What is the Biz Ops Game?

I often get asked what exactly is the Biz Ops Game?  Here is a short video to explain what it is, how it works and what it teaches.

 

 

Money Business Entrepreneur

There is more than one way to become a Billionaire Entrepreneur

Money Business Entrepreneur

More than one way to Spell Money And Business

In today’s blog post I wanted to share a couple of infographics. The first one features the”10 Youngest Billionaires of Our Time: How Did They Do it?shared with me by one of my readers (thanks Madeline). These young billionaires have done some amazing things and most of us have been affected in one or another by what they have achieved (I mean, who has not been affected by Facebook or what it has done to change social media). You may notice that many of these young billionaires did have an advantage and that in most cases is family money or the means to attend a very prestigious school (could be money could be intelligence) so the question begs – do you have to have that advantage to become a billionaire? Well, I wondered this as I don’t have either (family money or the means to attend Harvard, Stanford, or MIT) and of course who wouldn’t like to become a Billionaire Entrepreneur (or at least a Millionaire)!

So I did a little digging and the good news is there is hope for anyone who wants to work hard, take risks and persevere to become a billionaire entrepreneur!  Sara Blakely who invented Spanx and was added to the billionaire list in 2013, (from as far as I can tell) she was an everyday person who attended a public high school and a State university. She came up with an idea that she believed in. She worked long and hard to research and develop the idea and her entrepreneur road wasn’t easy but she persevered and as we know today the rewards were great. Then I found another infographic that shows what self-made billionaires have in common. The most well-known (for me anyway) was Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle, who was an orphan, was brought up by relatives on the South Side of Chicago, was not born into money and did not have a college education. He learned computer programming on his own and one of his first jobs had to create a database. He then started Oracle databases, one of the most used database in the world.

Okay so some of the becoming a billionaire usually does require a bit of luck, whether it is being in the right place at the right time, making the right contact or having family money to back you up, but you won’t get there without hard work, perseverance, taking risks and belief in your idea. So get going on developing your idea and developing yourself as an entrepreneur (you are not getting any younger)!

Sources: 10 Youngest Billionaire Infographic: Masters-in-Accounting.org; Sara Blakely story: spanx.com; Self-made billionaires’ infographic; entrepreneur.com; Larry Ellison story: businessinsider.com.

If you would like to learn more about entrepreneurship education and cultivating tomorrow’s entrepreneurs – subscribe to my e-newsletter and visit my website at www.eseedling.com.

Police close lemonade stand

Is Your Lemonade Stand Illegal?

Police close lemonade stand

Police officer closing down the lemonade stand

This week it was Jerry Seinfeld’s kids lemonade stand getting closed down by police due to neighbors complaining about parking and not having a permit. I have been hearing about a stand getting closed down almost every week some place in the U.S. this summer – what do you think this does to kids who are testing the waters for entrepreneurship? Most of the time, the kids who start the lemonade stand are raising money for a good cause or they may be saving up for a larger purpose (not to mention all the learning they are doing). What better way than to start a lemonade stand?

So what is up with the neighbors who are complaining and basically getting the kids ticketed, fined and closing their businesses? I’m wondering is the lemonade stand on a hot summer day really causing them a problem? Do they not have enough to keep their selves busy? Another reason for shutting down the stands is that they are competing with a local business – I’m wondering how much business a young entrepreneur lemonade stand takes away from an established business. I have learned that is more important to focus on your own business and do the best you can then to worry about the business next door! And what about our police force – don’t they have more important things to do then to visit a kid’s lemonade stand to close it down? I’m frankly quite disappointed that we are even spending resources on this! I’ve even read

Okay, so there may be arguments that the kids should get a business license. But really can’t we make kids first taste at business more positive? How about if municipalities create a Lemonade Law and allow kids up to 5 different days to run lemonade stands during the year. If the kids want to sell more days, then the formal process of applying for the permit would need to take place. A website page could be added for kids to register the dates of lemonade stands and print out a permit that they can display at their stand so when their neighbor wants to report them they can easily see that the young entrepreneur has taken care of the permit. One simple webpage set up can eliminate the phone call to the police, the police having to investigate and break the young entrepreneur’s heart!

If you know of any municipalities have come up with a good system to remedy this issue, please share maybe others can learn from what has already worked! We definitely need to make it easier for young entrepreneurs to try out their business ideas – if we don’t change the way we treat them we may have less and less young entrepreneurs which will translate in less small businesses in the future (more on that in my next blog post)!

If you would like free tips and resources to cultivate youth entrepreneurs (or to run lemonade stands) – sign up for our free e-newsletter at eseedling.com or purchase More Than a Lemonade Stand at eseedling.com or your favorite online book store.

Parents helping kids start a business

Avoid Summer Brain Drain – Help your kids start a business!

Parents helping kids start a business

Parents helping kids start a business

There is still a month left of summer vacation and the kids are getting bored! Why not have them start a business? Starting a small business is a good way to keep the brain drain away and keep the kids busy, learn responsibility, earn money and build their resume!

Here are 6 things to help your kids get started as entrepreneurs.

  1. Have them write down what they are good at, what they like to do in their spare time and what they have knowledge in. This helps them realize their talents and passions. It is much more fun to start a business doing something you love!
  2. Once the kids have narrowed down their idea, have them think about what problems they can solve with those skills and talents (maybe it’s teaching a musical instrument, academic subject, dance or a sport or maybe it’s doing outside work such as lawn mowing, leaf raking or snow shoveling).
  3. Once they have an idea – they need to put together a list of what is needed to start and the costs (they may need to research costs online or go to the store). Once the list is ready – have them make a proposal to you and discuss the idea. If you approve they may also need to check with a municipality to see if there are any special permits necessary.
  4. Have the kids come up with a price for their product or service. They should check out if they have any competition, what they are charging and what their strengths and weaknesses are so they know how to sell against them. They will also want to think about how much they want to make in order to figure out what they charge the customer.
  5. Have the kids come up with a schedule to work on the business and be reliable for their customers. If kids do this their business will grow with word of mouth.
  6. Help them find a mentor – if you have business knowledge you may be able to help, if not see if there is another adult who may be able to help them with business questions as they come up.

These starting steps will help kids get started learning about running a business and give them a taste of entrepreneurship! Want more information on youth entrepreneurship – visit www.eseedling.com.

Are you Listening?

 

are you listening

 

I love to learn, especially about entrepreneurship and small business! I read book after book on the subject; I don’t usually read fiction unless it’s something like “All in Startup” which is fiction inside non-fiction (more on that in a later post). I attend professional development seminars on the subject and participate in frequent webinars. So when I exhibited at the American Camp Association Tri-State Conference last week one of my main goals was to learn. Learn if they were the right customer for my products, learn what their needs were, what problems they have that need solving and learn what ideas they had for product improvement and development. Having those goals in mind before even attending the show put me in the mindset to listen to the persons who visited my lemonade stand booth and wow did I learn!

 

Here are 3 big product ideas that I learned from the attendees: 1) They would like a Spanish version of the Biz Ops Game, 2) They would like the Biz Ops Game adapted for Camps (i.e. a Camp Ops Game) to train their staff, and 3) They would like to buy the lemonade stand that I made out of PVC pipe. Each of these ideas is very doable and without the time of developing brand new products and so they are now on my list. I also learned that the Biz Ops Game makes a great rainy day activity for camps; now I have a new way to sell the game. I also learned that e-seedling is confusing to the camp audience – many visitors asked if I had something to do with gardening. If you are going to be clever with a name – you need to think about your audience and make sure it’s clear. So I learned how to explain exactly what E-seedling does; empowers youth through entrepreneurship (hence the e is for entrepreneur and seedling is the youth) and that the More Than a Lemonade Stand book is a do it yourself youth entrepreneur curriculum that can be implement as a whole or individual activities (oh and don’t bring that much candy to give away unless you want to bring it home).

 

I also learned some tips from the other exhibitors: 1) have an information sheet for visitors to take with them (I was directing them to my website), and 2) put the game sheets in a binder so they aren’t accidentally walked off with.

 

It’s amazing how much you can learn just by listening to others and yourself! Being a Covey Facilitator for the Seven Habits of Highly Successful People I have heard this quote many times and agree that it is true. “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” 
― Stephen R. CoveyThe 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

 

Now I ask; are you listening?

What’s Your Customer Mantra?

 

We love our customers

Every week should be customer service week

In 1984 the International Customer Service Association (ICSA), which since merged with PACE, created and launched National Customer Service Week™. On October 8, 1992, President George H. W. Bush signed Presidential Proclamation 6485 establishing the first week of October as National Customer Service Week™. (Source: http://www.paceassociation.com/p/cm/ld/fid=457).  Don’t you think that every week should be customer service week?

Who do you prefer to do business with?

You might be wondering why I’m touching on this subject today –let’s just say that I’ve had a mixture of good and bad customer service in the past week. I started off my week with a not so good customer experience (but fortunately had several good ones during the week). It started out with my working on a tradeshow that I am attending an upcoming in another state (remain unnamed). I needed to complete the tax registration for collecting sales tax in that state so I completed the form, the best I could. I still had a few questions so I called their hotline number and found out they aren’t open on weekends (open Mon-Friday 8:30 am – 4:30 pm) – okay I can accept that. Monday morning I called right at 8:30 am – closed due to President’s day (are state offices supposed to be closed?!). Tuesday morning again I called right at 8:30 am – closed due to inclement weather (ugh)! Wednesday morning again I called right at 8:30 am – 3 minute wait time – finally I get a person who didn’t sound thrilled to be there when she answered the phone. I explained the situation and she told me the answers were in the instructions for the form and that she couldn’t go through the entire form with me. I read the instructions no less than 5 times and I only had 4 questions!! Anyway, she finally did answer my 4 questions and I sent off my form; crossing my fingers that the form is filled out correctly and that I will get my tax registration in time for the show. I’m sure all of you have had experiences like this. They are frustrating but are so easily avoided by some simple customer service procedures and processes put into place. So if you had a choice, is this someone you would like to do business with?

How can companies improve their customer service?

Since Customer service ranks as the #1 factor influencing how much a consumer trusts a company – it is definitely important for companies to pay attention to their customer service. (Source: http://blogs.salesforce.com/company/2013/10/customer-service-stats-55-of-consumers-would-pay-more-for-a-better-service-experience.html.) I actually think customer service is so important to creating a successful business that we actually include a whole section on customer service in our Youth Entrepreneur Camp curriculum. Here are some of things we teach the kids at the camp but can are applicable to any business.

1)    Everyone is responsible for customer service. This could be the person preparing the materials, answering the phone or setting up the room. It doesn’t have to be someone in direct contact with the customer – the important thing to note is the culture needs to focus on the customer and make sure everyone understands how their role touches the customer. You need to have a plan for dealing with customers (good and bad) and make sure it is communicated throughout the organization. You may want to create a customer service mantra – a short saying (such as Disney’s “Be Our Guest”) which is an easy way to infuse the culture into the organization. The Ritz Carlton Hotel has always been known for an exceptional customer experience; this story about the Ritz Carlton Hotel Amelia Island goes above and beyond: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-hurn/stuffed-giraffe-shows-wha_b_1524038.html

2)    First Impressions are crucial – you have a short time to make a first impression, so figure out the first thing you are going to do (how you will greet them, what your website will say about you, what your social media sites will contain), document them and train employees on them.

3)    Actively listen to the customer and communicate that to your team. The person directly communicating with the customer needs to listen to the customer and makes sure they communicate their requests to the rest of the team (If the team doesn’t know they can’t help).

4)    Have clear instructions that the customer can find easily. Okay I added this one after my experiences this past week. I neglected to say that I had some wonderful customer experiences this past week. Those included clear instructions on their websites with easy to find answers – their staff followed up quickly, answered my questions (pleasantly I might add) so that I could accomplish what I came to their business for. This certainly makes a world of difference. They definitely have my return business!

Now I challenge you to think of a customer mantra for your business and share.

Games Make Learning Fun!

Biz Ops Game

Biz Ops Game

There were 2 things this past week that reminded me how much I love using games as a learning activity. The first one was a webinar that I participated in from Zingerman’s Zing Train program on using Mini-games to train employees. The second was as I was putting the finishing touches on the Biz Ops Game™ (more on that in a bit). The Zing Train webinar reminded me how much fun it is to use games to engage employees when teaching them new concepts or trying to help them achieve a specific company goal. When you get everyone engaged and have fun doing it, it is much easier to have the learning stick and achieve the goal. I know this all too well – as in my graduate studies at UW-Madison I studied how video games are a great tool for teaching. But like any powerful tool that is new to the teacher – they need some time to get comfortable with it and to develop and implement it so that they can help learners achieve the outcome. Good games start with good design (as with any effective lesson). The good thing about games is they don’t have be complicated or extremely sophisticated to achieve the goal they are intended for.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when designing a simple game to achieve learning outcomes. 1) Know what your end goal is – what are the learning outcomes? Make a list of the learning outcomes and decide if a game can cover what’s on the list or if you need to focus on just a few of outcomes in the game. 2) Know what success looks like – what does the student need to be able to do or answer to prove that success was achieved in the game. In addition to the learning outcomes, it is important to have specific measures for success. 3) Create a story for the game- stories have a way of drawing the students in and will create a “safe” atmosphere so they aren’t afraid to fail which will help them to learn faster. In addition to the story, be sure to have a fun name for the game. 4) Decide how the game is played – (turn-based, facilitated, in teams, etc.). Think of games you have played and what made them fun and engaging – use these elements when you design your game. 5) Know how long the game will take (will it be one class period, several class periods or once a week for many weeks). 6) Create a scoreboard – students will have more fun if they compete with one another.  You may also want to have an overall scoreboard with an overall goal that everyone is contributing to. 7) Decide what the rewards will be – everyone likes rewards when they achieve a goal – it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, it can be something as simple as a sticker or badge or can be allowing them to choose the topic for a day, or choose the music at the beginning of class.

To demonstrate how to put these tips into action I’ll come back to the Biz Ops Game™. The game itself is based on a simulation that was used in UW-Madison SBDC Youth Entrepreneur Camp. The simulation was developed for high school aged kids and is longer and more in-depth than what I wanted to use as a short activity for camp or in the classroom. I also felt it could have a lot more learning built into the short time period for the activity so I have built them in. I also turned it into an actual game with a game board and more game elements than the original simulation. The Biz Ops Game™ is facilitated by an instructor and can be played in approximately 90 minutes (or 2 class periods). The learning objectives include learning: 1) how a small business operates 2) how working cooperatively can help increase the chances of business success 3) what roles are necessary to run a business and what each role entails 4) that planning is necessary to run a business 5) how listening to the customer will help you create a better product 5) that quality is as important as quantity and 6) how to create record financial transactions and create a simple financial report. The game is played in teams of 4or 5 who create their own air transportation company where they manufacture and sell paper airplanes. The team who makes the most profit by selling ethically is the winner. In order for them to win, they have to work well as a team, listen to customer specifications and fly their airplanes on a runway. The scoreboard consists of their financial record which includes how much they spend on business costs, quantity sold, sales dollars and their net profit. The teams are rewarded on each of these areas with a badge or sticker for their name tag that they can wear at camp to show others that they were successful. In a one week class the basic business startup and operations concepts are learned and practiced but the possibilities of using the game in the classroom can really serve as a base for additional learning on business operations, teamwork and financial record-keeping. Also, once the game mechanics are mastered, the game can be expanded into the students creating and selling their own products which will allow for much more creativity and fun while learning business operations.

The Biz Ops Game™ is currently being printed and manufactured and should be ready to ship by March 1st. For more information: opt in at www.eseedling.com

Finding Your Passion to Make Meaning

ElementMakeMeaning_edited-1When I start working with kids and adults on entrepreneurship one of the first things I work on is choosing a business idea that they will develop. They usually attend a class or a camp because they want to start a business and so it’s important to keep their excitement level high and help them to move forward. Some students know what they want to do but are not sure if it is the right idea and some students don’t even have an idea – they may have always wanted to start a business. The beauty of being an entrepreneur is that you can get to choose what you do and how you do it. To help figure this out we start with 3 questions: 1) Do you have passion for your business idea 2) Do you have competence (knowledge & expertise) for your business idea? and 3) Does it make meaning and solve a problem that people will pay for? Let’s break down the 3 questions.

 1)     Do you have a passion for your business idea? If it is something you are passionate about; you will want to spend time on it and it won’t seem like work. Ask yourself, is it something you like to do in your spare time or is it something you daydream about? Running a business is not easy and requires a lot of focus and hard work to make it successful so the more passionate you are about the idea, the more you will stay with it. Finding your passion is just part of it – you will want to go further and ask yourself if your natural ability compliments your passion. Think about a time when you were so immersed in an activity that time flew by and you didn’t even know it. Athletes sometimes refer to this as being “In the Zone”, Mihaly Czikszenthmihalyi refers to as Flow (recently this has been associated with video game players) and Sir Ken Robinson refers to as “The Element” (highly recommended reading for anyone involved in teaching). This YouTube video is an excellent explanation of what The Element is: http://youtu.be/mqOL20t0NF4. If you are having trouble coming up with a business idea, you might want to reflect on what your passions are and when you have been in your “element”.

2)      Do you have competence (knowledge or expertise) for your business idea? People trust others who are have expertise, competency and knowledge. They need to feel like they can trust you and without these things they are probably not going to do business with you. This doesn’t mean that this may not be a good business idea for you; it just means that you may need more training or experience to become competent. If that is your passion and you have innate ability or talent for it – then you will have the motivation to increase your knowledge or competency in that area. I recently attended a seminar where Stephen M.R. Covey, the author of the “The Speed of Trust” spoke. He talked about how trust starts with trusting yourself and that entrepreneurs are usually good at it. He then goes on to explain that both character and competency are important.  Here is a short YouTube video with a good explanation of trust from his leadership perspective: https://youtu.be/SgjSOzY86tI.

 3)     Does your business idea make meaning/ solve a problem? Guy Kawasaki, Author of the “Art of the Start”, states that most companies that set out to make meaning will make money but if they start out to make money, they will usually fail. Here is a short video in which Guy Kawasaki talks (to students at Stanford University) about making meaning in business http://youtu.be/lQs6IpJQWXc. Recently I read “all in startup” by Diana Kander (which I highly recommend for anyone thinking about starting a business). In the book she talks about solving problems. She talks about a minor headache problem vs. a migraine sized problem. Migraine sized problems are the ones people are willing to pay money for. If people won’t pay money for your solution – then it isn’t a big enough problem and most likely not a viable business.

The answers to these 3 questions should help give you a start on finding a business idea that you are passionate about, uses your natural abilities and helps you make meaning in the world. Once your idea is chosen then it is time to get to work and become a business creator! (more on that in a future blog post).

 Here’s a quote from Ken Robinson that I think really describes what Element is:

“When people are in their Element, they connect with something fundamental to their sense of identity, purpose and well-being. Being there provides a sense of self-revelation, of defining who they really are and what they´re meant to be doing with their lives.

– Ken Robinson

If you would like more blog posts on entrepreneurship – please subscribe using the form on the right.

Lemon

Have you Organized your Stuff Yet?

Whenever I get back from any conference, and Author 101 University is no exception, I have a pile of notes, handouts, marketing materials, business cards, and emails to deal with. I usually pull the stuff out of my bag and put it on the table; being a bit overwhelmed it just sits there for a day or two (or more) – Sound familiar?!

So since I’m a Franklin Covey Facilitator I thought I should practice what I preach!  So I set up a system to organize all my stuff from the conference.  I thought this might help others so I thought I would share my step-by-step process (if’s always easier to break it down)!

author101-folders1) Gather empty file folders and labels and label them with the different speakers or programs or subjects for instance I have folders for each of the speakers (or their subject title which ever works best for you).  So I have a folder for: Starley Murray, Tom Antion, Move People to Action, Morgan James, Right Book Right Now and so on.  Then I just put the papers in the folder (from my pile) that they go with.  I also have a folder for my Website, my book, and my products where I put ideas, content, etc. into. Then I put them in a folder organizer (not sure what these are called so I included a picture) next to be desk – since I’m a visual person, I like to see them!

2) Set up the same folders in your emails. Use the same categories you have for paper as you do for emails – it will be so much easier to find them!  Then move your emails from you in box and your sent box into the associated folder. If you don’t know how to do this – email me at juliewood@eseedling.com and I can help you out!

3) Go through your notes and file in the appropriate folders (or you can scan and save them electronically). You probably have pages of notes to organize (if you’re anything like me) so you may need to sift a little before filing.  One thing I try to do when I’m at a conference is keep my note pages so that I only have one speaker on a page so I can easily organize when I get home.

4) Go through your pile of business cards and enter them in your email software (hopefully have one such as mail chimp, constant contact, aweber, infusionsoft).  If you don’t have one – get one now! If you are using a true CRM system – enter any pertinent information you want to keep track of (you won’t remember it a month from now)!

5) Make a Master To Do List and prioritize!  Either as you are organizing or after you’ve organized make a Master list with all the things you want to do.  Then go back and prioritize.  Once prioritized, assign deadlines and measures (goals) so that you stay on track.

I hope that helps get you going!  I would love to hear your comments and what tips you have that work well for you!  Julie Wood, chief cultivator, seedling, llc