been the rise and acceptance of the local family farm.

Farmers markets have been on resurgence throughout the United States. Parking lots and municipal city centers in just about every Main Street, USA, have played host to a community of healthy living advocates who bring together local family farms, local vendors who have sustainable practices, and green healthy products and services, bridging the gap between local consumers and the farms.

The concept of field-to-table, cutting out commercial factory farming and the supermarket, and even produce grown outside the country, has grown in popularity as individuals take more interest in how to better feed their families. The average local farmers market usually sets up and is open for four to six hours, one day a week.

Family farms that have found value in gaining access directly with the community of customers who are looking for a way to increase the health and well-being of their families, and demand the food they are putting on the table can be trusted. These family farms have expanded their product and services, where once they only grew produce, might also offer honey, jams, and specialty prepared foods.

Multiple studies, both by schools of thought and by non-profit organizations, have proven that the most sustainable method for feeding communities is to support local family farms that can provide their goods and services with minimal need for transporting the food from farm to market.

One of the elements to consider when choosing your produce is “how long has the produced been picked from the field?” As soon as fruit or vegetable is selected and picked from the plant or vine, it no longer can be supplied water or nutrients from the ground. The produce would need to be consumed as close to the time it was picked in order to retain and offer the best nutritional value to the consumer. The longer produce needs to be preserved, the more it is exposed to chemicals (used for food preservation during long distance transport). These chemicals are either introduced during the growing process or they are sprayed on during processing and packaging of the produce.

The local family farm provides a host of solutions in living and eating healthier. The local family farm may wait until the very last minute before picking produce from the vine, which makes their produce the freshest offered in local community. Some family farms do not believe in the use of toxic pesticides or fertilizers ridden with chemicals. Some family farms utilize best organic growing practices, leaving their produce to be of the highest natural quality offered. Some family farms will also only feed their livestock and fowl organic feed and hay, thus allowing for their meat supply to also be free of chemicals.

Some large grocery chains were quick to adopt “from the field to the table” experience, and only source from local regional farmers, and will only offer certified organic fruits and vegetables. Whole Foods and Wegmans Markets were some of the very first to offer organic produce and non-GMO food alternatives. Since the organic healthy living revolution took hold, just about every major grocery food supermarket chain now offers a line of both organic non-GMO and traditional food products.

Though these types of purchasing arrangements assist some local farmers, many are not as lucky. They work eight months in the fields from sun up to sundown, leaving little time to market their goods to large chain stores; thus relying on their own roadside farm stand stores and the local farmer’s market.

Local family farms need your business, and in order to provide balance in the community of healthy living and food supplies, we need them. Take the time to stop in your local farmers market and support a local family farm today. It just might be one of the healthiest choices you make.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

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