Local Entrepreneurs Rise to the Occasion and Share the Ride

As written for iluvlocalplaces.com 10/2016

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past couple of years, you have no doubt heard of rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft.  What you may not know is that Cape Girardeau is poised to get its very own version by the name of carGO.  The ride share service is designed to work in micropolitan, or hometown markets, where people are more likely to know each other.  Up until now, this is a market untapped by larger rideshare companies as they tend to focus on larger cities.

I recently sat down with carGO business managers, Gunnar Knudtson and  Kyle Campbell, to get the scoop on their exciting new venture.   James Stapleton of Codefi and Jeffrey Maurer of Mayson Capital Partners of Cape Girardeau spearheaded the micropolitan rideshare concept.  The service is designed to be an on-demand ride service similar to those in the larger markets.  A major defining feature of carGO is the ability to request a ride from your smartphone – connecting you with background checked and safety trained drivers.  A further defining feature specific to carGO is the ability to “favorite” and request particular drivers or be matched with nearby drivers.

capture-2

L to R, Maurer, Stapleton, Campbell, Knudtson

When I asked Gunnar and Kyle why this particular business, they said an opportunity like this right out of college was not something they could walk away from.  Both Gunnar and Kyle were studying business at the University of Mississippi, and both had no plans to come back to Cape.  But as we all know, life is funny that way.  Gunner explained the pair received a call one day indicating Stapleton and Maurer wanted to meet and discuss the business idea over dinner.  Gunner recalls with a laugh, “that meeting lasted over four hours.”  He said they felt like they were on “cloud nine” afterward, recognizing that they had an incredible opportunity in front of them.  Although the pair has a background in business management and interest in starting a business, neither has experience launching a tech-infused start-up.

Gunnar and Kyle immediately took up residence in the Codefi co-working space in the Federal Building and started the grind.  Although the business idea was already in place, the pair would have to create processes and finalize details.  This meant partnership agreements, working with the app development, logistics, and a host of legalities and marketing issues related to locating drivers and riders.  Then there is the fact that the service has never been tried in the Cape area.  No pressure guys.  Gunnar and Kyle both express sincere gratitude to the folks at Codefi (https://www.codefiworks.com/) and for the way the up and coming Tech District have nurtured the process.

When asked what success looks like for the new venture Kyle said, “getting that first ride requested and completed.” As the pair laugh, Gunnar chimes in saying that he is hopeful for “future expansion into multiple markets” as the long-term indicator of success.  Both gentlemen agree that the experience is going to be a great learning experience.

 

Notables

The carGO app and website are currently under development.  Potential drivers and riders can visit the site http://www.gocargo.io/ to sign up for more information.

carGO headquarters will be located in the Marquette Tower Tech District.

Prospecting

image via ucommunicate.org

In today’s small business session I took cold calling off the table. Yes. Death be to the dastardly cold call. In lieu of the ever dreaded cold call I suggested that my client think of marketing her brand as “prospecting”.  The word feels better and with that better feeling produces more confidence.

In “prospecting” you will still call clients to explore potential leads. The difference is that you will have worked hard in strengthening your brand and expanding your network. Through this activity you will find potential clients with less effort. This will require more behind the scenes work.  It will require you, the small business owner, to know everything that sets you apart from your competition; know what solutions you offer and what other solutions are available.  And it will require you to have some knowledge of your prospective lead and what makes them special.

Doing your homework will not only make you feel better prepared but it will go along way in building rapport with your potential new client!

Do you have any suggestions on effective methods of prospecting?

A Photog’s Guide to the Gig Economy

image via azcentral.com

image via azcentral.com

Had you shown me a glimpse of my current life a few years ago I would have never believed it. I thought I was destined to the eternal damnation of a career that made me miserable. I’m finding now that it wasn’t the housing industry that I disliked. It was more the corporate America heavy stance we take as leasing agents and property managers. Now that I am working on the other side of the fence in housing whereby I educate landlords about Fair Housing and the benefits of not being an absentee landlord,  I have a more positively adjusted view.

I digress. The point is, I now have three jobs that are all completely different yet somehow related. In my volunteer work I help with economic development, in my other jobs I sell healthcare IT software and work to promote local small business owners.  Working in the gig economy has taught me a few things:

  1. Never underestimate the power of a promise.  If you say you are going to deliver something on Tuesday you better do it on Monday. Build yourself in a couple of days for the unexpected.
  2. You are only as good as your previous work.  Why? Some would say that it is because your reputation will proceed you. Which is true, but I think it’s more nuanced than that… I think you will carry the baggage of letting someone down to your next project, especially if you did not do everything in your power to fix it or own up to it. It is likely to grate on your self-esteem and threaten to sabotage your next project.
  3. Be careful with whom you associate.  Bringing someone on to help you means that they are part of your reputation.  If they are late, or get sloshed, or act snarky or are dressed inappropriately, guess what? So are you.
  4. Take control of your work. This means taking credit for your work and ensuring the person you are working for does the same. It also means that if you decide to release a draft be sure that it is read only or set up in a way to track changes! If someone starts to modify your work you lose control over the final result and lose track of which version is the newest version.
  5. Don’t be afraid to work “in the mail room” or for free.  If you are switching careers, working for free gives you an amazing 360 view of the organization, the work and whether it is worth your time pursuing.
  6. Educate yourself, relentlessly.  Read books, subscribe to online content, go to school.  The wonderful thing about continuing education is that you can find so many sources FOR FREE! I like Coursera (coursera.org) and edX (edX).
  7. Find your backbone.  Stand up for what you believe in especially in the ethical arena.
  8. Find your sense of humor and humility. If you make a mistake own it, learn from it and move along.
  9. DO NOT work for someone who does not respect you, or your work.  If they do not respect your work upfront, they will not respect you during the life of the project.
  10. Maintain and work your network; keep up with colleagues from previous jobs.
  11. My favorite lesson – know what is going on in your area.  Civic engagement enriches your life simply by participating in the democratic process.  The dual benefit?  If you are working with, say a start-up business, think about the benefit you provide to your client by knowing what is going on in your area.
  12. Learn the difference between work that you can not do because of your current skill set/time constraints and work that you can do but it scares the bejesus out of you.
  13. Do the work that scares the bejesus out of you.  THIS is your growth moment.

I’d love to hear about your growth moment!

-Brandi

Are You, or Someone You Know, a Stupidvisor?

I was watching Bar Rescue one night as Jon Taffer was waylaying into a set of doe-eyed employees about the behavior he was witnessing. I can’t recall the episode, but the thing that struck me was the term he used to describe the supervisor.  After questioning the supervisor about her role and her authority with the team he dubbed her a “stupidvisor”.  The owner’s jaw dropped and the rest of the team nodded their heads.

In a nutshell, he was saying that if you as an owner give the title of supervisor to an employee you have to also give them some of the power that goes along with the title. A supervisor should be able to create direction, hire, fire, discipline, and make crucial and timely decisions.  You as the owner set the tone, the supervisor is tasked with creating a successful team under that tone. Giving someone a title and then still requiring them to get permission for every little decision not only frustrates you as the owner, it frustrates them, slows the process down, and disrupts employee moral.  More importantly, the employees absolutely know without a doubt who the “boss” is.  They will sidestep the stupidvisor so that they can cut down the time in getting a decision made.  This lack of respect translates to tense relations between the employees, the supervisor, and the owner.

I’ve been in the stupidvisor position before and my boyfriend used to say, “All of the responsibility, none of the power”. It was a demoralizing situation that ended up with me seeking greener pastures. And why wouldn’t someone in this position? A supervisor that is just a title has no way of providing any real leadership to employees or growing in their own careers.  A business with this type of structure has no way of improving moral.  Think about it, the very person charged with being a cheerleader and a champion for the team and the brand is stuck asking and waiting on decisions from the owner.  What really then is the point of handing out the title?

With my role in the small business center I’ve had many owners come to me with some problem in their business that was inevitably disrupting sales.  In most instances what they described as their problem really turned out to be a symptom of a greater issue. For example, I worked with a business that came in for help in marketing, we will call them “Jack and Diane”.  I put together a 12 month detailed marketing calendar and outlined example strategies for the business.  I asked Jack who would implement it, and how it would be implemented.  He explained that he had been experiencing frequent turnover but his wife, Diane, was the manager and she would see to it that it was done.

This immediately raised some questions in our session.  First of all, why was Diane not present at the session if she was the “manager”.  And second, could he explain the reasons behind the cycle of turnover they were experiencing?  His explanations for the turnover included that they hired “young kids” that “do not like to work” and designated team leads did not “step up”.

What we uncovered during that session was that he was wanting to step back from daily operations and in doing so allowed his wife to take over the role of manager.  She was to be the person responsible for hiring, firing, managing the books, and leadership for the team.  What was really happening was that she had to ask her husband about every decision she made.  This led the employees to do the same, which led to confusion about who was the “boss”, and led both the husband and wife to work over 60 hours a week each to cover the store.  Guess what folks, Diane was a stupidvisor. And though neither Jack nor Diane realized it, you can bet their employees did.  I implore, how could any employee step up if their supervisor could not?

Many small businesses start as a flat and simple structure with “mom and pop” ruling the roost.  As a business grows owners often have a hard time shifting out of daily operations.  They see the need to hire and/or delegate greater responsibilities to employees. But in many instances do not know how to let go, thus entering the micromanager/supidvisor cycle.  It is imperative that the employees know who is supervising them.  This does not mean that the owner is giving up power, it means that they are trusting an employee to work as an extension of themselves. They will make mistakes.  Hopefully they are provided with training opportunities that will help them help you.  This will allow owners to concentrate on bigger and better things like growing the business or taking a much needed vacation!

Businesses stuck in the micromanager/stupidvisor cycle experience turnover, tense employee relations and disruptions in sales due to slow decision making, decreased moral and loss of continuity in leadership.  Jon Taffer’s solution to this problem? Either take the title away and do it yourself, or give them the proper tools and get the heck out of their way.  If you watch the show regularly you know that he relies on the latter approach.  9.9 times out of 10 people rise to the occasion, the excitement improves moral, the business turns around and the owner gets to be an owner.  Isn’t that what it’s all about?