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Danny Slusarchuk, Standards IT
Take a look around, Spring is not here yet but it seems like Oklahoma is ready for it and buzzing a bit. I have noticed some of the depression associated with COVID, politics, and weather is subsiding. Finding ways to move beyond these hurdles is great for OVF where we continue to cultivate optimists and dreamers. The Oklahoma economic ecosystem only exists when you get and stay involved. The OVF awards committee is working full speed on all the exciting applications we received this year. The executive committee is hard at work even now preparing and rehearsing for the awards event. Make sure you take the opportunity to invest in OVF by sponsoring this event. It can be critical for some of our entrepreneurs to be recognized in these stages of their businesses. The time and money you put into OVF translates to better quality of life for you and your family. Catch the buzz and make March count big. Bring a guest to OVF and register for the awards event.
Martin Lien, Co-founder & CEO, Respond Flow
Our vision is to make every conversation turn into a meaningful connection. No algorithms, no bots, just the simplicity of texting.
In a world full of complicated social media algorithms, Frankenstein monsters labelled as AI chatbots, and spammers galore, we decided that there had to be a better way of connecting. That's why we work everyday to make sure Respond Flow enables business to truly connect with their customers, not just "automate them".
Connection is baked into our history and founding story. Our CEO Martin Lien, faced this challenge as the head of business development in his role at a previous startup. Where traditional communication methods failed him, a well timed, and personalized text made all the difference in truly connecting with his customers.
Henry Dumas, Business Coach, Moore Norman Technology Center
As entrepreneurs we often find ourselves up against competitors who are better known than we are. They have a better brand that is able to attract more customers and gives them the possibility of setting higher sales prices. But how do we create an authentic and credible brand for ourselves?
When you start your company, branding is always one of the first things that you work on, even when not doing so consciously. Branding begins the moment you decide to start a company. You set the tone for the company brand with the culture you create, your core values, and your industry vision. Even the savviest logo and visual design cannot override these intangible elements of your brand. The company name, your first logo or brand typography are supporting players in the brand you create through your actions and intentions and those of your employees.
A brand will have a stronger identity when built on good common sense values as well as values that distinguish the company from its competitors. Your values should provide a contrast and clarify the possibilities of choice for the customer. Customers choose brands when they feel a distinct identification with the company values. The more explicit the values and the stronger the contrast, the easier it is to attract customers.
To make a brand believable it has to be authentic. An authentic brand is rooted in the real values of the company. It aligns with how a company functions and responds to customers, vendors, the market, even its own employees. Branding is about finding the identity a company already has and ensuring that there is a consistent expression of those values in all aspects of the business, internally and externally.
One of the best ways to “authenticate” your brand is to take an inventory. Do you have written core values and a vision statement? Do your actions and company decisions align with your values and vision? Living your brand means behaving according to the brand you say you are and taking powerful actions that let the character of the company shine through.
Once you feel confident that your company is functioning according to a clearly defined set of values, start developing the outside expression of your brand. What would be the ultimate way to express the brand? What do other companies with your values do? What would tell current or future clients that your company shares their values?
Branding or marketing?
Branding is not the same as marketing although there are overlaps. Branding is how your company presents itself. Marketing takes that brand/company presentation to consumers. A well-branded product is easier to market because potential customers already connect with the brand before they even become familiar with the product.
Many paths to the strong brand
A strong brand has many facets: the visual identity, the voice identity, the physical identity, and the attitude identity of the company. The last of these comes from the values and vision, which we have already covered.
The visual identity reflects the values of the company in a graphical way. Select colors and typographies that best express what the company stands for and compel potential customers. Photos and illustrations should tell the company’s story and support the brand. It is best to employ the services of an expert to create or polish up your visual identity. Even if you have a strong idea of the visual brand for your company, employing a graphic designer to prepare digital files for you up front will save you time and money as you begin using your visual elements in brochures, ads, and on social media.
The voice identity of the company is in direct continuation of the visual identity. Also called “tone of voice”, your voice identity is about the words you use and the way that you express yourself in your promotional materials. Are you the conservative, experienced company or the young, progressive company? What is the key message in your slogan or headlines? Part of the voice identity is also the names you give your products. Do they have technical names, are the names similar to the company name, and do you use English or foreign names? The voice should “speak” to the audience you are trying to reach.
A third piece of the branding puzzle is the physical identity of the company. Physical identity deals with how your products are designed and packaged, but also with you and your employees’ physical appearance and attire. Part of your physical identity is also the location and decor you have chosen for your office. All physical aspects of the business should reflect the company’s values to further authenticate the brand.
Making a difference
When you run your company authentically, have a good reputation, and give customers a clear vision of who you really are, they are more attracted to your products and your company. Maintaining a consistent brand in all aspects of your company identity - visual, voice, physical, and attitude – builds loyal customers who will become your brand ambassadors and “raving fans”.
The topic for the February Power Lunch is Promotion & Marketing Software Technology.
OVF Power Lunch
Daniel Maloney, Co-founder & CEO, Tailwind
by Dennis Spielman
While headquartered in Oklahoma City, Daniel Maloney was a transplant born in New York, who grew up in South Florida, went to school in Philly, and then made his career in either New York and Silicon Valley before moving to Oklahoma. When he came to the state about a decade ago, Maloney came with the perspective of needing to build a community, build a friend network, and figuring out how to build a company somewhere where you don’t necessarily have deep roots.
“I always found the community incredibly welcoming and was grateful for that,” said Daniel Maloney. “But that said, it’s been a really fun ride, fun journey so far, and I’m excited for what’s coming up.”
Maloney is one of the co-founders of Tailwind, whose mission is to make world-class marketing easy for everyone. That word, everyone, is essential to them. When Maloney initially looked at the digital marketing landscape, he saw that the vast majority of tools were geared at larger enterprise-tier businesses with complex needs and sophisticated marketing functions. The tools available at the time created an unlevel playing field as well.
“If you’re a small business, you have the advantages of speed and being able to be more nimble, perhaps, than a larger organization,” said Maloney. “But when it comes down to knowledge, experience, and learning from that experience, access to data, access to tools that unlock new strategies for you, you’re at a pretty fundamental disadvantage.”
With small businesses competing with large companies on the same platforms, Tailwind educates their members by teaching them about digital marketing and various strategies that are, or are not, beneficial. One part of Tailwind’s services is about tools and enablement, so providing people the software to promote their business more efficiently, more effectively, in more places, and ultimately maximize ROI. Another part is leveraging data at scale to guide those interactions through very pointed suggestions and recommendations.
“A tool that we launched in this past year is called Tailwind Create, and it’s all about helping people create visual content much faster and much more easily than with other modern design tools,” said Maloney. “We’re seeing, it takes about 90% less time, and the content being created through Create is performing 47% above average, right? So, leveraging data about what types of content works well and then building an intelligent system that designs with your brand in mind and your purpose in mind, it can be done in a cost-effective and time-effective way.”
From Maloney’s personal experience, he advises that businesses should be perpetually pivoting. As the world and markets evolve, customers’ needs evolve. What works today might not work in two or three years in any given part of your business Maloney explained.
“The more proactive side is continuously being out there with your customers and your target customers and doing research to understand what needs they have that you’re not serving today, which of those needs are growing or emerging over time, as opposed to declining or stagnating, and then leaning into those and leaning into the newer needs or the growing needs,” said Maloney. “If you align yourself with those, that’ll create some natural tailwinds, sorry for the pun, in terms of growing your business.”
Daniel Maloney will be speaking at the Oklahoma Venture Forum Power Lunch on Wednesday, March 10, 2021. Maloney said he is excited to see everyone at the event and connect with folks as it’s been harder to keep in touch with people in the community, friends, and acquaintances. Be sure to register for the online ZOOM event to learn more about turning around a business, asking your questions, and networking with entrepreneurs in Oklahoma.
The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program is Section 324 of the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits and Venues Act (Economic Aid Act) signed into law on Dec. 27, 2020. Following are answers as of Jan. 27, 2021, to frequently asked questions about the program. These will be updated as new information comes available and additional program details are finalized.
You can find a link to download these documents via the link below.
The 2021 OKC Startup Census is here!
Are you an entrepreneur in the Oklahoma City metro area? We want to hear from you! Participate in the 2021 Startup Census below (all survey responses are anonymous).
It’s time again to conduct the Oklahoma City Metro Startup Census! We had a fantastic response last year – 130 companies participated in the census, which provided for meaningful insights and established a baseline for the census to build on in the years to come.
In recent years, there has been a surge in resources for entrepreneurs, investment activity, and optimism around launching a business in our city that has led to the creation of new, scalable businesses.
As ecosystem builders around the city seek to serve entrepreneurs in an equitable way, and see the launch of a diverse array of businesses, we hope this annual census will serve as a resource year after year in understanding our strengths and our gaps as an entrepreneurial community. For the 2020 census, we partnered with the Ronnie K. Irani Center for the Creation of Economic Wealth at OU (I-CCEW) to develop an insights document to summarize the themes from the census and make a few recommendations about how the community can address gaps.
Click here for the 2020 insights
We need your help to distribute the census!
Please forward/distribute this survey to every startup (any stage – pre-revenue or post-revenue) or growing small business that you know in the Oklahoma City region and encourage their follow-through.
The survey will be active until February 12th, which should give plenty of time to send to all your portfolio companies, clients, and friends.
Copy and paste the link below:
Don Van Pelt Smith, Omega3Beef
Many people thought it couldn’t be done. But we’ve developed new, more healthy beef with the proven benefits of omega 3’s — and the same delicious flavor you and your family have grown to love.
Like most people, we love the traditional taste of beef. We also know that standard beef is high in saturated fats that can lead to heart disease. We also know that despite the many nutritional benefits of beef, there are also some concerns. In fact, many people are limiting their beef consumption, or eating the very leanest cuts, to address such concerns. We have a better idea: improve the nutrition of beef by improving cattle feed to produce beef with omega 3’s similar to ocean fish.
We’re on a mission to evolve the cattle industry, keeping the same wonderful taste of traditional beef, but making it healthy for our hearts. Same taste … better health.
Great News. The European Commission of the European Community (28 countries in Europe) has approved our algae as a feed ingredient for cattle, hens, pigs, and sheep. We are talking with leading grocery chains in the UK, France, Italy, Spain, and Germany. The grocery chains will order Omega3Beef from their existing suppliers. The feedlot operators and grass feeding operations in these existing supply chains will buy the algae to produce Omega3Beef. Look for Omega3Beef steaks and burgers in stores this Spring.
Tra Pippin, Accentra Home Health & Hospice
By Dennis Spielman
With the experience of having raised nearly $800 million for companies, and buying and selling approximately 40 companies, Tra Pippin considers himself qualified in the turnaround industry arena. He’s also turned around businesses that ranged from a low of 1 million in revenue to a high of about $150 million. Pippin got into the industry happenstance manner.
“I bought a company back in June of 1982 called Perfection Equipment Company,” said Pippin. “And at the time, I think our revenues were roughly $2 million a month. Well, there was a little shopping center bank here in Oklahoma City called Penn Square Bank that crashed on July 5, 1982. And I don’t think either myself or my partner recognized the fact that a little shopping center bank could have the impact that it did, but it caused probably the greatest crash in the oil industry, certainly in my lifetime.”
Their revenue went from two to two-and-a-half million dollars a month to approximately $300,000 a month. Based on that, at the time, Pippin purchased the company. They had about 130 employees. A year later, they were down to 30 employees and were making decisions on how to cut based on whether someone had been there 15 years or 20 years. The industry turned around, and Perfection Equipment Company today is a lively, growing company in Oklahoma City.
Pippin said he learned how to save a company before there were associations, conventions, and resources dedicated to the turnaround industry. When buying a company now, Pippin has several things he looks for to inform his decision.
“Probably the most important thing that I look for is, ‘Does the company have passionate people remaining?’” said Pippin. “Nine times out of 10, about 85% of the time, current management is the issue, current management is the problem. Normally, I replace current management, but if the line managers and the other key employees don’t have a passion for that company, I’m typically not interested in either buying it or turning it around for a bank or a financial institution.”
When turning around a company, Pippin advises that the first thing buyers do is get a handle on the cash flow. Pippin analyzes cash flow through a 13-week rolling forecast. Every Monday, they would review and update it, make sure every bill was accounted for, and communicate with employees and leaders what’s going on.
“We grew one company in sales revenue within 15 months, from $8 million to over a $100 million in revenue,” said Pippin. “But in the meantime, they went bankrupt. They outstripped their cash even though we warned them. All they wanted was top-line revenue. They wanted to be a $100 million a year company; basically, they succeeded but ran out of money on the way. So whoever it is, whatever company, they may be a phenomenal salesperson, they may be able to generate sales, incredible sales, but if they don’t have the profitability to grow, they’ve got to figure out a way to get their working capital.”
When it comes to selling a company, Pippin said it’s a marketing piece once you’ve got the company on solid ground. “You try and put the company in the best light and tell them, you tell the potential buyers why this company is such a great company, ‘It was on its butt nine months ago, and now look what we’ve done. The sky’s the limit now.’”
If you’re considering attending Pippin’s OVF talk, he said he could help give broad-brush solutions to their issue with their company.
Tra Pippin will be speaking at the Oklahoma Venture Forum Power Lunch on Wednesday, February 10, 2021. Be sure to register for the online ZOOM event to learn more about turning around a business, asking your questions, and networking with entrepreneurs in Oklahoma.
Henry Dumas, Moore Norman Technology
1. Figure out how your customers’ needs have changed.
This Covid-19 pandemic is a shock for the whole world. Almost all your customers’ lives are different than they were a few month ago, and they will probably be different again in six months. They may never be the same. Your short-term cash flow depends on providing them with goods and services during the crisis. Your long-term viability depends on understanding how their needs will be different when the pandemic is over.
The first thing to consider is that people are building new habits right now. There are millions of isolated households whose normal routines have been upended, and just like them you must experiment if you want to remain a part of their lives. Some restaurants are offering takeout comfort food, even if they usually just serve in their dining rooms. Retailers are emphasizing online experiences. Your customers do not need a vapid email about how you care about them, but they do need entertainment and comfort and hope. Some of their new habits will persist after the pandemic, which means it is particularly important for you to figure out how to continue to offer services that deliver value during the crisis.
Think hard about how the post-pandemic world will change your business model — and bring your customers into your planning process. Many of your customers will be poorer, but they will also be eager to enjoy themselves after the long seclusion. Many will still be scared about the risks of contagious disease. Some of them may have decided that they like ordering online. E-commerce has spiked by nearly 40% in the wake of Covid-19.
Reach out to them to learn how their lives have changed and figure out the most exciting thing that you can offer your customers once they can leave their homes. Ask them what they are looking forward to and help them look forward to the day that they can buy from you again.
2. Take steps to improve your digital presence
If it’s been more than a year since your site has been updated, if you haven’t taken action to make your online presence mobile-friendly, if you still haven’t created an email marketing list, or if digital isn’t part of your marketing strategy at all, it’s time to add this to your new resolutions. You could even take a step further than mobile-friendly and use a mobile-first approach to your digital presence.
3. Promote your business regularly and consistently
Since small business owners wear a lot of hats, you might not always have “marketing” at the top of your to-do list. While you should focus on delivering that amazing small business experience, you should not forget to market that amazing experience to the outside world. To attract new customers, you must make promotion a priority. Take the time to create a marketing plan or, if your funds allow it, hire a marketing expert to help you set it up.
4. Make business strategizing a weekly event
Planning is vital if you want to foster a growing business. But running a small business can be chaotic and it is easy to get sucked into the day-to-day operations. Business strategizing allows you to take a step back and highlight what worked and what did not, while adjusting old goals and setting new ones. So why do it just once a quarter or once a year? Set aside time each week to review your strategies. This will help you stay on track and allow you to have a clear hold on your business.
5. Drop What's Not Working and Move On
All products are not going to be super sellers, all sales methods are not going to work for everyone, and all suppliers or contractors are not going to be ideally suited to your business. If a technique, product, or business relationship is not working for you, stop using it. Do not invest a lot of energy into trying to make the unworkable workable. Move on. Something better will turn up.
6. Learn how to manage your cash flow more effectively
Cash flow is the lifeblood of any small business. In fact, a prominent study from the financial services company U.S. Bank found that 82 percent of startups and small businesses fail due to poor cash-flow management.
7. Set Realistic Goals & Find a Trusted Advisor or Coach
Goal setting is a valuable habit—if the goals lead to success rather than distress. Resolve that the goals you set will be achievable, not so far out of reach they only lead to frustration. If you have trouble setting realistic goals, there are ways to map out a formula that makes sense for you. Research & follow the filter for “Smart” goals.
There is a reason why runners often train with a group. It helps to have someone keep you accountable and motivated to hit your goals and get things done.
The American Society of Training and Development did a study on accountability. They found people are 65% likely to meet a goal after committing to another person. That is a pretty good increase. However, that chance of success increases to 95% when they build in ongoing meetings with their partners to check in on their progress. That is a huge difference!
Bottom line: write down your goals, find a trusted advisor or coach, and then make sure you regularly meet or check in with them. You will be crossing those items off your list faster than ever!
8. Learn to Delegate and Do More of It
There are so many things to do when you are running a small business, it is easy to delude ourselves that we need to do all of them. Then we wonder why we are so tired and frazzled and have no time to do anything else. Let someone else do some of the tasks for a change. Delegation is the key to a healthy work-life balance.
9. Put Time for Yourself on Your Calendar
All work and no play are a recipe for mental and physical disaster. So, if you have trouble freeing up time to do the things you enjoy, write time regularly into your schedule to "meet with yourself" and stick to that commitment. If you will not invest in yourself, who will?
10. Give Back to Your Community
There are all kinds of worthy organizations that make a difference in your community. Those who give, get. Nothing will seed and grow goodwill for you and your business better than giving back to your community. So, make one of your top resolutions to find a cause that matters to you and give what you can. Make this the year that you serve on a committee, be a mentor, volunteer, or make regular donations to the groups in your community that make the place you live better.
Moore Norman Technology
Danny Slusarchuk, Standards IT
Right off the bat I would like to give a shout out of appreciation to Alice Frentz and Che’ Loessberg for aggressively pushing our key strategy forward this year. Thanks to them, the Board of Directors, and the Executive Committee – OVF has gone statewide! Membership is up significantly and we are now extending our Board seats across Oklahoma to capitalize on our increased geography.
You benefit from more pitch presentations, investment opportunities, and focused networking time with the economic drivers in our State. The awards ceremony is just around the corner and we have a great keynote speaker lined up. I won’t spoil it though, stay tuned for the official program and be sure to sponsor the event. The investments you make in OVF go directly into the economic ecosystem fostering innovation and diversifying wealth.
Danny J. Slusarchuk
Chief Executive Officer
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