12 – What’s Up: Opposite Day and Focus in your Small Business

After having our conversation with Tres fro Voodoo Doughnuts, Johnny and Nick talked about how they do a lot of things the opposite of what the so-called experts would say are the “right” things to do in business.

Check out our Resources page.  You will find services and tools for your business that we use.

in and out menuKeeping things simple is easier said than done.  Johnny and Nick have both experienced trying to do too many things.  One of the best examples of focus is In-N-Out Burger. They only have a few things on their menu, and do it very well.  It is hard to turn customers away, but if we say no to some people, it allows us to say YES to the things and people we really want to do.

 

Steve Jobs is another example of a company that was saved by focus.  Steve Jobs came back into Apple, and chopped everything but about 4 main products.  This is what led to maybe the biggest company turnaround in history.  They were able to put all their energy and effort into making 4 great products, instead of 15 or 20 weak products.

11 – Tres Shannon – Voodoo Doughnuts: A Rock & Roll Doughnut Shop

Tres Shannon at Voodoo DoughnutsTres Shannon – co-owner of Voodoo Doughnuts

If you have never heard of Voodoo Doughnuts, you must live under a pretty big rock, but if you haven’t, it is a super successful doughnut shop that was started in Portland, OR, that now boasts of four locations and a cart.  Yep, a food cart.  So we could say they have 4.25 locations.  Tres was in Denver, CO to visit their newest store when we were able to catch up with him.  We talked the whole story, but unfortunately, his partner,  Kenneth “Cat Daddy” Pogson, was unable to join us, as he was back making doughnuts in Portland.

Tres Shannon and Kenneth "Cat Daddy" Pogson of Voodoo DoughnutsThe interview is a long one, but one filled with lots of laughs and inappropriate talk, so lock the kids up on this one.

Voodoo's famous pink box.Voodoo Doughnuts in Denver

 

 

 

 

 

Tres and Cat Daddy were introduced to each other by Tres’ mom, and thought they would always start a business together.  They came up with the idea to start a funky doughnut shop, learned some from pastry chefs at doughnut camp, rented a little  whole-in-the-wall retail location in Portland, and the rest is history.  The two partners did not have any formal business training, but have seen consistent and incredible grown and success, ever since opening their doors 8 years ago.

They have taken a very different approach to business that has helped differentiate them from anything else out there; from performing wedding in their stores, accepting only cash, being open 24 hours, to having a “cock and balls” doughnut that has gotten them much attention…good and bad.

Voodoo Doughnut shop in DenverExpanding outside of the Northeast has been a calculated move, and they have been welcomed in Denver with open arms.  From the mayor performing the ribbon cutting, to business coverage in the Denver Post, to having great new neighbors.  Everyone has been excited to have Voodoo come to Denver.

Tres shared with us how they got started, what it was like opening the first shop, what success has allowed them to do, why they chose to call it Voodoo Doughnuts, and some hints into what might be coming down the track for Voodoo.  You are going to love this one.

For the full interview, go to www.smallbusinessnaked.com

Show Breakdown

1:24 – Opening Denver
Johnny asked him why did he go to Denver, he answered that he have a lot of memories in Denver, he
lived there in 1970’s, and used to see dead Kennedys somewhere around the 80’s and he said that
there’s a lot of good reason that Denver is a good town, and at the same time Marijuana became
legal. Then Tres talked about a lesbian bar, where it’s beside the dental office. And in the same street
they have everything they need in just one location.

02:42 – About Voodoo Doughnuts
Nick asked to tell them more about Voodoo Doughnuts and What he do, he said that he started it by
himself and his business partner Kenneth Pagson, everyone is calling Kenneth “Cat daddy” he was the
one who gave him that name because he was kind of a ladies man though he’s already married with two
kids. They’ve known each other for 8 years. Kenneth worked for his mother in Imperial Bar in Portland,
then his mom introduced him to Kenneth, then when they started hanging out they talked about rolling
a business, then they talked about opening a doughnut shop because there is no doughnut shop in
Portland, even if he does not even have any idea because he never when he was a kid he always had a
doughnut from Gitzon every Sunday after the church. And had a degree in hospitality. Because of that,
he became the dough and he is the “nut”. He recalled that when they started Cat Daddy was not yet
married but he has a son who all of them was his godson.

7:51 - Branding
Nick asked where did the branding started then Tres answered that Voodoo has a lot of o’s and looked more
like a doughnut, and they perform weddings and they like performing a ritual. Barnes is the guy who
adjourns sweets. Johnny asked about where did the business concept came from, he again narrated that
they were done in night life and everyone loves doughnuts whether young or old people. They started at
$.85c doughnut, and now it’s ranging up to $7. Portland crème is the official doughnut in Oregon. They have
2 stores in Portland, they have food carts in suburban area. They hired kids, they also have

 

 

10 – What’s Up: Be Weird and Make More Money

On this episode of What’s Up, Nick and Johnny talk about being weird and standing out. Sheldon Adelson tells us all how to do it, and because he is a gazillionare and owns the Venetian in Vegas…we believe him.

We have interview many successful business owners, and most of them stand out in the crowd.  Jerome Grady, founder of Colorado Ski and Golf, Johna White from the Billy Bob Teeth company, and many others have shown us this again and again.   Being different is not only more profitable, but it is more fun.

Johnny has his core values hanging from the ceiling in his shop that his company believe in, and the main idea is: Get Shit Done!  Some believe he needs to be more professional, but he believes that is truly what they want to be like.

Johnny’s list of Core Values:

Erbert Lawns Core Values

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tattoos in the workplace?  Nick and Johnny actually disagree on something!  Nick hires purple hair, tattoos, and nose rings, and John wants NO tattoos.  John wants his team to look nice, but worries that his customers will be put off by an employee that is not clean cut and nice.  Nick uses the edgy look of an artist to further the story of hiring starving artist and teaching the art of painting houses.

tokyo joes

How do you create fun in the business.  Johnny believes that it needs to be the owner or manager.  He needs to lead the team into fun.  John reveals how he is walking the walk and provide fun for his team.  After a long season, he is bringing his managers on a trip after a long hard season.

If you have a topic you’d like to hear Nick and Johnny talk about in an upcoming What’s Up talk, let us know below.  Or, if you have done something to provide fun or weirdness in your business, let us know below.

 

 

Freedom!

FREEEDOMMMMMM!!!!3rd String
What do you think would happen if John Fox, the  coach of the Denver Broncos, just showed up on game day, hoped that the right guys would make it onto the field, that they would select the right plays, and they would end up with the most points by the end of the game?  It wouldn’t happen.  I know this is an absurd illustration, but if we don’t have a team that shows up and is ready with skill, ability, and enthusiasm, along with organization, practice, and planning, there is no way we are going to win.  In order to build a great team, there are four things that need to happen:

  1. There must be a system for doing what you do
  2. There must be appropriate compensation
  3. There must be freedom to do the job they have been trained to do.
  4. There must be checks and balances

booksThere are a lot of books written on management and building corporate culture…blah, blah, blah.  Boil it down to these four things, do them well and I guarantee you, you will have a great organization.

A friend of mine owns a small, but successful service company and all his employees make less that $20/hr, they love their job and they love working for him.  Why?  They know exactly what to do, because they have been taught the system (and there is a system for everything).  They’re paid well for the work they do, but not over paid…just appropriate.  They are also given the freedom to do their job without being micro-managed and second guessed.  In the beginning they may come to my friend and ask a question on how to handle a complaint or a certain situation, and he will ask:  “What do you think we should do?”  They know the system, and because it’s simple, they usually have the right answer.  It doesn’t take long for them to realize the customer always comes first, and they always want to make the customer feel heard, appreciated, and served.  When they realize the company is really dedicated to this, and it is not just a company slogan or words on a page, they know exactly what to do.small business freedom

Freedom is something we all long for, just like in the movie Braveheart where William Wallace yells the famous line “FREEDOM”.  We want to be free, to be who we are and to make our own decisions.  We also want to have the freedom of expression, and I personally think we want to have the freedom to make our own mistakes.

If we have systems in place, we have trained our team on what to do and how to do it, and we compensate them well for what they do, then why would we not give them the freedom to carry out their responsibilities.  I see, way too many managers in big and small companies that give tasks but don’t give responsibility.  How does it make you feel to be micro-managed?  “They are idiots” says the blind manager from the back row.  To this I would say, they have not been trained.  We all know the phrase garbage in, garbage out.  It was first used to refer to computers but I think it applies here just as well.  If you don’t provide good training, for your employees, or set good expectations then you will get poor to bad results and this is the manager’s or the business owner’s fault, not the employee.

As you know, Johnny runs a successful lawn care business, and several years ago was out looking at one of the properties that his company took care of.  He was with his dad, and he noticed that the lines were not straight, that the edging was shoddy, and that the lawn did not look great.  He turned to his dad and said, “These guys are idiots.  Why can’t they do this right?”  His dad responded:  “You know this is your fault?” To which my friend protested.  But his dad went on to say that he had trained them, and that if he wanted a different result, it was up to him to retrain and create systems so that the lawns would be done the right way, and the same way every time.

When employees experience the freedom to do their job, they will do it better.  They will make suggestions on how things could be improved, probably start to sell additional services and feel more vested in the company.  Giving freedom to someone is immeasurable.  If you don’t believe me ask anyone that had a grandparent that lived in the South, and experience true freedom from slavery.  Or ask someone that has been a slave to alcoholism.  Freedom is powerful, and when you truly give this to your team, they will perform beyond your wildest dreams.   But it is up to you to create those systems, and then to allow your team to work within the system.

Checks and balances are hard to figure out, but they are your safety nets.  These are things that bring your teams performance to light.  It can be easy to hide what is going on when you (the owner) are not around.  But little things like email confirmations, checklists, reports, evaluations, and surveys will help to ensure that your desired activities are getting done.

It can be hard at first, because they will make mistakes.  Just don’t give them too much rope to hang themselves and you in the process to start out with.  If you want to learn how successful business owners from around the world have put systems into their small business, listen to the Small Business Naked podcast each week.  You can download it on iTunes or on Stitcher.

Finding the Right People – Hire Slow, fire fast!

job interviewSo, last week, I talked about multiplying your efforts, but how do you find the right people?  Building your organization can be a scary endeavor. Finding the right people for your organization can be the hardest part in the growth process. However, once you have established your process, and know what you need to teach someone, it is that much easier to know who to go look for.

As in most things, you need to find a competitive advantage when hiring someone…and it doesn’t always have to be about paying more. Can you offer a flexible schedule? Do you have a fun and interesting work environment? Does your business enable people to do things they could not do anywhere else? You need to exploit the benefits of working for you.

Bird Man by Brian NapierIn my painting business several years ago, I realized that I had several employees that were artists. On the weekends they worked on their own painting and sketches. I thought this skill was helpful, and so because of this, we now only hire artists. It has been a competitive advantage for us because there are a plethora of starving artists out there looking for a job that they would enjoy. The benefit for us is that they have the one skill that is the hardest for us to teach: good hand/eye coordination. As an added benefit, it has helped us in our marketing efforts as well. We now tell our customers that we hire starving artist, and teach them the art of painting houses.

So find a niche or your employees, just like finding a niche of potential customers. We have taken a marketing approach to hiring. We place fun and creative ads that truly stand out, and in exchange, we have more than enough job applicants to fill open positions.

Once you have interested people in the job, you still need to weed though the muck! Yes, I am referring to the applicant pool. It can be filled with a whole lot of crap. I hear business owners complain all the time that there are no good employees out there…WRONG! There are plenty of great employees out there. It is your job to find the good ones. And for that, you need a system, just like you need a system for everything else.

We all know when people are interviewed they will say just about anything to get the job. They will say: “Yes I’m always on time.” “ I’m a hard worker.” “I’m a fast learner.”, etc, etc. All a bunch of lies. And I even tell my applicants this. People can tell you whatever they want. The only thing that truly matters is what they do. You, the business owner need a system that will show you who is worth investing into, and who is not. Because no matter who you hire, you need to invest into that person.

In the hiring process, I suggest you create little tests along the way. It can start with the first phone call. Here is what I do after getting a response to my ad in Craigslist. I reply via email. In my email, I let them know that I received their response, and that I am looking forward to talking with them. Then I ask them to call me on my cell at a specific time the next day. I am not asking for a big commitment of time, but if they truly want a job, they will call you. I don’t ask for the impossible. Typically I will ask them to call at 9 or 10 am the next morning to talk further about the position.

The folks that call on time have just passed the first test. If they are interested, but know they are going to be unavailable, they usually email me back right away and ask for a different time. I am okay with this as long as it is well before the time I set up. I do get lots of calls that come in hours or days after the time I set up, but I do not move these forward.

Next I do a short phone interview to see if they have some good communication skills, ask follow up questions about the email they originally sent me, and to talk about the position. If all goes well, I set up a face to face interview.

At the face-to-face interview, I ask some of the same questions to see if things have changed, and I get a read on their personality skills. Are they personable? Can they hold a conversation in person. Do they show up early and are dressed appropriately for the job. Way over or way under will kick them out at this point, not to mention if they are late.

Judges-on-interview-panelThen, if the interview goes well, I ask them to send me personal and profession references within one hour of our meeting. I use one hour, because this will not really give them enough time to ask for permission from all three. I know they will most likely give me good references (though I have been surprised before), but having good follow through at this point is just a critical.

Then, after this final step has been completed, and the references check out, I turn them over to our production manager for a final interview. Whoever would be working with the individual directly should have a final say now that you have done your due diligence.

If they make it through all of that, what then? You hire them! But, it is important to not give them too much responsibility too soon. Find a menial position in your company for your new hire, putting them on as a temporary employee for two to three weeks. We call it our two week interview, and let them know that they do not have a permanent position with our company until they have passed this stage. This will allow you to see if they are a hard worker, they show up on time, and if they are teachable. The position you give them should be a non-important job so if they don’t show up one day, your business is not affected.

Go slow. Hire slow. But always fire fast. Don’t get stuck into thinking they will get better, faster, or more reliable. We know within two days of someone starting with us weather they are worth investing into or not. It is very rare that someone can put a face on and then turn out to be a disappointment.

Every business seems to have their own systems, and we talk to business owners each week that have a different perspective.  Check out our latest podcast on Small Business Naked to learn how successful business owners are doing this their own way.

What am I doing?

Have you ever found yourself asking “What am I doing?” It’s a great question.  A lot of times as a small business owner, we keep doing a list of things, and we keep trying to stay busy for busy sake.  Does it ever feel like you’re banging your head against the wall and getting nowhere fast?  I know, I have days like that and we all will; but how do you avoid it on a regular basis?

I met with a guy last week that looks like this on a daily.  He is staying busy and working seven days a week.  He’s working to please customers with no clear understanding or process, and making hardly any money.  Many of us have all been here.  The problem is, if you don’t open your eyes, and see the futility of it, you will continue to do the same things, and continue to get the same results.

How do you break out of it?  If you are in this place right now, I want to give you a few things that will hopefully get you out of the rut, and back on track.

First, you need to know where you are going at all times.  You need to set a ONE year plan, and commit to it for the entire year. Small business owners need to have a bigger vision for what they are doing and where they are going, but spending too much time on a fancy business plan can be a HUGE waste of time.  I don’t know about you, but my strategic plan has a tendency to shift from year to year, especially in the first 5 years.  You must have a clear idea about where you want to go over the next 12 months, how you get there will certainly change along the way.

Second, your plan must be based and grounded in reality.  Do you really think you can grow at a 300% rate, month over month for six months?  If you have only been adding one new customer a week for the last 2 months, what makes you think that all of a sudden you will be able to add 5 per week?  Be realistic.  Don’t set yourself up for failure which leads to frustration and burn out.  Look at past history; figure out how you achieved those numbers.  Do less of what did not work.  Do more of what produced good results.  Follow the 80/20 rule.  

Third, meet with a group of like minded business owners that can give you feedback and accountability.  The best thing about being a business owner is that we don’t have a boss.  The worst thing about being a small business owner is that no one is telling us what we need to do.  It’s a double edge sword.  If you meet with a peer group you will be able to stay on track and get good feedback on the steps you are planning on taking.  If you are interested in creating your own group, see the chapter called Building a Board of Advisors.

Fourth (and this is very important), you must be receptive to the advice of others.  Most successful people realize their limitations and that they may not have all the answers.  We all have room for improvement.  I have a friend that is more organized than just about anyone.  He has a place for everything, and nothing is EVER out of place.  The great thing is that he always tells me, “I have to get more organized I can do better.”  If we all had this understanding, and acted on it, we would all continually improve and make our business better.

My friend and I were talking the other day, he’s going on a cruise in 3 weeks, at the time we spoke, I was leaving for a vacation the next day.  He had already packed for his vacation, and I had not packed.  He is far more intentional about the things he does, and it doesn’t matter if we are talking about business or personal.  I need to be more like him and be more organized.

If you become involved with a peer group: be open.  Listen to the advice of others and don’t think you know it all.  You may just need the perspective of an impartial person to help you see the pitfall you are about to drop into, or the gold rush that awaits you right around the corner.

So what ARE you doing?  Are you being strategic?  Are you setting goals?  Are you moving your business forward?  Take steps right now to make this a priority.

If you want to find out about how to be successful, there is no one better than a successful business owner telling you how he or she did it. Join us for our weekly podcast where we share REAL stories from REAL business owners that are having REAL success.  Join us for Small Business NAKED.

Meet John Erbert of Erbert lawns.

John Erbert or Johnny as he is better know by those who know him owns one of the most successful lawn care businesses in Colorado, if not the entire US.  A few months back, Johnny was interview on the Access Direct blog for some business insights and tips.  Here is a portion of the interview:

“The best advice I have to offer is to draw or map out an organizational chart for your small business. This sounds crazy for a new small business, but please hear me out.

List all the possible positions in your business. For example:

  • CEO
  • Human Resources
  • Accounting
  • Marketing
  • Operations Manager
  • Branch Manager
  • Receptionist

You get the point right? Someone has to perform all of those functions, so put your name in each position box that will be your job function. If you are a new business, you will realize that your name is in most of the boxes.

At this point, you may have the common reaction, “Holy crap!” This should give the phrase “we wear many hats” new meaning for you.

It’s your job to get other people – employees, sub-contractors, or virtual assistants – to help you with those functions so you can spend your time working on growing your business instead of dealing with all the day-to-day minutia of your business.

When you run a business, the product/service is not what you’re really selling. The true product you’re selling is your business, so spend time creating and perfecting the perfect business model that supports your customers and employees. Focus on all the little details, because that’s what’s important.

I hear many companies say they are all about customer service and then you use their bathroom and it’s a mess. This begs the question: if they really care about customer service, why is the bathroom a mess? It’s because they really don’t care. It’s just lip service.

For the rest of the story, please visit the blog written by John Kinsley.

Johnny is the co-host of Small Business Naked and a hugely successful business owner.  We can all learn a lot from Johnny.