Sips & Tips…

Happy New Year and Happy Monday!

Welcome to 2017 and the beginning of a new year. A new year to start off right and get your small business or nonprofit geared up for the long haul. As a part of the new year, I am working with my business partner Jameka Whitten and JSW Media (www.jswmediagroup.com) to bring you some practical content in a quick clip format.

Last Friday we introduced our “Sips & Tips” vlog. Sips & Tips are one minute videos that give you great business advice while we sip some great wine or cocktails. The vignettes are meant to be fun and informative. But not long enough to put  you to sleep. LOL

So check out the introductory video and then look out for new videos each Friday on Suite929 TV (www.suite929.tv). And please make sure to comment or send us questions/ideas for upcoming segments. We look forward to growing with you and creating content you can proud of!

http://www.suite929.tv/2017/sipsandtips_theintroduction/

Cheers!

Keith Cradle [@mrcradle on IG/Twitter]

 

 

Life Happens…

Good Morning All,

Happy Wednesday to you and I pray your week has been off to a remarkable start. Starting is just as important as finishing. So having a strong start can help prepare you for the things that will come. As the title of this post and the old saying goes…LIFE HAPPENS.

LIFE HAPPENS in the midst of everything we set out to do. From the plans we make to the strategic decisions we design, nothing skews or throws us a curve like life. When crafting your external plans or branding schemes for your nonprofit or small business, you can never be fully prepared for the “LIFE HAPPENS” moment. It just happens and you need to be flexible and willing to adjust.

I converse with plenty of people who want to begin or are in the first few stages of development for their nonprofit and the full display of optimism is front and center. They discuss all the things they wish to do along with how the business will look in 5 years. Hell, they even have a mock-up of the office space once they reach a certain amount of money and decide to purchase an office. All well and good because the dream and confidence in the future is important.  However, no one ever discusses the contingency plans for when “LIFE HAPPENS.”

Trust and believe, LIFE WILL HAPPEN, and you as the owner need to be prepared. Potential donors rescind funds, employees quit or have children, there is a fire in the office, data records get washed away, computers crash, business credit/debit cards get lost or stolen. I could go on for months with the never-ending LIFE HAPPENS scenarios. So while that sounds awful, just know there is a silver lining to those dark and gloomy clouds. And here are 3 things you can do:

  1. Have back up plans for the back up plans: Nothing like having a Plan A, B, C, D; so that when LIFE HAPPENS, you will have a guideline on how to proceed.
  2. Be very flexible: Bending never made anyone break. So don’t be so rigid to the current business plan and be ok with change.
  3. Seek guidance: LIFE HAS HAPPENED to a lot of business owners. So talk with those that have experience and learn how they got through it.

Again, things are going to go wrong. Do not fret or sweat the small stuff. Just know that you can push through and your nonprofit/small business will be fine. If you need help getting through crisis moments and needing organizational plans, please contact us @ JSW Media Group so we can be there when LIFE HAPPENS.

Have an awesome day!

Cheers.

Keith Cradle [@mrcradle on IG/Twitter]

A Change Gonna Come…

Hola! Happy Friday and with Hurricane Joaquin bearing down on the East Coast, I pray you are safe, warm and dry. The month of October is upon us, which means fall weather, sweaters/jackets and the sun going down a lot quicker. In other words, a change is coming!

“These the rainy days they say you should be saving for, but when sun shines no one carries umbrellas…” Fabolous

Change is the only thing that is constant. Seasons change. People change. And your business changes. But are you ready for the inevitable change that is going to come? As an owner, director, manager/supervisor or frontline employee, you must be prepared for change and adaptation.  Business models and strategic plans should include provisions for the predictable and the unpredictable.

The great thing about nature is the way it prepares and showcases change. Leaves on trees change colors and then shed. Animals begin to store up food for the long winter.  Seeds become dormant but prepare for spring and a new blossoming. But do you prepare your small business or nonprofit for the change that is coming?

If not, here are three things you can do to prepare:

  1. Take a look at the budget and see where you can trim: Find ways to store up resources and scale back during lulls in business
  2.  Decide if seasonal staff/volunteers are right for you: Nothing like having help at low costs during the winter months, especially students needing internship or volunteer hours
  3. Take a look at your online presence and does it need a refresh: Just like the leaves changing colors, maybe your logo needs a touch of color

While there are plenty of other things you can do, these are just a few to get your mind working and thinking about how to approach the impending changes. Because the changes are going to come. But will you be ready? If you are not ready and need help, please make sure to contact us at JSW Media Group and we can service all of your small/nonprofit business needs.

http://www.jswmediagroup.com/

Have an awesome weekend!

Cheers.

Keith Cradle (@mrcradle on IG/Twitter)

Why a Vision Statement is So Important…

gold

Good Morning All!

As always, thank you for taking the time to read and share this blog. Today, I wanted to share a quick story that will hopefully bring some perspective to you and your nonprofit/business as it relates to vision. Having vision is something we all need as business leaders, managers, executives and down to the interns that wish to move up the ladder to leadership positions.

Without vision, you will not have an idea of the path you wish to tread. It is the vision that coincides with the mission and the strategic plan so that the staff and donors know exactly why they do what they do!

Over Labor Day Weekend, I went out to Dallas to visit and play golf with my friend Eric. While the weather was particularly hot, we enjoyed the hours we spent hitting, chipping and attempting to make par. LOL For those that don’t know, I am new golfer having just started playing the game in March of 2014.  So my tenure hasn’t been that long and my experience is nowhere near PGA level.  I have some ok days on the course and then I have some very terrible days. Lots of lost balls and tons of dropped balls back on the course. During that hot Saturday, I found myself and my golf balls behind a lot trees. Yup, on more than one occasion, I would hit the ball directly behind a tree [see picture above.] So while frustration was setting in, I was also able to find the message in the moment and snap that picture.

While my ball was neatly tucked behind the tree, the flag for the hole was right on the other side. So even though I couldn’t see the flag, I knew where I wanted and needed to go. I may not have had the perfect sight but I had vision. My plan to getting to the pin was now going to be altered but that wouldn’t negate my progress. My journey would be a bit delayed as I hit around the tree and back on the fairway but nonetheless, I found my way. So, when you can’t see the forest from the trees, you need to have vision. A vision of where you want to end up.

Such in life, as in business, there will be times you hit obstacles, speed bumps or find yourself behind some trees. Don’t get discouraged. Focus on the end result and know that your flag is on the other side. You will need to take a step back, readjust your business plan and get the business back on the fairway. And once you are back on the fairway, you will see the flag! Hit your next shot there. It may take some time but it will be well worth it.

Hence the reason all businesses need a real and detailed vision and mission statement.  The Vision statement continually reminds you of where you want to go and how ambitious you need to be! If you need help with crafting mission/vision statements or comprehensive nonprofit/small business services, please contact JSW Media Group via the website:

http://jswmediagroup.com/

Have an awesome day!

Cheers.

Keith Cradle [@mrcradle on IG/Twitter]

Build It & They Still Won’t Come…

Good Morning All and I pray your Wednesday is going well!

I am a huge baseball fan and now that September has arrived, it means pennant races and the Hunt for October. Currently my NY Yankees are in second place in the AL East but leading the Wild Card race so that feels good. Especially considering that they were not picked to get this far or have this record with the aging roster and questionable pitching staff. Just goes to show you that pundits, so-called experts and polls do not always have the answers…you still have to play the games.

Which brings us to the topic of the day. A marginal baseball reference from “Field of Dreams.” If you have not seen the movie, it stars Kevin Costner as Ray Kinsella who is a huge baseball fan living in Iowa. One night while strolling through the cornfields, Ray hears a voice that says “If you build it, he will come…” Kind of spooky but hey, it’s leading you somewhere. The build that Ray is encumbered to take on is a baseball field in hopes of patching up the relationship with his father. You have to see the movie in order to get the full perspective.

However, many of you are having similar voices, dreams or visions that are prompting you to start a nonprofit or small business with the hopes that if you build it, they will come. The golden premise is that we have something great to offer, people need it and they will magically appear spending money, time and resources which will grant our success. But, I am sorry [actually not that sorry because it is the truth] to say that you can BUILD IT & THEY STILL WON’T COME. The problem is not in the creation or ideation of your idea but the lack of promotion, press, attention and marketing of this grand idea!

If no one knows about your business or nonprofit idea, how will they know when and where to support it? You cannot simply rely on word of mouth or a 2 month ad campaign. You must market and promote your idea thoroughly and for more than a year! The monetary investment you make must match the perceived return you wish to gain. Just building it is not enough. You have to let people know you exist. And you have to do that on a consistent basis.

A lot of times, owners do not know when to get out of their own way. They want to do everything themselves and skimp on costs. Now, if you do not have the financial resources I can understand but you should not want to start anything without doing a proper cost analysis.  Marketing and PR should be at the top of your list when it pertains to budgeted items for a start-up. Again, if no one knows you exist or are open for business, you can BUILD IT & THEY STILL WON’T COME.

So take a look at your budget and marketing materials. Decide if hiring a marketing firm is right for you. Reevaluate your promotional material and check to see if your social media pages are producing the results you desire.  Word to the wise, while social media is great and has opened up many new doors to advertising, it does not totally replace a good marketing campaign.

Have an awesome day and if you need help with business needs, make sure you contact JSW Media Group and Jameka Whitten @ http://www.jswmediagroup.com/.

Cheers.

Keith Cradle [@mrcradle on IG/Twitter]

Priorities…

Good Afternoon and Happy Thursday!

I pray that you all are having a great day and I want to extend my thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of those at WDBJ Television who are mourning the loss of their loved ones that were murdered senselessly yesterday in Roanoke, VA.  Words cannot explain.

On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to attend the Arts and Science Council’s presentation on Nonprofit Finances and Sustainability at the Levine Museum.  One thing I mention I a lot in my posts is financial health and resource allotment.  It is hard to be a viable organization if you do not have the funds or take care of the funds you procure.  Funding, health, growth, sustainability go hand in hand.  So whether you are an executive, manager, board member, volunteer, etc… you should be familiar with the financial statements and learn how read them!

Which brings me to the title and topic of this post, PRIORITIES.  Organizations are like life forms and will evolve through several different stages in the course of their life span [ I did my JSW Coffee Talk on this topic a few weeks back].  In those life spans, you will need to determine where you are and how you will navigate what you are. Hence, your PRIORITY.  Identifying where you are can help you determine what you need to do. According to Rebecca Thomas at Rebecca Thomas & Associates, there are four PRIORITY areas you can be in at any given time:

  1.  Stabilize
  2. Survive
  3. Thrive
  4. Steward

Most nonprofits float between “survive and thrive” while many never reach the “steward” phase or fall into “stabilize.”  Each PRIORITY area has goals and observable symptoms and traits.  Taking time to assess this and create hard data will save you time and money in the long run. It may also help you develop a surplus with which you can expand services/programs.

So what’s your PRIORITY? If you do not know, you need to find out!

Have an awesome day.

Cheers.

Keith Cradle [@mrcradle on IG/Twitter]

Grant Writing 101…

JCPC

Good Morning and Happy Friday!

The start of the weekend is here and time to reflect on how great this week has been. As we speed through August and prep for September, we are fully aware that the 4th quarter is upon us. Beginning the year hot is one thing but closing it out even hotter is even more impressive. So as you assess the year that was, make sure it is shaping out to being the year you have envisioned.

One of the things I want to talk about today and won’t have the ability to sum up in such a short post is GRANT WRITING. Grants can be the lifeblood to many agencies big or small. Grants provide needed capital and resources to organizations through the fiscal year and reporting period. So much so, that having a dedicated grant writer or development director is now a common line item in the budget. But the real quest is getting the grant!

I have the pleasure of sitting on a few committees that process and award grants to community agencies along with working with agencies that receive them and writing them myself. My experience with “soft-money” goes back over 15 years when I first began working at the Mecklenburg County Health Department and needed to provide monthly/yearly results to the State and Federal government so I could keep my 100% grant funded job!

Most people believe that grant writing and procuring those funds is an easy task. Just sit, write and tell the people how much you need their money. So not the case and you will fail each time. While there are no magic tricks or guaranteed theories that will work every time, there are a few things you can do to help your cause. Hence, GRANT WRITING 101…

Shall we begin? Let’s…

  1.  Pilot the program well before you ask for a grant: This step is often missed because many people believe that their idea is solid without proven results. Wrong! You will need to show the funding agency that you know what you are doing and how it will work.
  2. Documentation is key!: If you do not document it, it didn’t happen. And then you cannot prove to the funding agency that you did it or that it does work.
  3. Grammar and spell check: I cannot count the amount of times I have seen paperwork that had great programmatic ideas but terrible spelling and grammar. How can a funding agency trust you with starting an educational program when the organization starting it cannot even spell?
  4. Eliminate the high salaries: Point blank, period. Nothing evokes the ire of a funding body when they read your requested budget and see exorbitant salaries for the Admin Team. Is this about getting rich or helping others? Furthermore, the amount needed to run the program is excessively low. If your salaries are over 69% of your total estimated budget, trim it. Or best of luck next year!
  5. Find a niche program area or zip code: Everyone is doing mentoring. Everyone. So what else can you do that is different and set a part? Find an area of town that has been neglected and do your program there. Do a program that adds value outside of the normal categories. Get noticed by being noticeable.

While this is not the totality of GRANT WRITING, it is a good start. There is much more to the process before and after. Grants can be a great way to build internal capacity or expand programs. But do not rely on them for overall sustainability. A healthy agency knows when to wean themselves from the soft-money and develop hard-line items.

As always, thank you for reading and if you need further help, please contact me or JSW Media  Group for consultation. Have an awesome weekend.

Cheers.

Keith Cradle [@mrcradle on IG/Twitter]