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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, January 30, 2012

The Most Important Values Driving Your Small Business

The most important part of your business should not be money, but your clients. If you get your client relationships right, the money will flow.

Here are my Guiding Principles:

I am professional in everything I do.
I value teamwork, collaboration, and mutual respect.

I will only engage with clients where I believe that I can add genuine value to their enterprise.

I am honest and open in all dealings and value long-term, trusting business relationships over short-term financial results.

The values most important to me are that my fees are reasonable (yes, I value my expertise and must also feel well compensated), that my service is exemplary, that my clients feel valued, supported and confident in my abilities, that I continue learning and providing my clients with the very best techniques and strategies, and that all my business is conducted in an honourable manner.

I choose these values as they reflect my personal values, and I would not conduct my business in any other manner. I am my business, and won't put my name in jeopardy. I also choose colleagues who are similar in their approach and often refer clients whose deadlines I cannot meet to these colleagues. It's the only way to work!

Who ever you are the most important values for your business should be ones that you as an individual will be happy to live up to. People buy people - so it's right saying "integrity" matters - this to me is not so much a value in its own right but the act of truly living your priority values.

I don't believe there is any such thing as a common set of "correct values" - any values can be perfect for any business as long as they are authentic.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

What To Ask Before Using Apple Products For Your Small Business

Some of the recurring questions I've seen others (and occasionally myself) ask over the years....

- Which contact management software should we use and how do we use it?

- Which project/task management software is best and how do we use it?

- Which email/scheduling software works best with MS Exchange and other PC users?

- How do we/share sync calendars, documents, etc. between iPhone, iPad, Mac, and PC?

- How well does Parallels or VMWare Fusion work for our needs and should we use it?

- What are the differences between MS Office for Mac and MS Office for PC?

- What are the differences between Apple iWork and MS Office for PC? Compatible?

- What software should we use to create our newsletter and other in-house marketing collateral?

- How can we ensure a smooth transition from Windows to Mac?

- How much "horsepower" (hardware) do we need to buy?

- How do we integrate all our software with mobile devices (iPhone, iPad, Mac)?

- Will Apple Safari work with our corporate intranet?

As I'm sure you realize, you'll get a variety of answers depending on the industry a user is in.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Small Business Marketing Tip .... Not What You Think

Don't market! Most companies have marketing budgets but few have customer rétention budgets. Focus on what makes your company unique. Be real. Here is a snippet from a blog by Marc Reece .....

Don’t just tell me how important I am to you in your messaging, show me! If customer service is truly your number one priority, make sure that your actions match your printed word and mission statement.

Nothing shows more disrespect and gets me more fired up than listening to a recording stating how important my business is to you so please hold for the next available customer service agent.

My time is as valuable to me as my business is to you, remember that! I want you to remember that everyday you are open for business, you are open for a reason and a purpose.

That reason and purpose is me, remember that!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tips For Generating Leads From LinkedIn

The bottom line is that you need to operate on LinkedIn as you would in the real world. Think of LinkedIn as just a business after hours ... one that has millions of people, goes 24-7, and allows you to learn about prospects before you connect. So do the same. Connect with new people. Reconnect with those you already know. But in all cases, find ways to help others. If you do those things (and are patient ... which is key), things will come your way.

To be more specific ......

1) Really understand who your target market is, so you can recognise them when you find them.

2) Really understand what it is you are offering to your target market - in terms of benefits, not features, so that they can recognise you when they find you.

3) Make yourself 'findable' by your target market:

a) Ensure your profile reflects both of these - who you are, what you are about, what you are offering and who you want to work with - with all the technical details Sian gives - keywords, call to action etc.

b) Participate honestly and fully in groups where you are likely to 'meet' your target market, or they are likely to 'meet' you.

3) Go looking for leads yourself. If you really know who you are looking for, and you are confident in what you can offer them, then use LinkedIn search capabilities to find leads for yourself.

Search for companies, find people you know at that company (or who know people you know - this is why you connect with people you 'don't know'), Find the groups they belong to. Make contact, start proper and honest conversations, send them a direct message.

If you show that you are really caring about your prospect and not just spamming them, then this will pay off.

Of course all of this takes effort and more importantly time .... so take the time to get it right.

Monday, January 16, 2012

What Does The American Dream Mean To You?

Freedom and opportunity to use my talents and skills to provide for myself and my family the basic necessities and comforts that lead to personal happiness.

I think this is best achieved for everyone by this country supporting the goals set out in the Preamble to the Constitution: We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity...

When we work together for liberty, when justice serves all of us, when we are safe from corruption and oppression, and supportive of each others' welfare, then we provide each other an opportunity to pursue and achieve the American Dream.

How about you???

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Why is social media important to my business

A couple of statistics are key to understand why online social media are critical for your business:

* 78% of consumers trust peer recommendations
* Only 14% trust ads

If you can establish yourself in the right social media and you have a strategy for 


generating positive reviews and ratings, you can dominate your market.


Your presence in social media, like your own YouTube channel or Facebook business page, establishes your business as a social authority

It engages your prospects and customers on their "turf", instead of having to drive them to your Website to establish a relationship

You can communicate with them regularly and offer deals and specials as part of an ongoing conversation, instead of an occasional intrusion. It also personalizes your business and makes it more likeable.

Request information about our Social Media Power Cluster service and how it can help your business get established, and dominating online. Contact us

We also offer $100 gift certificates for new managed adwords accounts.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Benefits Of Cloud Technology For Small Business

Small business is riding the cloud to cost effective operations.

All the fascination about terminal hardware applications will be over in the near future. The "Cloud" and SAS will rock the hardware and software world and make access to technology easier for vast populations. Devices to do so will cost pennies on the current dollar or the will be free.

Like the PC makers, the sun is already setting on cell phone devices, associated applications, OTS packaged software and related products. Even though these products are enjoying current popularity They are expensive and will be rapidly overtaken by tight economics and services competition.

Smart,strategic planners are pointing to the future and it is not a hardware and licensed software market - it is service oriented with low cost access and rates. Volume, free products, advertising and shareware will drive it all.

Possible exceptions for a bit longer period of time are the high-end hardware and software technologies in government contracting, which for security reasons must be cloistered, protected and safeguarded. Your friendly government agency will be the last to boot its PC out the window.

I pack 5G of storage on flash drives in my wallet and work on around 11 different computers from the public library to client locations, coffee shops and meeting places each day.

Someone else has to worry about the hardware that way and the server farms of the foundations I support maintain all my case records.

I have budgeted about $9 for a backup flash drive. Google charges me $10 a year for the web site domain where I maintain my books, articles and reference materials for clients. Box Net and Linked In are free web-based repositories.

Total projected expenditure for 2012, serving a projected 1200 clients based on my history the last 6 years and publishing a new book - under $30; could not be simpler.

Courtesy of Kenneth Larson

Monday, January 9, 2012

Small Business Consulting .... How To Be A Great Success Coach

The thing is, it's about what you CAN help the business do. Most people ARE risk averse and especially during times like these, they're not willing to go out on a limb to try something completely new or trust the advice of someone with whom they have no rapport. Does running scared in business often mean that people leave money on the table or that they operate in an inefficient manner or that they're not optimizing different aspects of their business? You betcha. But what they're doing is what makes them feel safe and comfortable.

You have to understand that as the underlying need first and alleviate that which people fear before they can take the next step. Take a really hard customer-centric look at your business and your offerings. Are you framing your offering in such a way that it appeals to the new recession-minded entrepreneur? Are you fulfilling a need that they have? If not, can you re-align your business so that it can?

You may want to look at the challenges that small businesses (especially in start up) are facing and present your services in a way that addresses those challenges.

The challenges that come to mind are:

1. Money. Many small businesses and start ups don't have the money to hire a consultant, even if they wanted to. You may be able to overcome this obstacle by guaranteeing results, a commission structure, or deferring payment until the client's business reaches some milestone (revenue, number of customers, etc.)

2. Lack of knowledge. The people that you are trying to help may not know that they need help. Three approaches that might help with this issue are creating a valuable newsletter that goes to target customers, writing articles for local newspapers or newspapers that your target customers read, and speaking to business organizations or teaching relevant classes through a community college or other local organization.

3. Uncertainty about whether you can help them. Every day, small business owners are approached by consultants telling them what they should be doing, shouldn't be doing, and promising solutions that sound or are "too good to be true." To overcome this issue, consultants need to have credibility. This might be done by building a reputation (perhaps using the approaches identified in point 2, above) or by guaranteeing results in a way that creates customer confidence.

4. Competition. Many community colleges and other local resources (RSVP, for example) offer help to start ups and small businesses at very low rates. Can you compete on price, or do you offer some sort of guarantee or additional support that the other options don't provide?

You have to identify what they need and then sell to what they want.

For example if someone says I need more money, sell them a solution that will provide them more freedom. Remember people don't pursue money but they pursue the options that money provides.

See if you can slightly alter your mindset about prospecting and selling. Start by embracing the reality that need and want are in the prospect's mind. Rather than pushing on that river, look for prospects who are (a) open to evaluating the POSSIBILITY your services would have value and then (b) do indeed have want and need for what you offer.

See the development of rapport as something that occurs as you have those sales and other conversations. (Not some sort of emotional bond.)

Create a list of questions to use to uncover a prospect's POSSIBLE need and want for your services. Include questions that help uncover whether the issues of fear, etc. are something to explore or not. However, most questions should help uncover very practical want and need. Those are the things far more people will be willing to talk about.

When you uncover need and want, offer services using consultative-type phrases like, "...may have value." Use benefit statements that loop back to what the prospect him or herself said. Very gently add other issues, or leave them off the table for now.

After describing services, ASK for the business.

I am sure you have lots to offer. All of the above can help open more doors and I hope you find it useful.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

What’s the benefit of using paid online services like Adwords


 



Paid online advertising like Google Adwords (also known as pay-per-click advertising) can enhance your overall online marketing program but you shouldn’t rely on it exclusively.


 


Before you go spending money though, get an online marketing expert to help you research the best keywords to focus on for your ads.


 


Google Adwords Express is another option that works best for the local main street business.


 


Also, you should consider using Facebook ads, especially if you have a business page set up on


Facebook. You can target specific locations, demographics, likes, etc. on Facebook that you can’t in other online paid ad services.


 


Let us help you determine the best, most affordable way to integrate paid advertising into your online marketing plan. Contact us


 


We also offer $100 gift certificates for new adwords accounts.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Huffington Post published the 2012 Online Reputation Checklist - Do you know where you stack up?

telescope small Here’s their 2012 Online Reputation Checklist. How do you stack up?

The new year presents many challenges and opportunities for reputation-observers. If a fortune cookie that could actually tell the future were handed to me this coming New Year's Eve, I'd expect it to reveal the following:

1. Reputation's inflection point is here.Reputation will always continue to matter but for reasons that are less financially-based than in the past. As Geoff Colvin, Fortune's senior editor said, "Previous major scandals were mostly financial; the numbers were lies. Not this time. The damage so far derives entirely from behavior...." How companies behave, act and respond will impact reputations this year more than quarterly numbers. The kind of company behavior that will matter most will, of course, be how leaders manage crises. It will matter even more than the actual crisis itself. Just think about BP's Gulf of Mexico oil spill or News Corp.'s phone hacking scandal.

2. Reputation whisperers will outshout traditional channels. Reputations will increasingly be established through customer reviews online, not just through family and friends. These reputation-makers will quietly pass along positive and negative reviews about products and services that will make and break reputations with increasingly greater impact.

3. Reputation blackmail will rear its ugly head. We will hear more in the coming year about threats to reveal private e-mails unless people disclose corporate secrets such as confidential information or network security codes. Reputations of the vulnerable will increasingly become the bargaining chips of the malcontents.

4. Reputation defense goes to the movies. Increasingly, both companies and activists will turn to video, documentaries and even movies to further their goals. Companies will increasingly hire well-known film makers to educate their employees about either corporate culture or a reputation-changing incident in their history. Activists too will increasingly take to the silver screen, video-sharing or social media sites in an attempt to promote change.

5. Forget internal versus external. Reputation goes holistic. Many Fortune 500 companies hire different professionals to handle either internal or external communications. The distinction between the two is practically artificial. What is said internally to employees is now instantly external. What is said externally to the public is now instantly internal.

6. Reputation fixers will be in great demand. Companies as well as individuals are increasingly hiring firms to help cleanse damaged or dinged reputations. The surge in online reputation firms and the number of firms with online defense in their names mounts daily. Even the medical profession has joined the trend. Reputation.com, for example, services medical professionals who want to know what their patients might be saying online about them and their bedside manner.

7. Reputation rankings are not letting up. With the race for reputation red hot and the crush of information tiring us all out, people need fewer choices. Top 10 lists made our lives simpler. They served as filters that let the so-called best product or most reputable company rise to the top. But being among the top 10 is no longer good enough. In the coming year, being among the top three is where companies must be if they want to get on customers' consideration lists.

8. Social contributes to reputation. In our recent research, we learned that nearly one third of a company's reputation is attributable to the quality of its online presence. Perception that a company is interested in communicating and engaging online adds a favorable dimension to how people perceive reputation. Lack of online presence sends a signal that a company's preference is to be anti-social. Business will turn increasingly and impressively social, for sure.

9. Brand and reputation will continue to merge. Companies will increasingly realize that their corporate or enterprise reputations provide credible assurance to consumers that their products are desirable and safe to purchase. As consumers find it easier to learn about a product's lineage, the parent brand or family name will be more critical in the purchase-decision process.

10. Face to Face becomes the precious commodity. As the entire world increasingly interacts online, face to face communications, particularly among CEOs and top executives, will build relationships like never before. Going out of one's way to meet one-on-one will evidence the importance of discussion. It will become the gold standard in building reputations. The more that CEOs engage in person with employees, customers, legislators, investors and top tier media, the more credibility that they will be able to accumulate and the more that they will be able to minimize reputation loss when setbacks inevitably occur.

11. CEOs will be more social. Expect to see more CEOs use video for their websites and corporate YouTube channels. They might not be on Twitter or Facebook, but an increasing number of CEOs will adopt video to humanize their reputations. They will recognize that being social, like the rest of humanity, is a reputation plus.

12. Inoculate or evaporate. Leaders must and will increasingly employ all the resources they have at their disposal to inoculate themselves against crisis or issues that shatter their reputations. They must admit mistakes, build allies, listen to detractors, create great cultures and protect themselves from reputation antagonists that lurk in the shadows. Building a great reputation is not for the faint-hearted.

Learn More about Yours and Your Business online reputation

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Fear Of Risk Can Hurt Your Small Business Growth

So many people have the opportunity to run their own business, but they are so involved in DOING that they don't take the time to learn how to be a manager as well. The risk of NOT continuing learning and trying new things will mean that they will not have a successful business, but will close their doors without gaining their dream.

If they see the value and open themselves to the possibilities, they gain the ability to grow, expand and flourish. Unfortunately, the environment today biz is one so heavily hit by the recession that people are afraid to step out of their comfort zone and accept the benefits offered through programs such as training/education, networking, masterminding and more.

Hey, not every one is P.T. Barnum...networking doesn't just happen for most.

Small business is as close to a personal experience that a consumer can get today. All this mega conglomerates just takes the "people" out of the picture and make it about profit.

Small business has a unique opportunity to gain and share personal experiences that some people are paying top dollar just to experience again.

You can lead a horse to water...and so on.

But to enable, empower a small business person you kind of have to show them what their vision of success could be and allow them to naturally gravitate to it.

I often get asked. “What is the major cause of failure in business?” The main reason for failure in any business, or in life for that matter, is that people are afraid.

But my question is: afraid of what? Afraid of success? Afraid of failure? To me the greatest failure is not taking action to change.

The only real conflict any of us have is self-conflict…we have conflict with our own comfort zone…our own fears and doubts. That’s the only thing that stops us.

Having the courage to take action…to step out of your comfort zone…or letting fear run your life…well, I suppose that’s the battle we all face in one way or another.

And I think often times the skeptic inside asks other skeptics what to do, and we get talked out of our freedom by someone who isn’t free!

The number one component of being successful in any business, is to investigate possible opportunities, make a decision, take action and then let go of the need to control the outcome.

Bottom line .... be bold not fearful.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Importance Of A Business Plan

Having volunteered with SCORE and Micro Mentor in this venue for several years, I am convinced that the value of a business plan as a means to assess and manage risk is the principal answer to "how to be successful".

I urge small business to test the water, and try out the business model before launch by taking it through the proof of concept offered at the links below.

I have heard many critical of business planning say that it is cosmetic, drives more work than it is worth in terms of obtaining financing and similar commentaries.

The fact remains that among the 5,000 plus cases I have handled in the last 7 years the vast majority of those who plan succeed and many who fail to plan do not.

I ask the simple question, "How are you going to do it if you cannot plan it?"

I have not met many small business owners who have enjoyed the business planning process in answering my question but I have not met any who have regretted it once they have completed their plan.

This is especially true when the plan yielded a road map they had confidence in, a communicative vehicle to slide with confidence across the table to a banker or an investor and a risk reduction process of genuine value.

Writing A Business Plan

Sample Business Plans

Courtesy Of Kenneth Larson