Dave Masterson's thoughts on technology happenings, personal experiences, travels, work, fun, etc.


Excited to meet!

Line 'em up! We are two events into a five meeting swing of Super Regional Meetings this summer. Dallas and Orlando are in the log, Los Angeles, Chicago and NY/NJ lie ahead. These are fantastic meetings for us to get the team together and share what's new among our franchisees. If you haven't made the first two meetings and you're considering or already registered for the ones coming up, here's what you can expect...

  • News and updates for your brand. Our Marketing team, coupled with the Advertising and Marketing fund boards for SIGNARAMA and EmbroidMe have exciting announcements for you. See it, learn about them and get your questions answered in person. This is HUGE!

  • Suppliers - A "mini" trade show from prominent suppliers dominates the first half day of your Super Regional Meeting experience. New material and product vendors, your business management software folks (Trade Only and SignVox) will all be there. Get great news and info on up and coming advantages you enjoy by being a part of a large organization.

  • Your peers - It's amazing to see how far others have taken the same concept you learned in our Training School. What's working best, what's new and surging forward? Also as important but sometimes overlooked is what's NOT working. Share and participate in roundtable discussions, meals and after-hours activities with fellow franchisees. This to many is their best reason to attend.

  • Distance - Shhh. I'm parting with a UFG secret here. We know you're most likely to absorb new ideas when you climb out of the day-to-day events in your store. If you can mentally distance yourself from your projects for a day or two, you'll open yourself up to better methods and plans to succeed. It happens most to those that ride the fence, wondering until the last minute if they should attend. I say it's these franchisees that benefit greatly. It takes some doing to say, 'Yes." Consider the stale alternative of not putting yourself where you could grab tips and new systems to build on. It's worth your time to attend the meetings that are coming to your region!

We have a full schedule of items on each city's agenda, that much I can promise. This series of meetings will allow you to keep rolling forward towards your 2013 goals, for which you have less than 6 months left. I won't be touring with the band this summer, so your postings to social sites and photos shared with our Marketing team will tell the story. Apparently I'm in the "on deck" circle, having been recently tapped to lead the effort to produce World Expo 2014 in Orlando. I'm happy to be spearheading the massive effort behind our Expo again. I'll bring new ideas, format changes and some of the fun and excitement that belong at our events. If you've been with us awhile, you know how it works. Many of your suggestions fuel the content for World Expo, speakers, sessions, events. etc. If you enjoyed San Antonio in 2006, Disney in 2008 or Caesar's Palace in 2009, you're already looking for the REGISTER NOW button to click! We will have that up and live soon so you can plan to be in Orlando during the final week of May. Now do you understand why we are so excited to meet?

It's a geat time to be growing a business - allow our traveling show of support services to help your efforts.



Damage control

Oh I really like this! Not just the hearty greeting I receive when I walk in to eat ("WELCOME TO MOE'S!"). I like when a company that I think has creative in-store and online marketing shows their true colors. Apparently, a promotion designed at bringing awareness and new users to their web-ordering and app ordering fell flat. The response was great, the system couldn't handle it, I even heard some stores ran low on supplies as a result. Damage control! This is how it's done correctly. Earlier this week, Moe's opted to use email and their social channels to acknowledge this mishap or problem. This is an excellent way to repair credibility damage and get your business' ship sailing straight again. A popular eatery, Moe's Southwestern Grill, promoted a free burrito to customers that used the website or smartphone app to order a large drink. Before many could figure out there was a problem, Moe's stepped forward, took ownership of the apparent overload of their system in "e-commerceland" and issued the above message. Everything from the bruised and bandaged logo to the "101010" binary techie background graphics tells me it was well thought out. This message was echoed on Facebook and Twitter. The sentiment among the users was positive, once the error and problems were mentioned and explained. I think most people realize that sometimes, well placed plans fall short. Trust is gained by admitting to a fault and recommiting - exactly what has happened here.

Good going, Moe's. I trust you'll have a good contingency plan for your loyal followers.


One good tip

Let's say you're greedy. You want more than most, more than you deserve, heck, you want it all. You can mine the web for all sorts of good ideas and quotes and motivational everything. Check your Facebook page - I bet if you're like me, you have plenty of people that present nice quotes, overlaid on beautiful pictures that grab your attention. Some are long text paragraphs that contain "...Continue Reading" in gray text - inviting you to scroll and read even more of the inspirational story or advice. There are websites dedicated to giving you "feel good" ideas and email subscriptions that will deliver awesome funny messages each morning. All good by me.

I find they are fun to look at, repost, retweet or regurgitate to Instagram. When I think about their impact, however, I ask myself, "How many of these stick?" How many can I or will I act on? Besides the feel good sensation or the "what if" moment, do we really get anything from the social media and smartphone blitz of suggestions and ideas? For me, not many live long past the "oooh and ahhh" point of reading them. I save the best ones I see in the "Glimpses" section of this blog. I'm finding that the most useable and profound ideas I get each day are still coming from people. Face to face, in person is how I get my best ACTIONABLE tips. If it's a new website to visit, a bit of info from one of our franchisees on something they're experiencing or a story of something gone right, that's my best source. There are plenty of nice ideas floating around online. They cram for my attention at every turn. I'm still most pleased and affected by the advice and tips I get from people. I don't need a website full of quotes every day. Have you ever been in that position where you hear 10 jokes and really only remember one? That's what happens here. So closely linked to the "get your best ideas from people" is the piece that says one good tip, just one a day, would be fantastic. This is success. This works. Get yours!


Is this working for you?

Social media. It is pervasive in our lives. A recent study done by IDC shows Facebook usership on smartphones is dominating the online landscape. Or maybe it's "eating up the time pie" as they say. Check these stats - Over the course of a week, the average number of times per day that an 18-44 year old will check Facebook is... 13.8! If you check Facebook less than that, you're below the average. Most people check their Wall/Newsfeed (82% of the visits), followed by reading or replying to your friend's posts (49% of the time). As compared to overall usage of smartphones, Facebook ranks third in popularity, trailing only email and your phone's web browser for popularity. Amazing, but not surprising.

My thought on this is, what are people doing with their social media? I mean specifically, what are most users looking to accomplish with all of this time and effort being poured into the compulsion that is Facebook? Start with this thought, what are you posting? What do you look to get out of spending this much time in a world that's online and shared amongst your family, friends, and business contacts? For the purposes of this post, Facebook is the focus, but my question bleeds into your use of LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+. I ask - How are you using social media and is your strategy working?

I'll start with personal use of Facebook, that's what the above referenced IDC study addresses. Do you check Facebook to see how popular you are? Do you care how many "likes" your posts receive from the friends in your group? Many people are hung on this, "What responses do I get?" For plenty of Facebook users, what happens on the popular social media site harkens back to a high school mentality - meaning they derive their perceived popularity and sometimes their day's mood based on the opinion of others. Have you ever heard or thought, "I can't believe he/she didn't comment or like my reply?" "Did you see what so-and-so put on Facebook?" It's definitely happening. What you choose to share online is a reflection of what you're thinking about. I have Facebook friends that routinely post negative information ABOUT THEMSELVES. True! Amazing as it seems, they voluntarily share their misery with others. "I have another headache today." Really? Is this newsworthy? Do you want sympathy or just recognition as being sickly? I don't understand this at all. I have other Facebook friends that post text or photos almost exclusively featuring themselves. Facebook allows for each person to be their own PR firm. You can dispense whatever information you'd like. Ask yourself or take a look at your posts and feed to determine the following - Is your information "all about you?" What part of your social plan does this satisfy? Imagine if you conducted yourself this way with your friends in person? Picture anyone saying the following in a group setting..."So, then I did this, have a look at these pictures, then I did that, see more photos, aren't I wonderful?" Hmmm. Does this constitute a "giving" mentality or a "taking" mentality? (Gut check here) It seems like the social part of this exciting media should be more about "giving" than "taking." Business use of Facebook? Same thing. You can fill your fans' walls with information solely about your accomplishments and marketing propaganda. Some do, but I doubt they have an engaged group of followers.  That "me first" mentality isn't attractive, in person or on Facebook. Take inventory - What do you offer to your friends, both personally and in your business dealings when participating in social media?

Here's what I see working best, in two segments:

  1. Personally, the practice of spreading knowledge is the gem of social media. Look to share and give what you know to your flock. If each of us comes with expertise, we can lift all of those in our group by helping others. Yes, I post things about where I am, where I'm going and what I'm doing. However, most of my social media entries are me dispensing information, sharing humor, reposts of articles I've read, problems that have been solved and new things coming soon. Sharing what I know and find to help my network of friends and followers. 
  2. Business-wise, I see our franchisees effectively spreading the word about their products and services with Facebook. Those that do this best aren't outwardly selling their wares, they offer relevant information, solidify themselves as knowledgeable experts in their field and transfer good feelings to their followers. The best franchisees engaged in social media are wrapped around "being the expert" in their communities. They feature local stories and happenings, even if they aren't at the center of the story. Franchisees inform their followers, keeping the mood positive and high. They give far more than they take. The selflessness that allows someone to make giving a priority pays dividends in other places and at other times. Good social communicators know this.

Have a look at your content. Question the core reasons for your involvement. If the social scene is as big as the statistics say, know why you're spending an ever-increasing portion of your day working to grow using Facebook and the other prominent social sites. It does work well if you can tailor your content to give. So many others will consume themselves with the take, take, take. Let the giving work for you.



Put it out there.

Ever been involved with a project that's time has come?

Maybe you've worked hard to place a new idea in the heads of your superiors, and today is your presentation. The official introduction of your plan. Maybe you have children? This could be their recital, the performance that shows the instructor, your peers and their friends what they've been practicing. It's as much your "coming out" as it is theirs, you want it to go perfectly and have them show well. This is after all, an outcropping of your efforts. Another example? I run. I prepare with a goal, an event, a date, and an intended outcome. So for me, it's race day. If you do well, no one can ever take your time from you - it stays as a testament to your preparation, skill and ability to perform when it counts. This is the feeling I had on my trip to Australia. The EmbroidMe VISION project is ready to use. It's taken many months to get to this place. What started as an idea for improvement is now here for the franchisees to see and embrace. They've seen and heard all about it, how could they not. We touted it as the system of the future at last year's Expo in Las Vegas. Back then, the prognosis was that we'd have most of it done for the Expo and release it slowly in June. Improvements, some obstacles and the daunting migration of EMeBOSS data kept us from releasing any viable version in 2012. The delay was an annoyance to some, but most understood that we have been adding to and improving the system all the way since April's Expo, so the vibe was still "we have the right idea and the plan is working."

The Regional Meeting swing in Australia was loosely in place in the beginning of December when Evan Foster, National Director, visited Florida for our year end meetings. We determined that this system would be ready to launch, so we decided to include this as the "meat" of the four meetings. I had planned on going over and having someone from Trade Only accompany me for the demos. It went back and forth, Martin Varley or Tracey Peyton, one of these two would be the best presenters of the system. Tracey was giving the nod a mere three days before the trip began, which made for some interesting prep and dialogue on a very long journey over the Pacific. This was Tracey's first trip to Australia and what a schedule we had for her. Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, all in 6 days with a day on each side for travel and some time adjustment. She really leaned into the assignment, putting together four stellar demonstrations across Australia. We answered questions, shored up concerns about cloud computing and security and showed new capabilities. We left each city with our franchisees impressed and ready to adopt the VISION system. In all but one location we had a 100% sign-up percentage. This trip was a success on two fronts. The software was the star, it will allow the stores to better manage and promote their businesses. We also made excellent connections face to face with some fantastic people. Our Expos allow for franchisees to interact with the Corporate people, but store visits and an appreciation for what happens each day in their lives is paramount. I love life in the field ~ for this reason.

I am not the sole person responsible for the EmbroidMe VISION system. For maybe the first time ever on a project of this type, we pooled our resources to include corporate, training, field and franchisees to build and sharpen the deliverable. This was exciting because I got to pull the wraps off in front of excited customers who will use it everyday. I know most of the franchisees, so the intro and dialogue was easy. I like to bring a human side to the presentations, telling the inside story of how the ideas and development crafted what we had to introduce.I think people appreciate and deserve that. Credibility soars when you expose your challenges and frailties next to your successes. People understand. They believe. Then they trust.

All the work and thoughts culminate in that moment when you take that step forward and put it out there. Would it fall on welcome ears? Had our planning and year-plus of work on VISION hit the mark? The only way to know would be to dedicate the time and resources to show the franchisees in person. The response was very enthusiastic. Our store owners saw the value in pressing forward with this new venture which made the tightly-scheduled trip more enjoyable along the way. Special mention to franchisees that extended their hospitality to us on their weekends and free time. I have a wonderful collection of friends that are due my best hospitality when they visit Florida. Yes, this is you, Pete and Margie Gardner, Karren and Matt Fitzpatrick.

I went around the world in a week. I did my part and helped make the Regional Meetings interesting for our franchisees. The project doesn't end with this tour of Australia. We push a familiar plan into place now, the launch phase. Training and implementation. This we will do well, our past experiences have been good here, this will be duplication of that success. When you're in the midst of the tough stuff on a project of this size, you wish for the day that people see and appreciate what you've done. My day came, four different times in four different cities! It's forward from here.



- dm