Tag Archive: business tips

  1. Does Your Business Belong on Wikipedia?

    You’ve heard it before: “Wikipedia is not a credible source.” Five years ago as a diligent college student, hunkered down at my corner library desk, I would have agreed with this statement. (Side note: yes, only five years ago. Stop judging.) But after having many clients ask me, “Should my company have a Wikipedia page?” I now beg to differ.

    With the amount of time, research, and editing that goes into creating a new Wikipedia page from scratch, you might as well be hunkered down at your own library desk, writing a final term paper with at least seven credible, third-party sources cited in a detailed bibliography. If you’re thinking about creating one for your own business, be prepared to work. Take it from someone who knows: venturing into the world of Wikipedia is not for the faint of heart.

    Is Wikipedia Right For My Business?

    If you’re a small mom-and-pop business with no digital footprint, probably not. Lest we forget, Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia; its purpose is to provide factual information on a topic of interest. It’s not here to tell everyone how great you are. We’re proud of you for having recently celebrated your fifth anniversary or having the best ham sandwich in town, but if you don’t have any of the following, you won’t have any luck on Wikipedia:

    1. A Strong PR Presence: This goes a long way. Wikipedia relies on citations by credible, third-party sources in order for content to be published. “Best prices in town, 10/10 would shop again” by Anonymous User on Yelp ain’t gonna cut it. If you already have a good stockpile of articles published about your business, you’ve got a good head-start.

    **Pro Tip: A credible, third-party source is not StillettoSportingMommyBlogger.com. Try local and/or national news publications, magazines, or well-known media websites to get your content published.

    Strong PR Presence

    2. A Notable Employee: This one’s a hit or miss. If the head of your company has already gained their own notoriety, and this fame plays a major part in the business, Wikipedia may accept the article for publication. However, if their notoriety is far removed from the operations of the company, Wikipedia may suggest creating a page for them and including your business as a portion of that article instead.

    3. A New Product or Idea: This goes hand-in-hand with having a strong PR presence. If your business is promoting a brand new product or idea that is new or “ground-breaking” in your industry, you may be an eligible candidate for a successful Wikipedia page.

    Bottom line, if you attempt to create a page for self-promotional reasons, spouting information that cannot be backed up anywhere online, Wikipedia’s Editors will find you, and they will end you. Ok, you, personally, are safe — but your page will not be.

    Ok, I Think I Fit These Categories. Now What?

    I’ll break the news to you now: Don’t spend hours writing a heartfelt memoir about your business’s many accomplishments and journeys (unless you have the sources to back it up, of course). Wikipedia’s got guidelines, and they are lengthy. Check this out. And this one. Don’t worry, there are more, but here are some highlights:

    • As stated before, content must be 100% unbiased. Opinions are unwelcome.
    • Facts must be backed up by credible, third-party sources (newspapers, books published by large publishing houses, magazines, peer-reviewed scholarly articles, etc.). No anecdotal evidence allowed.
    • If you want to upload a photo, you must own it or use Wikipedia Commons.
    • Self-promotion is a guaranteed method of getting your article banished by the Editors.
    • Basically, don’t use any adjectives to describe your business. “Sal’s Sandwich Shop makes sandwiches so delicious, you’ll slap yo’ mama” is obviously a claim that cannot be backed up unless first published in Orlando Weekly.

    Wikipedia’s guidelines are long and detailed, but you have to follow them or doom your hard work to Wikipedia purgatory with the rest of the articles that did not meet the Editors’ strict standards.

    Wikipedia Editors

    Wikipedia Editors: Serious Business

    I Still Think I Qualify. How Do I Get Started?

    My first tip here is to hire someone to do it for you. You know how “entry-level” jobs require five-plus years of industry experience? Wikipedia is pretty much the same way. Your articles/edits are more likely to be approved if you’ve got a lot of wiki-editing history on your resume. But if you insist on trying for yourself, here are some need-to-knows:

    • Create an Account: You have to sign in in order to edit or create a page. Your account has to be under an individual’s name — it cannot be under your company’s.
    • Learn Wikipedia’s Guidelines: Just throwing this in there again because, trust me, you have to know what you’re doing before you jump in.
    • Learn Wikipedia’s Editor & Language: Yep, Wikipedia has its own editor system that works in unique ways. There are templates for different kinds of pages and they even have their own markup language (wikitext).
    • Be Wary of Launch: Whatever you do, do not hit publish on your page until you have ensured that everything is correct and had at least two other people do so as well. As soon as your page is made available for public consumption, the Editors will emerge.

    I think it’s important to take a moment to discuss the Editors. Much respect should be given to them, as they are the Wikipedia Gods, deciding the worth of pages with the click of a mouse or tap of a finger. Anybody can become a Wikipedia God, but it takes five-plus years of industry experience and three credible references. It’s better to just hire someone who knows the ropes — trust me.

    Wikipedia: An Awesome Resource, but Not Worth it for Everyone

    If you’ve got the goods, Wikipedia can help out your business online. While it doesn’t give you any backlink authority (links to your website are marked as “no follow”), Wikipedia is an extremely high-trafficked website that will increase your own website’s visibility in search engines. Google pretty much anything and there, sitting at spot two, three or sometimes even one, will be a Wikipedia article just waiting to be cited on college students’ term papers.

    Wikipedia for Business

    But if you remember anything, remember this: Wikipedia sounds like “encyclopedia” for a reason. You won’t open up the Encyclopedia Brittanica and find “Eat at Sal’s Sandwich Shop for Sandwiches So Good You’ll Slap Yo’ Mama” on page 445. The same thing goes for Wikipedia; it is not a platform for advertising your business with self-promotional material. Do yourself a favor and think about the tips above before opening yourself to possible Wiki-page heartbreak.

  2. 20 Lessons I Learned in 20 Years of Business

    Things I Know Now But Wish I Knew Then…

    In 1995 at the age of 19, I saw a demonstration of the Internet. A Rollins College student at the time, I watched a professor send an e-mail message (think green screen) to his colleague at Harvard and get an Matt Certoimmediate response. How did something travel from Winter Park, FL to Cambridge, MA and back that quickly? I was immediately mesmerized by what I saw.

    As a student, I knew I wanted to build a career that involved technology and business. The Internet was that opportunity on a silver platter. The next thing I knew, I was starting a small business and running it in-between classes at school.

    Fast forward 20 years into the future and a lot has happened and changed. Google, YouTube, Facebook, and a bunch of other things came along. Thankfully, the company has grown and is on the verge of even further growth. Looking back over the last 20 years, I wanted to share some lessons learned, most often through mistakes I made. If I could go back and tell myself a few things to save myself a little trouble, here is where I would start:

    1. Family Matters

    Starting and running a business is not for the faint of heart. You can’t do it alone. Over the years, I have relied a great deal on my family for support and encouragement. It’s important to remember to do the same for them as they pursue their own endeavors.    

    2. Someone Must be Willing to Give you a Chance

    Every entrepreneur has a few customers or backers who rolled the dice and gave them a shot. I was only 19 when I started the company, but I had a couple of customers who took a chance on me well before I had earned it. I am grateful to them to this day.

    3. You Have Nothing Without Customers

    Our clients drive us, motivate us, and make us better. As Peter Drucker says, “the purpose of a business is to create a customer.” If you can’t do that, you don’t have much of anything.

    4. You Need Great Mentors

    Over the years, I have leaned on person after person to show me the way regarding the conceptualization and running of a business. Fortunately, I’ve had a number of people willing to share their insights, ideas, and experiences with me and it’s meant the world.

    5. You Must Develop Perseverance

    In the course of doing anything for a long period of time, you must be willing to keep trying even when things aren’t going your way. Those periods of time will come and you must be able to see beyond them and keep trying to prevail regardless of the circumstances. No one can do this for you but you can endeavor to inspire others around you along the way.

    6. Optimism is a Must

    Along with dark skies, storm clouds, and everything else that’s bleak, running a business requires optimism.  You have to keep telling yourself that it’s always darkest before the dawn or, as Mumford & Sons puts it, “night has always pushed up day.”

    7. A Great Team is Indispensable

    Any company is only as good as its people, and I have been thankful to have had a chance to work with some great ones. In the end, our people are our most precious and cherished assets.

    8. Culture Matters. Most.

    Kelly Rogers Appreciation

    The team celebrates Kelly Rogers’ 10th Anniversary

    I used to think “corporate culture” was nothing more than a fluffy buzzword. I now know much differently. Having a great group of people is nothing without a joint understanding of how we are going to do what we do. You have to be intentional about–and model–the kind of company you are trying to build and the values you seek to perpetuate. As I read somewhere recently, your personal calling is not necessarily what you do, but how you choose to do it. With the right group of teammates, your company can be an expression of that calling.

    9. You Must Put Character Above All Else When Hiring

    There is an old adage that you should hire for character and attitude and train for skill. I have come to believe this implicitly. There’s nothing more detrimental to a company than someone who has talent but no ability to co-exist with others or to contribute to the firm’s culture. It can have a negative cascading effect if you’re not careful.

    10. You Must Have a Great Leadership Team

    I’ve definitely learned the value of having great co-leaders next to me. Running a business brings all sorts of challenges one’s way. And if you’re not careful, you can easily misinterpret a dilemma and make a myopic decision. Having other leaders around me has helped me to see situations through different lenses, gotten me out of my comfort zone, and ultimately helped me to make better decisions. You can’t do it alone. I am grateful for leaders on our team like Kelly Lafferman, Rich Wahl, and Kelly Rogers.

    11. Pay Your Civic Rent

    A company is a citizen.  It should give to its community through contributions, volunteerism, and sponsorships. The company should do this simply because it’s the right thing to do. You should look at this as a duty, not an optional undertaking. If you do this right, both the community and shareholders can benefit concurrently.

    12. You Need Heroes and Role Models

    There will be many people that you will never meet but will have great influence on you. You need great examples of people in the public eye or history to emulate as you develop your business. For me, those people have included Duke Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski for his approach to leadership, Apple Founder Steve Jobs for showing how business is really art, and basketball legend Larry Bird for exemplifying tenacity and determination.

    13. You Should Travel a Bit

    I’m not a person who has a ton of wanderlust, but getting out of town and away from things every once in a while gives you perspective that is impossible to get anywhere else but away from town. An occasional change of scenery is invaluable. While you’re there, it’s important to be open to inspiration from what you see. Things like the iconic Bixby Creek Bridge in Big Sur, Seattle’s Space Needle, or the Louvre in Paris remind you that anything is possible. When you come home, bring that spirit back to the company.

    14. You Must Want to Compete

    Business is a battle. Competition is always lurking, but it should not be feared. Competition is a great motivator, barometer, and ultimately makes business fun. You should embrace it. Every loss to a competitor is an opportunity to improve your company and every win over a competitor is reinforcement of what you do and how you do it.

    15. Cultivate Great Relationships

    In the end, your relationships with teammates, clients, and partners are paramount. A business can be viewed as a collection of relationships. You must invest in those and do the best you can at cultivating them through good times and bad.

    16. Never Stop Learning

    Business changes all the time. So does the world. You must continue to grow and develop your base of knowledge about the world through books, articles, speeches, and conferences. Over the years, I’ve relied on the marketing, management, and leadership teachings of people like Seth Godin, Rick Warren, Peter Drucker and Jim Collins. The more you learn, the more effective you are. As Warren Buffett says, “the best investment you can make is in yourself.”

    17. Develop Your Faith

    I personally believe that relying on a higher power to guide you is the only way to survive twenty years of business. For me, my Christian faith has guided me, strengthened me, stretched me, and ultimately taken me further than I could ever go on my own. Faith can also help you find purpose in every day of your business journey.

    18. Team Up With Great Vendor Partners

    You will need a great team of people outside the walls of your company to help you grow and develop. We have had the great fortune of having truly great partner organizations help us succeed. We owe a great debt of gratitude to firms like Tews Company, Vestal & Wiler, Shutts & Bowen, and CNL Commercial Real Estate for helping us thrive.

    19. Do Your Best to Create a Great Place to Work

    Your employees are both your present and your future. Help them, support them, and nurture them because it will help them, their families, and your customers. Thank them, encourage them, coach them, and give them as much coffee as they can drink!

    20. Rinse and Repeat

    Rinse and RepeatYour business can never stay in the same place for long. Change is a must, but you must watch each and every step. So, invent and then re-invent. It must never stop.

    This list of business tips, tricks, do’s and don’ts really doesn’t have an end. If you have other practices or ideas that have meant something significant to you, please comment below. I’d love to learn from you. And for those of you who have been a part of our 20 year journey, I sincerely thank you.