Note: This story came from the previous edition of Dream and Hustle last year located at http://archives.dreamandhustle.com that date back to 2007 – tells you how long I been putting it down. This is the most popular article from that site and thought I would re-publish it.
Professional media developers use a technique called storyboarding to narrate projects they want to make a reality. The goal of storyboarding is to describe the proposed solution in a storytelling fashion and is read by others to see if the solution or project make common sense. All of mainstream media and video game production projects are storyboarded extensively and they even include storyboard content on DVD releases as bonus content. This article is going to show you an example of how I used storyboarding to narrate a small format retailing model for the hood.
What I’m seeing is some brothas and sistas when they want to start on a hustle, don’t know how to create the vision. Instead of trying to get a well thought-out detail of their hustle, they just sit around letting random thoughts swirl around in their head. Even worse, some cats will jot down random thoughts on paper and when they show it to you and me, it look like silly scribble. However, professionals who create media and interactive solutions learned to storyboard at the early phase of projects.
Normally, I do not release any of my internal documents but in this case I wanted to show you cats an example so you can get a picture of a storyboard. Keep in mind I do not write my storyboards according to anybody specifications and just let the story flow from my perspective and thought process. That’s how you should write out your hustle, from your perspective. Now this storyboard is about the hood-based small format retailing solution that I had in mind for quite some time. What I decided to was not start off writing all these specifications and stuff but write the storyline of how my solution would be implemented from my point of view.
What you should see and notice is how the storyboard is easy to read and I can review it on the train/subway/bus or on lunch break and scribble notes. Or I can share the storyboard with my professional colleagues who can let me know if it sound kosher. And what will happen is I will be at Starbucks re-writing the narrative in a relax fashion covering all aspect of the proposed hustle and filling in more details and content. After iterations and revisions, then once I can read the storyboard and it make sense, then I can proceed to architecting the solution and bring it to market and reality. So with that said, check out this narrative of the hood retailing model.
The Hood-Based Retailing Solution
A hood entrepreneur interested in creating a boutique in her community at the commercial zone contact us about our retailing software. She visit our web site, see our demonstration videos and request us to contact her for more information. We send an automatic e-mail reply when they fill out the contact form information thanking them for their interest in our product. This information is forwarded to a our sales team to contact the hood entrepreneur. The goal of the call is to setup a face-to-face appointment using telepresence software such as WebEx where we have a presentation and answer their questions. The hood sista want to get started and send us a purchase order to get the ball rolling. We send them an invoice and schedule an appointment to get started.
The first meeting will be a consultation to view the proposed retailing site. Most likely, the place will be dilapidated and have poor electrical connections and poor color scheme. We will have a “look book” of retail layout and designs and color schemes we gathered from around the world to allow them to get inspiration. In addition, we will show them our layouts of how to setup components of our software solution with the window display of digital signage to interactive displays indoors to the checkout stations and fulfillment lounge. Then we will go into managing inventory and going through the sales process and how our software works.
We will expect questions to revolve around how much it cost to get going, being safe, improving the store and the product they are selling. She is an entrepreneur and cares about her product and the quality of service at a business she will pour her soul into getting up and running. We will have research on the various type of business and will be able to provide them information and documents to study. The hood entrepreneur lady is interested in selling purses they buys directly from an South African designer. We will already have suggested layouts and information because we have this research this angle. As we get more customers and more experience, this information will be more refined.
The hood entrepreneur want to move forward with our solution and we get to work. The first step is the entrepreneur will have to change their store layout if it does not meet our building specifications. We will require CAT-5 cables and wired connections as well as pillars to hold flat screen panels and printed signage. We also require updated signage and will help them work with the local politician to get the necessary permits. We will be establishing relationships with local politicians to help us create economic activity in the hood as that is who we are targeting with this solution.
The software will have to be installed by one of our trained professionals. We will train “affiliates” on how to install and setup our software who are from the community they are serving. These affiliates should work with local contractors and get the necessary permits to make changes to the store layout. The software is comprised of an centralized ESB server and all of the retail components can connect to the ESB to process the entire retailing solution for the hood as illustrated below.
The software solution consist of:
ESB. This is the enterprise service bus that will receive and respond to messages from all of the components. By creating a centralized ESB, it is possible for the hood entrepreneur to add as many components to their retailing solution and scale up with their business over the years.
Manager Console. This is the console that the hood entrepreneur or store manager will access to see the overall operations and will be able to view real-time and summary data covering activity in their store. It is also the software that helps with the initial configuration of the solution and assigning people resources and registering the other console components.
Employee Console. This console is a kiosk that employees can use to check in and check out replacing the time card function. The employee will have a badge that has a QR code and they place it in front of the webcam to scan their QR code employee badge to check in for work, check out for lunch, check back in from lunch and check out from work for the day. This console app will also have gamification features that reward employees who are always on time or selling items and show this positive information and will give them credits to their prepaid account to apply to employee purchases. This system replace the employee discount perk and only reward good employees with credits who show up for work and make accomplishments such as selling items.
Inventory Console. This console is a PC or tablet-based system that allows someone to keep track of inventory as it is being purchases to keeping track of the stock count. The stock count is important to inform customers if a product is in stock or sold out. When a wholesale purchase is made, the purchase details such as cost is entered into the system so the cost of goods sold can be captured and used in reports to show profits or loss on certain products. This console will use either a web cam to scan the barcode or use a hand scanner to scan in products and also have the ability to print out QR code tag labels. The QR code tag labels can be printed on cardstock paper through an inkjet printer and we will provide the template. The price tag will have a QR code for customers to scan with their mobile phone and get more details about the product.
Marketing Console. This console allows the creation of sales papers to be printed and distributed locally that look as professional as the Sunday paper sales papers. In addition, products can be selected to be on sale and allow the processing of coupon and discount codes and can even apply discounts for certain repeat loyal customers. It is also used to create the digital signage and video displays for the window display as well as the indoor signage and can show different videos for different sections of the store.
Transaction Console. This is the self-checkout system that the customer will use to begin the transaction. It will be equipped with a monitor, a webcam and a touch pad. If the customer was doing mobile shopping in the store where they were scanning QR code of products and added products to their cart on their mobile phone, they can show the QR code on their mobile phone and all of the products they scan will appear and they are ready to check out. This means they do not have to pick up items and carry around in the store and the products can be wired down, reducing the chance of shoplifting. If they do not have a mobile phone, we can have printed QR code tickets they can bring to the transaction station and scan in front of the camera and that product will displayed with the price and other information. This transaction station can also read coupon codes in the form of QR codes and even retrieve a favorite list for repeat buyers. The customer can then use the touchpad and we will provide an NFC interface to allow them to pay for the product. If they are using cash, they can indicate this and we will provide them with a ticket number to pay at the fulfillment station.
Fulfillment Console. The fulfillment lounge is a VIP style area with a sitting lounge and coffee table and the only way someone can get into this area is to have a valid purchase ticket. Here is where they will wait for their order. If someone want to try on a product, they can get a ticket to try on the product here. This fulfillment lounge area is where the customers are separated from the “just browsing” characters and the customers get first class treatment. This is done at large auto dealerships and CarMax as well as upscale luxury stores and the goal here is to wrap up the transaction. We will bring out the product and make sure they are satisfied and give them a receipt and take their order ticket.
All of these consoles will require their own configuration. For example, we will need an LCD flat panel with a web cam connected to a computer that running the Kinnect SDK to allow us to create interactive signage or the transaction console will need to be at a sitting or standing area where people can check out what they bought. It is also possible for employees to just grab the tickets and enter the order on the customer behalf and receive commission if that configuration is necessary. After the sale is completed, it is possible to sign up the customer with a prepaid account or other in-store offers.
As you see, this is how you write a storyboard of a solution where you describe what’s it about in a narrative fashion. No fancy tech buzzwords and all that other crap trying to sound smart. This is something you learn to do to understand your hustle so when you read it several days later, you can make edits and add more information or take out information and refine your hustle to the point you believe it makes perfect sense to you and you are comfortable.
There is one note I would like to add – there are no pictures because I cannot reveal them at this time. But I do have artist skills and can draw but this is another part of storyboarding to help me visualize what I’m talking about. Even if you don’t know how to draw, it is always a good to just sketch something next to each part of your storyboard so it can make visual sense to you.
This is one of those techniques that you want to start doing so you can do more than “think” about your hustle and actually have something you can read over and over again and have a true vision of how it will be done. Again, stop all of that scribbling features and lines and stuff like that because that is not a natural flow of how you will handle your business. The way I wrote that piece is exactly how the flow of the business will be handled. And the best part is I can always re-write that script as I go along with mistakes made and lesson learns and other stuff to improve upon.
This is a document that you can keep to yourself or only share with other professionals you confide with. But I hope you cats realize this is how we professionals in this game learn how to make solutions happen while other cats are just running their mouth. Create the story of your vision and once you do that, your vision will become real to you and it is something that you will be more confident it can be made into reality. Do you think what I wrote about above is some fantasy or something coming down the pipeline?