September 2016

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Business Mentorship Matters for Start-ups

Start-ups help us sharpen our business skills by reminding us where we came from and why we do what we do.

Manny Mandrusiak

Manny Mandrusiak,
Executive Director, Q College
and Q Academy

Contributing Editor

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One thing the I really enjoy about running a technology training College, and Academy, is the opportunity to work with some really creative people coming through our programs.  Q College runs a Web Development and Digital Marketing Certificate program (WDDM) that provides individuals looking to enter the world of Web Development, Marketing, and Code with a solid foundation to find the path that interests them.  I decided to make a few changes to the curriculum based on the spark of an idea that I got while having lunch with a good friend a few months back.

I had the pleasure of having lunch with editor Ken Sinclair a few months ago and we were talking about how he is currently enjoying the opportunity to provide some mentorship for some individuals and pass along the years of experience to bright young minds. (Personally I can’t wait for the ask Uncle Ken about Building Automation App directly on my phone, but that is still a work in progress).

I decided to work with our instructors to really promote how to run a small business, and develop a marketing and business plan.  The spark that Ken provided me caught with the most recent graduates of the WDDM program and they decided to start their own company- Cadence Creative Studio. 

We got so excited about this opportunity that we created a Business Mentorship Program at our sister company Q Academy. The program became infectious with both the staff and graduates. Whatever space is free Cadence uses for an office to meet clients, and to collaborate on projects while having total access to the Q College / Q Academy staff for guidance and business planning.  It has been a true labour of love for us as we are remembering what it is like to be a start-up company and face the excitement of the unknown and building a client base in today’s market place.

Today’s marketplace is a marriage of old and new technologies that is rapidly evolving as marketing messages are forced to adapt to new mediums.  Start-up companies are leveraging all sorts of new technologies to promote their brands, and create a client base. 

Our second Business Mentorship Program member is Guided Films out of Sooke, BC.  This start-up has chosen to leverage the power of YouTube to economically show case the company’s edgy and comedic style of showcasing relevant social and technological trends.  Their goal is to work with established companies who are having a hard time appealing to youth for employment opportunities and recruitment.  They speak to millennials in their own language and using a medium that is popular and trending.  Q Academy is working with Guided Films to provide technological training, business planning, and social media strategy.

Creating this program has really forced us to return back to the basics of marketing and how to create a marketing plan for different businesses.  It all comes down to knowing who you are as a company, and knowing what problem that your company solves.  Sometimes when a company gets to big, it loses focus on these two factors, and focuses more on profit margins than it does on customer satisfaction and enjoying why they got into business in the first place.

Getting back to the basics of a marketing plan with these two companies has forced me to re-evaluate the direction of both Q College and Q Academy.  The introspective has led to a step-change in redefining target markets for both companies, and a shift in selling techniques.  The result has been amazing!  Walk-in traffic for both companies had tripled and inbound contact form submissions has increased by 40%.  There is simply not enough time in the day to respond to quote requests, and that is a good problem to have.  It is all due to re-evaluating where Q College and Q Academy sit in the marketplace, and making their services affordable to their target markets.  We also changed curriculum so that our graduates have to most current skills sought after by employers in the technology sector.

All of this success came from helping two start-ups build their business and in turn, force us to look at our own businesses and keep them competitive in today’s marketplace.

All this comes from having lunch with someone who I consider not only a friend, but a true mentor, Ken Sinclair. Thank you Sir for all that you do for the industry.  We do appreciate it.

I am going to include the marketing / SWOT analysis that we used with our two Mentorship Program companies, and ultimately helped us re-evaluate our own position in the marketplace.  I am going to say that the message of this article is that in business one has to be constantly evolving, challenging yourself, and always looking to give back.  What you get in return can bring your business to the next level.

Here is the Marketing / SWOT Analysis that we gave to our clients.  Hopefully it helps you look at your business and make sure that you have your finger on the pulse of who your customer is, and how you solve their problems.

Marketing Plan Template

This template should help guide you through writing a start-up marketing plan, or reviewing your own marketing plan.

Sample Marketing Plan Document

Write a short description here about what you aim to achieve with this marketing plan.

1.     Understanding your market

1.1     Who are your customers?

1.2     Who are your competitors?

Take time to consider who your competitors are and why your customers or potential customers (as described in 1.1) might choose their product/service over yours.

1.3     Any other marketing activity you could be associated with?

Are there any opportunities to be involved in other marketing activities, for example local events.

2.     Identifying opportunities

2.1     What are our strengths?

Think about your strengths; compare your product/service to your competitors.

2.2     What could we improve on?

Are there any aspects of your product/service which are weak? Have you had any negative feedback on your offerings?

2.3     What opportunities are there?

Which of your strengths are not being made the most of? What trends in your marketplace are there that are unrecognised by yourself or your competitors at the moment, are there any niches or gaps that your product/service could fill? Are there any additional uses for your product/service which you could exploit?
2.4     What obstacles may you come up against?

Think about what obstacles may hold you back or stop you implementing your plan. Maybe there are financial issues or time issues. These obstacles could be both internal or external.

3     Objectives

Develop what you stated in your introduction. What are your objectives? Try to make them as specific as possible as well as achievable. There’s no point setting unrealistic targets. Give each objective a deadline to be achieved by. You will also need to look at the resources you need to meet these objectives.

4    Strategy and action plan

4.1     Target audience

Choose some of the customers you identified in 1.1, probably the potential customers although it may be existing customers you want to reconnect with depending upon your objectives. Describe these groups of people in even more detail than before. This will help you decide upon ways to connect with them.

4.2     What products/services can we offer them?

Think about what product/services you might be able to offer your target audience to help you achieve your objectives.

4.3     How can we entice these people to take up the offer?

Will you need to offer an incentive to people who take up your offer or will just telling people about it be enough?

4.4     How do we communicate this offer?

In this section think about your budget and through which channels you need to advertise to reach your target audience, maybe its in the local paper or local radio etc.

4.5 Action Plan

Use the table below to summarise your strategy.   

Action Plan Table                      
5 Reviewing your plan

Identify how you will know that your plan has been a success. Put timescales and measures for success against each activity in your action plan. Make sure that these are realistic, and set yourself measures to make sure you are on track and can reassess if not.

Reviewing Your Plan


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