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Supporting Veteran Owned Small Businesses

This video shares examples of a few veteran owned small businesses. Feel free to comment and share your own examples with website link belo...

Friday, July 31, 2009

How To Measure What Your Small Business Does ..... And Focus Your Efforts On What Makes You Most Efficient

Flynet is currently in the process of developing a dashboard portal to enable smaller businesses to take advantage of the advances in business intelligence and dashboarding.

A Dashboard is a visual display that can be linked to your existing Computer Software, such as Excel, Sage and many others that organizes and presents information in a way that is easy to read. Measurements are displayed automatically in the form of analogue gauges, dials, traffic lights or visual graphs on a web page. This means measurements can be easily taken and presented ‘live’ or on an hourly, daily, weekly monthly basis.

Benefits of a Dashboard to your business .....

Focus: Defining the metrics that are most important to your business allows you to tune out everything that isn’t related to those key measurements. As a result, you’ll find that focus on the areas that make you most efficient.

More Insight: Companies that monitor and visualize key metrics can spot threats and opportunities faster than companies that don’t.

Your metrics will give you keen insights into what’s happening within the four walls of your business as well as the ability to compare your business with overall trends in your industry. Dashboards provide a framework for making business decisions. With the numbers made visual, you can make well-reasoned decisions on how to proceed.

Currently they are in the proof of concept stage and are looking for small businesses to take part in the trial stages in developing the most important key performance indicators/ performance metrics per industry sector.

If you'd like to know more go to: About Flynet

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Small Business Resources - 9 Tips For Online Success

This contribution is from Jen Woglom Ohs of Boomerang Websites. The article outlines tips for online success specifically geared towards small businesses. There are resources listed here at Small Business Resources cafe to accomplish much of what Jen recommends. For example .... professional website design and website hosting.

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I hear every excuse from small businesses as to why they aren’t online. Many find the process too daunting or too expensive to even try. And unfortunately, many of those that are online aren’t utilizing all the tools available to find any real benefits. The truth is, having an online presence is no longer expensive, time-consuming or too difficult for you and your business to do. It does, however, require a little planning and foresight. So, to help get you going, we’ve put together 9 tips to help ensure your success online.

9. Get a professional design.

Template sites are a quick and easy way to get online and announce to the world that you’re an amateur. If you want to be taken seriously by colleagues, clients and potential customers, you need to take your brand seriously. This includes your website. A professional, original design will not only set you apart from the competition but will also convey a persona of professionalism to everyone that visits.

8. Get a real email address.

Even more so than a template site, an email address from yahoo.com or comcast.net does not make a good first impression. We like to call businesses without a real email address the “hobby businesses.” The impression is that they are secondary income for some guy who’s bored at his current job but doesn’t believe in himself enough to make the jump. Essentially, you look like you don’t even take your own business seriously, so why should anyone else?

7. Invest in good hosting

Reliable hosting is essential. If your website is constantly going down it will hurt your business. Not just because you miss out on those that would have been visiting, but mainly because it kills your search engine ranking. If the big search engines (google, yahoo and msn) see that your site experiences outages regularly, they will purposefully push you down in rankings because they see you as unreliable to send visitors to. That means fewer visitors even when it’s up.

6. Keep content up-to-date.

Keeping online content up-to-date is essential for a number of reasons. One, people are more interested in new information rather than the same old stuff you always have up. Two, updating online content helps your search engine ranking. Three, it’s so easy you have no excuse not to. No re-printing, no added expenses, just get online and keep visitors and readers abreast of what’s going on. In the end, they feel included and you keep them interested.

5. Invest in online advertising

It’s the most inexpensive media out there these days and over 80% of the population is using it. The main question is how. As with most things, knowing what’s available to you is half the battle. The easiest solutions to get going quickly are, in our opinion, pay-per-click advertising and email marketing. For more information check out our Adwords info sheet and our Email Marketing info sheet.

4. Keep in contact online.

There are many ways to stay top of mind online. From email marketing to blogs to podcasts and streaming video. Take what you do best, find a way to get it online and share it with the world. Oh, and keep in mind that free information is a wonderful way to keep their attention.

3. Track and optimize.

Stay on top of what’s working by tracking and measuring everything you do online. You can track everything from who is visiting your site to how they interact with it and even how your online campaigns are doing. Use the information to talk more about what people are interested in on your website, on your blog or in your marketing and advertising campaigns.

2. Keep the user/reader in mind.

This goes for ease of use as well as copywriting when creating a website. Making information easy to find on your site is key but also keep in mind how you’re presenting the information. Are there graphics or illustrations to help drive the point home? Do you bury your strong selling points deep in the 3rd paragraph on the 4th page? Think KISS. Keep It Simple Stupid. Just like with offline marketing materials and advertisements, your website and online ads should spell out to users why they should use you and it should be easy to use. Sure origami is fun, but don’t expect anyone to fold your site into a crane to reach your message.

1. Focus your messaging

Everything you do online should have a reason behind it. Each reason should have an objective attached to it. Thus, everything online should be focused on that objective. If your site has no objective purpose, it will do nothing for you. On the other hand, if your site’s objective is to get visitors to call and your messaging focuses on that, the calls will start to come in. Bottom line, think of what you want to accomplish and then decide how to best do it. Most things in life actually work best this way.

Monday, July 27, 2009

America's Best Companies ..... Helping Small Businesses Grow

Who They Are .....

America's Best Companies (ABC) is a nationwide small business organization headquartered just outside Chicago, dedicated to helping small business owners stay in business, grow their business, and make more money in their business. They have been built on the strong belief that small businesses are the most important companies in America and the cornerstone of our communities. They built America's Best Companies to help protect the future of small business in what is, with the influx of big-box corporate chains, an increasingly competitive environment. They always welcome your feedback to to better serve you and help shape the future of ABC and your local business community.

What They Believe.....

The future of small business depends on the commitment of independent business owners to join together. Thousands of small businesses close each year due to increasing competition from big corporations. ABC was built on the basic philosophy that small businesses are the most important companies in America. Their member dues allow them to gain leverage and significantly impact public awareness to make a difference for small business. ABC can only function effectively for small businesses with the support and active involvement of its membership.

What They Do.....

ABC fights passionately for the small business owner by providing education, information and benefits that are tailored to the needs of small businesses. Their success is only possible because of the strength of their numbers. ABC already influences thousands of active and involved small business owners and their buying power and advertising reach grows with each new member.

They provide five key tools to help their small business members maximize their business experience and obtain more customers quickly, easily, and cost-effectively. All of the products and services they offer are included in a low priced membership.

1. Small Business Discounts ....

Comprehensive small business discount program—hundreds of exclusive discounts on the most common products and services for the small business owner.

2. Small Business Resources....

Advice, information, and news on virtually every small business issue delivered through their bi-monthly magazine, America's Best, the ABC e-weekly newsletter, Small Business Blog, Q&A and more.

3. Online Advertising.....

They connect business owners with consumers actively looking for their products or services. Members receive a business profile distributed to 40 of the top Internet search engines as well as ABC's own directory, ezlocal.com.

4. ABC Marketing Materials.....

Member certificate, window decals, Web seals, business cards, labels and more.

5. Custom Website.....

Easy-to-build small business website tool with reliable hosting and free technical support.

What's New.....

ABC Members will have access to Careington International Corporation – a leading provider of dental, medical, health and prescription discount plans. These low-cost plans could be the ideal solution when looking at possible health care solutions for your business.

For more information go to:

* Go With ABC

* ABC FAQs

* ABC Testimonials

Friday, July 24, 2009

Phrases A Sales Rep Should NEVER Use

You might get a kick out of some of these. Feel free to leave your own suggestions as a comment (see "below").

- "My product is the cheapest."

- "You need this." (Let them make their own decision)

- "We can't do that"

- "That gives me a problem"

- "The competitor's products don't work"

- "How much are you willing to pay?"

- "If you have to ask the price, you can't afford it." - even as a joke

- "That's less than out cost"

- "I doubt our competitor can meet this price/package ...."

- "What's it going to take to get the deal done?"

- "When do you think your husband would be available to go over this?"

- "Trust me." ; "In all honesty, ..." ; "To be honest with you, ..." ; etc.
All of these, or any variation of them, implies to me that there's a good chance you haven't been up to that point.

- "You'll never regret this."

- "So-and-so's (our competitor's) products can't hold a candle to ours"

- "You really shouldn't delay on this."

- "Tell you what I'm going to do... just for you... because I like you."

- "Let me just take a second of your time ..."

- "This is the best deal you are going to find ..."

- "Let me go talk to my manager and see if I can talk him into a ..."

- "But wait, there's more!"

Now, all kidding aside ........ Its not really about the phrases a sales person uses (other than telling them they're wrong), but rather about the theme of the conversation. A good sales person will partner with the client to find a solution that fits the client's needs. If a sales person can't measurably close the gap between where the client is and wants to be, they need to pass on the sale. Anything outside of this theme may get business in the short term, but long term business will not be as strong.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Small Business Tip ..... Developing A Checklist For Lead Generation

For sake of discussion some things you might include on such a check list are:

1) Cold Calling
2) Email Campaign
3) Flyers
3) Direct Email
4) Networking (e.g. LinkedIn , Plaxo)
5) Connecting through blogs, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook (social media marketing)
6) SEO (optimizing your company website for search engine visibility)
7) Subscribing to Internet Directories (e.g Eguide, Hotfrog ..... Etc)

Unfortunately, developing or using a checklist for lead generation leads to the mistaken belief that if you simply perform the steps on the list, you will achieve the desired outcome. In my opinion, while each of the items listed may be reasonable in the right business setting, you may be trying to spread yourself too thin by gambling in a numbers game.

Instead .....

Ask yourself what you and your staff will do with these alleged leads. Who are these people? Who are you trying to reach?

Left off of the above example (on purpose to illustrate a point) .... are two of the most proven approaches to new business: referrals and repeat clients.

Is your business focused on meeting your existing clients' needs? Is your entire staff on board with this approach? If a new client does come to you because of an email newsletter or a Google search, how will they be treated? Is that truly the kind of customer you are seeking -- and are you developing a relationship or a quick sale?

I can't emphasize enough the importance of focusing on your core market. If you don't know your market well enough to trim your list down to just a few methods, you may want to spend more time on that research first. Then, focus on ways to present useful information to that select audience. Perhaps it really is email, but consider in-person presentations, articles, and other means that reflect how your ideal client will best receive it.

For a complete resource on Lead Generation and a multi-modal approach I recommend you read: "Lead Generation for the Complex Sale" by Brian Carroll, CEO InTouch, Inc ... McGraw Hill 2006.

Lead Generation Book

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Monday, July 20, 2009

What's the "Hottest" Franchising Idea In The US Today??

At this time two industries are recognized as the fastest growing in the US, one of which is a 'hot' franchising concept.

The fastest growing industry right now is 'Management, scientific, and technical consulting services'...with the amazing technical advances and new technologies continuing to be developed, it is no wonder why this is the fastest growing industry at this time. A key factor, beyond the evolving technologies, is the fact that every American uses various forms of technology on a consistent basis and so the demand for consulting services (or, more simply stated, someone to assist in using this technology) has grow exponentially.

The second fastest growing industry in the US at this time is "Service for elderly and persons with disabilities'. Health care services, specifically in-home care, is growing at an amazing rate and is driven partly by demographics. According to the US Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor statistics, the number of people 65 and older is expected to increase to nearly 46.4 million by 2016, from 35.6 million two years ago. The sector as a whole is projected to add 4 million jobs through 2016; that includes 480,500 home health care aids and 512,500 nursing home workers.

Seniors are the fastest growing segment of our population and many strong business owners are realizing the tremendous financial and personal rewards that come with serving the aging population.

Personally, I don't think that there is one concept that can be called "hottest" across all industries. Also I feel that a lot of marketing and PR determines what we call "hot". So to be frank .... people should we wary before believing claims of "hottest" or "fastest growing".

In reality what's "hot" to some may not be to others. As for making a franchising decision for your business goals .... pick something you have a passion in. Don't just choose on "hot" .... rather choose on what will most make you happy. If you have no passion for the "industry" you're less likely to stick it out through the rough times. But if you love what you do .... you'll be in it for the long haul and have a much better chance at success because of that. Plus you'll enjoy the journey more.

Friday, July 17, 2009

How Do You Get Customer Referals??

Obtaining new clients used to make me feel as if I was searching for a needle in a haystack. But as soon as I decided to step out there to be seen and heard, the phone was soon ringing off the hook! And it can be the same for you too! Here are some tips I learned over the years building up and serving my clients; see if they can work for you.

Spread the Word Around Town. When you're working with customers or speaking to friends and neighbors, let them know you're looking for new clients. When you're done with a job or simply shooting the breeze with customers and friends, ask them if they know of anyone who could use your services or products. And don't be afraid to hand out those handy dandy biz cards. (carry them with you at all times!) You never know where those little guys end up and it could mean more referrals for you!

Provide Strong Customer Service. If you're good at what you do, are pleasant to work with, and satisfy your customers, they'll most likely refer you to others on their own. Remember, only satisfied customers give referrals. Be sure to implement a customer priority attitude with your business and treat current customers like royalty. If you keep a consistent service record with your customers, your reputation will precede you and you'll get more referrals with less advertising/marketing efforts since word-of-mouth recommendations are free and can spread like wildfire.

Put a Carrot at the End of the Stick. Even if you're doing a super job and are giving your customers the best service in town, it still wouldn't hurt to give them a little motivation for referring customers to you. Consider giving customers future discounts on services or products for every referral they get for you. You could send a quick note to your current customers announcing your new referral program. Just be sure you follow up on your promises and devise a quick way to note who sent who to you and give the discounts accordingly.

Another incentive idea that kills two birds with one stone is to give a speciality advertising gift to anyone who gives you some good leads and referrals. Mugs, pens, and T-shirts with your logo, biz name, and phone number on them not only please and delight the customers, they will wear or use these products out and about town and your name gets out there twice over! What other ways can you entice and motivate your customers for referrals?

Meet and Mingle. Another great way to get referrals is to meet, greet, and shake hands with "Joe Public," just like those gotta-love-'em politicians. Become active in your local chamber of commerce and other local business and charitable organizations. Likewise, join associations and business clubs where you can schmooze with prospective clients. And if you're game, don't turn down opportunities to speak at various functions. Community groups and associations are always looking for experts to address and inform their members on the newest trends, technologies, and must-have services.

When you hear about symposiums, conventions, and trade shows related to your field or biz, sign up and go! These places are a hotbed of opportunities to meet potential customers and network your way to prospective clients.

Cold Calling. Why not try some old fashioned cold calling? Well, I know, this may not sound like fun, but it just may get you some valuable new clients. I know of a very successful ad agency executive, who initially started his business from his Manhattan apartment, and got his BIG break from cold-calling. He landed some major accounts this way and these days, his company is competing with other heavy hitters on Madison Avenue. This small, but successful agency has several major accounts now, both locally and nationally, and a new partner! Forty employees later, he's no longer working out of his apartment. So consider using the phone as a way to refer yourself to new customers.

The main thing to remember when trying to build a customer referral program is to get out there and put your best foot forward. Schmooze, brag, hand out biz cards, pick up the phone -- just get yourself noticed.Once folks know about you, your list of clients will increase.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

How To Schmooz Your Way To Success With Your Small Business .... Networking 101

I'll be honest with you, schmoozing (aka networking) isn't easy for everyone. I consider myself a rather introverted person, and the thought of having to talk to people about myself . . . well, let's just say I'd rather visit the dentist!

On the bright side, however, I've found the best solution to the problem. I guarantee your next schmoozing experience will begin and end a success if you follow some of these schmoozing 101 tips.

Schmoozing Tip #1 ....

When you first go up and meet a person, Never Ever start talking about yourself. People will pay attention for a few seconds and then start looking for any excuse to leave. You don't need that. If that happens more than once, you'll feel like exiting the building yourself. We all know that isn't going to help the future growth of your business.

Here's my secret to schmoozing and getting and keeping people's attention . . . Are you listening?

Schmoozing Tip #2 ....

During the first part of the conversation, only talk about the other person. Ask them what they do, how their business is doing, what do they do to find customers. Ask the kind of questions you are uncertain about with your business. This is a smart schmooze move for a couple of reasons.

First, by asking someone else for their know-how and experience, you never know when you might receive a "pearl" of wonderful advice in return. So listen carefully to what your new-found friend is saying. Don't just pretend you're listening. Look into their eyes, not around the room while they talk.

The other reason to use this schmoozing strategy? Hey, it's flattering when others want to hear about your ideas and business. Many people do enjoy talking about themselves, and encouraging them with questions and interested ears will keep them talking with you. Not many people walk away from a conversation where they are playing the leading role!

Once you've showed this interest in your new acquaintance, soon enough, you'll most likely be asked about your business and what you do. Bingo!

Schmoozing Tip #3 ....

Now, don't freeze at this point. Practice what you 're going to say. Rehearse in front of your spouse, friend, or Mirror. Make it interesting. Give the person a good reason to listen. Be funny, interesting, entertaining -- do whatever you feel is appropriate to keep the person's attention. Make your answers short and sweet. End with a quick exchange of business cards -- you never know when you might need that person's service or you may know someone you can refer to them and vice versa.

So, Schmoozing 101's bottom line: Spend a little time with each new prospect. Listen. Learn. Then end with your short spiel. Soon, you'll have a whole room who can't wait to talk to you, and you won't mind!

Schmooze Away!

Monday, July 13, 2009

How To Advertise Your Small Business Website On The Internet

If your object is to serve up your web site to as many viewers as possible, then the recipe is fairly simple -- consider search engines, newsgroups/discussion forums/social networking media, and link exchanges. But before we talk about those, let me just say, you absolutely don't want to spam anyone in the process of building traffic. That'll kill your reputation and doom your business before you even get started.

Now, without knowing what your product is, let's see what's on the menu for building site traffic, without spamming your potential customers.

First Course, Search Engine Marketing ....

You know the big 2 -- Google and Yahoo-- but others are popping up all the time (see Bing). Go to every one you can find and do a search under the key words that would direct someone to your site. See where you show up in the results. You may have to go through 250 or more listings at each site before you find yourself. But it's a necessary evil for getting to know how easy it is (or isn't) for your site to be found via web search engines.

If you haven't registered with these search engine sites, take the time to do so. Most have FAQs sections to help webmasters get their sites listed on each search engine. Some may even help you by suggesting better page titles and page organization. Search engine webmasters are willing to offer any help that'll eventually lead to their own visitors getting better searches.

Second Course, Internet Discussion Forums, News Groups, and Social Networking Media ...

News groups or discussion forums are where the Internet got its real start. With these Usenet postings, people who share a common interest, can exchange information through postings to a news group. (So you're not spamming people, you're just posting information they can use or leave!) So look for the groups whose readers would be interested in what you offer. If you're not sure where to start with news groups, do a little research at dejanews.com.

Don't leave out the social networking sites and medium either. Maybe something like LinkedIn, Sta.rtupbiz.com, Digg, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. You can get some amazing visibility with these if you're creative ... and consistent. Look over each to see how they work ... and how you can best fit in and take advantage.

Again, good table manners are appreciated at these sites. Observe, read, and contribute when you're ready. Make sure your web site address and tag line are on the bottom of every email you send (and I mean every one, not just the ones sent to news groups either) and "post" you share. Invite people to your site with every email or posting you send out.

Third Course, Banner Ads and Link Exchanges ....

If you have a healthy marketing budget, you'll find some tasty options when it comes to banner ads and link exchanges. Exchanges are a great way to get traffic to your door. And getting your banner ad or logo on a related site will get others to click over to you as well.

One option you have is "no-cost link exchanges." Some companies find websites willing to place a banner ad of your site on their site for no charge -- the catch is, you're charged for each link they get for you. The cost comes from them doing all the work, such as finding the sites and arranging the links. To learn more about his, visit ZDClicks. ZDNet is one company that promotes "no-charge link exchanges."

If you'd rather bus your own link exchange tables, no problem. Remember all those searches you did so diligently when trying to get a feel for your site's position on the search engines? Well, this can be the basis of your hit list for emailing related site webmasters with a link exchange request. It's not always easy to find the webmasters. So save yourself some time by preparing, in advance, several short, to-the-point, but friendly emails requesting the exchange. Effective request emails explain the benefit they'll receive from the link.

After your initial request -- and you see no links or response has been made -- follow up with "progressive" emails. For example, the second email could start off by reminding the webmaster you wrote requesting the exchange; the third could ask if they need further info; and the last could inquire if you're reaching the correct person for link exchange requests. Of course, this means some organization on your part. Keep a list of who you contact and which emails they've received. This way, you'll increase your chances for getting your link!

While this full meal takes a long time, you build some good relationships this way.

Friday, July 10, 2009

How To Find Advertising Sponsors For An Online Venture

Think of this as a multi-stage process where you are building relationships with sponsors and your audience.

So, there is some fundamental homework that you can do now to ensure that you are successful in a few months. Here are some things that you should begin doing:

1) Contact a short-list of potential sponsors (you'll have to clearly identify the right criteria). Learn what's important to sponsors since you want them to invest in your online campaigns/business.

2) Clearly identify your target audience (i.e. your local college students) and start identifying segments that are potentially relevant for your sponsors.

3) Have the sponsors you've contacted define for you the type of information that they want (and the value of that information).

4) Put into place the means to track/measure key attributes of your audience that sponsors find valuable. Practically speaking, that could be as simple as using web analytics and periodic surveys. Engage your sponsors to find out what methods have/have not worked.

5) Based on your discussion with sponsors, outline a kit and verify that the information you are collecting/insights you are gathering are indeed valuable. BTW, remember to collect information in-line with the latest online privacy and permission laws.

6) Offer some genuine insights to your sponsors so that they recognize as you having valuable information.

The key point: bring your sponsors in early to the process. Build relationships with them. Don't just look upon them as a source of money. Building relationships will also endear you to them. They need to think of you as a means to help their business succeed. Otherwise, you're one of a million suppliers.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What Are The Top 5 Reasons Why Small Businesses Fail

Research shows that less than 5 out of 10 small businesses survive beyond first 5 years. Any budding entrepreneur planning to invest their time and savings into a new venture would not want to be a part of this sobering statistic.

The primary reason for a business to fail is very simple: Outgoing money is higher than incoming money. Sometimes it is called cash flow, but that is not what it really is. They are just spending it before they have it, and that will not work very long.

Some business owners think they can run several businesses at the same time, thinking that if one is low another will be high. Not so; they will probably both be low because the owner is not focused and using 100% of their skills and effort.

Frequently, a business does not know what business they are in. They think they make a great product or provide an awesome service, but they fail to consider what business their (potential) customer/client thinks they are in, or wants them to be in.

Sometimes a business fails because they were too lax with spending when business was good, and when it gets bad, they don't know what to do, or have no reserves.

Many fail because they had no business being in business in the first place. The owner had neither the skill, talent, willingness to work hard, didn't know luck comes from planning and working, etc.

Here's a simple breakdown of 5 "reasons" small business fail:

1. No Viable Market ....

You have this great idea for service or product which you think will change the industry, but have you stopped to think if there are customers willing to pay for it?

2. Poor Capital Structure and Cash Flow Crunch ....

It is fairly common for business owners to take up too much debt or underestimate capital required to reach cash flow breakeven, causing many promising ventures to shut down prematurely.

3. Lack of Marketing Expertise .....

Your customers won’t buy from you if they don’t know you are around.

4. Poor Management .....

Poor management ranks high on what not to do list of business owner.

5. Out of touch with customers ....

Most small businesses are able to have a personal relationship with customers. This is one advantage that huge corporations do not have. But ... you have to put the effort in to make it happen!

I also think that the top problem really is unrealistic expectations.

Let's expand this a little and add some more meat to the issues:

1. They don't plan or allow enough time to get up and running, and/or don't plan for hardships/unplanned activities. (They have unrealistic objectives, goals and no plan to get there. Aren't prepared for the long hours with little pay in the beginning, etc.)

2. They think they know more than they do. I've seen many folks who make decisions that aren't sound even AFTER consulting with an expert. If you take the time to spend money working with an expert, listen to them and understand why they are saying what they are saying. Otherwise, don't spend the money in the first place.

3. They don't have a sales strategy. It isn't just knowing the audience or having a plan it is knowing how to sell, or hiring the right people that can do it for you. Sales for some may be a numbers game (a game of odds), but the best method is to play with strategy (a game of planning.) Do the research, establish a relationship, build trust, act as a trusted advisor and THEN close the deal. (In that order.)

4. They lack a plan to retain clients/customers and/or grow from client/customer input. Smart companies know it is cheaper to retain a customer than find a new one. Smarter companies learn to grow from customer input. Wise companies know how to build business looking for more creative ways by building on relationships internally with staff, customers and vendors.

5. They don't keep up with best practices in their industry and do not understand benchmarking. Where are they now? Where should they be? How do they plan to get there. How will they measure progress? How will they determine success?

6. They are not aligned as a company. Whether micro or huge, businesses can't be successful if everyone isn't on board. Look to the most successful companies in your industry, what are they doing right, what could you do better. How can you get your business aligned from your janitors to your senior executives? Everyone should have the same mission and all be striving to meet the same goals.

7. They spend too much time whining and worrying and not enough time in the trenches. Running a business isn't for the faint of heart. If you can't stand to see the sight of your own blood it is time to jump ship and get out of business. There may be times where your clients make you frustrated, bills seem to pile up, sales cycles seem to slow, etc. but it important to remember that it is all part of a process. Athletes know that by focusing on the process and not on the distractions is what leads to the best results.

There are so many reasons why businesses fail, I think the question should probably be changed to "What Are The Top 5 Things A Business Should Do To Not Fail". Because no matter what business, what industry, what team and capital, if you don't plan and monitor as the owner/director/manager then things can not be successful.

As parents, we don't simply give them a task to do and expect it to be done, we ask them to clean their rooms or prepare the table for dinner or whatever the task maybe and as parents, we watch them, develop them and grow them through the hours, day, weeks, years, centuries, as a parent we feel it is our responsiblity to support them, develop them and encourage them. Not everyone "makes" a child and has hundreds of thousands of dollars in their bank accounts, so capital is not always the key. Man kids are expensive :)

But the moral here is, if we develop and continually monitor our children and even as they develop in life, we have a goal for them to be a positive person, well respected or well presented or in general simply be a good person and not off the rails, shouldn't our business be "our baby"?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Recommended Resource For A Small Business Start-Up Kit

You're a new start-up small business filled with excitement and anticipation .... a healthy dose of anxiety and stress too.

So much to do .... so many choices to make .... where do you turn to keep it all together?

What you need is to have everything in one place ... that would make it so much easier to manage and stay on course.

But how can you do that?

Well ..... here's a recommendation:

The LaunchX System is a complete small business startup kit comprised of a Handbook, Workbook, Employer’s Manual, Marketing binder, Business Entity Records, an annual planner, five key software packages, and three marketing reference books. The LaunchX Handbook is the cornerstone of the program, with over 650 pages packed with critical startup know-how. Each topic in the Handbook is coupled with fill-in-the-blanks worksheets in the accompanying Workbook that walk entrepreneurs step-by-step through the planning process.

The Handbook begins with getting organized and determining the image and culture of the new business. As it progresses, the soon-to-be business owner selects and registers their business and domain name, starts networking, and selects their Big Five support professionals. The next major topics are an informal business plan, a complete and detailed marketing plan, and pro forma financial statements. At the end of the planning section is a highly informative chapter covering all the ways to finance a business, starting with your own resources all the way through venture capital.

Once the planning phase is complete, the Handbook contains chapters on putting the plans into action and specific issues that will arise during operations, including financial management, marketing, and ongoing planning. Finally, there are reference chapters that contain more in-depth information on topics such as selecting the correct business entity, operating a business from home, selecting commercial real estate, internet and website development, supporting professionals, and international trade.

In the Employer’s Manual, the same step-by-step processes and fill-in-the-blank worksheets are used to take the entrepreneur through the process of becoming an employer, including legal and tax issues, alternatives to direct employees, writing job descriptions and job advertisements, interviewing, hiring, and managing employees. The included Office Policy software provides a complete collection of HR necessities – policies, forms, posters, and state-specific clauses for the employee manual.

Also included is a tabbed binder to contain all the marketing research and plans along with extra copies of all the marketing Workbook pages so that future marketing campaigns can be planned using the same process. The Business Entity Records Binder contains sample agreements and forms needed by both LLCs and corporations, along with custom tabs to keep it all organized and compliant.

The five software packages cover the areas that all small businesses will need – accounting, marketing, business forms, and human resources. Peachtree Pro accounting software provides a firm foundation for financial management, with its GAAP compliant structure and ease of adding users for growth. ACT! contact manager supports all types of marketing efforts, and allows the small business owner to provide personal service to all their customers. The two packages from TemplateZone contain templates for all types of office and human resources forms, as well as the ability to craft an employee manual quickly and correctly. Finally, The Logo Creator from Laughingbird Software is a quick way for the small business owner to create a logo.

The tone is friendly and accessible, and the system encourages new business owners to maintain control and responsibility throughout the startup process. There is an emphasis on bootstrapping along with a balanced acknowledgement that using outside professionals is sometimes necessary. The workbook pages are designed to be completed by hand rather than on a computer, but the LaunchX argument that writing ideas out longhand increases creativity and clarity has merit. There is a lot of information here, and the majority is relevant to an entrepreneur in any industry.

Overall, the LaunchX System has all the components that a small business startup needs to turn their idea into a successful business and to then build a successful company.

If this sounds like just the "hand up" you need to get off on the right foot .... you can learn more here:

LaunchX System

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Friday, July 3, 2009

What Are The Key Features Of The "Future" Internet Based Business Model?

For years the Internet has offered new business opportunities. The Internet has opened up for efficient, flexible and scalable business models. What are the key features of future Internet based business model - and why will companies with these features earn money?

The question is the same question that the top U.S. media and even social networking sites are asking. With free music, movies, and shows available for free online companies like NBC, Universal, etc. have found it difficult to monetize their operations effectively online. However, there are a few examples that might provide some insight to your question.

Hulu, is one such company that was able to implement an effective business model that captured some of the audience lost to websites that had pirated products. They created a unique, easy to navigate platform that allowed users to find the new movies/shows that they wanted to see. By negotiating with top media organizations like NBC, FOX, etc. they helped them recapture some of the audience lost to other free websites (tv-links.com).

The site still has a lot to grow, but the key factors are this. It's incredibly user friendly (which helped beat out the previous competitors that focused on content and not usability), and it has successfully become profitable through its advertisement structure.

Another example of this is Apple and the music industry. Since file sharing programs exploded after Napster, CD sales have plummeted. Many record companies are still loosing a lot of money, but Apple was able to do one thing. It created a solid product (iPod) which it then tied directly to a software (iTunes), and thus created an incentive for the user to pay the 99 cents per song that it charges.

Again, the structure of the product allowed the music industry to recapture some of the sales lost to the free file sharing hosts available online.

The key in the future then will be to figure out ways to effectively recapture consumers lost to free tools online by creating more efficient, user-friendly, all encompassing products for those same consumers.

I recommend reading the book "Biznets: The Webopoly Future of Business" which discusses this subject exactly. In short, every business must be an e-business, it must be networking just as is the Internet, and it must be digitally competitive. There are case examples in the book of what a "biznet" company is like and how it operates.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

How Do You Trademark Your Company Name??

As you know your company name only gives you a license, not a property interest in a name.

People will file their trademarks alone, however it is a perilous process.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website has a lot of information on it about trademarks, however it is a bit more complex than just searching the trademarks register in the US.

There are other searches to conduct apart from the register and any pending applications which might reveal a potential problem with your future trademark. For instance a common law search of many different resources is recommended.

It also depends on your strategy and whether you wish to register your trademark only within the US or in other countries, whether it has a design/copyright aspect to it, and whether there are any domain name issues.

We are living in a global borderless world on the internet whereas trademarks are territorial in nature, so it would be worth the investment to find a Trademark Attorney whether by private referral or through your State law society.

Start with your State's Department of Licensing - start with a state trademark. Then contact the US Patent Office - go to their website and look up copyright/trademark laws. It's all pretty easy and just requires forms and minimal expense.

You can try to do it yourself by going to this web site: USPTO

However, most attorneys don't recommend to do it on your own because it's relatively cheap to do it using a qualified lawyer (a few hundred bucks, if there are no major issues) ..... and if you do something wrong, it will make the whole registration process much longer.

I hope that helps.