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Food Launcher for Food Entrepreneurs

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FoodLauncherEmail

I’ve been pretty silent on this site for the past few months, but there has been a good reason for that. I have been working on Food Launcher: a website dedicated to helping packaged foods companies launch faster, and stay inspired.

In addition to the website, I have been working on an ebook. The book is currently in the editing phase, and will hopefully be ready for purchase at the end of April. The site was a result of my desire to help others, and the frustrations I experienced when launching Bearded Brothers.

Food Launcher is essentially your one stop shop to get the answers you need to launch your food business. Until now, there isn’t a single place on the internet you can go to get all your questions answered in one location.

I hope the site will provide loads of inspiration for other food businesses and help many others get their product to market.

Holiday gifts ideas for entrepreneurs

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Gift ideas for entrepreneurs
Holiday shopping can be a challenge. You have many people to buy for and, in todays day and age, there is a chance you know an entrepreneur. Here are some Holiday gift ideas for the entrepreneur in your life, all of which I wouldn’t mind getting this Christmas, myself! (hint, hint mom and dad, if you are reading this)

Moleskine Journal

Moleskine Journal

Moleskine Journal

Moleskine Journals and notebooks are elegantly designed, durable, and perfect for taking notes, brainstorming, or planning that next big project. There isn’t a single entrepreneur on the planet that doesn’t use/need a good notebook. This is one gift the entrepreneur in your life will definitely use, and there is no fear they will return it, because more than likely they go through multiple journals a year.

Premium subscriptions to their favorite app

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 6.37.43 AMChances are the entrepreneur in your life has a favorite app they use on their phone. There is also a good chance that app offers a premium service. Two of my favorite apps, Evernote and LeanKit both offer premium levels of service. Evernote is an app that a large majority of entrepreneurs use to organize thoughts and take notes – it’s a super deluxe version of a tactile notebook. Moleskine even makes a journal that is designed to utilize Evernote’s optical note capturing feature.

Smart phone car mount

Entrepreneurs are busy people, and drive to meetings, listen to motivational podcasts on their morning commute, and need a hands-free way to take phone calls while driving. Enter the smart phone car mount. Car mounts will help keep your entrepreneur safe by keeping their eyes off their phone inside the car, and on the road: making following GPS directions easier, and taking hands-free phone calls a possibility. This Mashable article lists several suggestions for smart phone car mounts.

Ticket to a conference or retreat

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 6.40.18 AM
One of the great things about entrepreneurs is they never stop learning! The greatest entrepreneurs read books, listen to motivational podcasts, and attend seminars, events and retreats to help them grow their business. An example is the Entreleadership Summit, which is hosted by business owner and financial guru, Dave Ramsey. There are hosts of others out there too, and chances are the entrepreneur you know already has one in mind they want to attend.

A gift card to their favorite store (or iTunes)

What entrepreneur doesn’t want to treat their self? Chances are, especially with startups, you have been spending countless hours serving others and scraping by to provide for the family. Get them a gift card so they can buy something they really love. If you are unsure of where to get a gift card, iTunes gift cards are an excellent option. Entrepreneurs love music just like the rest of the world, and often times use music is a tool to help them focus and get lots of work done.

Keeping up with demand

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Last night I had the privilege of speaking on a panel of food and beverage entrepreneurs for McCombs School of Business students at 512 Brewing. One of the interesting things that came up was that the biggest struggle for many of the business owners was keeping up with demand, and with that the fear of letting their customer down. So, how does a small, growing business keep up with demand?

Here are a few tips from what I have learned along the way that have helped us meet the ever-growing demand:

Hire slow, fire fast
We haven’t been so good on the firing fast, but in the future we certainly won’t hesitate to send a bad apple out the front door. Hiring slow is extremely important because it ensures you get a quality team member. The last thing you want is for somebody to work for you for 4 weeks then leave. That only complicates your struggle to keep up with demand because you are now back to trying to find more help and will have to retrain another person. So take your time in the hiring process to ensure you get a quality candidate.

Anticipate growth
Planning your growth is important because it allows you to prepare to hire the people you need to keep up ahead of time. This goes back to hiring slow. If you know you have a new account in the pipeline you better start culling through resumes so you can take the time needed in the hiring process.

Preparing early for the growth also allows you to order the ingredients or materials you will need to make the product. The last thing you want is to run out of a particular ingredient in your product and not be able to fill an order. So ordering your product in advance of production runs is crucial, especially because your supplier will occasionally run out and that will leave you scrambling to find another source. So it’s also always good to have back up suppliers on every ingredient.

Invest in Equipment
One of the biggest things that have helped us keep up with demand is equipment. In the early days we did everything by hand, other than mixing the ingredients in a mixer. As we grew we improved the process. First we added a larger capacity mixer, next we improved the mould we used to press out the bars, and later we eventually added a machine to press out the bars. That was a difficult decision for us because we wanted to keep everything done by hand, but the overhead cost and logistics of managing large amounts of people outweighed how much time and money we would save by having a machine press out the bars. We still do a large portion of our process by hand, but having machinery was necessary to keep up with demand.

Work with your customers
Lets say you are struggling to meet orders. It’s important to be honest with your customer and let them know what is going on. We have had a couple instances in the past where we had to let the customer know we couldn’t meet the entire order and requested they decrease the order and let us fill the remainder of it at a later date. Each time they have been more than happy with the outcome.

It’s important to under promise and over deliver. If you think it will take you two weeks to fill a large order let your customer know you need a one month lead time, then wow their socks off when you deliver in two weeks. Having the longer lead-time gives you a cushion of protection too, in case something goes wrong. So, always make sure your customer lead times are ample to fill orders.

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It’s also important to remember that problems will arise, delays will certainly occur. So, be flexible, learn to adapt, and don’t fret when issues do arise. Problems have a way of working themselves out if you are aware they exist and put a little bit of pressure to the problem to solve it. Rarely will a demand problem be so catastrophic that you lose the business of that customer. If anything it will make you stronger so you can continue serving your customers with excellence.

Tips to help you avoid distractons and achieve greatness

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Inbox Zero

Inbox Zero. It is possible!

Recently I wrote a post titled, Distractions are the Enemy of Greatness. Although I did not coin the phrase, it has really been sticking with me lately, and my smart phone lock screen displays this quote, which is a great reminder to be great when I’m tempted to waste time on Facebook or Instagram.

What the post lacked was some practical tips to help you stay on task and avoid distraction. So, here are nine tips to help you rise to the top and stay on the path to greatness.

1. Get to Inbox Zero and stay there! I used to think Inbox Zero was only for anal retentive type A personalities; but now I realize it’s much more, it’s a way to keep your inbox organized and stay on top of important tasks, and to never let emails that need follow up fall through the cracks.

2. Only check your email twice a day. On average there are two times during the day I’m going through emails, categorizing them and responding to them. The rest of the time I keep my email closed unless I absolutely have to send an email.

3. Limit time on social media. This one is a no brainer; social media is a HUGE time waste. There are tons of apps out there that will help you limit your time spent on these websites. I also make social media harder to access on my iPhone. All social media apps are buried three screens over, and as mentioned above my lock screen displays the quote, “Distractions are the Enemy of Greatness.” I can’t tell you how many times that has actually forced me to put down my phone and get back to work.

4. Organize your paper. I have four paper trays on my desk. Each one serves a specific purpose: Inbox, for things that need to be processed, Outbox for mail or memos that need to go out, In Progress for projects I’m currently working on, and Waiting On, for items that I have put on hold or are awaiting information from others to move forward. This system drastically helps reduce clutter on my desk.

LeanKit KanBan

LeanKit KanBan helps you visualize your workflow.

5. Use a visual task management system. I highly recommend KanBan. This system for visual task management has drastically changed my life. It essential puts your to-do list into several categories. For me it’s: To-Do, Today, In Progress, and Waiting On. The system can be as complex or as simple as you would like.

6. Activity batching. For example, I used to record payments and make bank deposits 2-3 times a week. Entering payments in Quick Books is a repetitive task that is better done once a week at the same time every week. Rather than spending time doing this task multiple times during the week you only do it once, and end up saving time as a result. I also try to block off large chunks of times for meetings if I know I’m going to have a lot in one week. I would rather get multiple meetings done in one day, than have them spread out over the course of the week. This eliminates the start and stop of other projects throughout the course of the week.

7. Guard your time. Learn to say no, delegate low priority tasks, avoid meetings, and learn to spot a salesman a mile a way (they will waste a lot of your time). It’s easy to fill our schedules, but learning to say no, batching meetings, and delegating are valuable skills to learn to help guard your time.

8. Listen to motivational Podcasts. I start nearly every morning with some sort of motivational Podcast. A few of my favorites are: Entrepreneur on Fire, 48 Days to the Work You Love, Entreleadership, and Startup. Startup School is an old one by Seth Godin that is a great listen that I often go back to over and over.

9. Store frequently accessed information. Keep an Evernote or Google Document of information you frequently need access to, such as trade references for credit apps, and key information about your business such as Tax ID Number and login information for websites you access on a regular basis.

Ultimately avoiding distractions comes down to being organized and having systems in place to help you be productive. I think it is safe to say that disorganization is the king of distraction, and anything that causes you to spend more time than necessary on a given task just wastes your time and keeps you from high value tasks that lead to greatness!

Focus is purposeful and planned

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November is National Novel Writing Month: although I have no intention of writing a novel, I do aspire to write a book one day. So, rather than spending November working on a great novel, I will focus on writing blog posts every day for the entire month. I have missed two days already, but that was mainly because I spent much of my weekend battling a raging beast that screamed, hit, clawed and jumped about like a lunatic: also known as my teething two-year-old. So, here we go – one month of writing.

Focus
Seeing as how my weekend was full of distractions I thought it would be fitting to start with focus. As an entrepreneur focus is one of your biggest allies. As I write this post I am doing so with purpose, planning, and focus. I woke up before everybody else in the house. I attempted to wake up before everybody else in the house (I’m a husband and father of two), I opened up Word and began writing; I have yet to check Twitter, Facebook, or email. Essentially, I planned to be here this morning at this very moment, with little to no distractions so I could write this post.

The same must be true when pursuing important projects in your business. Intentional chunks of time must be set aside in order to get them done. It can be really easy to let the small day-to-day operational things in the business drown them out. Sure, running pay roll, paying bills, reviewing the books, and keeping track of sales are important, but the truly important projects are things that will help your business grow and move forward. It’s those things you must apply focus to.

When you have focus you have true steadfast determination to get a tasks or project accomplished. This determination includes cutting out the fluff: anything that distracts or prevents you from quality work. Some examples include: emails, phone calls, social medial, staff interruptions, unplanned meetings (which should never happen), and a general failure to plan.

I have found the most important method to focus on projects and important tasks is to plan them. I use the KanBan system for work flow/to-do management; I schedule critical components of projects in my calendar, as is it were a scheduled meeting. I will even work remotely at times to avoid random in-office distractions.

Essentially I have found that focus is 100% purposeful. If you find your day constantly filled with distractions it might be time to make some intentional changes that will help you focus and master the art of productivity and getting things done.