by Darren Hardy

This past Monday I had dinner with Misty Lown, owner and CEO of Misty’s Dance Unlimited (and come to find out SEVEN other successful companies). More about Misty below.

How she is implementing breakthrough ideas in her business is awe-inspiring. I know you would benefit from her ideas, so I am passing them along to you.

To set the proper stage (no pun intended… dance joke, get it?), Misty is in her mid-thirties, has FIVE children, has built a $1,000,000+ business in an industry where the average studio does $50,000-$60,000 in net revenue… and she does it by spending less than 4 hours a week IN her business. How’s that for ‘WOW’ already, right?

Okay, with all that in mind, I forward you the strategy that is having a big impact on raising her game even further with her dance studio.

From Misty:
“Here is the one thing transforming my business since HPF:

“Darren Hardy says there is no competitive advantage in a satisfied customer: no word of mouth, no buzz, no loyalty. Customers have to be loved. To love is to ‘WOW’!

“I own a dance studio with over 700 students. After I came home from HPF, I made it my goal to turn every interaction into a ‘WOW’ experience! After HPF, I went through my organization from top to bottom looking for ways to elevate our client experience.”

‘WOW’ the client. ”We evaluated every client (parent’s) touch point and every process they engaged in. We have made leagues of improvements to all of our processes, including online ticketing for recitals, automating all client accounts with software, online booking of private lessons, and adding a new enrollment management office. The leadership team was challenged to take every client interaction as an opportunity to make things right, better, or exceptional for students and their families.”

‘WOW’ the end user (student). ”To our elevated systems and customer service, we added ‘WOW’ opportunities for our students for the upcoming school year, including new performing groups, a guest choreographer from the hit TV show ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’ the opportunity to perform ‘Nutcracker’ live with our local Symphony (first time ever in our city!), hosting a regional dance competition featuring studios from three states, a free 15th Anniversary Celebration and Alumni Event, and a trip to NYC for our high school students so they can study with the best of the best!”

‘WOW’ the entire brand experience. ”Even the physical building, which is only five years old, didn’t escape the microscope. We repainted the entire building, remodeled the dressing rooms, filled the children’s lobby with the best in children’s literature, got new tables and chairs for our cafe, updated the stock and fixtures in our store, resealed the parking lot, and added a snack bar.”

‘WOW’ the community. “And, we didn’t stop with our clients. We included the community by starting a non-profit foundation called ‘A Chance to Dance Foundation,’ which will provide scholarships for financial need, talent, and diversity so every child in our community will have ‘a chance to dance’!

“The event has raised over $280,000 for the local chapter of the Red Cross in the first six years ($95,000 of it was raised last year). The results have been phenomenal! Last month we had over 4,700 people come to our Spring Recitals, and at our recent Fall Registration, we had people CAMPING OUT overnight to secure a premium spot in line. My daughter and I went out at 6:30 a.m. in white aprons to serve our families fresh pastries and coffee while they waited. The first person in line was surprised with balloons and a free registration, and everyone walked out with a free geranium that day. People ate it up…they love to be loved on!”

‘WOW’ Life. “Best of all, I just spent 10 days with my family in Florida, and am not due back in the office for two and half more weeks. Since attending the HPF, I have found that I can run my dance business remotely on about 4 hours per week of staff contact/communication for the times I want to travel or spend at home with kids. This kind of ‘time wealth’ is not only giving me precious memories with my family, but also the ability to pursue the new licensing business with vigor.

“Our motto at Misty’s Dance Unlimited has always been ‘More Than Just Great Dancing!’ Thanks, Darren, for helping me make it so!”

Okay, now it’s your turn…
How can you add “WOW” to every one of your client touch points, throughout the entire client experience, with your brand and business? The answer to that question is what will allow you to have a “WOW” life, too.

The Top 10 Rookie Mistakes for Entrepreneurs

The Top 10 Rookie Mistakes for Entrepreneurs
Jay Goltz

Many people who start businesses, including me, have little or no experience and just jump in. Over the years, I have compared notes with many fellow entrepreneurs, and I have seen them make the same mistakes over and over again — I recognize them because I have made them all, too. Here is my list of the biggest rookie mistakes:

1. Keeping your rent as low as possible. The key to business is to keep expenses low, right? Wrong. Sometimes it is worth paying more rent if it will generate more customers, if it gives a better image and inspires confidence, if it helps attract the right employees or if it makes it easier to deal with suppliers. In retail, this one mistake can determine success or failure.

2. Hiring someone you know and trust. Competence is more important. While hiring friends and relatives can work, it severely limits the pool from which you choose, leaving out people who could be much more qualified. Friends and relatives can also carry baggage. They can also be very hard to manage, which leads to my ultimate advice: if you can’t fire ‘em, don’t hire ‘em.

3. Buying used equipment to keep expenses down. This, too, works sometimes, but it is often shortsighted. For example, buying a used truck with 100,000 miles on it will guarantee that you will spend valuable time and money fixing the truck when it should be out taking care of customers. Can you really afford downtime with any machine?

4. Keeping your prices “reasonable.” How about picking a price that will allow you to make money? Many entrepreneurs underprice their products or services in an attempt to attract business. They either have no understanding of their costs, or they are too busy to think about them. At some point, they have to hire an employee, and that low price will leave no profit after the employee is paid. It may even cause a loss. This starts a very bad chain reaction of cash flow problems, profit problems and stress. Perhaps the biggest mistake is thinking that these problems can be solved by attracting more business.

5. Saving money on professional advice. There is nothing more expensive than a cheap lawyer or accountant. Good lawyers and accountants make good livings, just like anyone else who is good at a job. You don’t get what you don’t pay for — in this case professional, intelligent advice. And here is the worst part. Most lawyers and accountants are not qualified to be business consultants. For that matter, many business consultants are not qualified to be business consultants. Join a business group, talk to successful entrepreneurs, and get referrals from people who know what they are talking about. How do you know if they know what they are talking about? No one said this was going to be easy.

6. Considering borrowed money a last resort. Maybe it should be, but maybe not. Sometimes it is better to borrow money to do things right than to just do them wrong. Borrowing money is not necessarily stupid, irresponsible, or reckless. But it could be. Knowing the difference is, well, the difference.

7. Picking a bank that knows you and that you have a relationship with. Again, it can work. But it can also be naive. Some banks are known for lending to small businesses. Other banks are not. First, find a competent, experienced accountant. Then, ask him or her to assist you in finding a bank. Good accountants should know from their experiences with other clients which banks are in the game. Ask other entrepreneurs who they bank with. In Chicago, there are probably only 10 banks that are really interested in servicing small businesses (that means lending money). And here is the big tip. The people writing the ads for the banks are not the ones giving the loans. You might consider it false advertising. Yes, they do want your business account — they love the noninterest-bearing balances you deliver. But that doesn’t mean they want to lend you money. If you get in a bind, the difference between having the right bank and the wrong bank can be the difference between success and failure.

8. Thinking you have your advertising figured out. It is very important to know whether your advertising is working — and good luck with that! You certainly need to try to figure out whether your advertising is working, but this can be very difficult. Why? Because even if you are trying to track your results, it’s easy to get bad information: Your advertising may be reinforcing the behavior of existing customers. People may tell you they were just driving by when in reality they were influenced by your radio ad. Many times even your customers don’t know what got them in the door. My advice: Accept that it’s impossible to know everything you’d like to know, but don’t stop trying.

9. Treating your employees fairly. Well, yes, absolutely: do treat them fairly. But what is fair? Is it fair to fire someone after two months because you realize you made a hiring mistake? Or are you supposed to give it everything you’ve got, including four more painful months of hope and delusion, while your customers, your bank account, other employees and even the failing employee pay the price? I have probably hired close to 1,000 people over the last 34 years. I have never succeeded in saving, rehabilitating or dramatically changing the behavior of a bad hire. It might not be the employee’s fault; frequently it isn’t. It could just be the dreaded bad fit. It might even be the boss’s fault, but unless you are going to fire yourself, it is what it is. The rookie mistake is to let the situation go on too long. Often people who are not rookies — just bad managers — make the same mistake.

10. Falling blindly in love with your product or service. Fall in love, certainly. But a wonderful product or service won’t make up for bad decisions and deficiencies in marketing, management or finance. Being a successful entrepreneur means being a competent entrepreneur, in addition to being the best baker, computer programmer, picture framer, hairstylist or whatever it is you are.

I hope this list gives some new entrepreneurs a little insight, or even keeps some wanna-preneurs from getting in over their heads. And one more thing. In sports, you are a rookie for one year. In entrepreneurship, it can last many years. When you learn from your mistakes, you are no longer a rookie. Better yet, learn from someone else’s.