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

Small scale businesses are easier to set up compared to the middle or large scale businesses that require more time, feasibility reports, ad...

Monday, December 31, 2012

Tips On Marketing A Small Business Using Pinterest

For a small business - - especially one with a limited marketing budget and manpower - - the allure of Pinterest should be taken with a grain of salt. It's best used...

- as a promotional tool (NOT as a substitute for the meat-and-potatoes of your marketing strategy)

- for small businesses with a creative slant (fashion, beauty, crafts, photography, wedding, etc.)

- for small businesses with strong graphic identity and visually appealing products

- for anyone who is especially interested in connecting with a female market

Assuming the business is a good fit with Pinterest, the most effective promotions are those that force consumers to closely examine the brand/products and reinterpret them in a highly personal way.

I like the idea of Pinterest contests because they create a sense of community--users feel more closely linked with your brand and enjoy the idea of publicly championing its values. For example, Victoria's Secret recently sponsored a Pinterest promotion for its PINK line. Fans were challenged to create and share boards that embodied the PINK aesthetic/lifestyle for the chance to win merchandise. All of a sudden the target market is flocking to the VS website to scrutinize anything and everything PINK. Even now that the contest has ended, the boards remain. It's perfect. (Of course, VS could hardly be called a small business but the idea works for companies of all sizes).

Another option is to create boards that highlight images and links that are most appealing to your target market. For example, you might create a location-specific board with items of interest to that area (events, visuals, blogs). The key here is to avoid pinning anything that reeks of marketing or might direct users to your competitors' products and services.

If you have the time/manpower to closely monitor all social media activities, you might consider hosting a board for your company's followers. On your blog or website, direct customers to the board and encourage them to request permission to post to that board. Your typical Pinterest junkie loves to be seen as an influencer, making them more likely to promote the board (and thus your company).

Again, I can't overemphasize the importance of investing in Pinterest marketing ONLY if it's a viable fit for your client's specific line of business.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

More Threats to Retirement Savings

And the threats to our 401(k) system just keep coming. The latest news comes from IBM which beginning in 2013, will delay 401(k) matching contributions until Dec. 31. That way workers leaving the company before that date will get no match – unless they have formally retired. The move is expected to translate into big savings for IBM which is good for the company and shareholders but potentially bad news for some workers’ retirement accounts. Experts say it’s likely more companies will follow suit.
News like this should give us all a wake-up call – that we alone are responsible for our retirement. If we don’t take charge of our financial future and take steps to guarantee a secure retirement, who will? If we’re fortunate enough to have a workplace retirement program, we need to take full advantage of it. And we need to start early so we have the benefit of compound interest working for us over the long term.
Finally, we need to work to protect the 401(k) system. Congress has begun working on tax reform – and the outcome could affect our 401(k) plans. The last time Congress passed tax reform in 1986 it cut the 401(k) contribution limit by 70% resulting in a mass termination of plans. And guess what? Proposals are already being considered by lawmakers to cut the 401(k) contribution limit again. If that happens, the retirement security for millions of Americans will be jeopardized and the results would be disastrous. Visit www.savemy401k.com to learn more.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

How To Use Pinterest To Market And Brand Your Small Business

Pinterest is a great way to use compelling visuals to get potential subscribers/clients to notice your brand and associate it with their interests if you can use it correctly. The key is to deliver quality content on a fairly regular basis. It only takes a second to look at a picture and decide if it's appealing or not, so you're going to want to pin things that your target market segment would be interested. You need to keep it current because Pinterest's own categories are constantly updated and you don't want to fall behind of the latest trends.

Pinterest is excellent for deciphering what trends are most popular in a particular topic/category. You can use this to your advantage and view it as a guide for the types of things you should pin.

Organization is vital as well. Keep boards topic specific and spend the same amount of time updating each one. You can create boards centered on your product/service, but make sure to have some integration in how you choose to utilize the description boxes. For instance, blank out all the description boxes to keep the emphasis on the picture and clicking through to the link.

Unlike other social media sites, Pinterest is all about visuals. It provides users tools to create online billboards (or “pinboards”) where they can share photos and images of products and group them into specific, targeted categories. It’s an engagement method that keeps people interested and brings a bit of aesthetics to a sharing-focused site.

With everyone having such short attention spans now a day, catching someones eye with an appealing image can mean the difference between glossing over some text and real engagement with your brand. Definitely focus on visuals and make sure to link to your landing page as well. And as always, a constant flow of new content is invaluable.

There are also some tools out there that help identify influencers. PinReach and PinPuff are two that come to mind. Also, for developing content check out Pinstamatic or Snapito.

You'll want to figure out where the best visuals are around your business - think about your products, your location, your employees' interests, your industry, your history...the possibilities are endless. Build your boards around those and use Pinterest search to find others who have similar boards or are pinning images you might be interested in. Then share and re-pin and comment...don't just focus on putting your own images out there, but also engage with the community and get into conversations.

Offer exclusive Pinterest deals to build up some following and be sure to get involved with other pins as well.

Once you have some sort of relationship going with fellow pinners your can take the conversation over to Twitter or Facebook where extra interaction can take place but most importantly you will have a follower who will repin your pictures.

Ensure its a simple process to go from picture to purchase, or to your website otherwise people are put off.

Make sure the link between your website/store and Pinterest is an obvious one, so buttons on the website or adverts in store with Pinterest branding.

Be ahead of the game and use keywords (much like everything these days) to get your pin's around. Treat it like a blog and offer your audience something other then your own products and marketing.

I think how you engage, best practices, what you pin and who you target depends greatly on your ideal customer. If you know your customer, then any social sharing becomes easier.

Pinterest can be a great platform for brand engagement if it’s correctly used. Like every social media platform, it needs a strategy, a work plan and a defined goal. Once you have all these, everything is easier. In my opinion, Pinterest is a great way to express your brand visually and let your clients know about the company’s interests, especially if you are a small business. I don’t think you should just pin some images with your logo and your services, instead, create boards that support your brand’s mission and your audience's passion. Be sure to follow other “taste-makers” in your industry to learn what your customers like on Pinterest, what they want to find out more about, and what they need to know about your business to become fans.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Biggest Challenges Faced By Black Entrepreneurs

The challenges faced by black entrepreneurs can be many and varied....and are wholly unique in themselves compared to the general entrepreneurial demographic.

A good friend pulled no punches and put it very bluntly....

"I personally believe it's a lack of confidence. We believe that we won't get a fair chance so we don't even try. We are way to dependent on the government or other people when we should be more self-sufficent. We make too many excuses, i.e. our circumstances, income."

That staement may touch a nerve with a few people....but the point should be well taken anbd at least get one to think.

To further the discussion (please feel free to leave a comment with your own views) ... here's a list of challenges Black Entrepreneurs should also consider and hopefully overcome - -

"The Crab In The Barrel Mentality!"

1. The lack of education, qualifications or know how.
2. No family, friends, co-workers or local community support.
3. Poor Marketing, Networking and Social Media Branding skills.
4. Too focused on one particular crowd or just "Black Business".
5. Making too many excuses why something won't work, self-sabotaging.
6. Lack of funding or access to that funding. No assets or lack thereof.
7. The lack of interest within the African-American communities in starting ones own business.
8. Having the consumer mind-set and getting into debt (Bad Credit!)
9. Societies stereotypes of African-Americans.
10. The fear of investing and the false dreams of quick success that most African-Americans take strong beliefs in.
11. Having the "Fast Money" mentality for example, immediately wanting to be a Rapper/Singer/Entertainer, NBA Basketball Player, NFL Football player instead of focusing on a core competency in the workforce.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

How Your Small Business Can Compete With The Big Boys

Industry partners, customer service, and best value are three areas where a small business can shine when competing with the big boys.

Keep in mind that your brand will become known for the highest quality your customer is willing to accept for the lowest price.

Small businesses should try to differentiate themselves on other aspects of their products or services, e.g., more unique selection or extensive of products, longer or better-suited hours, more personalized service, less staff turnover (and therefore more continuity of service), ability to respond much more quickly to whatever is going on in the local scene/market, other added value bits and pieces to tack on, etc.

The small local IT support company will better get to know your business or home computer network than a large chain. A small clothing store (mortar and brick or online) might source more interesting manufacturers of unique blouses. A local bakery might reach out to local charities about donating leftovers, which could lead to nice press.

Since you cannot necessarily compete on price, find a niche. That niche would be an area of specialty products or services the big guys do not offer.

Not only do I have little interest in the boring apples the supermarkets always carry, I have less interest in taking up space in my garden to grow those same apples. Offer me a young apple tree that does not produce the same kinds of fruit I already find easily at the market.

Excellent customer support with human touch will help you, the big guys always work on a number basis. At the end of the day only numbers matter to them. But, for small businesses like you and me, customer satisfaction is very important.

How many big companies make a post sale call to customer? After you sell something, just call the customer and ask whether they are satisfied with the product/service. If not, discuss the problem and sort it out. If you offer any free services, do not wait for the customer to give you a call and ask you to visit for a service. Many forget to use their free services and if you follow up and do it, I am sure your customers will be very happy with your company. There are small things like this which will make them happy. And they will recommend you to others and price will rarely matter to them.

Bottom line...don't compete on price. Ever!! It's a loosing proposition. A client can always find someone to undercut your price. So just drop the idea all together.

Consider a few things...

USP - what is your Unique Selling Proposition? In other words, what makes your business unique? What combination of skills and service can you bring to a client's project? They're there if you look.

Benefits. Always focus on the benefits of working with you. And have answers to the questions about 'the other guy.' Doesn't matter who they are, you should be able to say, 'most people in my industry operate this way. but not us, we do it that way and here's why.' This goes back to USP.

Results. If you're selling B2B then have projects where you've helped your clients get real-world, bottom line, measurable results. Nothing says it louder than 'the new website we designed increased traffic 100%, signups 300% and customer conversions 120% 90 days after launch.' If you can highlight the results of working with you, then price most of the time goes out the window.

Support. Provide the best possible customer experience they could ever have. Make it public. Use social media to display your customer service - not by bragging - but by having service conversations in public. And encourage your customers to share their experiences.

Referrals. The cornerstone of any business. There will never be a better marketing approach then having your past clients send their friends and colleagues to work with you.

References. Take a few past clients who loved your work and ask them to be references for future prospects. Ask up front, get their best contact details and coach them a bit on what they should say. Draw out the benefits and results from them so they're thinking about it when your prospects get in touch. And, help them highlight those intangible experiences they really loved in working with you. Stuff you don't know about until you have that conversation. But it's the stuff that makes your USP even stronger.

I could go on but that's probably enough. As you can see, there's lots of tactics to use that have nothing to do with price.

Monday, December 17, 2012

What To Look For In A Small Business Mentor

Before deciding what to look for in a mentor for your small business....you should first understand what a mentor really is.

A mentor is someone who's been around the block and genuinely wants others to learn from both their successes and failures with the hopes of this mentee having a new advantage. He or she is a different breed of individual, one who may be a fierce competitor in one aspect, but a sincere confidant and caretaker in another. Essentially, a mentor is someone who is usually a great people person, a dedicated learner, and a role model for success (however one may define it).

Looking for a mentor should not be that hard of a task is you are a person who can generally collaborate well with near anyone. These are the people who put in the extra work and offer up their services/ideas/advice in a selfless manner. They have learned a great deal in the past and wish to impart some of that to the next generation. However, a great disparity in age isn't necessary when considering to pursue a mentor. They may simply be someone from a different walk of life that you are passionate about pursuing.

The bottom line is a mentor should be someone whose opinion you value, whose advice you trust, and whose plaudits you take to heart. These are the people that make our society great because they leave more than they take and they create much more even after their time is up.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

How To Market Your Business With Webinars

If you’ve ever been to a webinars, you’ve seen how useful they can be when it comes to delivering content to an audience. The word “webinar” is an amalgamation of the words “web” and “seminar” — basically a presentation you give to an audience over the web.

With clear instructions and educational webinars, people are more likely to sign up for your information, buy your product and/or stay with your business.

What Webinars Can Do For You

And webinars work great for a variety of situations. Have a service based business where people have to set up an account and work through your site? Conduct a webinar detailing how that is used.

Have a new product that you’re launching? Set up a demonstration of that product and how people can benefit from it.

Want to educate your audience on a particular topic that is important in your industry? Run a session that covers that topic, as well as solicits feedback from your audience to spark conversation.

Setting up and running a webinar is easy, so long as you are willing to put forth the effort and follow a few simple steps, outlined below....

How To Market Your Business With Webinars

Monday, December 10, 2012

5 Ways Startups Can Create More Email Leads

Email is a fantastic way to build goodwill with current and prospective customers.

With more people using email than any social network, it is essential for all new startups to take list building very seriously.

The question is this... how can startups create more email leads without becoming overly aggressive (a big turnoff) in their tactics?

Read on for a discussion of 5 tested (and proven!) ways that startups can capture more emails without losing customer goodwill.

5 Ways Startups Can Create More Email Leads

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Facebook....A Small Business Marketer’s Dream

Facebook has about 955 million active users. With those numbers, as a small business owner it’s likely you have a Facebook Page for your business and use it to post updates and interact with your customers.

(Need a quick tutorial on how to do this? Check out Facebook’s guide for businesses.)

Recently, Facebook rolled out some new features designed to make your life even easier as a small business marketer. Here’s the scoop on what those tools are, and how to use them for your business.

Facebook Marketing Tools

Monday, December 3, 2012

Small Business Marketing...The Email Design Strategy That Gets 215% More Clicks

Your small business smartly uses email marketing as part of your overall marketing strategy. But, how do you know your emails are performing optimally? Are you happy with the amount of open and click-throughs you are getting?

Truth is, you won’t know if you’re getting the most you can out of your email marketing unless you do some tests. And you might find all you need is a new look that’s more appealing to your audience.

Read more about an email marketing strategy that will get you results ....

The Email Design Strategy That Gets 215% More Clicks

Thursday, November 29, 2012

How To Upsell With Email Marketing

Think of an old-fashioned, friendly neighborhood shop.

Customers come in to chat, they ask for recommendations, and they loyally purchase again and again. They trust the shopkeeper. They’ve bought there before, they’re comfortable there and they know their payment information is kept safe.

If you’re establishing the same dynamic of trust with your email subscribers, you’re becoming their friendly virtual-neighborhood shop. Once they buy from you, they should be comfortable buying from you again.

That’s where upselling comes in — making more offers to your established customers.

How Do You Upsell With Email?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My 401(k) Isn’t Free?
Have you considered how fees impact your 401(k) account? A survey of employers by Congress’ nonpartisan Government Accountability Office uncovered some alarming facts, including

  • Half didn’t know what they are paying in fees for their retirement account and,

  • A fee reduction of 1 percent of assets per year was possible and would increase the retirement account of the average worker by 28 percent.*
Do you know what you’re paying in annual fees? If the answer is no, you’re not alone. Locating and deciphering these fees has been difficult to say the least. You have to look at investments, administration, recordkeeping, trustee, advisory, trading, custodial fees, etc. Plan fees and expenses generally fall into three categories:
  • Plan Administration Fees. These fees cover such services as recordkeeping, accounting and other plan-related services.
  •  
  • Investment Fees. These fees are associated with your investments.
  •  
  • Individual Service Fees. These fees are based on account activity choices, such as processing a loan or taking a withdrawal.
 
It’s complicated but you can get help! There are places you can compare your fees with industry averages- like www.yearsofretirement.com. Use the calculator there to decipher some of these fees so you can better understand what you’re getting for your money. Plus your research will help you be better prepared to answer questions you may receive from your employees who also are reading about the fees associated with their 401(k) plans.

*United States Department of Labor 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Tips On Using Pinterest To Market Your Small Business

By now, we’re all aware of Pinterest (and if you’re not, it’s an up-and-coming social network that doubles as an virtual bulletin board that lets you save and share images from across the ‘Net).

Online marketers have, of course, jumped on board and started pinning their images, their sites, their blog posts and their offers, all the better to attract the Pinterst’s main demographic, women aged 25 to 44.

In a business’ ideal world, everyone would love to consume their marketing content. However, these posts, sites and offers aren’t necessarily what these Pinteresters want to see.

Which brings us to the point:

Tips For Using Pinterest

If you have other tips on how you can use Pinterest to market your small business ... by all means share them by leaving a comment.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Email Marketing Guide For Wineries

As a winery owner, your plate (glass?) is pretty full. You have a vineyard to tend, wines to bottle and a tasting room to maintain.

On top of all that, you need to actually promote your winery, and that can take your glass from full to overflowing. So any ad campaign you run had better be worth the time and effort.

Email Marketing Is Worth It

Here’s why.

Email happens online. Your ad isn’t on a billboard or in a magazine, where people have to remember to look you up later. It’s in the inbox, just a click or two away from your web site. Your subscribers can set up a visit or order a shipment in a matter of seconds.

Email also lets you focus your dollars in the most efficient places. Why pay to market to people who don’t drink wine? Email’s opt-in nature means you only advertise to people who are already interested (and therefore, most likely to respond).

And once people have opted in, you can keep up an email conversation endlessly. Once you have someone’s permission, you have endless chances to engage them. And an engaged subscriber often becomes a customer.

Finally, email is a conversational medium. When people see your ad and wonder, “But would they mind if I brought my dog?” or “Could 12 of us show up without a reservation?” they can just hit “reply” and ask!

Emails provide potential customers with the information they’re looking for. It can invite your current customers back to visit and buy that favorite bottle again. When your winery may otherwise slip out of mind, email can bring it back.

Email Marketing Guide For Wineries

Monday, November 19, 2012

Freshen Up Your Email Marketing Campaign

Freshening up your email marketing campaign once in a while is a great way to test new elements you’ve always wanted to try and to avoid subscriber fatigue – your readers might be getting bored of seeing your content in the same template every week.

Take a look at how one company overhauled their campaign. This will give you some tips on elements you might want to change in your own emails for a fresh new look.

Email Marketing Campaign

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Email Marketing Guide For Travel Agents And Travel Sites

Brand-name travel sites on the Internet have changed how people book vacations over the last several years. More and more consumers are taking a do-it-yourself approach to booking flights, hotels and cruises instead of relying on travel agents to find the best deal.

How does a travel agency or smaller site succeed in this climate? Through email marketing. Did you know that 63% of consumers who signed up for emails from a travel site are more likely to do business through that same site again? That’s a big percentage of business your site or agency could be diverting from the “big name” travel sites.

This free guide will help you understand how email marketing works and give you proven tactics to keep your customers coming back to you for their travel needs.

Email Marketing Guide For Travel Agents And Travel Sites

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pack Your Backpack With These Tools For Faster, Easier Marketing

You know that feeling when you just have too much time on your hands?

Me neither.

You know and I know that to push out marketing materials while running the rest of your business takes a good amount of efficiency. You need the fastest, easiest processes possible for planning your schedule, for actually creating your marketing content and ideally, for streamlining your process.

There are tools that can help you with that. So while we’re packing the kids up for school, let’s make sure your own arsenal is packed full of these tools, shall we?

Marketing Tools

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Email Marketing Guide For Restaurants

Getting a customer in the door for the first time can cost a pretty penny.

Consider the price of promotions. Every ad means you’ll need more diners just to break even. Coupons can get customers in the door, but they can also seriously dent your profit margin.

And not all of those first-timers will choose to come back – maybe they don’t dine out much, or they didn’t have a great first experience.

Your solution?

Cultivate a regular base of repeat customers. They bring in revenue without the cost of acquisition. Not only does this lower your cost per visit, but “regulars” often deliver free, effective advertisement by word of mouth.

This is easier said than done, however. You may offer delicious food and a pleasant ambiance, but memories of good meals fade and there are plenty of other restaurants in town.

Many restaurants cross their fingers and hope diners will come back on their own, but you’ve found a better way to boost business – email marketing. With this guide, you’ll learn exactly how.

Email Marketing Guide For Restaurants

Monday, November 5, 2012

Three Email Marketing Apps That Build Repeat Business

If you run an e-commerce store, you may be familiar with some shopping cart integrations, like PayPal and Google Checkout.

These integrations allow customers who purchase from you to opt into your email campaign when they check out with their purchase. AWeber has added three more shopping cart integrations and have advice to help you use them to grow your business and your email campaign. These business building apps are 2Checkout, Magento, and Eventbrite.

Read more about them here ...

Shopping Cart Integrations

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Email Marketing Guide For Real Estate Agents

How are you finding potential clients for your real estate business, and getting them to work with you to buy, sell or rent property?

The successful agent focuses on customer trust in order to garner referrals and nurture relationships with potential buyers and sellers.

And one of the most powerful tools in your real estate marketing arsenal is building and communicating with your own list of prospects through an email marketing campaign.

Not sure how to make email marketing work for your real estate business? This free guide will help you get started.

Email Marketing Guide For Real Estate Agents

Monday, October 29, 2012

Challenges Veterans Have In Becoming Small Business Owners

It depends on the individuals.

First off, many have great advantages. After serving abroad, a little shortage of cash might not scare you as much. Patience may be developed, and the new business owner may have the stamina to put up with things the lifetime civilian is unprepared for.

But, there are disadvantages that can develop in some people.

Some vets get arrogant, and that kills them. They think they've already done it all, and forget how to listen or do research. Confidence is a great thing, and as long as it's under control, it's an advantage.

Others get paranoid, not realizing they are in the civilian world now, and a few pull through this, but it makes things more difficult. If they learn to harness this paranoia, they can use it be to cautious, and it can lead to success.

And then there are the general problems of coping with civilian life (or re-adjusting to anything.) But that's not only a vet's problem, and it's not unique to business either.

I think it's different for Gen X vets as well because they are the minority. At one time, almost everyone was a vet.

I think all in all, it's not a big problem. Just look at some examples and you'll see very successful vets in the world of business.

I suspect that a lack of 'chain of command' might be a problem. In the military you say to your troops "Take the hill guys"...and they say "Yessir!" and rush off to do it. In business you have to be able to persuade your team to do what you believe to be the right thing.

Also while the military does have rules of engagement, these are nowhere near as complicated as the legislation and regulation surounding trading.

Kenneth Larson, a SCORE mentor and vet, had offers this insight .....

"As a veteran who made the transition to which you are referring and as an industry professional who supports veterans in becoming business owners, I found there are two important types of business issue roles to consider. Military men and women do well in Role 1 below. They have the most challenges with Role 2.

ROLE 1. TECHNICAL - such as scientific, engineering, logistics, electronics, design and similar skill sets where direct supervision, team building, corporate policy compliance and human resource planning and utilization are not major factors.

VS.

ROLE 2 MANAGEMENT - in a process functional capacity responsible for hiring, evaluation, supervision, compliance with civilian law and department activities involving group dynamics, customer relations and sensitive human factors.

I came out of the military having had a leadership role in engineering, base development planning, and combat support. I served in war zones in South East Asia and on highly classified missions. I was not a manager. I was a military leader in specialized skill sets under Role 1 above.

I knew how to direct people who followed orders without question because the Uniform Code of Military Justice to which they swore an oath said the had to.

I felt uncomfortable in jobs involving Role 2 above because they were foreign to me. I later adjusted, learned the venue and became skilled as a manager in the corporate world. I preferred staff assignments, however for most of my career. The corporate world seemed enormously political and bureaucratic to a former war fighter like me. I was not that tactful, cut to the chase often and did not always take everyone with me when I made a decision.

Once I grew into a Role 2 performer, I found in interviewing, hiring, evaluating and managing young veterans and even seasoned ones who had retired and joined the civilian work force that almost all were better suited for Role 1. It took years and effort on my part to fit them into Role 2 and some never made it.

The principal reason for the logic I have conveyed is that the military environment may seem to be structured in a way that fits Role 2, but the specifics I have conveyed above do not turn out individuals who are suited in the knowledge and experience necessary and they are not very good at it without extensive training and adaptation.

In fairness to veterans and to our hopes for them in the future we must understand these distinctions, build on Role 1, understand the risk in Role 2 and assist wherever possible."

Thursday, October 25, 2012

How To Estimate Start-Up Expenses

To estimate your start-up costs, I suggest that you first evolve demographics for your anticipated customer base that allow you to develop a marketing plan from the customers you wish to reach with your product information. Demographics are generally available at web sites such as the US Census Bureau and resource centers at these links .....

U.S. Census Bureau

Resource Center

Seek information about individuals who are likely to buy your services, such as, location, economic needs, community conditions, and similar information that would allow you to gear a marketing plan toward a population of buyers you wish to impress.

When researching on web sites I recommend that you change your search key words. Here is a list of preface words that you should consider followed by words identifying your product when searching on Google or like sites:

** Financial Forecast
**Anticipated Revenue
** Future Market
**Sales and Revenue
**Market Coverage
**Industry Forecast
**Market Trends
**Market Data
**Forecast Data
**Outlook
**Others you may think of implying data and information in the past, present or future.

Sometimes the information doesn't jump right out of the page at you. You have to give some thought to how you are going to use the data and be willing to look at it at face value and think about potential underlying support it may be providing to your premises. You may have to change your focus from a technical one to a business one and elevate your view of information, then interpolate downward.

Consider downloading the following articles from the second, vertical, Box Net "References" cube in the left margin of the link below:

"How to Develop a Marketing Plan"

"Gathering Market Research"

Small To Feds

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Don’t’ Forget Your 401(k) as You Plan for the Year End

With just a couple of months remaining in 2012, it’s a great time to make sure you are getting the most out of your 401(k) plan. Maxing out a 401(k) or other employer-sponsored retirement plan has long been a staple of tax planning. Unlike IRAs, contributions to a 401(k) or 403(b) plan generally must be made by the end of the calendar year.

For 2012, the maximum you may designate to your 401(k), not including any matching contribution from your company, is $17,000. If you are age 50 and older, you can contribute an additional $5,500. The total contribution limit, including employer contributions, is $50,000.

Even if you don't max out your retirement plan to take advantage of the tax savings, you may want to review your retirement plan's asset allocation, investment options, and your contribution levels just to be sure that the plan fits in with your overall savings strategy. If you have employees, this is also an excellent time to remind them of the tax advantages associated with having a retirement plan.

Don’t have a 401(k)?
Consider starting a retirement plan before the end of the year. It will help your employees save for the future, help you attract and retain qualified workers and even gain significant tax advantages for your business and for those participating in the retirement savings plan. It’s relatively inexpensive to start a plan, and there are significant tax credits to offset the costs of establishing a workplace savings plan. A plan can be put in place in less than a week and will only require about an hour a month of on-line maintenance. And imagine how good you will feel knowing you wrapped up 2012 by taking a significant step toward ensuring you’ll have a secure retirement!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Federal Dollars For Small Business Shrank In 2011

"Small businesses received $6.4 billion fewer contracting dollars from federal agencies in fiscal 2011 than in the previous year, leading one lawmaker to call the numbers “abysmal.”

Small businesses received $91.5 billion in prime contracts last year, or 21.65 percent of federal contracting dollars. By contrast in fiscal 2010 they received $97.9 billion, or 22.7 percent of government dollars.

The annual government wide goal is 23 percent.

The Small Business Administration gave the government an overall grade of B, or 96.16 percent, for its efforts last year. A grade of A is for exceeding the set goal. A B is for achieving 90 percent to 99 percent.

Of the government’s four small-business segments, agencies failed to meet the goals for three:

Women-owned small companies received $16.8 billion last year, or 3.98 percent. In fiscal 2010, they received 4.04 percent. The goal is 5 percent.

Companies in economically depressed regions, known as Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZones), received $9.9 billion, or 2.35 percent, of federal dollars. In fiscal 2010, they received 2.77 percent. The goal is 3 percent.

Service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses received $11.2 billion, or 2.65 percent, of federal dollars. This was an increase in the amount of money awarded. In fiscal 2010, they received $10.8 billion, or 2.50 percent. Nevertheless, agencies failed to reach the 3-percent goal.

Agencies exceeded one goal – 5 percent for small, disadvantaged businesses, despite less money awarded overall. Small, disadvantaged businesses received $32.4 billion, or 7.67 percent of federal contracting dollars. In fiscal 2010, they received 7.95 percent of dollars.

The scorecard reflects the need for federal agencies to find ways to improve their small-business contracting, John Shoraka, associate administrator for government contracting and business development at SBA, wrote July 3 on the SBA blog."

Obama does not improve the above. The agency heads and the large corporations that serve them make it happen. They obviously need to be motivated by more than the POTUS.

from Washington Technology

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Definition Of A Successful Small Business

A successful business has the following characteristics.

It is one that...

-the owner is passionate about

-solves a huge problem for a large enough group of people

-for a good profit

-over a long time

-and most importantly allows the owner to live the lifestyle he/she DESIRES

-in a legal and honest way

And that for me definitely works out.

As Peter F. Drucker put it, the purpose of a business is to create new customers.

As Warren Buffet sees it, a great business is one that has a consumer monopoly, a strong track record of earning, has a healthy return on equity, has the ability to retain earnings, has a low cash to debt ratio, and the ability to increase prices during inflation without risk of losing customers or eroding margins.

Merge both opinions and that is my answer.

Per Ken Larson, A SCORE Mentor, a successful small business is one that ...

1. Does not promise what it cannot deliver

2. Does not overextend its resources and get a reputation for poor performance.

3. Does not tell the customer what he or she wants to hear. Tells them what they need to know and is respected for it.

4. Is prepared to provide information, samples and valuable service gratis as a marketing tool. Introduces itself and then immediately engages the client with presentation tools available to bring expertise to whatever topic interests the customer. Lets the client take them where they want to go with their concerns and their needs. Applies presentation tools and expertise dynamically on the fly in a sincere manner to those concerns and needs and as a result is in demand for follow up business.

5. Quotes and bills what the client can afford and grows with the customer (in content and resources).

6. Is dedicated to working itself out of a job with a specific customer and having the client take over by training him. Is remembered by that client, who recommends the business to 10 others.

7. Remembers that growth is a function of persistence and foresight. Knows where the market is headed and gets their first - then writes and speak about success indirectly by helping others. Demonstrates humility and a satisfaction in helping others succeed, whereupon the client finds ways to give the business credit. Knows there are ways of tooting a horn without making peoples' lights go out.

8. Word of mouth advertising from pleased clients is a sure ticket to success.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Executing A Successful Small Business Strategy

Strategic planning is an absolute necessity as an an innovation tool. Long term strategies are key, as well as agility in changing times, markets and economies.

I often recommend the article, "Are you Prepared to Succeed in Business" by Douglas H. Rogers, Jr., Winfield Akeley, Robert Edelson Content at the Biz Info Library. Here is an extract:

"In today's competitive market, small businesses must deal with new competitors, ever changing markets, price sensitivity, and cash flow issues — flying by the seat of your pants just doesn't work anymore. Do you desire to lead your business to growth and expansion?

Rapidly changing technologies, instantaneous worldwide communications, and strong customer preferences require rethinking of how we manage a business. Technologies that lead to product life cycles of 18 to 36 months, and the necessity to focus on true customer desires affect most businesses either directly or indirectly. In order to meet dynamic changes in business conditions and customer needs, an organization must be agile and responsive to these changes.

The long-term success of a business is dependent on its long-term strategies. It has been said that a company can overcome inefficient use of internal resources if its basic strategy is brilliant, but not likely to get by with the wrong strategies even with excellent production and distribution capabilities.

Past success formulas might not work in the future. Therefore, a company must periodically reexamine its situation as objectively as possible and determine the best course of action for the future in order to meet its goals and objectives."

The article provides further details and case studies in strategic vision and planning by successful firms. It it can be downloaded at no charge from the second, vertical, Box Net "References" cube at the link below.

SmallToFeds

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Innovative Solutions & Thinking For Small Business

Challenges come up all the time in business. And if not challenges out right crises. One either puts out the fire with a creative solution or goes down in flames and that is not an acceptable option in business.

Often there are split second decisions that have to be made or in other cases you are given more time. In split second decisions you go with your gut and all the experience you've accumulated in your life. That's inspiration. Longer term decisions give you time to think about more options or do some research and brainstorming.

Fostering innovative thought in your staff is crucial. How can you get there?

Open communication among employees who feel free to share their ideas in a non-heirarchal environment where everyone's job is as important as the next person's, the company is a team and we rely on each of us to do our jobs so that the system runs smoothly.

Giving autonomy to each employee to do their job to the best of their ability in their own way with the knowledge that everyone is dependent of them for their own success.

This fosters team effort without the usual subterfuge that often hinders smooth and successful operations. When someone sees a better way of doing something and has an idea that would help the company they are free to bring it up for discussion and their ideas are taken seriously in informal meetings. If it meets the approval of the majority and makes sense, it is implemented, if there are flaws in the logic or underlying reasons why it can't work, then we understand why it is shelved.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Is Success All About Passion?

After talking with many professionals in all different positions and industries, I realized that they all define success differently. Some measure it through income while others measure success by the time they spend with family.

Passion has a lot to do with why we do something- why we push ourselves out of our comfort zone to get that extra client, sale, meeting.

My recipe for success is:

1. passion- the seed that is planted in our minds and can only grow

2. smarts- not always book smarts but using your mind to dictate logical decisions and your heart to tell you when to walk away or take the leap

3. Drive to get you through the moments that you are struggling to get one sale and the motivation to keep pushing the boundaries of your business

4. networking- who you know and how can they help you get you where you need to be.

How you define success is the question.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Most Important Principle For Enhancing Productivity In The Digital Age

Selectivity.

Communications and expectations are two vital elements in achieving it.

To an extraordinary degree the age in which we live is requiring us to redefine selectivity and the degree to which communication and expectation contribute to it.

Consider simpler times a few years past (say 100). Selectivity was not so necessary in many venues as a means of survival on a day to day basis. We relied on others extensively for our well being from our local store to our banker, from the policeman to the politician. And we knew them all better, we could reach out and touch them and we were not viewing them in sound bites and web sites, nor were we being bombarded with multiple forms of input to digest about them.

Mass marketing and communications has created expectations beyond reality in venues from romance web sites to building wealth. We must come down to earth and become much more sophisticated in the manner with which we view all this input and sift it in a meaningful way. If we do not we run a high risk and that fact is inescapable.

To a very large degree this is a personal responsibility.

Never forget that its all about the people and what we do and how we communicate must be easily differentiable and understood by other people.....its easier to forget than you think.

The minute we do forget and start focusing too much on the tools is when things start to go astray, its that every busier, even more productive - yet results aren't happening trap.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Bank Loans For Small Business

Many small business borrowers have difficulties with banks because they think banks invest in businesses. Banks are lenders, not equity investors. Lending money to a small business is a much different proposition than investing in a small business.

In evaluating a loan request or investment opportunity, lenders and investors, respectively, attempt to identify potential risks and balance those risks against potential reward. The potential reward for a bank is the repayment of the loan plus the interest income earned. The potential reward for an investor is the selling price of their ownership interest. A bank is looking at an interest income potential equal to a fraction of the loan amount. An investor is looking at an investment income potential equal to a multiple of the investment amount.

Debt differs from equity investment in three significant ways:

1. Debt must be repaid; equity does not. A bank loan requires principal and interest payments in a timely and structured fashion.

2. Debt is normally collateralized; equity is not. A bank loan is frequently collateralized with business assets and, in many small business situations, supported with the personal guaranties of the owners and further collateralized with personal assets.

3. Debt holders are cushioned from losses by equity investment holders. Debt holders are paid prior to equity holders in the event of a business liquidation.

Many small business borrowers are looking to banks to be investors in their business. That is not the role they "intentionally" play which causes difficulties.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Online Small Business Results

You're a small business with an online presence...or you want to get your business online to capture all those customers and sales you're missing out on.

Of course... the bottom line for you is you want results.

Watch these two videos. They'll put you way ahead of the game.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

What To Think About As A Sweat Equity Partner

I have found an operating agreement is an absolute necessity for small enterprises, particularly LLC's with multiple members and similar partnerships.

The % of ownership can be determined by a financial contribution, or a donation of effort in the form of hours at zero cost to the company, carefully accounted at an agreed upon rate and yielding a resulting ownership share, or some other means of valuing an investment in the firm.

Yet a third factor to consider in specifying the ownership % is the long term role of each partner in the operation of the firm.

An operating agreement is a separate document, not controlled or required by the state or the federal government but very important to your company. It should be a simple, straightforward document you and your prospective partner(s) can draft yourselves, addressing such matters as % of ownership, how revenue will be distributed and other general matters, as well as who can commit the company in the form of credit cards, who signs checks on the company account and other administrative matters. Buying out a partner should also be covered as well as adding new members if the need arises down the road.

I have seen many enterprises fail or go through terrifically hard times due to lack of an operating agreement. The parties should sign it after a review by a lawyer. It should then be notarized and made an official part of the company file.

You can download a free, generic operating agreement with instructions from the second vertical Box Net cube in the left margin of the below site. You can feel free to borrow from the sample or supplement it as you see fit to make it your own. It is fairly comprehensive in order to cover most business situations and there may be elements of the example you feel are not necessary.

The role of the individual in the on-going operation of the company is a major factor to consider in the ownership equation as well as initial financial or labor contributions. The operating agreement process is the way to achieve equity and commitment among the parties.
 
SmallToFeds
 
Courtesy Of Kenneth Larson, SCORE Mentor

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

One of the Best Things you Can do for Your Employees – and for Yourself

Do you know most of us will live approximately 13 to 15 years past what has traditionally been considered retirement age? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says the average American male lives to 76 and the average American woman to 80. Experts estimate we’ll need 70 to 90 percent of our preretirement income to maintain our current standard of living when we stop working. And yet few of us are saving enough for retirement.

Part of the problem is that according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 72 percent of workers at small companies (companies with less than 100 employees) have no employer-sponsored retirement plan available to them. By starting a retirement savings plan, you will help your employees save for the future, help you attract and retain qualified employees and even gain significant tax advantages for your business and your employees. All while helping you secure your own retirement.

Starting a retirement savings plan can be relatively easy and inexpensive:
  • Today small businesses can offer a retirement plan for about what we pay per month for cable television – even if you have just a handful of employees.
  • Business owners can also take advantage of a tax credit for the costs of setting up a retirement plan. The credit equals 50 percent of the cost to set up and administer the plan up to a maximum of $500 per year for each of the first three years of the plan.
  • Employee contributions are deductible from the employer’s income and employee contributions (other than Roth contributions) are not taxed until distributed to the employee. Money in the plan grows tax-free.
  • A plan can be put in place in less than a week and will only require about an hour a month of on-line maintenance time. And you don’t have to set up an employee match unless you choose to do so.
Participation in a 401(k) plan continues to be one of the most efficient ways to help employees save for retirement. As you evaluate your company benefits this fall, it might just be time to consider a 401(k) plan for your business.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Mompreneur vs Professional Business Woman

Below are two different viewpoints on the difference between Mompreneur vs professional business woman.  Feel free to add your own thoughts as a comment .....

======================

Mumpreneur must be a British thing, as when I Googled it most of the sites were .uk. Never heard the term here in the states and I find it a bit derogatory. I've owned a recruiting business for over twenty-five years and prior to that was a free-lance graphic designer before taking a job as a recruiter. I was a single mom and worked from home, and I would have been horrified to be singled out as a mumpreneur. I was as viable a solopreneur or freelancer as any man with or without children, a Professional Woman with clients, deadlines, meetings, billings and taxes owed.

If one runs a legitimate business, whatever that business is, and it is successful, turns a profit, and pays taxes to the government, then you are a Professional Woman. If you run a Cottage Industry, you are still a business woman, but it's a smaller endeavor, selling more one of a kinds, or handmade items to a smaller audience. But that is a legitimate business too.

I take umbrage with that term. Are the many women on Etsy.com mumpreneurs? I doubt they would see themselves that way. And that is a highly successful international site with handmade goods from all over the world from small firms, individuals or companies that often work out their homes. They see themselves as businesses.

A Professional Woman is known by her code of ethics, business practices, decorum and the ability to deliver on time and within budget what she promises. Just like any Professional Man. They are one and the same.

Where did this term originate and who is using it? Distasteful to me. As a woman I would be embarrassed to say it out loud. Demeaning.

Courtesy of Cheryl Roshak

=======================

I think it depends on who you ask- My site is called "Mompreneur Mogul".

It's not derogatory. It's not degrading.

Anyone who is a mother knows that the term is a total gift. Period.

Some women flip out about it - I think that's silly. ( of course that is my opinion I know other women get upset if you call them mommy, or in this case mompreneur- I don't.

And as far a gender discrimination I don't see how it applies in any way.

To me a Mompreneur is obviously a mother and she is a professional woman.

Even if she never had a business just being a mom would make her professional. Anyone who is not a mom should try it for 24 hours. Most would come out crying. Moms are professional believe me.

As a matter of fact I think it's funny at times that people who have racked up degrees and are in high positions in companies ( some not all) look down on a mother. Funny if it wasn't for theirs they wouldn't even be in that company.

It's one of the most challenging most rewarding jobs on the planet. Nothing compares really.

I've performed on stage in front of 40,000 people. I shook the hands of Steve Wynn. Chuck Schwab, Michael McDonald, Larry The Cable Guy and others. I've toured the world and been in the company of the elite and the most poor- I've written a book, been on tv, run my blog and business and I love my business however being a mom beats it all.

Simply put a Mompreneur is a woman with a business who also has children and she is profesional.

Oh and there is no shame in my name ;) None whatsoever-

Courtesy of Lisa Cash Hanson

===========================

I think mumpreneurs are defined as mothers with children who run a business, usually from home and this business is often web-based, allowing flexibility for childcare arrangements. In my experience of it, mumpreneurs also often create products and services for pregnancy, babies, children and childcare once they see the need for it after going through these stages themselves.

A professional woman may have her own business, but she is less likely to be based at home with children within this business, having opened her own offices, salons or consulting rooms If she does not have her own business, she is likely to have a senior role in a government or publicly-listed company.

The overlap is that they both work incredibly hard!  And happen to be women.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Tips To Being A Successful Small Business

There are a variety of reasons whey small businesses fail. After working with hundreds of small business through the years here are a few that RISE TO THE TOP.

NO MARKETING PLAN

NO MARKETING CAMPAIGNS

NOT TESTING MARKETING EFFORTS

NOT MEASURING MARKETING EFFORTS

Too many business owners look at marketing as an EXPENSE when it's actually one of the best INVESTMENTS you can make for your business!

You can't open the doors of your business and expect customers to find you. I have seen businesses spend tens of thousands of dollars on a new retail location and/or to build a new shinny website and then EXPECT customers to find them. You can have the best website in the world but if no one knows about it or can't find it how will increase sales?

ATTENTION ALL BUSINESS OWNERS!

Marketing is ONLY a Expense if you are doing it incorrectly! Maintain active marketing campaigns and make sure you can MEASURE all of your marketing efforts. Don't just throw money at your marketing and think its going to work itself out. Test your marketing and advertising and measure everything. Large corporations can afford to throw money at marketing they can't measure but most small businesses can't afford this.

Successful businesses only risk a small amount in testing an idea with a high potential return .... e.g. adwords to get traffic to a squeeze page or survey .... then only do they create the product if the test indicates it is profitable else they fail quickly. They only take major risks like renting a shop or hiring staff when they have a proven idea that is cashflowing well.  Successful businesses plough 10% of turnover into building the business and another 10% into personal & professional development of manager & staff.


Most startups fail in year 1 by developing a product before discovering there is a market for it .... and taking large risks like opening a store for low returns (physical goods have a margin of 10-20%) or risking their home for a loan.

Year 2 taxation is the biggest killer of startups because employees are used to spending all their income once they have it.  But when switching to a business taxes are not due till the end of the year. Forgetting to pay themselves first (instead of last) compounds the issue.

Year 3 loss of focus causes problems because too many business owners use a business plan as just a tool to get money from friends, family & fools instead of as a working guide.

Year 4 + the biggest traps include failure to do what only you can do & delegate the rest resulting in burnout.

Business owners are outsiders in society because they have not accepted the social conditioning of working hard for others for 40+ years in the hope of getting a pension of less than half of what was not enough to support your life while working.   So they need a support network from successful business people.

A business plan is needed based on the owner's requirement for funding his desired lifestyle *10 ... to give the minimum target profit level of the business.

The successful people/businesses have different accounts and budgets for asset building 10%, education 10%, contribution 10%, play10%, long term saving (eg for new car) 5%, savings/debt reduction 5%, necessities 50%.  In other words, budget all your expenses, needs, and desires and stick to it.  

Above is not a "Does It All" recipe for business success but should at least give you a few tasty dishes to sic your teeth into.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Why Do Most Small Businesses Fail Within First 3-5 Years?

Statistics show that 8 out of 10 new businesses (i.e. 80 percent) fail within the first 3-5 years. Poor management, lack of planning, insufficient capital are few of the reasons.

Often they fail because the owners don't know anything about running a business.

They may be experts in the TYPE of business they have, e.g., a great chef may open a restaurant, a great athlete may open a sporting goods store, a great fashion designer may open a clothing store.

But they know nothing about running a BUSINESS.

I find that business owners don't make it because they:

--somehow think that passion will get them through everything,

--listen to people who have no right to give them advice,

--are too emotionally attached to their business,

--try to do everything themselves

-- they haven't yet moved from being self-employed to running a business -- because they don't know what they don't know.

Marketing wise, most don't understand that "less IS more, when it comes to creating an ideal client profile." They market to "everyone who breaths and make no one special.  And we as clients want to feel special.

The bottom line is that the principal reason for failure is ... 

Lack of a sound business plan. It is just as much for the business planner as for the investor.

What's the best measure to protect yourself?

Completing the business planning process will convince the most important individual that a viable business vision exists for the enterprise. That individual is the owner.

When the owner has completed a business plan, he or she will be able to pitch it with confidence to people who can help. It will be the road map to a business future that you can slide across the table to a banker, partner or investor. The owner can address it with verve because he or she owns it by having done it.

These links provide free tools and examples on business planning as well as free counselors to assist, worldwide.

How To Write A Business Plan
Sample Business Plans
Micromentor

Friday, September 14, 2012

Typical U.S. Government

This is hilarious....

A cowboy named Bud was overseeing his herd in a remote mountainous pasture in Montana when suddenly a brand-new BMW advanced toward him out of a cloud of dust.

The driver, a young man in a Brioni® suit, Gucci® shoes, RayBan® sunglasses and YSL® tie, leaned out the window and asked the cowboy, "If I tell you exactly how many cows and calves you have in your herd, will you give me a calf?"

Bud looks at the man, who obviously is a yuppie, then looks at his peacefully grazing herd and calmly answers, "Sure, why not?"

The yuppie parks his car, whips out his Dell® notebook computer, connects it to his Cingular RAZR V3® cell phone, and surfs to a NASA page onthe Internet, where he calls up a GPS satellite to get an exact fix on his location which he then feeds to another NASA satellite that scans the area in an ultra-high-resolution photo.

The young man then opens the digital photo in Adobe Photoshop® and exports it to an image processing facility in Hamburg, Germany ...

Within seconds, he receives an email on his Palm Pilot® that the image has been processed and the data stored. He then accesses an MS-SQL® database through an ODBC connected Excel® spreadsheet with email on his Blackberry® and, after a few minutes, receives a response.

Finally, he prints out a full-color, 150-page report on his hi-tech, miniaturized HP LaserJet® printer, turns to the cowboy and says, "You have exactly 1,586 cows and calves."

"That's right. Well, I guess you can take one of my calves," says Bud.

He watches the young man select one of the animals and looks on with amusement as the young man stuffs it into the trunk of his car.

Then Bud says to the young man, "Hey, if I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my calf?"

The young man thinks about it for a second and then says, "Okay, why not?"

"You're a Congressman for the U.S. Government", says Bud.

"Wow! That's correct," says the yuppie, "but how did you guess that?"

"No guessing required." answered the cowboy. "You showed up here even though nobody called you; you want to get paid for an answer I already knew, to a question I never asked. You used millions of dollars worth of equipment trying to show me how much smarter than me you are; and you don't know a thing about how working people make a living - or about cows, for that matter. This is a herd of sheep."

"Now give me back my dog."

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Technology Issues For Small Business....Wake Up!

You're having issues with the technology your small business has deployed and are wondering what could have gone wrong.

The tools are not the issue. Establishing processes that are efficient and then selecting to the tools is the challenge I encounter time and again with small business.

As a counselor I have noticed the symptoms of the technology monkey, particularly among the younger (Generation X and Y) entrepreneurs.

There seems to be a belief that automation, the Internet and social networking can make the business succeed when in fact the real design of the enterprise itself is lacking (niche, market base, business plan, competitive analysis and financial forecasting)

I hear from many clients who ask, "What Now?" having launched an enterprise that is going nowhere because they are driving the tools and not the car.

I take them back to the garage, design the auto to see if it can run and then apply the wrenches retroactively if that is possible. It is usually a traumatic experience and could have been avoided with strategic and business planning before launch.
 
Above courtesy of Kenneth Larson, SCORE Mentor

Monday, September 10, 2012

Entrepreneur vs Business Owner

They're almost two different animals. An entrepreneur has a heart to produce results with whatever creative challenges they have. I feel that a business owner is more profit based and has a head for business. I guess you could say it's a heart V. head thing.

Just my opinion, but in my mind this is how I see it:

Entrepreneur = visionary

Business Owner = does what needs to be done

I feel a business owner could be successful at something they don't necessarily love, whereas an Entrepreneur is always creating and pushing the boundaries

A. ENTREPRENEUR:

He or she possesses:

1. An Idea

2. A market niche

3. The desire to control individual destiny

4. The willingness to learn how to run an enterprise

5. Ability to work hard.

6. The desire to build unique entities that are individually their own

B. BUSINESS OWNER:

The person or persons registered on the Articles of Incorporation with the state as the rightful holders of employer and tax I.D. numbers for an enterprise when it is registered to become a business.

DIFFERENCE:

A may = B but not always.

There are silent partnerships, financing arrangements, operating agreements and other circumstances whereby the entrpreneurial drive behind an enterpirse is not vested in the owner.

Holding companies and similar corporate identities make owners removed from the entrpreneurial level and public companies sell stock making the stock holders owners in businesses.

Warren Buffet and Berkshire Hathaway's entrenrurial niche, in fact is finding entrpreneurs and good long term investments that pay off.

Most business owners start there businesses because they are very good at what they do! They run the business and are more technical in nature with a large leaning to opertional duties in the business as well as all getting involved in all aspects of the business from Admin, Accounts, HR, Strategice Development, Personal Dev, IT, Marketing and Sales etc

An entrepreneur is somebody who is "opportunity obsessed". He has the ability to take the opportunity, look for recources to exploit the opportunity and most imortantly if a team is needed an entrepreneur has the ability to identify people who compliment his weaknesses with the aim to build a profitable enterprise that can be sold or harvested for a capital gain. An etrepreneur will then seek out further ventures with similar aim.

Personally I think entrepreneurs and business owners represent two very different populations but there is some overlap (represented by an intersection if they were represented in a ven diagram).

The big differences I've seen can be summed as:

Business owners are focused on execution.
Entrepreneurship are focused on vision.

Additionally, entrepreneurship is a way of looking at the world that is more about creation, innovation, and (re)imagination and less about P&L and the operating aspects of running a business.

There are plenty of examples of entrepreneurs who have started successful businesses but rarely do they stick around once their vision has been realized.

Big companies are beginning to see the value which entrepreneurs can bring to a business and there is a big push in corporate America to foster Intraprenuership within big corporations. I think this trend will make great strides to blur the lines between the 2 further and make businesses more entrepreneurial.

I guess my final comment would be that even though the two may be different in all the ways mentioned, both of them need to imbue similar aspects into their journey to really succeed - Passion, Motivation, Know their North Star, Know Why they're on that Path, be able to Grow Professionally as well as Personally and so on. So they may be differently orientated, but still need the same impetus's in their own individualistic way.




Friday, September 7, 2012

Free Website For Your Small Business

Labor Day has come and gone in the USA and Canada. For these and many other parts of the world it's "Back To Work/School" season.

What better way to start a new season than by starting a new venture? The soon to launch 3-day SSFB-only Buy-One, Get-One FREE Special will help folks do just that!

Starting Friday, September 7th at 12PM ET visitors who "Like" SiteSell Facebook get a FREE SBI! with their purchase of SBI! at it's regular annual price ($299).

This means when you get one custom small business website from SBI .... you'll get another one FREE. Think of the possibilities for boosting your online efforts with two websites to work with ... for the price of one.

To take advantage of this amazing offer simply go to this Facebook site ...

SiteSell Facebook Page

After you get there "like" SSFB ... and then click through to the Special order page from Facebook.

Want to see what SBI can do for your online business efforts? Watch this ...

Get Results

This snappy video introduces the notion of RESULTS and PROOF - two critically important elements lacking in every other Web-building platform. They don't advertise proof and results because they doesn't exist.

Only SBI! has THAT kind of backup!

Consider this also. To be successful in business...truly successful...you need to innovate. Innovation is important to not just keep up with the Jones's, but to get ahead and stay ahead of them. With an SBI website you have innovation built in ... AND innovation is continually added at no cost to you! That continued innovation (at no extra cost for over 10 years), sets SBI apart.

To see what I mean check out these tools...all of which are built into every SBI set.

Website Innovation

Remember ... to take advantage of everything mentioned above AND MORE .... go here and "like" SBI, then click through to the special order page.

SiteSell Facebook Page

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Simple Tool To Manage Invoices And Billing...What To Look For

When looking for a tool to manage invoices and billing here's some simple guidance.

Think process first and then technology. Consider the projected future needs of your projects, what the customer demands in the way of invoice backup for services, rates and the like if you work on time and material jobs.

 Write a specification that details these needs and send it to tool vendors. Ask for competitive quotes and on-line demonstrations or trials if they are available. Select your tool carefully and let your specification drive the tool, not the other way around.

Remember:

1. An electronic computer software package is not a system. One cannot acquire a system by acquiring computer capability.

2. One acquires a system by conducting systems analysis, achieving a design and processes by working with the people who will run the system. This is hard work and time consuming. Processes are improved and made more efficient by modifying user behavior not by automating it.

3. Once system and analysis and system design are complete one chooses tools to assist in running the system. The adequacy of a computer tool is driven by the requirements of the most efficient system design.

4. The biggest mistake implementation teams make is to believe they are buying a system when they buy a software tool or let the software drive the systems analysis process. That is like asking a mechanic to drive a wrench from New York to St. Louis. It has resulted in millions of dollars wasted and plummeting efficiency in many organizations, large and small.

5. It is necessary to design a system and processes unique to the company to meet user requirements before going shopping for computer tools. If you do not you will be pigeon-holing your company into a COTS mentality and become a slave to the company that owns the source code. If you want anything changed it costs a big buck.
 
Depending on the size of your business, you could use either QuickBooks (Pro, Premier, Enterprise) or Sage 50 (formerly Peachtree, Complete, Premium, Quantum). Both have most of the small business market for accounting and they offer industry specific applications (Manufacturer, Contractor, profesional services firms, etc). They both allow for invoicing clients by email straight from the accounting software.

Monday, September 3, 2012

We DID Build That....The Truth Behind Why Obama Hates Business And America

There has been much said on Obama's statement "You Didn't Build That". Frankly I find his words very telling as to his character, understanding of business, and his suitability as our President. My reply always has been ..."We DID Build That!".

This video offers even more background on exactly why Obama hates business and America so much ... and just what kind of dangerous person actually occupies the White House (at least until November 2012). Whatch and listen closely ... it's VERY disturbing.

Outsourcing To India Or Anywhere...What To Consider

One of the things you need to consider is not just the nature of the work you're looking to outsource, but also the volume. There will be upfront costs both for you and a selected partner, so you have to be confident that you will have enough future revenue to justify the investment. You may want to start with the type of work that is currently your highest volume, so you can use it to sort out the logistics of doing work with your partner, then expand to other work types once you have the basic workflow sorted out.

Outsourcing to India, or anywhere, can be really great and at times really frustrating too.

Following are the things that you need to look out for:

1. History of the company / individual

2. Rate the company is offering (based on your budget)

3. Experience of the outsourced vendor to accomplish the specific desired work, etc.

It is always best to follow an organized process. Following is a simple sample process you could start with .....

1. Initial discussion

2. Project requirement analysis

3. Submission of Time and Cost estimates

4. Negotiations and iterations (estimations and team members)

5. Finalization and contract

6. Introduction of Team

During the development process get involved with regular communication (phone, email, written), team meetings (internat as well as joint via video conference), and a beta testing phase.  Don't just jump right into it.  Contact, communicate, test, verify, and make sure your expectations are clear and met.  I'd also suggest to include agreed upon penalities in any agreement in the unfortunate case of unmet deliverables or performance expectations.



Thursday, August 30, 2012

How To Incorporate A Small Business

The quickest and easiest way to incorporate a small business is using MyCorporation.com. There are many services like this, but I've friends who've used this one numerous times with no hitches whatsoever. They take care of all the paperwork and send it to you in a binder.

What you need to decide is what kind of corporation you want to set up. For a simple business, a Limited Liability Company is probably the best for a single owner. If you have partners, you may want to investigate a Limited Liability Partnership or an S-Corp. You probably want to shy away from a C-Corp strictly for taxation purposes unless you're planning something big like an IPO.

Here's a link to a comparison chart of the various incorporation entities ...

Incorporation Comparison

You should also read the book "Are You Ready To Incorporate?... Saving Time & Money Through Sound Business Tactics" to help you decide what to do about incorporating.

Book Description ....

The myth: Everyone knows that only big companies and rich people with lawyers incorporate!

The facts: The reality is that there are a variety of ways to incorporate which match whatever business or venture you are engaged in and incorporation is available to everyone who wants financial security and tax savings.

In this remarkable and comprehensive book, the Editors of Socrates provide everything you need to know about incorporation in a single volume dedicated to clarity, easy access to information, helpful hints, practical interview with experts and design principles to make information gathering simple and enjoyable. No other contemporary book contains so much – including the invaluable free CD provided with each book in which glossaries of terms, forms, checklists, special reports, interviews, discussion and more are provided.

Monday, August 27, 2012

How To Write A Business Proposal

Business Proposals are built to basically address 3 key purposes.

1. To attract Investment and potential investors.

2. To add talent to build / translate your business plan to action. For this you need to share your vision with energetic team members who can join you in attaining the objectives.

3. For self. You need to translate your thoughts to paper so that you are able to do a milestone check on the journey at various stages.

To get started you'll need to work through the following steps ...

1. Talk with somebody who has written several successful business proposals. Ask what worked and what didn't.

2. Outline a two-part proposal. The first part will describe the business opportunity and your plans to take advantage of it. The second will present financial data - tax returns, a balance sheet and a summary of your operating plan.

3. Write the proposal. Limit the first part to 10 pages. Make it concise and clear. When describing the market opportunity, cite sources.

4. Explain what makes you and your company different from competitors. Perhaps you have special skills and experiences. You might have a new technology. Talk about your achievements in the industry.

5. Describe the segment of the market you will pursue. Discuss what you will do to take market share away from competitors.

6. Identify prospective customers. Explain why you are targeting them.

7. Summarize your marketing plan. Offer details, but be brief.

8. Discuss any regulatory issues your company might have to deal with.

9. Identify the management team. Who are the top three people in the company? Give brief biographical sketches.

10. Describe your expectations regarding revenue and cash flow for the first year. Discuss how much money you think you will need to get started, how it will be used, and where you plan to obtain it.

I suggest you put together a power point slide presentation to use during any briefs and meetings where you'll be "selling" your proposal. Construct that presentation as follows ....

Slide 1: Mission Statement

This is the one liner of the company that describes what it's doing. It's best here if you relate to a past success.

What the Investor is Thinking: "Why should I be interested in this?"

Slide 2: Market

How big is it and how fast is it growing? That's what you want to convey.

What the Investor is thinking: "Can I build a billion dollar company?"

Slide 3: Problem

How big is the customer's problem that you are solving?

What the Investor is thinking: "How good will my gross margins be?"

Slide 4: Solution to the Problem

What is your company's unique solution?

What the Investor is thinking: "Why hasn't anybody done this before?"

Slide 5: Team

Who is the team, what is their past experience?

What the Investor is thinking: "Would I bet my childrens' future on this team?"

Slide 6: Technology

What's your technology and why is it defensible?

What the Investor is thinking: "How long will it take to deliver this technology? 1 year, or 5 years?

Slide 7: Customers

Who is buying the product and why?

What the Investor is thinking: "Does the value proposition hold water?"

Slide 8: PER CUSTOMER ECONOMICS

Slide 9: Go To Market Strategy

Slide 10: Milestones

Slide 11: Financials

Slide 12: Competition

Slide 13: Financing History

Slide 14: Why This Investor

Now you have a plan and raod map to put together a business plan that will work for you. The next step .... just do it!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Worst And Best Startup Ideas

Worst and best start-up ideas depends on the location and environment where you'll be starting the business. In any business initiative program, it is best that you first consider the location and the market personality before jumping into conclusion whether a business or start-up idea is worst or not. For example, if the location is populated by health buffs and health conscious individuals, then no matter how many magazines or reviews point out that exercise and workout studios is a no- no, it might just work in that area.

The key here is to conduct a market research and evaluation to determine the best possible business idea that would work or succeed in that particular type of environment. Now, let's say that you have a business idea in mind (e.x. high-end restaurants), you need to find or locate the market niche where this business would really flourish and develop patrons and loyal customers.

Like what I've said earlier, there is no specific "best or worst" business idea. Others might say that "this is a good business" this year, but after some years it would just go bankrupt and all. It is best that you stick with a business that you like and love doing. After that, everything else would follow.

That said ... Kenneth Larson, a volunteer counselor with SCORE and Micro Mentor the last 6 years, considers these the worst and best startup ideas in his experience....

WORST

** Franchises
** Exercise Studios
** High End Restaurants
** Travel Agencies
** Construction and Real Estate Related Enterprises

BEST

**On line administrative assistant
** Services to the elderly- transportation, errands etc
** Pet Care and Training Services
** Federal government contracting to tap stimulus funding coming through 123 federal agencies in almost every field of endeavor
** "GREEN " Environmental initiatives in almost every venue
** Maintenance, Repair and upkeep of foreclosed properties
** Non-profit organizations for community development chasing grants
** Self-Help Guides for Business
** Training on all aspects of small business Management
** On-line Books

Successful small businesses are developing enterprises in these fields through market research and business plans to deliver unique products and services - then pricing them and comparing them to the existing market, the competition and client demographics to determine feasibility before applying for financing and launching an enterprise.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Recommended Books On Entrepreneurship

Every business person should be a life long learner. keep recharging the tank and be open to learning new things. With that in mind here's a recommended list of books for entrepreneurs. It's by no means an all inclusive list so feel free to recommend your own by leaving a comment.

1)Technology Ventures: From Idea to Enterprise

2) The Startup Owner's Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company By Steve Blank, Bob Dorf

3) Entrepreneurship: An Innovator's Guide to Startups and Corporate Ventures by By Marc H. Meyer, Frederick G. Crane

4) What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20: A Crash Course on Making Your Place in the World By Tina Seeling

5) Trump University Entrepreneurship 101: How to Turn Your Idea into a Money Machine by Michael Gordon

6) The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber

7) The Millionaire Maker's Guide to Creating a Cash Machine for Life by Loral Langemeier

8) Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

9) "Effectual Entrepreneurship" by Stuart Read, Saras Sarasvathy, Nick Dew, Robert Wiltbank, Anne-Valérie Ohlsson

10) Great by Choice by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen

11) Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki

12) The E-Myth - Michael Gerber

13) 9 Lies That Are Holding Your Business Back...: And the Truth That Will Set It Free - Steve Chandler & Sam Beckford

14) EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches - Dave Ramsay

Thursday, August 16, 2012

What A New Entrepreneur Needs To Know

What follows EVERY new entrepreneur should take to heart and embrace before going so far down the road with their business that's there's no turning backl. Heck ... even old timres who may be struggling should soak up these insights. In fact anyone who considers themselves an "Entrepreneur" will benefit.

The biggest mistakes ...

1) You assume you know what folks want
2) You try to sell & you are not good at it or you hate it.
3) You fail to define/understand that being an expert doesn't assure connecting with & acquiring paying customers.

These missteps are preventable. You can, with a few easy steps & ways of thinking get your messaging right so it does connect with & gain customers.

Try these steps for doing that....

1.People do things for their reason's not yours

If you have not done the in depth homework to see how a target audience thinks, what it cares about, & how to link what you want to what they want so they say "Hey, thats me - lets talk" ... you probably will be disappointed in your results.

2. Its hard to hear folks with a background in messaging and connecting for getting results trying to tell you that. That's because your belief in your direction is so strong in you that you think everyone will agree & want to join in. You get blinded by that belief & it prevents you from being objective about how best to get followers & customers.

Even hearing the communication "experts" saying things like "folks just do not care about that" referring to your pet project, being so caught up in the value of your idea, you resist their expert advice. Its just too hard on you & your deep seeded beliefs, values to accept what they say.

3. You just can not wish things into reality. If the audience has or sees no real buy in reason that, to them, resonates and says "that's me - that's exactly what I need to do and I am doing it" ... your message & recruiting efforts will fail.

There's just too many "you need to do this" messages bombarding us so its critical that you do what is suggested in this step in the way you reach out to folks.

4. Looking at ourselves, our core traits and what we are really good at, we should see what we are good at & not good at and accept it. If we are not marketing types & we want our idea to connect, get the marketing type to figure out how to do that.

5. Its not ego, its pragmatism that should govern how you & your strengths and weaknesses are played out in trying to make something happen. "Why go it alone when you don't have to?" Why risk failure trying to do what you know you are not good at, especially something as important as gaining willing customers?.

This is especially true when you want to influence people, their thoughts, manage your messaging so you do gain traction for your idea or project amongst the many different types of audiences out there.

Knowing precisely how to do this with differing approaches that resonate with differing target audiences is how you get to "yes, that's exactly what I need and I want to do it" from the members of the target audiences you have identified as folks who could benefit from what you offer. If you are not good at that, be brutally honest & let someone who is great at that help you by doing that part for you.

Failure is a learning experience but you can, especially if you want to create active acceptance/participation in something, avoid failure if you can adopt the thinking of what's been suggested here in this post.

And remember this very simple but useful way of thinking as you try to go gain joiners, genuine prospects, customers...

1. "People do things for their reason's not yours"

2. "Imagine the prospect or target audience has a sign on their forehead that says so what!"

Living those two axioms when charting connecting, influencing, getting supporters, getting customers goes a long way to realizing success for gaining acceptance of your idea. It goes a long way for you in getting folks to participate and willingly join in with your "vision" &, for their reasons, not yours, make it theirs as well.

Courtesy of Neil Licht,Chief Advisor, HereWeAre, Growing your business group callhereweare@verizon.net

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Poor Richard's Almanac For Email Marketers

Ben Franklin wasn’t exactly a marketer; but he was many other things.

He was one of America’s founding fathers, and the dude sure was pithy with his business advice. So here we have some bits of his wisdom, passed down from his Poor Richard’s Almanacs and showing you how they can help you grow your business.

Here are our favorite Poor Richard-isms. Don’t market without them.

Poor Richard's Almanac for Email Marketers