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Just Once: The Value of Trying Something New

How often do we do the same behaviors day in and day out? Do we take the same route to work? Do we do the same tasks in the same order ever day? Do we the same marketing activities year after year?

Of course we do! People are creatures of habit, and it is these habits, if perfected over time, that help us become productive and focused. Imagine having to do everything different for a day? It would be chaos.

What I have been trying to do the past several months is do something, one thing, that I have never done each week. It might be something as mundane as trying a food I’ve never had before, or it might be a more transformative experience.

About two months ago I joined the cast of “Inherit the Wind” at the Aloha Theater. In 47 years I had never felt the desire to act on stage. I was very comfortable seeing nearly every Aloha Performing Arts Company production over the years, when we traveled, we always tried to make theater part of our itinerary.

In the six weeks of rehearsals and three weeks of shows, I experienced a lot. I was not in my comfort zone until opening nights, so it was a challenge for me to figure out what I should be doing when.watch Demolition 2016 movie now

By stepping outside of my everyday routine, I was able to learn the following:

  1. The value of following instead of leading. As a company owner, all responsibility falls on me. I set the tone, plan the projects and guide the employees. As an actor (and not even a very important one to the play), I was able to observe how our director, producer, set designer, set builders and other in the play manage and coordinate others.
  2. The value of being unimportant. I don’t mean this in a bad way, but it was great to spend six weeks being, perhaps, the least important person on the stage. I enjoyed the time I spent watching others—the director, main characters—do the heavy lifting.
  3. The value of systems. Theater productions have definite stages: cold reading, blocking (movement), off-book (no script), dress rehearsal and daily “notes”. This iterative process, which told us what to focus on when was a good reminder that you need to break down tasks and focus on each element at a time.
  4. The value of feedback. A play has a lot of moving parts and a lot of egos. Some of the actors were doing their first play and others had been parts of numerous productions prior to ours. The director, of course, gave the most feedback, but every day there was subtle, and not so subtle coaching by the actors to the actors. The overwhelming majority of the comments were constructive.
  5. The value of being part of something bigger than yourself. It’s easy to live our lives in silos: work, family and friends. Becoming part of a play helped me to see how twenty-some people, working together, supporting each other could make for a show that was seen  and enjoyed by nearly 1,000 people.

My call to action is not to encourage everyone to try out for a theater production; instead, it is to encourage readers to try something new, something completely different.

Whether it is stand-up paddle boarding, dance lessons, visiting a church from a different faith, sign waving for a candidate you support or something else. It does not matter: try something new. Commit to doing it once!

I’m Proud of this One-Star Review!

I’ve been online long enough to remember the famous 1993 cartoon, where one dog is “talking” to another dog. He says, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” It’s an internet classic .  The joke is that the anyone can post anything online.

Well, 26 years later and we still (and always will) have people who take to their keyboard and write without thinking. Fortunately complete privacy is no longer (and probably never was) possible.

Last weekend, we received a one-start Google + review from Anela Bonafede. Her review is attached to her name, so I did not have to do any detective work.  I have never met her, nor have we provided business services to company any for which Anela works.

Her review was, “Refusing business because of possible competition with kayak businesses.” (one star)

anela bonafede review of kona impact

I quickly connected this review to a call I had last week. A guy called and said that we were highly recommended by another business. He said he was in the kayak rental/tour business in Kealakekua Bay. I stopped him right away and told him that I probably couldn’t help him because I was already working with a tour company at the Bay. I had a handshake agreement that I wouldn’t work with competitors of my client for marketing work, but I would for signage.

My client has become very successful, partly because of the work we have done for him. He also runs a great business. Given that there are only a few businesses working (legally) in that area, growth can only come from taking customers from another business. That is, the pie is only so big and to get a bigger piece of it would require someone else getting a smaller piece.

Helping a competitor would mean taking business away from an existing client.

We are unwilling to do that. We agreed—for good reason—not to do that. End of story.

So, our one-star review from Anela Bonafede (who I don’t know) is because Kona Impact will not engage in unethical behavior. I am very proud of this one-star review.

I ask Ms Bonafede the following:

  1. If Kona Impact was willing to cheat an existing client to help you, don’t you think we’d do the same to you eventually? Why would you want to work with a business that didn’t keep its promises?
  2. Do you run the kind of business that doesn’t honor agreements? If so, why would Kona Impact want to work with you?

Kona Impact
74-5599 Luhia St, E-7
Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

Business Lessons from David Bowie

A life well lived, a game well played: David Bowie (1947-2016, RIP)

It’s hard not to imagine anyone from my generation, the one before it, and perhaps current generations, who has not been inspired and touched by a David Bowie song. For me, it was “Changes,” which I played incessantly as an early teen. It spoke to me.

david bowie business

Now, some thirty years later, I look at Bowie a bit differently: a trendsetter who figured out how to stay relevant and wealthy throughout his fifty or so year career. He knew the business of art, and, yes, he played the game well, very well.

There are few recording artists who continue to grow throughout their career. There was Bowie the “space oddity,” “glam rocker,” “the Thin White Duke,” “the New Waver,” “the pop star,” and “the experimental/electronic”—all this over fifty years. Few can match that level of change. Michael Jackson had his childhood period and an adult career that (in my mind) didn’t evolve much. When you go to a Rolling Stones concert, admit it, all you want to hear is “Satisfaction.” Mariah Carey and Britney Spears are essential the same as they were ten years ago. The only musical performer that reaches the level of Bowie’s level of change is Madonna.

At Kona Impact, we have gone through a gentle metamorphosis over the years. Of the six initial pillars of our business, we no longer have three of them. They have been replaced by five new areas of business. In 2016, we hope to add two more pillars to our business. Change to us is not scary in the least bit; it is essential for our growth.

When we think of change, we think mostly of expanding and contracting things we do. It’s not an upheaval of our business model on a whim; in fact, every change comes from information we receive from customers. It’s not what we want to do; it’s what our customers tell us (in various ways) what they want us to do. Business to us is not self-indulgent; it’s customer-centric evolution.

Another thing Bowie did was to realize that his business, the music business is a business. In 1990, he gave up the royalties on his music catalog for ten years, creating “Bowie Bonds.” In return, he received a cool $55 million. I can’t help but think of Picassos going for hundreds of millions of dollars these days, more than Pablo could have imagined earning in many lifetimes. He led a good life, for certain, but most of the value of his work has been realized after his death.

My point is that innovation, protecting assets and knowing when to capitalize assets is part of what every business should do, whether it’s a construction company finding innovative ways to lease and maintain heavy equipment or a small mom and pop shop clearing out the storage locker and converting inventory to cash.

Like any small business, we seek ways to improve our financial position. We would love to see more clients pay with checks, as they save us 3% credit card processing fees. Ideas how to make this happen, including not accepting credit cards for large purchases, come up now and then, but this type of change is perhaps too bold. My point is that small businesses (and medium and large for that matter) need to focus on money; how to make more and spend less. Bowie, at least, figured out how to make more by securitizing his music catalog.

Bowie, the artist, will be missed, but we can always revisit the feelings of love, angst, introspection and joy by listening to his music. Bowie, the businessman, is someone we can study and emulate. How can our businesses stay relevant for years? How can we change? How should we change? What can we do to keep more of what we earn?

 Kona Impact | 329-6077 | 74-5599 Luhia Street, E-7, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

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

Have a fun and safe Independence Day weekend!

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Online Marketing Trends for Small Business: That Was Then, This is Now

When I used to train teachers, I always told them: You have one default way of teaching, and that is how you were taught and learned. Many good teachers get by with this; a great teacher, however, seeks new ways and is not afraid to innovate and change. If you don’t want to change, you should consider a different field.Watch movie online The Transporter Refueled (2015)

The same is true for online marketing: we all have a default way of looking at and practicing online marketing. These ideas and actions might not be fruitful. There might be many new opportunities that will grow your business better and faster, but you have to look for them.

on target with online marketing?

Here is my list of “old” and “new” for online marketing. If you find yourself stuck in the old, you need to start exploring some of the new.

  1. Set it and forget it vs. a “live” website. Long gone are the days when an effective website could be built and left alone to attract customers. We see ample evidence every day that websites need to grow, change and be updated frequently to gain what we call “google mojo”, search engine visibility. If you haven’t changed anything on your website in the past three months, you lack probably lack significant “mojo.”
  2. “tags” vs searchable content. We still hear clients say that meta tags, the hidden text on web pages, are important. Some are, but most aren’t. Google has ignored them for years, as do most the other search engines. A dynamic and well-thought out content strategy that is implemented is the gold standard for search engine visibility. This means words on web pages. Simple.
  3. D.I.Y vs outsourced. For a business that sees the value of effective online marketing, it often makes sense to outsource a lot of the work. The options are vast and a professional marketing consultant can help you choose efficient solutions. In “the old days” businesses outsourced a lot of their marketing: yellow pages, radio ads, tv ads and newspaper ads. The good news with online marketing is that you see results for several years; whereas, a today’s newspaper is tomorrow cat box liner.
  4. Untargeted vs. extreme targeting. Display ads, run and paid for by number of impressions (how many times displayed), were fine when our tools were relatively undeveloped. Now, I target online advertising to zip codes, specific websites, and I only pay when they bring a potential client to my website. We can now ensure that very few marketing resources are wasted on unqualified prospects. This is a huge shift. If you are not optimized for local search and advertising online to people in your community, you’re missing out.

What is a smart business to do if it finds itself with a stagnant online marketing plan? Or worse, what can a business do if it has no online marketing plan? The answer is obvious: learn and change! If you want to do other things with your time, find a skilled marketing person or team to help you help. Doing nothing will guarantee no progress.

Kona Impact | 329-6077

Spotlight: Five Exceptional Locally-Owned Business in Kona, Hawaii

buy locally

We all like to say that we support our local economy and want to keep our money in Hawaii. In principle, it makes sense to buy locally as the money spent at a local business tends to stay on the island and make for a more vibrant and dynamic local economy.

Here are five locally-owned businesses that you can easily patronize instead of the big box retailers or the off-island owned chains. I’d contend that the prices are about the same or less and the service is far superior.

Gas – One my favorite local gems is the Queen K Tesoro, located across from the harbor entrance. Owned by a local family that does a huge amount of good in the community by supporting local athletics and several non-profits, this is my go-to gas station. I like the E-free gas and the store is always stocked with great snacks and even a salad bar.

Propane – Alii Gas and Energy Systems is the easy choice for home propane. Pick up your BBQ propane at the local hardware store; you’ll want to call Alii Gas for residential large tank systems and off-grid power options. The service is awesome and the prices can’t be beat. Best of all, your money will stay on island as the business is locally owned and operated.

Office Supplies and Furniture – Kona Coast Office Supply is not one of our clients, but we rely on them for specialty paper, general office supplies and office furniture. Their selection for many items is often much better than the big box stores, and they deliver their furniture set up and ready to use. If you have ever bought inexpensive office furniture at a big box store and then spent hours assembling it, you know that a low initial cost will result in a big cost of your time to set it up.

Auto Repair / Mechanic – Other than a visit to the dentist, taking your car into the shop is typically a high anxiety activity. The costs can be high, and since the modern car engine is inaccessible to most people, we feel helpless when our cars need servicing. Raymond at Precision Auto has been my mechanic for years, in fact, since the day I met him. Honest, budget conscious and very detailed are  what I like about him and his staff. Another great alternative to a chain or off-island owned business.

Pest Control / Termites – One of the things that come with our year-round great weather is a whole bunch of creepy crawly things. If you’re a homeowner, plan for termites making a meal on your structure. Mason Termite and Pest Control is a great family-run business on the island. With years of experience and an abundance of aloha, they should be high on your list.

At Kona Impact, we are all about helping small and medium-sized local businesses thrive. The big box stores and franchises almost never buy locally, and the profits from these businesses are repatriated to the Mainland. We know that the big box stores and franchises will never support us, so we choose to buy from and promote businesses that will strengthen our community.

Kona Impact | 329-6077

 

A Model for Business Giving: Time, Talent or Treasure

First, this idea is not mine. I heard these three words first at a Rotary Club of Sunrise meeting several years ago. It has stuck with me throughout the years as a quick and easy way to remember what my company has to give: time, talent or treasure (money).

I get asked at least twice a week to donate to some cause. Yesterday it was a call about sponsoring a school’s folder; last week it was for printing flyers for an event, and two days ago it was mentor high school students. We said no to two out of three requests: sponsoring a school’s folder and mentoring high school students because we didn’t feel these would be a good use of our resources. Our experience with mentoring in the past, especially if it is school-directed, has not been good. We’d rather pay a young person to do actual work and learn along the way-a better win-win for all.

We have a few guidelines we use when deciding if we will give, and whether the donation will be our time, our talent or our money.

  1. Will the donation make a significant difference? There are many big organizations that received substantial federal, state and county funding. We tend to look at smaller groups that are self-funded or run on a very small budget. I like lean organizations, as I feel what I give them will make a big difference. A few hundred dollars to an agency that has a $2 million budget is unlikely to make a big difference.
  2. Is it a cause I believe in on a very deep level? Supporting education, children, the arts and the physically disadvantaged are what we focus on. These are part of what we know and understand, so groups that focus on other issues are generally less interesting to us. To this end we have given to Holualoa Elementary School’s literacy program, Deep and Beyond’s snorkel days and camps, Family Support Hawaii (Board of Directors), the Rotary Club of Kona’s Community Foundation (Board of Directors), Hawaii Island Growing Our Own Teachers (Board of Directors), and Aloha Theater/Aloha Performing Arts Company (new website and free hosting).
  3. Is our donation a multiplier? Providing PR materials for event multiplies our contribution many-fold. Providing expertise or consulting will help the entity grow or refine processes—a definite multiplier.
  4. Does Kona Impact get a PR benefit? Ok, the truth is that we want something in return. A nice thank-you letter is great and sufficient in most cases. Our logo on shirt, sign or email is good, too. If it’s for an event, thank your sponsors by name.

Last year we gave a $750 (retail) banner to a group. Their focus was something we believe needs attention. We will, however, decline future donations because we did not receive any recognition for what we had done: not a thank you letter, not recognition in the program, not even a call.

give us a donation

Note: please do not waste money on a West Hawaii Today mahalo ad! Send a simple letter or card to each donor instead! It’ll mean much more and it’s something they can put on the wall. Don’t waste money thanking us for giving money!

In the past Kona Impact used to write a lot of small checks; we now say no a lot and try to engage non-profits on a much deeper level.

 Kona Impact  | 329-6077

Ways Small Businesses in Kona Can Exist in a Land of Big Box Stores

The reality in Kona is that the big box stores—Walmart, Target, Kmart, Lowe’s, Home Depot and Costco—all have huge advantages over smaller, locally owned and operated businesses and stores. The have economies of scale, strong distribution networks and can fill our Sunday papers with advertisements each week. If you want to sell toothpaste, paper towels or 2’ x 4’s you are guaranteed to be beat on price and selection.

That said, there are some ways small, local businesses do well in Kona. We work with a lot of these businesses at Kona Impact and have come up with four keys to beating the big boxes, or, at least, developing a strong, sustainable business.

Develop connections with other small businesses. I am always amazed at how some small businesses in Kona will buy everything they can online or shop exclusively at chain stores and franchises, yet they expect others to buy locally. When you talk with other small businesses owners, participate in a paddling team, attend church or participate in a Rotary or Lions club, you are connecting with people who might become your customers. Even more important, these local businesses have a strong “coconut wireless” system for referrals and information. Get involved. Shop locally. Get connected.

buy local kona

Be the source for expertise in your area. I do not expect the employee in the Walmart garden section to have any knowledge of plants. They are just there to ring up your sale. The local nurseries, however, have very knowledgeable employees and can help you figure out what grows where you’re at and what doesn’t. I don’t expect the guy at the 20-minute oil change to look at my vehicles the way my local mechanic does. Sure, he costs more, but in the end, I feel like I’m getting much more value.

Have what the big stores don’t. I watch a tens of construction guys a week pick up specialty lighting from the business across from mine. The builders know that their customers, the home buyers, want quality and specialized lighting solutions—not the kind of stuff you’ll find at Lowe’s. Kona Coast Office Supply doesn’t bother with the cheap, flimsy file cabinets you’ll find at Walmart: they have the good stuff. Keeping a good inventory of hard-to-find items and helping clients with special orders is something the big stores often fail to do.

find a niche

Make it in Hawaii. Target is a huge store, about 100,000 sq ft or more, yet the “Hawaii” section is minuscule, maybe a few hundred sq ft. Walmart’s Hawaii section is mostly items not made in Hawaii! Come up with products that can only be made here, whether it is Dragon Fruit jams, Mamaki Teas or tours in Hawaii. Go where they won’t go. Selling at the local farmers markets and village strolls won’t make you rich, but they are an ideal way to connect with customers and introduce them to your website, which will allow you to sell to them anywhere at any time. You also might want to try selling to Costco; they have a pretty good reputation of local sources for agriculture products and some consumer good.

We all know it’s ridiculous to try and beat the big box stores at their own game. You don’t need to; there are many local businesses and people that are eager to buy locally and support their community. The key is to offer something the big stores can’t, whether it is specialized products or services or awesome customer service.

Kona Impact | 329-6077