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30 Do’s And 20 Don’ts In Starting A Small Business

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Small Business Web …. Business Applications Resource

One key thing that can really help with small businesses when they're getting started is to find ways to keep their costs and technology overheads under control.

Almost any new business these days is going to require some essential technology to get off the ground - the standard suite of office apps (word-processing, spreadsheets, email, etc.), plus a system for bookkeeping and. perhaps, tools that will help with project management, CRM, email marketing and other stuff.

Buying software packages the old-fashioned way, then installing all the applications and learning how to make them work together can require a major investment of time and money, and create massive headaches for small business owners who just want to get stuff done.

The mission of the Small Business Web is to make it easy for small businesses to find useful tools that just work together. The Small Business Web is a movement to bring together like-minded, customer-obsessed software companies to integrate our respective products and make life easier for small businesses. They’ve assembled an easy-to-use directory of some of the coolest companies working together to better serve the small business market.

With more business applications up into the cloud, small business owners stand to benefit from reduced cost, reduced complexity, increased security and mobility, and ever-greater integration. Many of the apps listed in the Small Business Web directory are also available through the Google Apps Marketplace – so you can use a single sign-in to make your documents, email, calendar, billing, bookkeeping and other key business needs all work together seamlessly.

With every additional company that joins the Small Business Web, the dream of the original founders expands: one small step for the Internet, one giant step for small businesses.

For more information go to:

Small Business Web

Freshbooks

BatchBlue

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Improve Your Online Presence

There's a new company called MapWide that I think could really be a great tool for small businesses, especially those that are looking for a better online presence.

MapWide is essentially a network of industry specific sites (MapDentist.com, MapDoctor.com, MapAuto.com, etc.) that allow people to search for businesses in their area by zip code. Businesses can sign up for the service, and guarantee their listing will show up in the search. Having a MapWide listing also gives companies a rich-format profile page with all of their information, set up for them, but that they can easily edit and manage themselves. Along with the local search capabilities, each site is equipped with industry specific forums, chat rooms, and online coupons and specials.

I think the filtered-target results the search engine offers is really valuable to consumers and businesses. An online presence is essential in today's market, and MapWide could be a great way for small businesses to start that presence.

You can check out more here: MapWide

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Government Sucks At Job Creation

The U.S. economic system largely depends on a mixture of greed/capitalism balanced with regulation to make sure cheaters do not overwhelm the system.

It also depends on the goverment not artificially mucking up the system with policy driven rules and regs.

The current crisis was created in the following manner:

* Clinton administration directs that more people should own homes and pressure Fannie and Freddie to back mortgages to people who previously did not qualify. Result: home ownership grew from historic average of 64% to 74% in less than 10 years. Result 2: a new class of mortgages...we know them as "sub prime"...was born.

* In 2004, the Bush administration pushed for less regulation in the financial industry. Result: conditions were set for rule bending without repercussion.

Overall result: the subprime folks who were buying ever more large homes they had no business buying, then using the run up in home prices to finance cars and things they never could afford, hit the wall and the economy took a hit. Then the cheaters are called front and center and have trouble explaining hundreds of billions of funky entires on their balance sheets called "CDOs" and "swaps". And presto! Here we are in global financial meltdown.

Bottom line: If the government spends the "stimulus package" on things that really do create jobs and incentivize spending on real things, then the federal government has the right role to play. If they do it the way the current bill outlines it, this will be a disaster of the highest proportions because we will spend nearly a trillion dollars more with no results to show for at least three more years.

Next, consider that the great "New Deal" of FDR utterly failed to end the Great Depressions after more than 8 years of trying. Only WWII managed to truly end the Depression.

So the lessons are:

1. Government is ultimately responsible for this mess: They changed the rules on home ownership and created sub prime, they changed the rules on cheating and allowed a lot of it to go unchecked, which created the huge balance sheet debacles we now are trying to undo and pay for.

2. Past attempts to "spend our way out of the mess" a la the New Deal failed, including the New Deal itself.

The government generally does not create jobs, though its policies can encourage or hamper jobs.

When government jobs are created, those are like adding middle managers to your business - they are an overhead that must be sustained by others who do work that produces true value.

Being as generous as possible, one could claim that government-funded projects create jobs. To the extent that the money paid into that work produces net value, even considering the inefficiencies and losses as money gets filtered through the government, those jobs are useful... to the extent that value is not created or the money is used inefficiently, it can more closely resemble welfare with a work-ethic.

Burdening the economy with higher taxes, union demands and too-high minimum wages raises the costs to do business, making our labor less competitive when compared to the world market.

Historically, when the American people are freed to use their resources without an undue burden by the government, they will use their own money with far more efficiency and innovation than any government bureaucrat.

Therefore we must first stop vilifying profit and corporations, but value successful businesses for providing fuel to our economy and employment to many.

We should also note that after the Bush tax cuts, tax revenues went up, not down.

Unfortunately, we will never be able to see the job not created because taxes took away those retained earnings, or because government borrowing crowded out the private debt that would have funded expansion, or because that consumer didn't have the disposable income to spend on that product that would have needed to be produced. It all never happened because government spent money on less-efficient allocation of resources in 2009-12. So, while government spending may be "creating" some incremental jobs, it is simultaneously destroying far more jobs that are never seen because they never came into being.

Government involvement in the economy does not "create" anything; by its very nature it destroys. There is no action government takes that actually "creates" jobs, products or services that does not automatically come from the "destruction" of private capital through seizure: ie., taxation.

So this is a "false problem" of government creating jobs. Unless the government begins by getting private, VOLUNTARY investment in a business where it intends to run - for a profit, without any taxpayer subsidy, legal monopoly or other protectionism - a business in which a product or service is VOLUNTARILY consumed by others, then there is no creation.

Remember that for nearly a century before the era of "full time government interference" in the economy, we had the greatest growth in the history of mankind, and even a few booms/busts in the 19th century corrected THEMSELVES without a penny of government money.

Government "creation" of jobs is a "media cover" for what would otherwise be called inflation, deflation, or a SUBSIDY. But since we don't speak political truths any more in America, the story goes on and the American wealth heads toward achieving the most spectacular forfeiture of human achievement in all of history.

Remember, the Dark Ages were dark "on purpose."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Don’t Forget Your Marketing Plan

A business plan is a mere shell without a marketing plan. It has no identity, do niche definition and no means by which to project itself without that vital ingredient. Here are some tips for developing one:

TASTE, TRENDS AND TECHNOLOGY ….

What does your research indicate is the trend in your field? Will it stay the way you are currently offering supplies and services or will it change? This item covers the developments you expect for the next few years. Evan a 'perfect' business can become obsolete overnight due to future developments. Specify a 5 year forecast of your field in your area.

SALES REVENUE FORECAST ….

Have you developed these targets? This section shows your estimates of future sales revenue for your business. Your strategic plan, needs to spell out the specific actions you will take to achieve your forecast sales revenues.

DIFFERENTIATE YOUR BUSINESS FROM THE COMPETITION …..

How does your business differ from the competition's strong and weak points. Again, remember to carefully look at your business from the customer's perspective. If you're not sure how your pricing policies compare to the competition, here are some guidelines. Most people associate high prices with high quality and extra service, while they associate low prices with low or average quality and minimum service. Make sure you provide extra quality and service if your prices are higher than your competition or make sure that your prices are lower if your quality is average and your service is minimum.

DECIDE HOW TO REACH CUSTOMERS …..

Once you describe your target customer, it's easier to create a list of possible ways to reach that person. One of your jobs as a businessperson is to decide which of all the possible methods of communication will give you the most exposure for the least cost in money or time.

EVALUATE THE RISKS FACING YOUR BUSINESS

COMPETITION: Most businesses have competition. How will your business differ in significant and positive ways from your competition? If your competition is strong, don't minimize that fact, but figure out ways you will adjust to or use that strength. For example, if you plan to open a restaurant next to an extremely popular one, part of your strategy might be to cater to the overflow. Another might be to open on days or evenings when the other restaurant is closed.

PIONEERING: If you anticipate no direct competition, your business probably involves selling a new product or service, or one that is new to your area. How will you avoid going broke trying to develop a market?

CYCLES AND TRENDS: Many businesses have cycles of growth and decline often based on outside factors such as taste, trends or technology. What is your forecast of the cycles and trends in your business? For example, if your forecast tells you that the new electronic product you plan to manufacture may decline in three years when the market is saturated, can you earn enough money in the meantime to make the venture worthwhile?

SLOW TIMES: Every business experiences ups and downs. Is your business small and simple enough, or capitalized adequately enough, to ride out slow times? Or do you have some other strategy, such as staying open long hours in the busy season and closing during times of the year when business is ?

OWNERS EXPERTISE: Nobody knows everything. How do you plan to compensate for the knowledge you're short on?

Write your risk analysis by first thinking of the main dangers your business faces. This shouldn't be hard, as you have probably been concerned about them for some time. Some of these may be on the list set out above; others will be unique to your business. Once you have identified the principal risks facing your business, write out a plan to counter each. But don't bog yourself down worrying about all sorts of unlikely disasters.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Journey from “Being the Business” to “Managing the Business”! By Harold Larson

When an entrepreneur is ready to evolve from “being the business” to “managing a business”, they face a significant shift in how their organization does business. This giant step goes beyond finding talent or financing, and touches the very core of how their product or service is delivered in the market.

• Communication within the organization can no longer simply rely on natural interaction and must be replaced by policies and procedures. Check out E-Myth revisited, by Michael E. Gerber for more.

• Customers engage with the whole organization now and the owner must measure key performance standards and results to assure that the company maintains its momentum.

• Transition is now to management which is a very personal journey requiring insight and counsel from credible resources. I suggest reading Mindset, by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.

This transition requires a tremendous paradigm shift and could be compared to changing a tire while it is traveling down the highway at 70 miles per hour. Where do I find the time to organize and manage when I already have a 100 hour a week job?

Here are a few suggestions that hopefully will open a dialogue with company owners that have gone through or are currently in the process of transitioning from being a “sole proprietor” to being a “business” that can stand on its own.

• Leverage technology to control your processes, automate your company forms “on-line” and connect the organizations processes to your clients and suppliers. For help here I suggest subscribing to the Visiam newsletter . The newsletter is focused on automation and recommends specific companies that are inexpensive like Constant Contact for newsletters, Provide Support for online customer service, and Qarbon for viewlets, tutorials, training etc.

• Outsource key professional services to providers that enable the business owner to concentrate on management. (Human Resource)

• Develop a process of marketing and sales that does not rely on the strength of the entrepreneur’s personality and relationships.

Your goal could be to increase profits, take a vacation, or sell the business. The answers to reach these goals are most likely the same.

Harold W. Larson is an experienced former senior executive with a Fortune 500 company that transitioned from the corporate world to small business. To accomplish this, he volunteered at SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) and counseled small business owners for 6 years as Counselor, Chapter Chairperson and State Director. His Company Visiam offers simple, affordable and powerful automation that provides the operational and communication tools a small businesses owner needs.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Cash is King!

Cash flow is the most important aspect of running a small Business and as the story goes it is also the 2nd and 3rd most important aspect of a company’s survival.

So why is cash so important?

From the most basic perspective it seems obvious that cash is needed to pay our everyday bills, however to run a business and plan for the future, cash and cash management require a much greater depth of control. Without proper cash management we may simply run out of cash to pay rent, employees, or complete projects. Without sufficient cash management and payment policies our vendors will think twice about providing their products or services on favorable terms.

First let’s get a handle on the facts by capturing your company’s history of revenue and expenses as well as your sales forecasts, and then we can project cash flow. Of course when projecting these financials there are all sorts of variables that should be considered that may positively or negatively affect your assumptions - ranging from business cycles to competition and collection policies.

Projecting your cash flow is basically a spreadsheet or calendar that is used to calculate not only the difference between revenues and expenses but the timeline associated with each of those factors. This is where your historical records can provide great value. Remember, revenues less expenses equal profit or loss; however profits are not always represented in cash. Your accountant can be a great asset in helping you factor in other variables when calculating cash flow.

Building a collection Process:

Let’s review some ideas to manage the business process of colleting receivables.

· Confirm your payment expectations before, during and after a contract or order is complete.

· Call your client after completed work and confirm their satisfaction.

· Deliver the invoice in person creating a sense of importance and offering an opportunity to ask about expectations.

· Remind them through an automated system that brings your invoice to the top of the pile without appearing to “harass” them.

· Ask someone to call at the first sign that payment will be late and reserve your call for the “elevated” attempt.

Finally, maintain a balance of how much of your cash is tied up in one large client or project that could put you into a spin if unpaid or even with the slightest delays in payment. Consider contractual language or purchase order terms that can be tied to a project and the receivable.

Set aside today’s cash as tomorrow will offer both risk and opportunity and it will be the quick and disciplined that will have the leverage.

Remember, sound cash management is essential for a healthy business and - Cash is King!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Proven Small Business Tools ..... Online

Tired of going from site to site to find reliable, usable, proven small business tools?

Are you one of those small business owners that surf the internet and get overwhelmed with all the information and are not sure what you can use and what you can’t? C2online specializes in small business tools and templates, and are a one stop shop website for many aspects of your business.

Their products are an easy start to meet the needs of a business and some of the products are also a compliment to any existing small business bookkeeping software. 



C2online has unique products that have been researched and developed with over 20 years of small business experience specializing in bookkeeping and administration. Not only are these products unique, some are free. Also, some of these products have been audited and accepted by Revenue Canada.

C2online can also assist you with these questions:

1. Are you looking for small business tax deductions, employee taxable benefits or business tax credit?

2. Did you know you can purchase luxury real estate as a taxable benefit and deduction or as a vacation ownership investment?

3. Canada Revenue Agency provides you a 100% tax deductable opportunity to travel while exploring tax strategies and improving your business.

Click here to learn more .... C2Online

C2online is really the one stop shop with reliable, usable proven products and advice.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Using Video Testimonials In Your Small Business Marketing

Using video testimonials has become a useful strategy by businesses in their marketing with Social Networking.

Below is a link to Nielsen, who reported about "what consumers trust online."

Basically, 70% of people trust Consumer Opinions posted online and Brand Websites.

I've an associate who’s done a lot of research in the realm of website credibility, and he can tell you that testimonials have been proven effective in terms of building "trust". It's important to recognize that there is a difference between a good testimonial and a bad one. Video testimonials add a different element - it essentially breaks down the barrier and adds that face-to-face.

I think when people go to a website, and they're interested, and they see a bunch of really solid, genuine, authentic testimonials - it'd definitely increase my confidence that you could provide me with value thus making me more likely to convert.

What Consumers Trust Online

Building Testimonials

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What is Your Networking Why?

The first step to successful networking is to figure out your “Why”.

Why are you networking? This can be different for each individual, but most times when you get right down to it, it is to get business. Right?

Take a minute and write your “Networking Why”.
Now think carefully and expand upon your why statement.
Think about it carefully and write every step you will need to take to accomplish your “Why”.
This could be to prepare for meetings, schedule meetings into your marketing plan, sit beside a new person each meeting.

Step 2 is to create goals for your “Networking Why”.
Take some time and make a one year plan for your goals. Sounds like a long time, but planning ahead is the key.

Here are some sample goals to get you started:
Followup with all guests after the meeting.
Collect Birthday’s and send cards.
Get to know on member a week, or each week by planning a coffee meeting or a phone chat.
Get all members subscribed to your newsletter.

Step 3 is to make a Timeline
Now make a timeline for your goals and print it out and post it.
Schedule tasks into your daytimer such as the day each month you will send Birthday cards and schedule meetings.

Now that you have a plan of action, goals and a chedule you are set to see the powerful results networking can accomplish for you and the growth of your business.

If you would like help creating a plan please do not hesitate to contact me!
I am here to help!

Public Speaking As A Marketing Strategy

One of the most effective marketing strategies a solo business owner can employ is public speaking.

The main reason why speaking is so effective is due to the concepts of "experience and exposure." For example, instead of meeting one person at a time at a networking event, imagine speaking to a group of 50 people, all of whom are in your target market and want what you have to offer. You are exposed to many more potential clients at one time!

And, this type of exposure is far more powerful. You are an expert when you speak. You get to learn and teach about what you are an expert on. You get to provide value and allow the audience to experience you as a powerful, knowledgeable, giving, caring person who can help them solve their problem.

Okay, have I sold you yet? I know it is scary as heck to get up in front of a room full of your ideal audience, but you can do this.

I want to give you some suggestions to make it easier and more effective.

You set the tone. Your energy and attitude will infect the audience for the good or not. It is okay to be nervous just use those nervess as a source of energy to help you perform better. You know that commercial never let them see you sweat? Well that that is the key here, you can be nervous just don’t show it.

Dress appropriately for your brand. You should know how you want your target market to see you and the emotion you want to evoke. Your dress should reflect that emotion.

Don’t accept just any speaking engagement make certain they are your ideal client, or at least that they serve the same ideal client as you do. Remember that they are people just like you—and that you immediately have creditability because you have the courage to stand before them. They are going to be more interested in themselves than in anything else. Use that knowledge to help you relax.

You are performing and you must know your material. Be interesting...Interesting people have interesting audiences.

If equipment gets you upset or makes your nervous then don’t use it. More important that you deliver a great message than use new technology.

BREATHE! Take three deep breaths and exhale slowly to help you relax before you present.

Tell them who you are what you are going to tell them, tell them and then tell them what you just told them. Be sure to make eye contact and be yourself. They will love YOU.

Finally, have a great offer and an easy way for them to take advantage of the offer. I would even suggest you make your offer just before you tell them what you told them. Make sense?

Be prepared for questions, even ones you would never expect. Don’t worry if you don’t have an answer, tell them so and offer to find out for them. “I am not certain, get me business card and I will follow up with you with the answer.”

You can do this, reach out to those organizations that contain your ideal market and share how you can help them.

The 3 Top Steps to Starting a Truly Successful Business

You want your new business to be successful? Of course ..... so here's 3 tips to set you on the right course.

1 - Plan Out Your Goals ..... If you are still in the initial stages of determining what things you should know about starting a business, then you will need to be sure to write out your financial and business goals. Make a timeline as well for when you hope to achieve them. Why do you want to start a business and what do you hope to accomplish? Do you want something hands-on that will require your presence in order to run smoothly? Or are you hoping for something more automated to allow a more flexible schedule for travelling and family time?

2 - Choose Amazing Mentors ..... The second most important thing you should know about starting a business is to secure a mentor who can help coach and guide you towards success in your chosen field. The most successful people in business have all made it a point to surround themselves with many people .... and at least one close mentor who can be a positive influence and show them the ropes. You can learn from their failures and triumphs and have a huge advantage in your own personal journey towards business ownership!

3 - Study Online Marketing ..... Possibly the most important of the things you should know about starting a business, is that in this day in age, almost everything is done online. Most of the world tends to shop, socialize, communicate and do business online. So whether you intend on owning a bricks and mortar business or something using the power of the internet, you will need to understand how to market your business online.

Unfortunately some people think that having a website will be enough when it comes to building an online presence. But when you consider the sheer enormity of the world wide web, you need to understand that just having a website without putting any real time into properly marketing and advertising your business online to drive people to your websites, you'll likely just float around the internet and never be found. So it is crucial that you enroll in an online marketing and mentoring school with the ability to train you in the important skills of online branding and internet marketing.

Selling without Selling: Becoming a Trusted Advisor

Do you find yourself trying to get clients, but they are resistant to selling???

Here is a tip to sell without selling: become a trusted adviser. This means you educate your clients about services / products that you offer, without directly selling them (with ads or promotions). As they become more educated about your industry (and you) and become more aware of their own needs; they will naturally go to you for these services. You will have become a trusted adviser, not a sales person. People like to buy, but hate to be sold.

Let me give you an example: If you were a mortgage broker and your target market was real estate agents - maybe you would set up a Facebook page dedicated to tips for helping real estate agents close more business. On that page, you would not sell mortgages, but provide helpful tips to real estate agents. One of those tips could be about how to improve the credit score of their clients. Over time, you would become a trusted adviser and when an agent was looking for a mortgage broker, they would likely think of you first. This means - you are not selling, but they are buying.

Today, the #1 product that people are buying is information. Become a source of information for your clients and you have become their trusted adviser. This will increase your number of clients and your repeat sales per client and you will be selling without selling.

To your success,

Kimberly Deas, Guest Blogger

Kimberly is President of SBHBTools, an online company dedicated to providing quality tools for small business and home based business owners. Her blog can be read at sbhbtools.blogspot.com. 

PS Got some tips that have helped you become a trusted adviser?? Please share them as a comment.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Are The Federal Stimulus Dollars Really Helping To Create Jobs And Help Small Businesses?

I see absolutely no evidence the stimulus is helping small business. If it were you would see the growth of private sector jobs and it's not happening. It would appear that the regulation and tax implications that cam with it are actually scaring the crap out of this sector freezing them in their tracks until the uncertainty is removed.

It appears that most of the stimulus money that made it to the states was temporary funding for government jobs and unions. It looks like the money was used as an excuse not to cut spending and the size of government which is the biggest problem.

It is unfortunate that people can't see that the money is not free. The government simply took, or will take it out of your left pocket while telling you here's some money for the right one. The fact is that the debt being created by the money is a far more serious issue.

There are many additional costs as well --government has yet to prove it can run anything (business oriented) effectively -- they just lost $7 trillion (I believe) in unemployment payments to various wrong recipients.

This is a joke, if any private citizen ran their finances as the government did they'd be in jail or at least bankrupt. There is zero financial responsibility in Washington, zero! (A finance bill that excludes Fanny and Freddie -- are you kidding?)

Most of the articles I've read on the stimulus point out that the vast majority of stimulus money has gone to the creation of public sector jobs. Public sector jobs do not create goods or services that people willingly buy in the free market. Therefore they are simply a redistribution of wealth, and not an investment.

Are they really helping...? No.

Spending a tax dollar to create a job, using a dollar that was taken from someone else to destroy a job... It's a less-than-zero-sum game. Not only is "federal stimulus" spending money that doesn't exist, the imaginary money also gets skimmed to pay the federal employees whose jobs were created to monitor its movement. Then it gets skimmed again to pay the interest on the gigantic loan we borrowed to get the money.

In other words, we go into debt $1, in order to acquire 20 cents of actual working capital, to spend on road repairs, for which there is no excuse for not having already been repaired.

You can't spend your way to prosperity. Try it with your own checkbook, and see how far that goes. If you run your business that way, your shareholders will drop you remarkably fast.

The first stimulus bill is over two years old now, and the second one is over a year old now. In two years, more roads have crumbled faster than ever before, public parks are being shut down, city properties have stopped picking up garbage, and my own city has shut off street lights, claiming to be out of money.

What stimulus?