BLOG ARCHIVE FOR: March, 2007

Mar.29
2007

Net Profitability

I'm Irish and Scotch by birth and married into an Irish and Dutch family.  

That alone should tell you I'm frugal by nature.  Those of you who have read here before have noticed my advice to go to your local public library for books rather than spend money on something unread — I spend on books I value or love rather than spending first and being disappointed later.  

Which leads me to a clarification about our discussions about IBO profitability. 

When we talk about increasing IBO profitability at all levels we're talking net profitability — what an IBO earns after expenses.    If you're making money but spending more on your business than you're earning, then you aren't profitable.  I posted a month or so ago about the 20 questions anyone considering our or competing opportunities should ask before they sign on the dotted line.  And one of those suggested was understanding expenses related to the business.

Any IBO starting a Quixtar business will have some expenses.  Unless you're skateboarding or pedaling your way to see customers or to talk with someone about the opportunity, you're burning fossil fuel and we know what that costs.   You may have long distance telephone calls.  You've already invested in your Quixtar registration, possibly a product pack and potentially a subscription to Achieve.  You may have decided to purchase some BSMs. 

In other words, you've spent before you've earned, and you need to first earn back your initial investment and then create a pathway to profitability which means keeping business expenses in check with your earnings.

After all, if you're not earning more than you're spending to do your business, you're not profitable.  And you're probably not very satisfied with the business, either. 

Lots of factors go into whether this business is right for someone.  Profitability shouldn't be one of them.

 

Mar.27
2007

The 45 Minute Solution

We’re just instituting a new process in Quixtar Communications….shortening our meeting times to 45 minutes rather than the pre-programmed 60 minutes.  It seems like a small step, but for someone who has four meetings a day, this will create an hour of free time per day — or five hours a week.  We call it the 45 Minute Solution.

There’s more to it than just shortening meeting times…it’s also requiring people to arrive and start meetings on time, to communicate an agenda beforehand, and to keep to task so meetings can generate their outcomes within the time allotted.  And to make sure they’re in the meeting when they need to be and can be excused when they’re not.

But more than anything else, it’s helping people take control of their time so they can focus on what we need them to do — create communications, develop marketing strategies, counsel IBOs, etc.

And what do you do with that extra 15 minutes?  Check e-mail, return phone calls, stay ahead of the game — so when you’re finally back at your desk you don’t spend precious time catching up — you just get back to what you need to accomplish.

Some people have jumped right in and started adjusting their schedules, others are slower adopters.  I even was asked by some to grant a “grace period” so they can get used to the idea!

Quixtar’s former managing director used to call meetings “a practical alternative to work.”  That’s because when you’re in meetings, you don’t always feel like you’re producing something — and for some of us, when the meeting ends there are real assignments and deadlines as an outcome.

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes — and how disciplined we can be in reining in meetings and focusing on our day jobs — supporting IBOs!

Mar.23
2007

Get the party started

Forgive the title but Pink was on the radio as I was driving back to the office after a meeting and now that song seems to be the soundtrack for my day!

A lot of growth in direct selling has come from party plan companies.  In fact, you can buy everything from food and wine to purses and clothing through social selling or party-plan companies.

Our business has traditionally been person-to-person marketing — an IBO selling to his or her customer one-on-one.  But we’ve recently dipped our toe into the party pond with the No Tox Party featuring Artistry Time Defiance and the NAO Party in a Purse.

To me, social selling makes a lot of sense.  I have a neighbor who hosts parties at her home every month or so as favors to friends (this year alone she’s had Taste of Home and Silpada parties.)  I like to go to some parties to see how other companies present product and their business opportunity — call it my social competitive business intelligence!

The understanding, when you accept an invitation, is that you’re there to sample or try products and buy something.  It seems to be a good use of time to invite 10 women to your home, ply them with food and drink, and walk out with 10 customers and the retail profit and volume from their sales.

For example, if I invite 10 friends over for a No Tox Party and sell two complete Time Defiance systems, one Intensive Repair Serum, one DermaErase pen, a Wild Yam and Vitamin C treatment, two microdermabrasion kits and one Skin Refininishing Lotion (one of my faves) I’ve pocketed over $250 in retail profit alone and generated over 200 PV.  And that’s even if two of my guests manage to get away without buying anything. In fact the No Tox training guide makes hosting a party pretty foolproof — when the guide was being developed our beauty editor asked me to take a look to see if the team had missed anything.  It was so comprehensive I was convinced just about anyone could pull off a successful party from creating the invitation list to bestowing the parting hostess gift.

So if I’m building my Artistry business, I might do this twice a month and make over $500 in retail profit alone plus my bonus volume.  And, I’d be following up the next month to see how the customers like the products and to see if it’s time to reorder.  Our Wild Yam and Vitamin C product is only fresh for 30 days after mixing so that’s a great reorder opportunity.  And I know a Skin Refinishing Lotion doesn’t last me very long because I can’t resist using it on my hands!

Are we becoming a party plan company?  No.  We’re just looking for ways for IBOs to earn more money faster.  And to me, the idea of selling products in a party environment to a group of people at once seems to be a way to get a lot of sales in a short period of time.

Mar.22
2007

What a girl…or guy…wants

I spoke with an IBO this week who was concerned about inclusion of some IBO-only information in the new Choices.  We included information on the IBO profit potential of the new Ribbon (formerly Gift & Incentive) program in the insert in Choices that also includes shipping, ordering, and other information.

This IBO had purchased 1,200 copies of Choices to send to his retail customers.  And he was in the process of ripping those profitability pages out.   Beyond the sheer inconvenience, he was angry that we hadn’t considered his and other IBOs’ customers when we made the decision to include this information in a book designed for use not just for IBOs but for customers as well.

Shame on us.

We’re talking about changing to make it easier for IBOs to retail product and then we go and do something that inhibits their efforts.

The truth is, we’ve made assumptions about what customers want or need.  Assumptions about the way IBOs interact with their customers. Assumptions that what’s OK for an IBO will work for a customer.  And  those assumptions have meant we do things in a way that doesn’t make sense to savvy consumers, like insisting on case lot purchases for certain products.  (PS — Thanks to everyone who has been offering ideas here and at Ada-Tudes on what we need to fix in our business.)

And we haven’t taken the pulse of the real, live breathing people who will buy our products at retail from an IBO.  Taken the steps to understand not just what our IBOs need to attract and retain customers, but to help identify and meet the needs of target customers for our products. Finding out, to quote a song, what a girl wants, what a girl needs — or a guy, ias the case may be.

Supporting IBOs means helping them meet the needs of their customers.  If we don’t develop products customers want, then IBOs will have a hard time making a sale.  If we don’t create awarness of our brands, again, it’ll be a hard sell for IBOs to find customers to try them and switch from what they’re using today.  And if we don’t create communications specifically for IBOs to put in the hands of their customers and help them sell the product, then we’re setting them up to fail. And that’s the last thing we want to do.

Choices for Fall will be designed to be used with a customer, with a removable insert for IBO use.  But that’s just the start.  As we identify the retailable product pathways we’re going to fully support them from two angles — first, how we support the IBO through training, education and support, and second, how we arm them with tools to sell the product and brand and make the sale to a customer.  And start a profitable and rewarding relationship.

Mar.19
2007

Truth in advertising…A St. Patrick’s Day tale

I spent St. Patrick's Day in Downers Grove, Ill., watching the Wolfe Tones — or rather, a Wolfe Tone.

We were visiting our best friends from college and learned that the Wolfe Tones, an Irish band that's been around forever and we'd seen before, was playing in their town at Ballydoyle.  So we decided it would be a great way to spend St. Patrick's Day.  When we visited Ireland in 1995 the Wolfe Tones song "On the one road" was sort of our theme song as we ambled about the Irish countryside.

We arrived about 8:30 p.m. for the 9 p.m. showtime.  There wasn't much of a line, just about 10 people.  The Web site had said 9, but the sign at the door said the Wolfe Tones didn't actually start playing until 10:30 p.m.  Still, the bar was at capacity and people were being let in only as others were leaving.  

There was a poster of upcoming events outside the building that said "The Wolfe Tones" and below that in mouse type, "Derek Warfield."  Did  "Tones" actually mean that the Wolfe Tones' Derek Warfield was playing? Or that Derek Warfield was the featured member?  The bald man in the kilt at the door was of little help.  When asked, he said "Yes, Derek and the band."  Then, "Derek and some other guys."  After that, "Derek's here but I don't know who else." Finally, to move us along, "All four of you can go in if you go now."   

The music was good, the crowd lively, and the evening fun.  But a lone Wolfe was exactly what we got.

Turns out the real Wolfe Tones are founding members Noel Nagle, Tommy Byrne and Brian Warfield. Apparently Derek, Brian's brother, left the band and now tours with a younger band that promotes themselves as The Wolfe Tones.  So one Wolfe was playing in Downers Grove while the other three were playing outside Boston on St. Patrick's Day.  So says the official Wolfe Tones Web site…"If you don't see Noel, Tommy and Brian, you don't see The Wolfe Tones."    So Derek Warfield is a former Wolfe Tone touring with a new band.  And a former Wolfe Tone — but not the whole deal.

Again, we had a good time.  But the evening wasn't as we'd been lead to believe.

I've talked here and others over at Ada-Tudes about openness, honesty, and transparency.  About managing the expectations of those entering our business and making sure a new IBO is profitable as quickly as possible. About being clear about what this business is, what it isn't, and what you have to do to earn income. 

Our business is open to just about anyone but it isn't for everyone.  Moving forward, we want IBOs who choose not to continue their businesses to do so because the business wasn't for them….not because it wasn't what they were led to believe it was.  We want the sign at the door to be clear about what's inside.

  

Mar.14
2007

The second act

Someone pointed out to me recently that I’m well into the second half of my working life.  I started working at age 15 in the drive-thru of the Portage, Indiana, McDonald’s, and have had only brief periods of unemployment since then and none in the past 23 years. Which means that unless I see myself working well into my seventies, I’m past the midpoint of my career.

For some reason, it was a startling concept.

I have a goal of being able to “retire” early and volunteer full-time with organizations that do work I believe in.  Because I have elementary school-aged children whose busy lives I have to manage as well, I don’t have the time to volunteer as much as I’d like but do what I can.  I figure I did a lot in my twenties and thirties and will do a lot in my sixties and seventies to make up for not being to do all I want to do in my forties, and I suspect I’ll be able to do in my fifities.  Right now my volunteerism is focused around things like Girl Scouts and classroom field trips and events — stuff I can do with my kids rather than carving into my time with them.  I’ve even referred to ending employment and entering volunteerism as my “second act.”

Maybe what was so shocking was that I don’t really think about the end of my career being anywhere in sight.  I love what I do and I’m amazed at how quickly time passes.  Yesterday marked my 18th anniversary with the company.  I was amazed when five, 10, and 15 passed because I’d never stayed anywhere longer than two or three years because I’d always felt I’d mastered the job and got bored. That’s never happened here.  I don’t see the “intermission” coming anytime soon.  Because there’s a lot that will happen between now and then.

Especially with what we’re doing at Quixtar right now.  We’re in a period of transformation that will drive what we do over the next couple of years, and will likely spark further innovation down the road.  You’ll soon see talk in Ada-Tudes about the company vision and specifically our vision for a transformed business and what that means for products, training, compensation, relationships and reputation.  You’ll hear about how our partners at parent company Alticor will support us by transforming aspects of what they do as well.

Because the Quixtar business is a reflection of the Amway business before it, I’d call this transformation the second act for our business.  Some of it’s scripted, parts are unwritten,  but we’re clear on what we want when the curtain falls — a transformed business that helps more IBOs make more money sooner, a company that provides in-demand products that IBOs are eager to sell and customers are anxious to buy, and a business that’s respected by IBOs, customers, and competitors.    A business that exceeds the expectations of IBOs.  And a company with products that customers seek out because of their strong appeal and value.

That will be a happy ending, or perhaps more appropriately, a new beginning for our business.

Mar.14
2007

What would you do?

A couple of months ago I was trained in CPR — a requirement to be a Brownie Girl Scout Leader.  During the training we were instructed to never to perform CPR mouth-to-mouth without a mask, for our own health protection.   Another leader and I said that we would probably take the risk and perform CPR without a mask if we were in a position to save someone who was unconscious, unresponsive, and not breathing.  And we were lectured for it and told that under no circumstances were we to ever perform resucitation without protecting ourselves.  We left vowing that if someone were dying we would still step in.  And last week it was announced that chest compressions alone save lives and there’s no need to give the “breath of life.”

A friend’s daughter recently moved to Amsterdam and is recounting her experiences on a blog called Amsterbeth.  She is working for Microsoft and writes about learning Dutch and living in a new city.  And in a post she recounted her actions and reactions when she witnessed a mugging — her mind said go and move and do something but her body remained still.

I was in a meeting a few weeks ago where someone uttered a derogatory comment about someone due to their ethnicity.

Mar.12
2007

New and Improved Quixtar Newsroom Launches

Quixtar Newsroom has relaunched in a new space with a new look, new features, and a lot of information.

While the official announcement is a day or so away, check out the fact sheets, corporate milestones, news releases, case studies and other information at the site.

And bookmark Newsroom so you know where to go to find all that’s new in the world of Quixtar!

Mar.12
2007

What voices do you want to hear?

When we launched Opportunity Zone, we wanted to introduce new voices and perspectives to the discussion about our business.

And you're now hearing from different people with different ideas and different ways of expressing them.

There are others who are blogging in a "sandbox" — a virtual environment where they can blog but where only a small group of people can view and comment on their work.  It's a place where people can try blogging, test their "voices," and we can take a look at what they have to say and how they say it.  We can see who has a distinctive voice and a compelling story to tell. It's a way to test the waters all the way around — someone who might say they really want to blog and can't do more than an introductory post probably isn't going to be a an active and compelling blogger. Likewise, some people may start out with an idea but find they really can't sustain a conversation around it.  If it isn't interesting them, then why would it interest anyone else?

There are some current ideas in the sandbox — a blog where IBOs can share their stories and experiences, blogs focused around product categories like weight management or beauty and fashion.

But as we look at adding blogs to the Zone, what topics do you want to talk about?  Who do you think you'd like to talk with? 

I can guess some of the answers to these questions based on the comments of frequent posters to this blog but I'd like your ideas on feedback on where we take the Zone from here. 

 

Mar.08
2007

At last…the credit we deserve!

 

At last, a month later, here's the reference to Quixtar's donation of an eSpring Water Purifier and Atmosphere air purification unit to  ABC Extreme Makeover Home Edition.