Author Archives: brian

Five Rainy Day Tasks for Business Owners

We had a state holiday last Friday and the weather over the weekend made hiking and going to the beach inadvisable. So, we had what I would call three “rainy days,” days that are perfect for working on organization and long-range projects that seldom get done on normal business days.

Here are five things I like to do for my business on “rainy days.”

  1. Unsubscribe. Unsubscribe. Unsubscribe. If you’re like me, you get tons of email a day, much of it junk mail and newsletters. My spam filter does a great job on the junk mail, but I do get a lot of newsletters and product announcements and other unwanted mail. I like to go through my inbox at least once every two months and aggressively unsubscribe to all the email that is not core to running my business. I also turn off all Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter notifications. My goal is to reduce my daily Inbox volume to just what is important.
  2. Computer maintenance. I delete programs I no longer use. I check for updates and run the “complete scan” on my security software. I check for updates. I clear off the desktop. I should do these things weekly (which I do for security software), but it’s good to do them all at once.
  3. Review accounts. I sort my accounts based on the sales amount. I go through the top five and see if there is anything we are not doing that we should. This might include following up with Thank You notes, a “how’s it going?” chat or recommending new products we have. For a nice three-day weekend, I’ll often go through the top twenty.
  4. Idea seek. Rainy days are a great time to see what’s new in our industry. I check the websites of our suppliers to see if there are new tools or products that would expand our offerings or make our jobs easier. I enjoy watching shows like “The Profit” to see how others succeed and fail.
  5. Seek leads. This is a task we do every day, but on rainy days I can dig deeper. I’ll have a look through the newspaper to see if there are any new businesses. I also enjoy taking a stroll around town to see if there is anything new. I also mine our online sources for new businesses. Part of this is also cleaning up our database to remove businesses that have closed, which in Kona is about 15% every year.
  6. Clean. Not much to say about this!

“Rainy days” are, of course, a metaphor for days when you can’t go out and do what you want. These down days, however, can be some of the most productive days for those running a business. Imagine if you can cut down your email by half, or if you can speed up your computer? Imagine identifying a client that needs some special attention? Imagine finding ten new leads and landing two of them as new clients? These are the things we can neglect when we’re in the hustle and bustle of answering the phone, talking with clients and making products.

 Kona Impact | 329-6077


rainy day at kona impact

What to Do When Your Competitor Plays Dirty

Most of Kona Impact’s clients have a love-hate relationship with social media and review websites. When they get a lot of positive reviews, they are, of course, happy. When a customer or client writes a bad review, they are not happy. When a competitor plays dirty, they are furious.

How do competitors play dirty online?

  1. Writing fake negative reviews about your business.
  2. Writing fake positive reviews about their business
  3. Engaging “black hat” marketing firms to spread incorrect information online.

How many online reviews are fake?

There is a lot of evidence that 15-20% percent on Yelp! and TripAdvisor reviews are fake. That is a huge number, because most business do not write or pay for fake reviews. That means, there is a relatively small number of businesses that are responsible for a huge amount of dishonest content.

What can an honest business do?

The first thing is never to write fake reviews or pay a company to write fake reviews for you or a competitor. It’s dishonest, and it violates the Terms of Service of every review site. You might get away with it for a short of long time, but trickery and dishonesty are no way to build a reputable business. Most of the review sites are very good at detecting large-scale fraud, so if you go from zero reviews to ten five-star reviews, written on the same computer, in a few days, it will be detected.

The review sites have one fatal flaw: they have no way to connect the review/reviewer to business.

That is, anyone can write a review about any business, whether he or she was a customer or not. Until that happens, all online review should not be imagined to be from actual customers. We saw this with the Minnesota dentist who killed the lion in Africa. His business got thousands of negative reviews on Yelp! by enraged people, and almost none of these was from his patients.

How can you deal with fake reviews about your business?

Unfortunately, Yelp! and TripAdvisor will seldom remove reviews, even if you claim the review is not from a customer or client. In practice, it seems to be an exercise in futility to contact the websites. You will also find it to be a long, expensive uphill struggle to bring legal action against the site. Don’t waste your time.

You could hire a lawyer and try to identify the person posting the review. This, again, seems like a waste of time and money; that is, by following the steps below you should be able to mitigate the damage of a fake review.Watch Sugarbabies (2015) Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

The first step should be to reply to the review. Here is a fake review posted by Manon Holroyd, who works for our competitor. We have never met her. She posted it on our Google+ profile.

fake review from Manon Holroyd

Fake review from Manon Holroyd

If you are certain the person has never been your client, say so. Most readers of reviews understand that fake reviews are common. Keep it factual and short.

The next step is to work on diluting the value of the negative review by asking customers to write reviews. You might want to have a sign at the counter or on the door, or you might print out some cards with your profiles on the review sites. Note: it’s against the Terms of Service of all the review sites to offer any incentives like money or free merchandise. Another strategy is to send an email thank you to clients and request reviews.

If you have one fake, planted review, ten positive ones will make that one look like an aberration.

Unfortunately, there is little you can do about competitors that fake reviews for their website. I know of one vacation service provider in Kona that has tens of excellent reviews, yet all the “reviewers” only seem to have written one review—for that company. Clearly this is someone trying to game the system. Volume is not the issue–we have one client with 170+ genuine five star reviews–it’s reviews that seem overly vague and laudatory coming from “reviewers” who have not written many reviews.

My advice is to focus on your business. Eventually the scammers and unprofessional businesses all get their just desserts.

 Kona Impact | 329-6077

Sidelines or In the Game? The Downside of Inaction

Think about any sport you have played. Now think about how you became good at that sport. Your path to becoming good probably included about 90% participation, playing, and 10% “other”, which might include reading rule books and watching YouTube videos.

Now think of starting a business. For certain, you need to spend time researching and thinking about what you are going to do. Planning is, for certain, very important, but over-planning-what I call analysis paralysis-will keep you in the idea stage and prevent you from actually launching your product or business.

analysis paralysis

We had three new businesses came into Kona Impact last week. What struck me about all of them was their eagerness to get in the game, to get their businesses launched as quickly as possible. All had wonderful ideas though from experience I could tell that at least one of them had some had not thought out some crucial parts of the business plan.

The business that was least developed, however, made enormous strides to solidify a plan after about 30 minutes of talking with us. We asked some questions and shared our understanding of the local market and some ways he could move forward. This entrepreneur listened, asked a lot of questions and was ready to take his business to the next stage.

Though he was eager to write a check to Kona Impact and get started, we sent him home with a bit of homework and set a meeting this week. We did this because we wanted him to iron out a few detail first. He was not ready, but very close to where he should be. He will, however, be marketing his new business by the end of the week.

I wonder about all the other entrepreneurs in Kona last week who spent a lot of time thinking and no time making concrete steps to launching their business. There must be hundreds of people thinking about getting in the game, watching from the sidelines.

There is a great concept in product development call the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). The idea is to think about a product, makes a prototype, collect data, analyze and then use that information to refine the product. The key is getting it to key customers quickly and using that information to improve and redesign the product.

MVP is getting into the game. It’s not seeking perfections; instead, the goal is to see business as an iterative process. Of the five pillars of Kona Impact’s business in 2006, only two of them remain as part of our offerings in 2015. We have added four new product lines and services since then. We would never have known that a few our services in 2006 were not viable for the Kona market had we not gotten in the game. Nor would we have developed our new products and services by just thinking; it took the perspective we got from being in business to figure these things out.

I do not suggest that entrepreneurs chase every possibility and half-heartedly launch business after business. The key is to get a good idea and use what you learn from buyers (and people who don’t buy!) to reformulate and improve your product or service. Getting in the game is the only way test your ideas and see if your business is viable. If not, at least you’ll know, and you can move on with your life. If so, congratulations: you’re in business!

Kona Impact | 329-6077

What Comes with the Lowest Price?

I heard an interview with a termite tenting company on Oahu this morning. His business seems to be much like Kona Impact’s in that we are a provider of quality, professional services, and we almost never use price cuts as a ruse to get clients.

The pest control guy had some great observations:

  1. Will the low-price guy damage your home or plants because he doesn’t pay his workers well?
  2. Does the low-price guy have adequate on-site supervision?
  3. Will the low-price guy use the correct amount of gas and procedures to ensure a 100% kill of the termites?
  4. Will the low-price guy be around to honor any warranty?

I thought those reasons were pretty compelling. With a several hundred thousand or a million dollar (or more) investment for your home, why would you go for cheapest? Obviously, there is a reason they are inexpensive.

The same is true for design and marketing services. There are, of course, less expensive options than Kona Impact. On occasion, they might just be a better overall deal because they have certain efficiencies or very low-cost structures.

will your provider leave you hanging?

I would argue, however, that the inexpensive providers will have many of the following characteristics:

  1. Inexperienced at design and business. You will be paying for their on-the-job training.
  2. Mistake prone. Designing and setting up files for production is an exacting task and requires an understanding of print processes and online technologies.
  3. Working alone. You will be getting the experience of an individual, probably working out of his (or his parent’s) house. This lack of perspective and inability to work collaboratively with others will inevitably show up in the quality of work.
  4. Lack of commitment to the business. We often see the low-price provider as someone who is “testing the waters”, so to speak, of a design or marketing career. Growing a sustainable business is not the goal: figuring out if he or she likes the business is the goal.
  5. Part-time work habits. A person working full-time in the design and marketing worlds knows the value of time and the costs of doing business, which leads to appropriate pricing. Moonlighters and part-timers seldom do.
  6. Prone to abandoning projects. If the price quote is way off about the cost of doing a project, it makes more sense to abandon the project, even at the mid-way point than finishing it.
  7. “Gotcha” pricing. Often a low initial price will lead to requests for more money as the project progresses. This leaves the client in a tough situation; pay more or give up the project.
  8. Transient business. Your provider might be here today, gone tomorrow. As a result, you might lose your deposit, or worse, not have access to the designer when you want to make future revisions or derivative projects.

Kona Impact has been in business for almost nine years. A big reason we are still here, even after the Great Recession, is that we have always tried to deliver exceptional value at fair prices. We have seen tens of like businesses in Hawaii come and go, and, unfortunately, we have heard many stories of businesses that have lost a lot of money with the low-cost providers.

We also “walk the walk” when dealing with our suppliers and vendors. We don’t mind paying more for supplies and services if we know the business does great work. We also patronize businesses that we want and need in our community.

So, the next time you find a way to save some money, ask yourself this: What is the cost of the low price?

Kona Impact | 329-6077

Realtor Signs: Do You Really Save Buying Online?

We sell a lot of signs at Kona Impact. Just last week we made the following

  • 200 sq ft of foam core (rigid back) signs for a large gathering for a hotel in Waikoloa
  • 20-some real estate riders
  • 20-some realtor signs: “for sale” and “open house”
  • several hundred square feet of banner for school and resort
  • Cut vinyl for a store, a boat and two vehicles
  • Printed graphics for a work van
  • Some posters ….and more!

We go by “a reasonable profit” when we price things. That is, we never want to lose money on a project, though we occasionally do, but we also don’t want to be at a price point that is absurdly high. We want our customers to see good value in what we make, and we want to see them again and again.

I decided to see how price-competitive we are with realtor signs. They are 24″ x 18″, printed on vinyl, laminated and them adhered to aluminum. They are a standard product, so quality really does not vary by vendor.

We charge $75 for just a few and, if ordered in bulk, we go to $65/sign.

I just looked online for the same product. I choose one of the first companies, which I found at the top of the Google search results.


Here is the price quote, with five shipping tiers (Super Saver to Rush). The Total shows the same product we sell for $75 at $77.31 with Super Saver shipping to Hawaii the price doubles. The sign would arrive in two to two-and-a-half weeks and would cost $148.95! If I want one in one business day, it would cost $215.95, three times what we charge.

Our turn around time is a day! So, the direct apples-to-apples comparison (same product, same quality, same turn around time) is $75 for Kona Impact or $215.95 for buying online.

So, the next time you are going to buy anything online, check your local supplier. You might just find that you can get the same product much quicker locally.


Three Ways Your Clients Are Killing Your Profits

We had an interesting exchange with an outside website designer last week. He was doing some work on one of our client’s websites, which, in itself, is not that unusual. After we had given him the directions how to log into the website, he said he was unable to make the changes because he lacked the technical skills. We responded that we could help him for a fee, or he could find someone who knows what he or she was doing. It was a constructive, polite response. He answered in a rather snarky tone that he was disappointed we couldn’t help him.

I wonder how much of his design time he would like to give us for free. You see, we are in the business of selling our knowledge, skills and products, and if we give them away, we would not be in business very long.

profit or loss

My number one way clients kill profits is free consulting. We are usually very generous with sharing our knowledge, but when a client is trying to use our knowledge to solve his or her problem without paying, we are giving away profits.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

Another example of a profit-killing client is someone who has excessive changes on a project that is bid/proposed on a project cost. We make a lot of banners. They are a fairly simple and inexpensive form of signage. A clear, simple message is always best, so we tell clients that and then give a project quote.

Every once in a while, we’ll get a client that overthinks his or her banner. Change this; change that; move that there; let’s see what this color will look like; how about three more fonts?, and so on. We base a project price quote on what we call a “reasonable project” cost. When the client thinks of design time as an all-you-can-eat-buffet, the business can lose money on the project if it is not careful.

Excessive changes are another way for clients to kill your profits.

A third example is clients who needs excessive reminders, a letter or two and calls to settle accounts. Interestingly, we find both prosperous and barely-scraping-by clients who require excessive effort to collect past due amounts. I calculated that one client, a large, well-known service provider in town, took twenty minutes (four email, one call, and a letter) to collect on a small, $150 invoice. At our current billing rates, that’s more than $30 in lost billing time.

We all like to spend as little time as possible doing non-paying tasks. When a client takes you away from what pays the bills, you are losing revenue and profits

We have a saying in the office:

Everything has a cost.
Who will pay, the client or the business?

This is a simple way of looking at how you will allocate your time and resources, and, more importantly, how you will bill or monetize your time and resources. If you are giving away consulting advice, you are giving away money. If you let clients go over reasonable costs for a project, you are paying for the project, not your client. If your clients have excessive account costs, maybe it’s time to shift those costs to the client by adding late or financing fees.

In the end, all successful businesses have clients or customers pay the vast majority of costs. If your clients or customers have cost shifted too much to your business, you are simply giving away money.

Kona Impact | 329-6077

Building Better People to People Business Connections

I hate networking! At least I hate the kind of networking where you put a big group of unconnected people in a room and people meander around like jellyfish trying to find a company or individual that will become a new client. Unfocused trade shows, networking groups and after hours all have the same problem: a bunch of people who are there to “network.”

who is in your network?

At the end of this kind of event, I tend to end up with a bunch of “pre-paid legal,” “network marketing,” and “Amway-type” pitches.  I meet few of the kind of people that fit my business needs or model—either as a potential customer or supplier. It gets old quickly, and truth be told, I find that I have spent an evening wasting my time. I stopped doing these things years ago.

My favorite ways to build strong, lasting and profitable business connections include:

  1. Working hard to deliver excellent products and services. Nothing builds a business like consistently delivering for clients. All the items that follow are doomed to fail if you can’t keep your new and existing customers happy.
  2. Doing business fairly and ethically. This, of course, is the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. People respect honesty and integrity, and if you are known as a reliable and fair business, your customers will be more loyal and less price-focused.
  3. Volunteering. Kona, Hawaii, where I live, is a small community. Giving your time to help with community projects will send a very positive message to others that you care about the community, and you are willing to lend a hand.
  4. Joining groups of like-minded people. We like to do business with people who are like us. This means that we are more likely to work with those who share our same religious, volunteer, sports, political and other beliefs.
  5. Showing appreciation. A thank-you note, a small year-end gift, a restaurant gift certificate and a lot of “thank you for your business” are great ways to show your customers and clients that you value them. At Kona Impact, we started giving engraved handmade Koa wood pens to customers as a way of saying thanks. Our clients have loved them so much that they are now asking us to make them for their clients!
  6. Using my clients’ businesses. I now seldom eat at restaurants that are not Kona Impact clients. Given the choice between two like businesses, I always choose my clients’ businesses. It shows mutual respect and support sans ordonnance viagra. We always tell local businesses that they cannot expect others to buy locally if they do not buy locally themselves.
  7. Refer. Refer. Refer. Kona Impact has a very big Rolodex of customers. When someone asks where they can find a good bakery, plumber, building contractor, sushi restaurant, etc. we always refer them to one of our clients. If we have a client that could benefit from meeting another client, we’ll try to put them in touch. This goes back to #6, supporting those who support you.
  8. Give positive reviews on Yelp!, Google+ and TripAdvisor. If I eat at a client’s restaurant or even fill up at a client’s gas station, AND the experience is positive, I try to write a positive review online. I never exaggerate or create false reviews, but when things are good, I want others to know.
  9. Keeping connected. Send a monthly newsletter or just a “how ‘ya doing?” email once in a while. Social media sites can help keep connections, but just because everyone is publishing doesn’t mean everyone is reading! Keep the signal to noise ratio in mind when updating your profile with every meal you eat, pithy saying you like and photos of your cat. People will tune our really quickly.
  10. Always having a business card! A lot of young entrepreneurs don’t seem to carry business cards. Get a set. Keep them in your wallet, bag, glove compartment of your car and on your desk. It’s simple. It’s inexpensive. There are no excuses for this one.

I started this blog by saying that I hate networking. This is true. What I do love is connecting with people in a deep and meaningful way. I love working side-by-side on a volunteer project. I love seeing them at the farmers market. I love “talking story.” I do not go for quantity; quality is really what matters.

Kona Impact | 329-6077

Have a fun and safe Independence Day weekend!

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2015 Mid-Year Marketing Review: What’s New? What Works?

We’re officially at the mid-year point for 2015. It’s a great time to see what’s been changing in online marketing. It’s also a great time to state some basic facts that are time-tested.

changes ahead

First, here are four big changes in online marketing:

      • Local search is where it’s at for most businesses. These are searches for things in your community. They might include:

“Web design company in Kailua-Kona” | “Kona real estate company”

“Seafood restaurant on Hawaii Island” | “96740 snorkeling tour”

All these searches are looking for something local. When you search for them, you are likely to see a map with pins on it, as Google knows where you are and for what you are looking.

The takeaway lesson is that your website needs to be optimized for local search. There are many aspects of this, but with approximately 50% of searches looking for local content, you need to be in this space. This trend will accelerate in the next few years.

    • Mobile search / Mobile optimized websites are essential. There has been a huge shift in the way people search: from a desktop computer to mobile devices, such as phone and tablets. In the first half of this year, Google started omitting websites that are not mobile-friendly from search results from mobile devices. This means that a person searching on a phone for a restaurant in Kona, Hawaii will only see search results for restaurants with mobile-friendly/optimized websites. Some website can be converted to mobile friendliness fairly easily; others involve more work and greater cost. You are losing new customers if you don’t have a mobile/mobile-friendly website.
    • Trickery and “black hat” search engine optimization are increasingly dangerous. Think about it: will a few guys creating spammy links be able to outsmart the 50,000 or so very smart people who work at Google? If they could outsmart Google, do you think they would tell you the secret? Google’s goal is to give the best search results, so ways to trick the search engines are directly in opposition to this goal. Google has spent billions on keep results meaningful, so when someone promises you some hocus pocus ways to get visibility online, you need to be a skeptic. The first half of 2015 saw several Google changes regarding nefarious SEO techniques; it will become harder and harder to game the system, so just spend your time and money doing things the right way. There are no shortcuts!
  • There are only four worthwhile online advertising platforms for most business: Google, Bing, Facebook and LinkedIn. All others are fighting for a very small percentage of searches. The ad rates for the 2nd and 3rd tier platforms are often less expensive, but you run the risk of wasting a lot of time for a very small market share. Yelp is notorious for very aggressive ad sales to local businesses. Buyer beware: strong pitches tend to mask poor products! I only see this trend increasing in the second half of the year and into the future.


Here a few things that haven’t changed:

      1. Your website needs to be technically sound, user-friendly and fast loading. If your website is sub-optimal, you should start by fixing it. No amount of marketing effort will overcome a poorly-designed, content poor website.
      2. A content strategy—weekly updates, blogging, social media post, etc.—is essential for online marketing. If you don’t have a blog, get one and use it. The key to search engine marketing is to have content that matches what people are searching for. Create it, and they will find you!
      3. Put your eggs in several baskets. There is no singular marketing strategy that will propel your business to success. You need to have a good online presence, first, but after that look at other ways such as email, newsletters, mailings, paid online marketing, print ads, vehicle graphics, signage, event sponsorships, community involvement, face-to-face marketing and so on. Don’t sit behind a computer and expect miracles. Likewise, ignoring online marketing is like wearing only one shoe.
      4. Getting help from professionals can save you time, stress and money. It’s been several years since a pure do-it-yourself model of online marketing has worked. The changes are just too rapid and complex, and to keep up with them is a full-time job. This has always been true in business: do what you do well and hire the best people possible to do what you don’t do well. Most businesses of any size or value that handles all online marketing in-house are wasting staff resources and achieving sub-par results.

There have been some huge changes in the online marketing world in the first six months of 2015. We have seen many businesses lose a significant amount of online visibility due to neglect and a “set-it-and-forget-it mentality”. We have also seen many businesses capitalize on these changes and leapfrog their competitors without a large amount of effort or cost. The victories, as they always do, will go to those who make a continuous effort to evolve and adapt to market conditions.

Kona Impact | 320-6077


Some Interesting Facts About Real Estate on Hawaii Island

I just spent a few weeks traveling on the Mainland.

I heard a lot of people say they wanted to move to “Hawaii.” Many think of Hawaii as one place. it’s not: there are several island, all with a different lifestyle, cost of living and job market. This blog focuses on real estate on Hawaii Island.

Hawaii Island

I spent about twenty minutes talking to a guy who had “discovered” a lot of inexpensive land on Hawaii Island. Without trying to burst his bubble, I asked him about what he had found. He said found a lot of land that is inexpensive, relatively speaking, in South Kona and a lot of affordable properties in a place called Puna.

Clearly, he had very little understanding of Hawaii real estate. Here are some interesting things that many Mainlanders need to understand.

  1. The Big Island is truly big. From Kona, on the west side of the island to Hilo on the east side, it takes about an hour and thirty minutes by car. Some people buy relatively inexpensive property in the rural areas only to find that the commute to a good job is one or two hours each way!
  2. Location matters a lot. The sunshine and beaches are on the west (leeward side) and the rain and tropical vegetation are on the east (windward side). The wealth, for the most part, is on the west side. The south part of the island has a ton of inexpensive lots available, but you will be one to two hours (at times with no traffic) away from Kailua-Kona or Hilo.
  3. You might not own the land! A huge trust owns a lot of the land in South Kona. They own the land; you lease it and depending on the lease cycle, you may only have the rights to live on the land for five or ten more years. You can always renew the lease, but you will always be renting the land. Few of the leases go beyond thirty-five years, which will create issues if you want to sell the property when your remaining lease term is less than 30 years, as banks won’t lend for real estate for a term that exceeds the lease. Note: if you’re a cash buyer, you have a lot of bargaining power for real estate with only a handful of years left on the lease. That said, you need to have faith that your lease will be renewed!
  4. If buying a condo, be sure to understand what your Association fees and the financial condition of the Association. These fees cover outside maintenance, management, pools, gardens, trash removal, etc. They can be several hundred or a few thousand dollars a month. If your Association is in poor fiscal health, you might be looking at an assessment—one-time cost—shared by all owners. Oceanfront properties often have huge maintenance costs, so if your Association’s reserves are low or there are unexpected costs, you could be looking at thousands of dollars.

I highly recommend finding a good realtor in Kona, Hilo or Waimea if you are seriously considering property on the Big Island. It’s easy to fall in love with the island’s natural beauty on land and sea and invest in something that does not suit your intended lifestyle or financial goals.

Kona Impact | 329-6077