What Makes an “Expert” an Expert? And Life Help from Ken Block

Today’s Thought-Provoking Questions of the Day from the Micro Business Kid:

  • What makes an “expert” an expert?

It’s not having a fancy degree or anything like that; it’s about someone’s experience in a certain field. It’s also very relative. Anyone who has more experience than you in something would be considered the expert compared to you. If you’ve never operated a business, then I would be considered a “business expert” compared to you. But if you were to compare me to Warren Buffet, he’d be the business expert. Make sense? The term “expert” is misused all the time; people use it to appear better than someone else or more educated or whatever. Bullshit. It just means you’ve done it longer than someone else. You can be nice and share your expertise with the world or keep it to yourself. You’re not some untouchable figure; you’re still a human just like the rest of us.

  • This is one that you’ll have to answer yourself:

You exist – But do you live? Does being alive look like being inside a cubicle from 9-5 for 40 years of your life or does it look more like this?

* * *

These questions are designed to make you think. There are no right or wrong answers. I got the ball rolling on the first question so you know what I think. What about you? What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

 

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An Interview with a Photography Boy-Genius

Today’s interview is with photographer, Braulio Negreira. We first met him as a follower of our blog on Tumblr a couple of months back. He’s slowly turned into a pretty good friend and is even a photographer that our company uses. Now here’s the kicker….he’s only 16! I feel like he has a real bright future ahead of him and it’s a joy to know him and help him grow as an entrepreneur.

  • What’s the name of your micro business and where is it located?

Braxen Photography is located in Fremont, California USA.

  •  How long have you been in business?

I’ve enjoyed photography as a hobby for about two to three years, but as an official micro business I’ve been around since March 2012.

  •  What does your micro business do?

I use my passion and photography skills with Braxen Photography to provide automotive event coverage, photo shoots, and product photos for companies like Vip’d Out and Habermann & Sons.

(Me: this product photo shoot came about after he purchased some shirts for us and asked if we would post his work if he took pictures of our stuff on our blog. I didn’t high expectations (because I didn’t know of his photography skills at the time) for the pics but my jaw literally dropped when I saw them. That’s when we knew we had to work with him)

  • Why did you decide to start your micro business?

I decided to start my micro business as a way to display my passion in a form so that many others could enjoy it. I also had the tendency to scatter my work on various blogs and pages, so by putting everything under the Braxen Photography name, a hub was created so all my photos could be in one place. This would also allow others to communicate with me which is really important to me.

  •  Who else is a part of your team? What are their roles?

Braxen Photography is my brain child and I’m the only photographer but I do collaborate with many other companies for publishing purposes so I’d say that they’re a part of my team.

  •  What are some memorable moments that you’ve had in your micro business?

I’d have to say some memorable moments would be getting my first products to shoot and getting sign on to the Vip’d Out team to cover events for them. This milestone has also grown the client list available to me to shoot which will definitely help grow my business.

  •  What are some moments that you’d rather forget?

I’d rather forget getting blown off by a few people even though they said they’d love to have me on board but I guess that happens to everyone.

(Me: Yeah, it unfortunately does happen to everyone. Even though someone may promise you something, nothing is set in stone until it is actually happening. Don’t let these things discourage you. Keep on going and you’ll eventually find someone who would really love to work with you.)

  • What’s something that you know now that you wish you would have known when you first started out?

I wish I would have known that an email or a single image could make such a drastic difference and that being approachable pays off.

(Me: I’ve experienced the same thing with the Micro Business Kid. There are some posts that get hundreds of views and there are some that don’t even get 10. It’s really hit or miss but the more you do something, the better idea you get of what people want to see more of. Being available is really important. I’ve learned that you don’t really know who looks at your work until you really get to know them. These people may know someone “important” or may have some pull in their social circles.)

  • If you could give advice to those just starting out, it would be:

Don’t be afraid to dive into the deeper end from the start but be ready to paddle to shallower waters if the need arises; you can always swim deeper but you can’t always come back from going under.

(Me: Don’t be afraid to actually get started!)

  • What do you think is a key trait that you possess that has led you to have a successful micro business? Why is it important?

A key trait which I possess that helped me with my micro business is being social. Now that may sound very broad, but we can narrow this down to two distinguishable interactions. The first is be open. Since most of my business involves event coverage, you always have to be able to work with and around people. Always keep a decent face (you don’t have to smile ear to ear like a maniac) and look approachable. The second part is all up to you. Go on website, forums, blogs, anything that allows you to communicate with others. Make your own pages, send emails, and start talking with other people. It may feel slow at first, but after a little while, you’ll see the rewards of speaking with other.

(Me: Couldn’t have said it better!)

  •  What do you think is most important to have while first starting a micro business; a business degree, connections, determination, etc.? Why?

I think the most important thing to have in mind when starting your micro business is to have set goals for yourself and your product. Start simple and work your way up. Also, having someone who supports you as a person following their dream is nice, even if they sometimes don’t support your product. Lucky me, I have 100% support.

  •  Looking forward to the next 6 months or so, what new ideas or goals do you have for your micro business?
  1. Continue to go to various meets/events.
  2. Continue to shoot for Vip’d Out.
  3. Get more practice in and learn new techniques
  4. Shoot for Carsxhype
  5. Continue to have fun with what I do while gaining more support for the public
  •  What are some “myths” of starting a business that you’ve found to be absolutely false?

In the business aspect of it, I feel a definite myth that was broken for me was that you need a physical place to display your work, which is totally false. In the photographic aspect of it, a myth that I broke was that it’s hard to get noticed for your work as a photographer.

  • Is there anything else you’d like to share or address? If so, what?

Well there’s only one thing I’d really like to say. As with everything, including life, there will be ups and downs. Don’t let the downs deter you from your goal and don’t forget that you won’t always be on a “high.”

* * *

That wraps things up with Braulio. As you can see, he’s a photography boy-genius. A down-to-earth kid, he’s pretty grown up for a 16 year-old so if you need a quality product shoot, don’t let his age deter you. He does great work and is a real professional. Check out his Tumblr, Facebook, and his Flickr to get in touch with him and check out his portfolio.

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Life-Changing Help for the Vintage Motorcycle Shop Owner

If you don’t know much about our business, we started out as a vintage motorcycle shop that restored, serviced, and repaired motorcycles from the 1960’s to the 1980’s. During this time, we’ve encountered 4 types of customers: those who are awesome to deal with because they are patient and realize that restorations can take a long time, those who are nightmares because they expect a full restoration to cost about $100, those who horrible to deal with because they think a restoration will only take a couple days, and those who are the epitome of the title, “Worst Customer in the World” who think both.

By taking to other vintage motorcycle shops, I’ve realized that these bad customers are way too common in the industry. They’re horrible because they make most of us so miserable to the point where we contemplate closing shop. (We did; now we just work on our own motorcycles as a hobby and sell apparel to have an income while still being involved in the industry.)

Because of this nuisance, I’ve created the following document. It can serve as a disclaimer for vintage motorcycle shops that they can share with potential customers during the estimation process. This disclaimer serves a couple purposes; it screens good customers from bad customers, it informs potential customers of what’s involved in the restoration process in a professional manner, and creates leverage for the shop owner.

If you run a vintage motorcycle shop, I strongly encourage you to use this template and use it “as-is” or change it in whichever way you’d like to and start using it in your shop. All I ask is that you let me know if it has cut down on the number of dead beat customers you deal with. Deal?

If you don’t run a vintage motorcycle shop, read it and you just might get some inspiration from it to use in your business.

Lastly, if you’d like me to create some sort of disclaimer for your business or industry, please send an e-mail to microbusinesskid@tampabay.rr.com or tweet me. Not to toot my horn too much, but I also have some time available if you would like me to consult you in your business with any decisions, ideas, or issues you may have.

* * *

First of all, we here at (your shop name here) truly appreciate your business and the fact that you’ve chosen us to work on your vintage motorcycle. We eat, sleep, and dream vintage motorcycles so we’d like to thank you for the opportunity.

Before we get to work, we just wanted to let you know some things about older motorcycles so we’re on the same page.

Vintage motorcycle restoration and repair is an art form and like all great art, takes time. We cannot simply attach a computer to your motorcycle to diagnose its problems. Mostly everything is done the old-fashioned way; by using our senses. We do mostly everything by hand and we listen to the engine and other parts to make sure everything is running correctly. We also smell the various scents that the bike gives off to figure out if it’s running too rich or too lean among other things. There is no “MMI” or school to learn how to work on vintage motorcycles. We do have previous experience as car mechanics, but most of our learning on how to work on vintage motorcycles through hands-on experience.

Due to their age, vintage motorcycles vary greatly in condition. We’ve seen some which sat outside for the last 30 years with wasp nests in the carburetors to some that have been kept in a spare bedroom for the last 30 years. You don’t really know what you get until you take the bike apart and inspect every single part. Because of this, projects may take longer than originally planned. If you pick up a motorcycle that has sat outside for 30 years and hasn’t run that entire time, it is ridiculous to think that it will only cost $200-300 to get it in show-room condition again. If that’s the impression that you’re under, we politely ask that you take your business elsewhere.

There is also a good chance that projects could cost more than originally estimated. In some instances, we may open up the engine and discover that you have a cracked piston. This is something that you would want to take care of even though it is very costly. All parts work together as a system, if one part doesn’t work correctly, nothing works. If you are trying to restore a vintage motorcycle for as cheap as possible, then good luck elsewhere. That’s not us. We pride ourselves in doing everything correctly the first time and we hope that you can appreciate this as a customer and vintage motorcycle enthusiast. According to Sailor Jerry, “Good work ain’t cheap and cheap work ain’t good.” Please keep this in mind.

We try our best to give you an honest, detailed estimate. We’re vintage motorcycle experts who are trying to make an honest living just like you are. If we say you need something that wasn’t included in the original estimate, it’s because you truly do need it to get your bike running again.

In most instances, replacement parts haven’t been produced for the last 20 years or so. Because of this, actually tracking down the parts can be time-consuming. Also, because they are no longer produced, they are getting rarer and therefore more expensive to get our hands on. A lot of the time, parts can only be found in Europe, Asia, or Australia which can cause large delays in the project than what was originally quoted.

With that being said, we will always let know if your vintage motorcycle restoration will be more costly than originally quoted before we take the next necessary step in the restoration process. If you do not wish to continue the restoration and spend more money, please let us know and you will only be responsible for the parts and labor costs up to that point.

If there are delays with your project, we will try to let you know as soon as possible. It can be difficult to evaluate the project to figure out if there may be delays because there is always a chance of unforeseen circumstances coming up that can cause delays. For example, it may take longer to receive parts than originally planned. If things are taking longer than planned and you haven’t heard from us yet, please give us a call.

We hope that we’re on the same page now after you’ve read this disclaimer. We’ve created this document to inform you of unfortunate yet common nuisances which are involved with vintage motorcycle restorations. By signing below, you acknowledge that you’ve read the entire document and realize that vintage motorcycle restorations can be more costly and time-consuming than originally quoted even though we try our absolute best to give you a precise estimate as far as price and time needed goes during the estimate process. That’s why it’s called an “estimate.”

Thanks for taking the time to go over this material. We look forward to getting started on your project as soon as possible.

–  The proud owners of (Your shop name here), (Your name here)

Customer Signature: X                                                                                                   Date:

(This is in no way a binding contract. This signature solely represents that you acknowledge that you’ve read the document and understand it fully.)

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15 Tips for Better Business Writing

The best class that I took during my shortened higher-education career was definitely a class titled, “Writing in Business.” It set the basis on which my business writing skills have been created.

During the 4 years that our business has existed, along with my side projects, failed business ventures, and my blogs, I’ve probably written hundreds of thousands of words through e-mails, interacting with our customers and fans, and creating copy, ads, and setting up systems.

That’s a lot.

I’ve recently started writing and editing documents for other businesses and they’ve been amazed with what I’ve come up with. There definitely is an art to writing business documents. The business writing style isn’t something that they teach in school. Heaven forbid, we actually learn something useful!

I’ve always thought that my business writing skills have been above-average but there really isn’t anything that I can compare them to. The feedback I’ve received lately has confirmed this but has also opened my eyes to the fact that most micro businesses could use help with their writing. You see, we’re either motorcycle mechanics, make-up artists, or photographers and those are things that just come naturally to us. Writing however, probably doesn’t.

As a micro entrepreneur, you’re many things; secretary, head of marketing, bookkeeper, and negotiator….but writer? Not so much. This is  an area that has a large effect on a lot of aspects of your business. It’s up to you to use it to your advantage but in most instances, it’s working against you.

But you aren’t to blame. You have a lot on your plate and writing takes time, energy, and brain power. I’m sure it’s the last thing you want to do after you’ve been busy putting out fires all day.

Without further ado, some tips for better business writing.

  1. Write to a specific audience. Write as if you’re talking to a single customer.
  2. Write to the type of customer that you want to attract. If you want to attract aspiring models, use language and terms that they can relate to.
  3. Help potential customers realize that you’re talking to them. Say something like “are you a vintage motorcycle enthusiast who needs a professional, experienced mechanic to work on your motorcycle?” if you want to attract vintage motorcycle enthusiasts who need someone to work on their motorcycle.
  4. Trigger their emotions. People aren’t always rational. They buy with their emotions; not their rationality.
  5. Share action steps with your audience. Tell them what you want them to do! If you want them to follow you on Facebook, say “please follow us on Facebook if you’ve found our information helpful.” Or something like that.
  6. Make it easy for them to follow through on your action steps. If you want them to e-mail you, share your e-mail address a couple of times. Better yet, give a direct link for them to write you with. Nothing worse than confusing potential customers. Major turn-off.
  7. Make things as simple as possible. Do not use big words, do not beat around the bush, and do not make people guess.
  8. When dealing with irate customers, try to defuse the situation. Apologize even if you know they’re in the wrong. Offer solutions that make them feel like they’re in control of the situation.
  9. Write things from your customers’ point-of-view. Your business doesn’t exist to serve you; it exists to serve your customers. Give the people what they want!
  10. Be as professional as possible. Bad grammar and misspelled words will make potential customers question your intelligence and professionalism. That’s never good.
  11. Remember, it’s all about the customer’s perception of you and your business. What do you want them to think?
  12. Everything once its published online or elsewhere, can be seen forever. Think twice before writing something nasty. It will almost always come back to bite you in the butt.
  13. Whatever you write is technically a part of your marketing efforts.
  14. You could have the coolest, greatest widget in the history of the world but if you can’t effectively tell your customers how awesome it really is, none of that will matter because you won’t sell a damn thing.
  15. Be as friendly as possible. If people e-mail you, e-mail them back in a timely manner. Ask them a question and keep the conversation going.
  16. Don’t be a d*ck. Most of the time, customers do business with a certain business because of the people…why do you think customer service is so important?
  17. I realize the title of this post is “15 Tips for Better Business Writing” and this is number 17. Point in case, undersell  and give your customers a little extra whenever you can.

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What’s Your “American Dream?”

I do realize that not all of my readers are based in the United States but I’m an American and German and the 4th of July holds a special place in my heart.

As citizens of the United States, we celebrate the 4th of July as everyone else.

As citizens of another country who moved here to pursue the “American Dream” it takes on another meaning as well. You see, exactly 4 years ago, on July 4, 2008, we opened our doors at our shop on St. Pete Beach officially for the first time.

I remember it like it was yesterday. My dad and I spent that summer fixing up the shop, creating all shelves and display areas. We spent lots of time developing the lay-out and everything else. I experienced my first dose of “hard-work” then.

Our first customer; and only customer of that day, was a young guy who was on vacation in the area from Indiana. He was leaving the next day but stopped by to pick up a shirt. If you saw my family and I, you’d probably think that we just won the Championship in professional soccer, basketball, baseball, football, hockey, rugby, cricket, motorcycle racing, bicycling, and skateboarding.

All the hard work seemed to have paid off in that one purchase. Of course, its been nothing but hard work since but it was nice to be naive.

After we closed for the day, we ate dinner at our landlord’s restaurant which was luckily a very nice authentic Mexican restaurant. I proceeded to go to the beach which was a 5-minute walk to watch the fireworks with my girlfriend of the time and my parents climbed on top of the building where our shop was with our landlords and had a beer with them. (One of the perks of being next to a liquor store.)

Here’s to our nation’s independence and our personal pursuit of happiness and realizing the American Dream. The American Dream isn’t a 3 bedroom house with a white picket fence with 2 cars and 2.2 kids anymore. The American Dream is having the freedom to do what you really enjoy and make an honest living doing it. If we’re going by my definition, we’re pretty damn close.

So….what’s your American Dream?

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An Interview With the Other Guy Behind Habermann and Sons

The Micro Business Kid gives you awesome interviews each Tuesday with a micro entrepreneur. Today is a special guest; my dad. He’s been my business partner for almost 5 years now and has been my mentor and role model for much longer than that!

If you’re a follower of our business on Tumblr, he’s the one who creates most of the epic posts and the extremely talented artist who we’ve showcased work from over the past couple of weeks.

Without further ado, my interview with Markus Paetzold. (My name is Marc and yes, it does get confusing sometimes.)

  • What’s the name of your micro business and where is it located?

Habermann & Sons Classic Motorcycle Clothiers in St. Petersburg, Florida

  • How long have you been in business?

Since 2008

  • What does your micro business do?

We offer vintage-style motorcycle apparel to motorcycle enthusiasts throughout the world as well as a very unique “old-school” service that we’re going to launch soon.

  • Why did you decide to start your micro business?

Because I grew up in the motorcycle world and wanted to get back into it after 20 or so years. I rode with World-Class riders like Eddy Hau and Danny LaPorte and planned on participating in the Paris-Dakar Rally if I didn’t meet my wife at that time.

  • Who else is a part of your team? What are their roles?

My son Marc, and of course my wife, who is ultimately our boss. I’m the creative force in the group.

  • What are some memorable moments that you’ve had in your micro business?

Every day in the business is memorable and brings new opportunities and challenges with it.

  • What are some moments that you’d rather forget?

Spending way too much money to be a distributor for a certain company.

  • What’s something that you know now that you wish you would have known when you first started out?

You don’t need to have a storefront to have a successful business.

  • If you could give advice to those just starting out, it would be:

Just because you start out small, don’t sell yourself short. Think big and sooner or later you’ll get there. Be persistent!

  • What do you think is a key trait that you possess that has led you to have a successful micro business? Why is it important?

Passion for the industry that I’m in. If you’re passionate about something you more than likely have more insight and knowledge of that matter than others

  • What do you think is most important to have while first starting a micro business; a business degree, connections, determination, etc.? Why?

A dream because it will lead you on your way to success. Always keep that dream in mind.

  • Looking forward to the next 6 months or so, what new ideas or goals do you have for your micro business?

We’re launching a new service really soon and are looking to create an impact with it.

  • What are some “myths” of starting a business that you’ve found to be absolutely false?

You don’t need a business degree to start a business although experience in the field helps.

  • Is there anything else you’d like to share or address? If so, what?

I couldn’t have done this without the support from my family.

* * *

Some of his work:

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Muhammed Ali, Robert Downey Jr., and 40 Useful Sites to Learn New Skills

I try to share useful information, links, and quotes that I find during my quest in business every Monday that helps keep me going or helps me grow as an entrepreneur in hopes that it will help you as well.

Came across this on StumbleUpon and it hit a nerve. This is true in all aspects of life; especially business. There is a lot of boring, tedious stuff that you have to do to eventually have a successful micro business. I tried out for professional soccer teams a couple years ago and my training schedule was hell….6-7 days at the gym a week and 4-6 days of soccer a week. On top of a full-time job and running a business. Don’t ask me how I was able to do all of that because I have no clue. It’s a lot of hard work but it’ll pay off one day as long as you keep on going.

  • Top 40 Useful Sites to Learn New Skills As you learn more about life and things in general, the more useful you are to the world because you’ll be able to start, grow, and manage your micro business that much better. I check out a couple of the sites mentioned from time to time and it really is useful information.

Business isn’t always pretty. Sometimes you have to suck up to others and please people you don’t necessarily like. There will also always be other people in your way when you’re trying to do something incredible. Stroke their egos, make them think what they’re saying is valuable to you, and keep on doing what you were already doing!

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