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The Leading Edge September 2015
Small Business Success
Taking Care of Business  

In this Issue

Should our Business Join a 'Buy Local' Campaign?

The Elusive Happy Workplace

What Is Superb Customer Service?

Do Business owners and Employees See Eye to Eye?


THE LEADING EDGE - Say Goodbye to Google. Say Hello to Alphabet. Google Inc. says it is creating a new operating structure under a newly formed umbrella company it is calling Alphabet Inc.

Small Business News:

For the first time, 1 billion people used Facebook in a single day - Aug 27, 2015 The Associated Press - NEW YORK, N.Y. - For the first time, a billion people used Facebook in a single day on Monday. CEO Mark Zuckerberg marked the occasion with a post on his Facebook page, saying that one out of seven people on Earth logged in to the social network to connect with their friends and family Read more...

Canada needs a stand-alone agency to deal with asset-price bubbles - The Bank of Canada doesn't seem particularly alarmed by housing debt levels. One of Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz's deputies spoke about housing this week. Lawrence Schembri was disarmingly calm while tackling a subject that can easily lead to hysterics. There was no mention of bubbles or irrational exuberance, suggesting the central bank continues to believe that the situation is under control. Read more...

Low Oil Prices Make Deficits Now Seem Inevitable. Ask not whether PM-hopefuls plan to balance the budget, but how they will deal with revenue shortfalls. Read more...

Vancouver-based Trippeo Introduces Revolution in Expense Account Systems - Trippeo wants to be the only app business travellers need to manage their away-from-home spending. Read more...

    Should our Business Join a 'Buy Local' Campaign?

In recent years many small towns have adopted; 'Buy Local' campaigns. The exercise takes on many forms, sometimes with awards for the best marketing campaign to customers - sometimes offering discounts to shoppers who can prove local residence. In most cases the idea is to get local consumers to change their habit of making small purchases locally, while still buying major items such as cars or furniture elsewhere. The purpose of such a campaign is to build the community customer base by deterring them from going to the next larger community for a large percentage of their purchases.

If your company is invited to take part in such a campaign - perhaps through your Chamber of Commerce, you need to ensure the project will be well managed. Badly managed campaigns may align you with temporary partners that you might not otherwise find attractive. Participating retailers for example should be those that are invited in, rather than 'come one-come all'. Depending on the nature of your business there may not be a direct benefit - but if such a campaign is created, and the benefit to you is not immediately apparent, make sure you are still aware of its existence and progress. Your company is still part of the community and there can often be spin off benefits.

In some successful campaigns, participating retailers have agreed to post a statement of values on their wall, ensuring customers they are getting principled, quality service by shopping close to home.

Local media needs to be engaged in the process and among the arguments made, the following points should periodically figure in all media communications:

  • Local stores are more likely to carry locally produced foods which supports local agriculture
  • Local business owners contribute to more local fundraising for non-profit agencies
  • Local businesses provide a majority of jobs
  • Local businesses support other local businesses
  • The business community becomes reflective of this community's unique culture
  • Competition and diversity result in fair prices and more choices
  • Shopping locally reduces carbon footprint with shoppers driving less to neighboring communities.

Why should you buy locally owned?

As a business owner, it's not always practical for you to source your supply chain locally, however you'd be surprised how many of your small purchases can be sourced locally. By doing this - perhaps with the help of your Chamber, you can encourage other local companies to look to you for some of their needs.

Where we shop, where we eat and have fun - all of it makes our community home. Our one-of-a-kind businesses are an integral part of the distinctive character of a community. Our tourism businesses also benefit. "When people go on vacation they generally seek out destinations that offer them the sense of being someplace, not just anyplace." ~ Richard Moe, President, National Historic Preservation Trust

Buying locally creates local prosperity: A growing body of economic research shows that in an increasingly homogenized world, entrepreneurs and skilled workers are more likely to invest and settle in communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character.

Where should the leadership come from?

While demonstrating community leadership, your local Chamber of Commerce could use the 'Buy Local' campaign as a membership builder - indicating that 'Buy Local' participants are also Chamber Members.

If you're interested in starting a shop local campaign, you'll get some great ideas from the following websites.

The Elusive Happy Workplace Top


In the search for the happy workplace, many techniques have been tried and all seem to work to some degree. Of the ideas that are the most effective, the one thing they have in common is a demonstrated respect for employees. However, personal happiness of staff must be pursued with honesty not just as a PR exercise.

You know those company videos or blog posts aimed at showing the world just how great Company X is to work for? Everyone is having fun at work, and they're smiling while talking about all the perks. We have come to think of this as what an engaged workforce might look like. However this Pleasantville snapshot can be a little misleading.

In this article we look at the potential advantages of profiling the personal stories of our staff. One industry that does this well is the travel industry. It's quite common to see a photograph of a travel counsellor in the store window with a brief sketch of his or her background. Likewise, realtors will often give a personal overview in a newspaper ad. Today, social media gives us a new opportunity to profile our experienced staff using Tweets and Facebook pages to talk briefly about past accomplishments.

All of these approaches make it clear that our company is not a faceless franchise but a collection of experienced and caring individuals. Even internally, within the office, much can be done to promote greater understanding between staff to the ultimate benefit of all employees, and the company itself, creating a significantly happier workplace.

Personal Histories

In the past few years we have seen an explosion of interest by individuals regarding their heritage and family history. is a major player in meeting that need. We of course would never demand to know about our staff's family history, since that would be an invasion of privacy. However, some employers in search of a happy workplace have found it productive and interesting to have individual employees talk about their own personal journeys in terms of career or education. A case in point; I once had a lady work for my company as a receptionist. No questions were asked about her education at the time of hiring since she was obviously very bright. She was from India and it later turned out that she had an education in early Indian history - earning her a graduate level degree. When she told several staff members about her fascinating history it triggered the idea of a monthly social mixer where any staff member could talk about their adventures in early employment and education including perhaps travel adventures. Obviously there was no pressure and anyone who didn't want to share their experience was free to decline the offer.

Several benefits emerged

  1. Firstly it demonstrated that, as their boss, I saw them as individuals, each with a unique history.
  2. We all gained a better understanding of our workmates as individuals.
  3. We identified skills that could be transferred to the workplace.
  4. It gave people a chance to demonstrate pride in their past accomplishments and led to new relationships between employees sharing common interests or experience, such as industries worked in and countries travelled to.
What Is Superb Customer Service? Top


I recently came home from an extended hospital stay, complete with a three-month un-groomed beard and badly needing a haircut. I called a local hairdresser where I have been a customer for about a year and made an appointment. On the day of my appointment, to my surprise, a young lady employed by the hairdresser showed up at my front door although I was about to leave for her place of business. Given the challenge of my neglected hair and beard, it turned into two-hour job. As I prepared to pay for the exceptional service she informed me that there was no charge. She explained that their policy with established customers who have just come home from hospital, is to go to their home and not charge. I call that Positively Outrageous Service or POS. In the following weeks I told everyone in my coffee crowd, naming the hairdresser and when asked to execute a keynote for a conference, I told my audience the story, naming names.

In the late 1990's author and lecturer, T. Scott Gross developed the concept of POS and wrote a bestselling book with the central message that superb customer service is service that consistently goes above and beyond customer expectations. Organizations acquire loyal customers because their customer service is consistently excellent, which encourages customers to continue coming back for the same great experience. If an organization can give every customer the same superior service, their reputation among their customer base will be strengthened. Retail consultants agree that the trick is to practice POS in a way that is highly visible to at least one customer and watch that customer tell a hundred others. In today's tough economy, cutting prices and providing good service aren't enough. To be truly successful, innovative businesspeople must learn the art of Positively Outrageous Service (POS)-doing the unexpected, unexpectedly, and giving the customer more than he or she could hope for.

POS Has to Be:

  1. Unexpected - if a customer expects it, how can it be outrageous?
  2. Above and beyond - we're talking out of proportion to the circumstances.
  3. Compelling - what you do has to be worth talking about. You want customers to want to tell others what you did for them.

Positively outrageous service also comes into play when you make a mistake. POS says that the best thing that can happen to your reputation is to make a mistake, since it gives you a chance to impress the heck out of the customer. Here's how to do just that:

  1. Fully admit the mistake
  2. Move to correct the mistake immediately
  3. Do something outrageous and unexpected such as offering a steep discount on their next purchase.

Some years ago I was surprised to receive an invitation to a sales meeting by my cellular carrier after I had complained about bad service. The sales manager invited me to speak to the entire sales team at their Monday morning meeting. I was able to explain my frustration and tell them how I thought they should have handled it. I was most impressed. And of course told everyone in my network.

The fashion giant Nordstrom's has always practiced POS. I have always enjoyed the story of a Nordstrom's customer who bought a shirt but needed the arm-length shortened and therefore could not take his purchase home immediately. Much to his surprise a Nordstrom's employee from the menswear department, showed up at his door at six o'clock that evening explaining that his way home took him through the customer's neighbourhood and he thought he would save the customer the trip back to the store.

Can you honestly say that you offer superb customer service that consistently goes above and beyond customer expectations? Organizations acquire and retain loyal customers because their customer service is consistently excellent, encouraging people to keep coming back for the same great experience. While it's not always possible to give every customer the same extreme customer service, using POS principles will build your reputation and get people talking about your company in a positive light.

T. Scott Gross's book:

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Community Futures Alberni-Clayoquot
4757 Tebo Avenue, Port Alberni, BC, V9Y 8A9
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