GROWING YOUR BUSINESS: What about your company image?

Growing your businessby Dan Beaulieu
Business consultant

You’re proud of your company. You’re proud of the company logo on the side of that shiny new white truck. On your employees’ shirts, on all of your equipment. Everything you own, everything you do is all about protecting your image. That company logo represents everything you have worked so hard for. You spent hours developing that logo; you spent years developing your image and your brand. So that when people see your logo, they recognize it as a symbol of the good service, the products and the good value, in short everything your company stands for.

That logo, that image, that brand and what it says about you, your company, and the people who work for you. And all of that company good will has to be protected at all costs…right?

Well, think about this for a minute. One of your good customers is driving to Augusta on I -95, when all of a sudden, they are cut off and almost hit by one of your employees, in your company truck, bearing your company’s logo and name, speeding down the highway, veering from lane to lane driving to endanger. What do you think your good customer is going to think about your company now? Or worse yet how about someone who is not yet a customer, but was thinking of calling you to perform a service for them. Do you think they are going to call you now?

Or, how about this? One of your customers is sitting in a local watering hole having a quiet drink when he spots one of your guys, wearing your company shirt, drunk as a skunk getting thrown out of the bar! How’s that going to affect your company image? Think about that.

Okay look, these are extreme examples for sure. But these kinds of things do happen. In fact, it happens far too often. And every time it does, it hurts the company that the person is wearing or driving.

So, what can you do? First of all, hire the right people. Then instruct them in your company’s culture. Teach them about your company and your brand and your logo. Make them as proud of the company they work for as you are. Show them that your company logo is the symbol of your company and everything you stand for. That logo, that brand, is your company’s flag and everyone who works for your company should be as proud to wave that flag as we all are as Americans to wave the stars and stripes.

By instilling so much pride in your associates that they would never even be doing anything that would soil your company’s logo, your company’s image. You will also be instilling in them your company value and that will go a long way to getting the very best out of your entire team and that will lead to you providing excellent service and products, and to growing your business.

GROWING YOUR BUSINESS: You gotta have a plan

Growing your businessby Dan Beaulieu
Business consultant

No matter how big or how small your business is you have to have a plan. Whether you are mowing lawns, plowing snow or making computer chips you have to have a plan. You have to know why you are starting the business. Who your customers are. Why they need your products or services. Who your competitors are and what are you going to do to be better than them, you have to have a plan.

Over the years I have helped a number of businesses get started and during that time I have developed this list of questions that, if answered carefully, thoughtfully, and completely, you will have your strategic business plan.

So, I thought it might be helpful if I posted those questions right here and now. I would urge you to use them to develop your own strategic plan. Here then are those questions. Please remember that this is not a true and false test. This is not a short answer test, this is not a test at all, but rather a series of questions to think about carefully. If you do that…in the end you will have a complete strategic business plan off of which you can run your company. If yours is a one person company then answer the questions alone, but if you have other people involved in the company, then talk about and answer these questions as a team. You’ll see that it will pay off in the end, and it will be your company business plan…not just yours.


1. The Company: A description of the company as it appears today.

Answer the questions:

a. Who are we?
b. What does the business do?
c. What category of product does it sell?
d. Is it a service business?
e. What do we do and why do we do it?
f. Why was the business started?
g. What niche or gap in the market does it fill?
h. What is the business philosophy?
i. Mission Statement?
j. Who started the business?
k. Who is involved in the business?
l. What extra personnel will the business need?
m. Where is it located?
n. Where does it do business?
o. What is the technology level?
p. What is the price level?
q. How do we make our money?
r. What is the quality level?
s. How do we assure that we have good quality services or products?
t. What are our strengths?
u. What makes us standout from the competition?
v. Why are we offering this service in the marketplace?
w. Are we sure there is a need?
x. Is it an unmet need?
y. What exactly is the specific niche we fill?

2. The Customers:

a. What image or position do we want our company to have with the customers?
b. What is the marketplace?
c. Is it defined in geographical terms or technological terms?
d. Who are our customers?
e. What do we know about them?
f. What do we do to find out more about them?
g. Who are our best potential customers and what do we know about them?
i. Why will they need us?
j. Why will they want to do business with us?
k. What do we want them to think of us?
l. What will they think we can do for them?
m. Are there any holes in the marketplace?
n. Who will we be compared to?
o. How will we show that we can fill our customers’ needs?
p. How will we convince our potential customers of this?

3. The Competition:

a. Who is our head to head competition?
b. What are our competitors’ strengths relative to us?
c. Why will people do business with them instead of us?
d. How can we counteract their strengths?
e. How will we get them to convert to our services and products?

4. Selling:

a. How will we promote ourselves? Paid advertising?
b. How will people get to know about us?
c. How will our selling be different from our competition?
d. How can we force “word of mouth”? Encourage it?
e. Should we have references?
f. Do we need a website?
g. How will customers find us? Contact us

5. Goals

a. What are our goals as a business?
b. Revenue goals?
c. Customer satisfaction?
d. Sales?
e. Growth year to year?

And that’s it. Now I know it looks daunting, but it’s really not. And I can guarantee that if you take the time and effort to completely answer these questions your new business will not only be launch but start to grow.

GROWING YOUR BUSINESS: Embrace change; grow your business

Growing your businessby Dan Beaulieu
Business consultant

“I always wondered why somebody didn’t do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.” – Lily Tomlin

Oh, that dreaded word “CHANGE.” I have seen companies go out of business, rather than change. I have seen people suffer from all kinds of physical ailments, rather than change. I have seen companies fail because they don’t want to change.

People, by natural instinct hate change. They hate anything that takes them out of their comfort zone. They would rather stay in a deplorable situation, than make a change. It’s that proverbial frog in the water syndrome. Which isn’t at all true by the way. The fact is that even a frog will be smart enough to jump out of the water when it gets too hot!

In our own times, look at the people who have made fortunes by taking advantage of the changing social media platforms, as opposed to those who sat back and called Twitter, Linkedin, and Facebook…passing fads.

Here from a neat little book titled: Change is Good…You Go First: 21 ways to inspire change, by Mac Anderson and Tom Feltenstein are six ways that you can inspire change in your own organization:

  • Change what needs changing – not what’s easy: Sometimes people will see easy things to change. That low hanging fruit. That’s a fine way to get started, but though the easy stuff can get you started, but in the end the real change that has to be done can be painful. Don’t be scared of it
  • Forget to success: Remember the 50 reasons why it won’t work? Forget everything you tried in the past. So many times, when change is introduced, members of your team will wrack their brains trying to find the few reasons why it might not work. What just might go wrong. Don’t let them do that. Think of the good change can do.
  • You’ve got to believe: You have to get the entire team to believe that change is the right thing to do, and that the changes you want to make are the right ones. It’s an all hands on deck situation. Everyone has to buy into it.
  • Remove barriers: The company leader’s main job is to remove all the barriers to change. Make sure the team’s path to change is as clear as possible and you’re the one who has to do the clearing.
  • Communicate/ simplify the message: “Peace and Bread,” the Russian revolution was started by the use of these two simple words. The people were hungry, and they were tired of war. So, when the Bolsheviks showed up and promised them, “Peace and Bread,” they converted the populace and the rest is history. In the end it’s all about simple communications.
  • Celebrate your successes: People love success. People love recognition. Start with small success and then build from them. Recognize those who are doing a good job not only adapting to but actually driving change. The more you recognize them for their achievements the more they will become your best “change mongers.”

And the more change mongers you have, the more everyone on your team is ready to embrace change, the more your business will grow.

Dan Beaulieu has owned his own business consulting firm since 1995, during that time he has helped hundreds of companies all over the world with their sales growth challenges and issues. Originally from Maine he returned a few years ago and is ready and willing to help his fellow Mainers start and grow their business. He can be reached at 207-649-0879 or at

GROWING YOUR BUSINESS: Learning a lesson from an Apple Store


The new Apple Store at the Maine Mall.

by Dan Beaulieu
Business consultant

The world has changed. “Amazon is taking over and killing retail stores.” Isn’t this what we hear and read about just about every day? When people want to buy something from a toothbrush, to a TV, to a book, they simply go to and buy it. Amazon, with its enormous warehouses all over the country can provide just about anything, at anytime, and send it overnight anywhere! How can you beat that? How can a small business even try to compete against that kind of availability and capability? Why don’t we just all give up and go home, some people think.

But wait, I’m here to tell you that you can compete with Amazon and the secret way to do it will surprise you. All you have to do is learn from another giant competitor, APPLE. Have you been in an APPLE store lately? Have you seen the way those folks handle customer service? Do you realize that APPLE stores are the most successful retail stores in the world? Did you know that APPLE stores make more in dollars per square foot than any other retail store in the world?

Every time I have been to the APPLE store at the Maine Mall, it’s been mobbed. In fact, the last time my wife and I went they had moved to a store space twice as large to accommodate all of their customers. When was the last time you saw a retail store do that?

Every customer was engaged with an APPLE “expert” asking questions, being instructed on how to get the best use of their products, advised on what the best APPLE model product they should buy to meet their needs. It was amazing and stunning to watch in an age deemed by the “experts” as the death of retail sales.

As a comparison, after we were done at the APPLE store, having spent $200 we did not plan on spending, we had to walk down the Mall hall to the other store that sells electronics among many other things including the office sized fridge we wanted to look at. And that store was virtually empty. We spent all the time we needed looking at the selection of models of the type of small fridge we were looking for. We spent a full 15 minutes in that store, and no one came up to ask if we needed any help. And we could see a number of blue-shirted associates in clusters talking and joking to one another, but none of them showing any interest in coming over to see what we wanted. None of them. And this is one of those chains that is consistently complaining that Amazon is driving them out of business. No, they I think they are driving themselves out of business.

Rather than driving my point home, dear reader, I’ll let you connect the dots. Picture my description on the APPLE store and then my description of that other store… and you’ll choose the right example on which to model on how to grow your own business.

Dan Beaulieu has owned his own business consulting firm since 1995, during that time he has helped hundreds of companies all over the world with their sales growth challenges and issues. Originally from Maine he returned a few years ago and is ready and willing to help his fellow Mainers start and grow their business. He can be reached at 07-649-0879 or at

GROWING YOUR BUSINESS: Keep those customers coming back

Growing your businessby Dan Beaulieu
Business consultant

Going the extra mile will always pay off in the end

The facts are this. When people receive poor service, they love telling other people about it. Some statistics claim that if a person gets bad service from a business over 250 people will end up hearing about it. Yikes! How scary is that? All you need is one slip up; one bad day and you can destroy all the good will you have worked so hard to build up over the years.

It’s almost as if people feel that the one good thing about getting poor service is being able to talk about it to other people…and we all know that they do. Fact is, people love retelling horror stories.

And I have to admit that I fall victim to that as well. We all do.

But don’t get scared, or worse yet, discouraged, there are ways to prevent your company and your team from ever performing poorly and that is to create a company culture that instills good service into everything your company does.

But it starts at the top, it starts with the owners, the managers and most importantly it begins with the examples these people set.

If your employees hear you complain about a customer, they are tacitly being given permission to do the same. If on the other hand they watch the company owner, for example, treat every customer with the utmost respect, they will model that behavior as well. In the way business is like parenting. The children in a family are much more likely to model their parents’ behavior than they are to do what their parents tell them to do. Remember that old adage, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Sorry, but that could be the dumbest thing any parent or any company leader ever told anyone.

We all know that the first rule of running a business is that the customer is always right. Second and third rules are, refer to the first rule. While that is the paradox of customer service there is another rule that I recommend and that is developing the customer for life.

It is much easier for better business to have customers for life than to consistently have a turnover in new customers Here is the thing to remember, most people will use your service once. The key is to get them to use your service forever.

That idea should always be at the front of your company thinking so that when someone comes into your hardware store for the first time, even if it’s only to buy a box of nails, you should treat that person with the same special service as you do the contractor who is buying thousands of dollars of materials from you every month.

In the end, this is a very simple idea. No matter what your business, from bookstore, to diner, to hardware store, if you treat every customer as a lifetime customer, and give them the special service that it takes to do that, you’ll always be growing your business.

Dan Beaulieu has owned his own business consulting firm since 1995, during that time he has helped hundreds of companies all over the world with their sales growth challenges and issues. Originally from Maine he returned a few years ago and is ready and willing to help his fellow Mainers start and grow their business. He can be reached at 207-649-0879 or at

GROWING YOUR BUSINESS: There are no small companies; Paul’s start up story

by Dan Beaulieu
Business consultant

There is no such thing as having a company that is too small. No matter if you are the smallest of all, a one person operation, you can still handle yourself professionally. You can still do things the right way and poise your company to grow primarily because of great customer service.

Okay let’s go exploring…some ideas, that is. Here’s the scenario, you’re working at a job you don’t like, you’re not making much money and the boss is a jerk, but hey, it’s a job so you go in every day and you do what you have to do to get that paycheck. You gotta eat right?

Now, because the boss is such a jerk, he screws up the business and goes bankrupt. He’s done, the company is done, and you’re done, no job and no prospects. That’s about as bad as it gets. What are you going to do? Oh, did I forget to mention that unemployment is over seven percent…there are no jobs out there!

You don’t have much, but you do have, your health, your energy and your ambition. If you have those things and you are willing to work. Here is a sure fire, yes, I mean sure fire way, to not only make some money, but also work for yourself. You offer your services to homeowners you will simply do whatever they need you to do. No, this is not a made up pipe dream of an idea, not at all, I know two people who got started exactly that way.

Let’s take my friend Paul, for example. The scenario I started this column with was exactly his deal. This is what happened to him. And this is what he did when he found himself unemployed through no fault of his own. Keep in mind that old adage, “when a door closes, a window will open.”

He sat down and evaluated what he could do, what services he could offer. He knew he could provide unskilled labor to homeowners. He could provide all the services that the professionals could not or would not do. He decided to hire himself out as a handy man, he could clean out attics, and cellars and take the junk away. He could wash windows, he could clear brush and clean out yards, he could fix and paint fences, he could seal driveways, he could haul junk away. He could do minor repairs on a house, he could paint the house, he could do all the jobs that are too small to call the pros to do.

Then, once he had decided what he was going to do, he went to the library, used one of their computers, and created a neat flyer, made one hundred copies for just a few dollars and went to the various neighborhoods in town passing out his flyers. He made sure the flyers were well-written with a clear definition of his services and, of course. how to get in touch with him.

In a matter of days, his phone started ringing. Now remember, he had not even been unemployed long enough to get an employment check yet and, by the way, he also was looking for a job all this time, too. He was covering all the bases. But honestly, in a matter of two weeks, he was getting more orders than he could handle.

And he was in business!

Now I’m not saying he wasn’t a bit lucky, but remember the old saying… “the harder you work the luckier you get?” Well that was Paul’s deal, and he had, in a matter of days, started a small business with nothing more than optimism, ambition and some creativity.

But stay tuned, this is only the first chapter of Paul’s small business story. We’ll visit with Paul again soon and talk about how he grew his business.

GROWING YOUR BUSINESS: Finding and hiring the right people

by Dan Beaulieu
Business consultant

Owners of businesses both large and small tell me that the biggest challenge they are facing today is finding, hiring and keeping good people. Unemployment in our state as well as all over the country is at record lows. It seems that everyone who wants a job has one already. It is bad in Seattle where I go to work with a company every month, that one company started giving away new Tesla’s for any new hire who stays a year.

Electronics companies in Chicago are stealing one another’s employees so often that war has been declared and companies are suing each other.

The same is true for the companies here in our area. So, with that in mind, here are a few tips on how to hire and keep the right people in your company:

  • Know who you’re looking for: Develop a good job description of the position you are trying to fill. The more detailed you can be about the position the better it will be. Include overall responsibilities, daily duties, qualifications, compensation package, and any special requirements.
  • Show them the future: Don’t offer prospective employees a job, offer them a career or at least training in your business. Show them how they will learn valuable skills that will make them more valuable in the future. No matter what your business is, there is always something to be learned. Show your prospective employees the bigger picture, the future of working with your company, even if your company will be a stepping stone to a greater career in the future.
  • Offer security: If the person is a bit older show them how if they do a good job, they will be able to count on a solid job as long a s they need one.
  • Offer training: No matter what your business, you can teach someone how to do it. Remember, the fact that you own your business puts you in a special category in terms of your experience making you a perfect candidate to act as a mentor/teacher to your employees
  • Hire for passion: Look for passion first. Even if the person knows nothing about your business. You can teach the business, you cannot teach passion
  • Hire slowly and fire quickly. Take your time when hiring the person, (even if you don’t have much time) it will be worth the extra effort you make to not only completely vet the candidate but also spend time with him or her to make sure of the right fit. There is such a thing as company culture, and you have to make sure that the candidate will fit into that culture. And in the end even if you have done everything correctly once the person is hired, if you see that it is not working, then do yourself and that person a favor and let him or her go weekly. And believe me you will know pretty quickly.
  • Respect: Respect your team. Show them the courtesy that you want to receive yourself. Be fair and honest and open with them and they will follow you through thick and thin. Next time we’ll talk about team building, another great way to grow your company.

GROWING YOUR BUSINESS: Take your competitor to lunch

Growing your businessby Dan Beaulieu
Business consultant

Welcome her to the neighborhood.

You are the fourth generation owner of a family-owned furniture store. Your great grandfather founded the business many years ago, and it has been part of your small city’s landscape ever since. The business is known for excellent quality, and service, and always making sure that the customer will not only keep coming back but will tell others about your store as well.

For the past few years, you have been hearing about the dreaded Big Box stores that are popping up all over the place. You’ve heard of other small family businesses being run into the ground, and forced to close their doors, because of the severe competitive challenges put upon them by these huge stores moving into their towns. It sounds like a nightmare!

Now one morning, as you drive to work, you go by the old baseball field where you used to play PAL baseball when you were a kid, and horrors! You see that someone has bought the lot and construction has started on a large building. When you slow down to see the sign on the temporary construction barriers, you see the name of one of those giant national furniture stores that will be coming to this very site and soon!

What do you do? Your heart is in your throat, and your stomach feels queasy. You are ready to quit right then and there, just plain throw in the towel. But no, you can’t do that. You think of everyone in your family who came before you, and worked so hard to make the business what it is today. So, what’s the plan? What can you do?

Well, according to Shep Hyken in his book: Amaze Every Customer Every Time, when the store opens you invite the manager to lunch, and welcome her to the neighborhood! You get to be friends with her. You talk to her, to find out what her store can do that your store cannot and vice versa.

According to Mr. Hyken, “Don’t demonize your competition. Learn what they do best. Knowing your competition can make you a better competitor…. Know your competition’s shortcomings and capitalize on them. Know your strengths and exploit them.”

It’s true that the big store can offer many more skews than you can. They have deeper buying pockets, so they can buy in huge quantities at better prices. And yes, they can take advantage of national marketing and name recognition. That’s all true and something you should take into consideration.

But here is what they can’t do. They cannot service a customer like you can. They do not, nor will they ever, have a close personal relationship with their customers. Where their customer service is weak, yours is strong. Where your customers’ loyalty is solid, theirs is very weak. While they sell products to a national audience, you can sell products to a regional customer base, a customer base that you have had almost one hundred years serving and learning about.

And you will always be an integral part of the community. When the kind ladies from the Methodist Church up the street drop in to see if you will contribute a gift certificate to be sold at their holiday fair’s silent auction, you can decide on the spot, while the big box store manager has to call corporate for permission.

If you think about it, you are in a great position to not only compete, but also thrive against that behemoth down the street. Just run a good business, with terrific customer service and you will have nothing to worry about. And, oh yes, take that big store manager to lunch and become friends and learn what she can do that you can’t and what you can do that she can’t and armed with that understand you’ll both end up sending customers to one another, and that’s a nice way to grow your business.

GROWING YOUR BUSINESS: Spreading the holiday business cheer!

Growing your businessby Dan Beaulieu
Business consultant

This time of the year is a perfect time to show your customers how much you appreciate their business, and especially their loyalty throughout the year. It provides an excellent opportunity to connect with your customers a bit more personally.

Look, there is nothing that says that you have to do anything for your customers. You have provided them with a service, or a product, and they have paid you and that’s good enough. Leave it at that…but that would be a missed opportunity to create customer loyalty. So, don’t do that if you’re serious about growing your business.

By giving your customers a small token of your appreciation, not to mention good will, you are creating a bond with them that goes deeper than the normal customer relationship. The effort is small (not to mention fun!) and the rewards are enormous.

If you’re a landscaper, then give your customers a nice fresh wreath for their front door, or a poinsettia.

If you’re in the restaurant business, offer your customers a special holiday desert… on the house.

If you own a spa, then give your customers a free bottle of that special lotion, they like so much.

If you’re a newspaper carrier and you hand out holiday cards, make sure you sign them with a little message. Even if you have a hundred customers, the effort will be worth it.

Even if your business is less personal like a plumbing or electrical business, there is no reason for you to miss out on this opportunity of bonding, through giving. Send your customers a beautiful holiday card signed by your team (Yes, please sign your cards, there is nothing more impersonal than cards with a printed signature if that’s what you plan to do…don’t bother, the effort is destroyed). Or, send them a beautiful calendar, something they can use all year long. Or better yet put a discount coupon in with the card.

And one thing more, let’s do role reversal here. When you receive a gift from your customer. A card. Or a restaurant gift card, or a monetary gift, make sure you thank them by sending a thank you card. A gift from a customers means you are doing a good job for them, and they appreciate you. Show them that you appreciate them and the gift by sending them a nice handwritten thank you card.

This time of the year, is the very best time to spread good cheer and gratitude and also assure your customers that you appreciate their patronage. And that’s a wonderful way to grow your business.

Have a safe and happy holiday season.

GROWING YOUR BUSINESS: Give your people permission to break rules

Growing your businessby Dan Beaulieu
Business consultant

Great customer service is often delivered by people who don’t mind breaking the rules.

You walk into your favorite pizza place. You love the pizza here because it is always fresh, hot, and delicious, so good, in fact that as far as you’re concerned, there is no other place in town to get pizza. One of the things you especially like about this place is that they serve pizza by the slice, which you love when you’re in a hurry and need a quick slice, or two, before you get back to what you are doing. You arrive at 7:15 one evening only to be told that they don’t sell by the slice after 7 p.m.

You’re disappointed but you get it, they don’t have enough walk-in business that late in the evening to move the pies by the slice. You are about to choose something else, when the person serving you says, “Hold on a minute and a few seconds later appears with a fresh hot slice of pizza and sells it to you. Now she is obviously taking a risk, she has broken the rule; you don’t know where she got that slice. But all you care about is that she gave you, a recognized good customer, a steady customer, what you asked for, and with that simple gesture, she guaranteed your loyalty forever. That is rule-breaking great customer service.

Sometimes great customer service comes to you unexpectedly, like the lady from the dry cleaners knocking on your door as six in the evening, after her shift is over because you forgot to take all of your shirts when you picked up the others earlier in the day.

Or, the car mechanic who calls you late one afternoon to tell you he has been thinking about the sound your car is making and he is pretty sure he knows what it is; so, if you bring in first thing in the morning, he will fix it right away. Just the fact that he has been thinking about your car’s problem after you left is a big deal!

Or the cable service person who actually tells you exactly when she will be at your house. And then won’t leave until she solves your problem, no matter how often the office is calling her to get to her next call.

Or your favorite waiter, at your favorite restaurant, who knows your taste so well that he likes to bring you a little sample of a new dish the chef is preparing because he thinks you’ll like it…and he doesn’t charge you a penny for it.

Or the person who is drying your car, at the car wash, who is not happy with the job they did, and insists on taking your car through again.

These are all examples of people who care more about the customers they are serving, than the rules of the company they work for. Now as a business owner ask yourself these questions:

  • What would you do if these were your employees? Would you reward them or reprimand them?
  • Do you have a system that gives your employees permission to do the right thing for your customers?
  • Is your entire staff trained to react the way the people in these examples reacted?

If not, then you’d better think about your customer service attitude and training. But if, on the other hand, these examples sound like what’s happening in your company, then good for you because that is the right way you are going to grow your business.