Helping Cedric and Kymberly on The Big Idea

On a recent appearance on The Big Idea with Donny, I was one of three people on a panel. It was our role to help people fed into the show via satellite and phone.

It’s a huge challenge to be in the hot seat and be ready to fire away with valuable advice. But it’s thrilling, too. Kind of addictive, actually. What a rush to know you HAVE to stick it. You CAN’T mess up. As the Eminem says in the son, “you only get one shot.”

I’m lucky to have gained a lot of experience behind the mic of the StartupNation Radio program. Years of the weekly shows and having to be ON and SHARP as callers call in with questions and request advice on an infinite variety of business topics have primed me somewhat for this kind of experience.

Still, it’s intense appearing on TV and wanting to be good.

Having waxed on about “the pressure,” now I’ll tell you a little trick. The show and advice given is not completely spontaneous. Each of the panelists are prepped with a “situation analysis” we know we’ll have to address on the show.

So here was the situation as presented to me prior to flying out to the CNBC studios:

Cedric and Kymberly run a barbecue featuring great family recipes in Chicago. Their sales have slowed to a trickle. Tough economy, tough neighborhood, and not a great location within that neighborhood. They’re up against the wall, falling short on paying the rent. What can they do? And here was my emailed comments back to the producers to get the my perspectives and talking points to them in advance:

Honestly, their numbers don’t work now that his operating expenses surpass his revenue.

At the most basic level, Cedric has these options:

  • Reduce his operating costs
  • Increase his revenue

To reduce operating costs, he could:

  • Close the store and go mobile for event- and on-location sales of bbq or rent time/cooking facilities somewhere else and just focus on the catering aspect of his business.
  • If he’s in a tough neighborhood, in this economy he may be able to negotiate with his landlord with the argument that nobody’s moving into the space anytime soon – cut a deal, create extended terms, negotiate down the rent.

To increase revenue, he could:

  • Take his “shingle” to where the market is. Get a mobile unit and go to sports events to support tailgates. Go to parks, go to lunch hours near construction sites and corporations.
  • Focus strictly on his catering business, which is more “build to sell” and doesn’t require fixed cost facilities
  • Create a new product-line marketing the signature barbecue sauce.

But the problem is so immediate, that I think the today/tomorrow options are as follow:

  • Call a meeting with the landlord, as difficult as it is, and show him your business plan. Present to him the specific extended plan for making him whole. Show him the path you believe can get you there. If he understands the plan, maybe he’ll cut you some slack!
  • Parallel path: Immediately start networking with other restaurant or cooking facility owners you know of to inquire about using their under-utilized facilities or facilities in off hours.
  • Stop looking for investors from the UK and start looking for a local angel investor. Some people love the food business, love BBQ, and would love to make a smallish—even “casual”—investment in a BBQ business. who’s a community leader that comes to mind whose office you could call. Give him/her a call immediately. Even if no money comes from it, ideas and other valuable connections may.
  • Give your customers a “half-off” your next order offer to create more near-term sales.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate with all parties involved. Only then will you he have a chance to get some special consideration from landlords, customers, vendors, etc.

So there it is – my prep, advice, and an insight for you on how the shows come together. How would you have advised Cedric and his wife?

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