Archive for July, 2013


The Importance of Financial Statement Management

See an overview of how to distinguish and manage your financial statements including your balance sheet, income statement and cash flow statement from author and consultant Barry Moltz.


Mondays with Mike: Working from a Home Office

Do you prefer to work from home sometimes? Follow these three tips from Mike Michalowicz, author of "The Pumpkin Plan" and "The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur", to ensure your day is as productive and professional as possible.


Marketing Method Mistakes- Don’t Base Your Marketing on the Movies

moviemarketingThere are all kinds of methods that businesses can employ when marketing and some can be very effective.  On the other hand, some remind me of bad, straight-to-DVD style movies in particular genres that you just can’t sit through all of the way. If your marketing methods are like any of these movie genres, you may find your business prospects on the cutting room floor:

The Action Movie- The Thrill of the Chase

If your blood, sweat and tears are focused solely on chasing down new customers, you are employing “The Action Movie” style marketing method. Here, all of your efforts and energy are spent trying to get the attention of potential clients or customers with loud, action packed fireworks, explosions and distractions. But once you have gotten their attention, you don’t really do anything with it.   All kinds of businesses use this method from major appliance companies to car companies- they’ll spend a ton of money chasing down new customers, but once that customer is sold, they don’t do anything to foster customer loyalty and retention.  If you get someone’s attention, do you make the sale?  And if you actually do make the sale, do you strive to have them keep coming back for more, making them feel valued and appreciated?  If you are all about the thrill of the chase, but have no follow-through, your marketing method is like an action movie gone wrong.

The Comedy- It’s all About the One-Liner

If you are just too clever for your own good with marketing focused on making the best jokes that you can think of, you are utilizing “The Comedy” style marketing method. With this strategy, you hope that your shrewd ad campaigns and humorous one-liners are enough to get potential customers or clients to purchase your goods or services.  How many times have you seen a funny commercial and told someone about it- only, when you are asked what company it was for, you have absolutely no recollection? Are you hyper-focused on punchy campaigns with little regard for what you are actually selling and what’s in it for your customers?  If so, you may initially get someone’s attention, but it will be difficult to convert them to actual paying customers and will do absolutely nothing in terms of establishing a viable, lasting relationship. If you are all about the funny one-liners, but do nothing to engender customer loyalty, your marketing method is like a bad comedy.

The Romantic Drama- Wham, Bam, Thank You, Ma’am

If you start off by wooing potential customers, initially promising them the moon and the stars and the sky, only to eventually leave them high and dry, you are using “The Romantic Drama” style marketing method.  With this method, your marketing efforts start with some incredible offer to entice new customers, but then- wham, bam, thank you, Ma’am- after the date is over, you move on to the next one. Businesses do this all of the time- they roll out the red carpet for new customers to get them in the door, but once the initial offer expires and that honey-moon period is over, they give that amazing offer to some other new customer and forget all about their existing customers. If you do this, you will lose your scorned customers, as their love will fizzle as quickly as your initial offering and they will leave you for another. If you are all about love at first sight but wind up taking your customers for granted, your marketing method is like a terrible romantic comedy.

The best marketing methods will allow you to have as many sequels as possible, so don’t make the mistake of being categorized in these movie genres.

Do you know any other “Movie Genre” style marketing methods that businesses should avoid?  Share below.


How to Get More Financial Credit for Your Business

The most successful small business owners know that sales are meaningless without the accompanying cash. Cash flow is the life blood of any growing business since all companies fail for the same reason: they run out of cash. Vendors only want to give credit to the company that can responsibly use it and has a track record of paying it back. Here is how to get the cash you need to run your business:

Measure the actual business cash flow.  Knowing how to read and monitor a cash flow statement is a critical skill for all small business owners. If you can’t read it, learn. The first step to having strong cash flow is to know what elements of the business affect it the most. Track changes in accounts payable, accounts receivable and inventory.

Use business or personal assets as collateral. Most lenders will lend more if the loan is secured by assets. This can be real estate, inventory or accounts receivables. Lenders will typically use 50- 80% of the value of these assets.

Earn longer terms on payables.It is important to build trust with vendors by not going past term, but negotiating for longer terms after a track record of a year has been established. Vendors appreciate a company asking, instead of just taking longer to pay.

cash-flow

Form a relationship with people at a bank before a loan is needed. People make loans to other people, not only businesses. Let them build trust with your business a year or more before actually needing a loan.

Find peer to peer loans. Companies like Prosper or Lending Club can be a source of loans through their websites. While interest rates are higher (8 – 35%) and amounts are lower (about $10,000), it is an alternate source of credit. Loans can be up to 3-5 years.

Ask friends and family. This is a very common, but dangerous source of credit. If you take a loan from a person close to you, sign a structured loan agreement so expectations on repayment and interest rates on clearly known up front. Detail the risk that the person providing the loan is taking.

How do you get additional credit for your business?

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Barry Moltz helps small business owners get unstuck. He is a motivational speaker, author and consultant. Barry can be found at www.barrymoltz.com


3 Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

A well-thought-out marketing strategy will attract clients to your business; a strategy with holes in it will allow customers to seep through the cracks. Here, Josh Turner, a marketing expert and founder of Linked University, a consulting firm that helps small businesses market on LinkedIn, offers his top three marketing mistakes to avoid.

Engaging in an empty social media campaign

You want your company to have a presence on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, so you sign up and start posting. You fail to regularly check comments on your updates, re-tweets and follows and then wonder why leads aren’t flooding into your inbox. Does this sound familiar?

“If this describes your social media practices, don’t worry because you are not alone,” says Turner. “I think a lot of companies are misled to believe that if they just get on social media, potential customers will come their way. That is simply not the case.”

Instead, Turner recommends small business owners develop a clear strategy linking social media marketing activities and sales outreach. As long as the two are working together (i.e. sales is alerted and follows up when a positive comment is left on Facebook, etc), success should follow.

Failing to add real value

Think back to your last client-facing email newsletter. What did it contain? Did it describe your latest and greatest products? Your company’s most recent awards received? Maybe your latest big client landed? While all of those pieces of information are important for internal use, they create an annoying, snooze-fest of a newsletter for clients.

“You don’t want to seem too promotional with your marketing,” says Turner. “You need to make sure that you are providing real value. Instead of pushing your brand all the time, try offering your clients a helpful white paper on their industry and other resources to help them do their jobs better.”

Creating a stark division between marketing and sales

Marketing and sales should not be viewed as separate functions, according to Turner. Instead, the two roles should be complementary.

“The most effective companies are those that use marketing to nurture suspects and sales to help make those suspects into prospects,” he says. “Don’t do different things in your marketing and sales departments and just wait for the phone to ring. Use those roles in tandem for the best results.”

Sales-and-Marketing

 


Can you Crowdsource Your Employee Reviews?

crowdsourcing-cartoonWith the collective power of the Internet, crowdsourcing is becoming the buzz word for this decade. This technique typically helps get services, ideas or money by soliciting contributions from a large number of people outside a company. It is most often used either for finding needed services for a small business (think Elance and Crowdspring or money (think Kickstarter or Prosper). But can a small business owner effectively crowdsource their own employee reviews? Is the “one way” review by a manager to an employee outdated way of evaluating performance?

In the book “The Crowdsourced Performance Review: How to Use The Power of Recognition to Transform Employee Performance," Eric Mosley shows why the current performance reviews for small business are broken and  how appraisals should now be done in a connected Internet age. He lists the following problems:

  1. The lack of timeliness of the review. Typically, they are done only once a year and may be out of sync with an employee’s current performance.
  2. In “360 degree” reviews, the input is often watered down to the point where it becomes generic. Eric believes that whenever people have to give an opinion, they become diplomatic in their responses which loses its effectiveness.

Eric suggests recognition inside and outside of a company through social media as the remedy. It is a huge asset for the entire company to evaluate and recognize any employee’s performance on a daily basis. He believes this is why culture has now become a competitive advantage especially for small business.

How can this be accomplished?

  1. Encourage employees to tweet, post and email comments daily about their work and the performance of their peers. While the more negative comments should probably be privately emailed, the tone of the social recognition is also valuable input.
  2. Solicit reviews of employee performance from customers and vendors on an ongoing basis. This should be an integral part of the feedback requested from them. Questions like “Is there an employee that particularly helped or hindered you?” are always helpful in getting these types of responses.
  3. Review all employees at least informally on a quarterly basis by collecting this social recognition and integrating it into an overall performance review.  

Do you think the annual performance review is outdated? How have you changed it inside your company?

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Barry Moltz helps get small business owners unstuck. He is the author of 4 small business books and is a motivational speaker and consultant. Barry can be found at www.barrymoltz.com.


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: 5 Steps for Creating a Mentoring Program for your Employees

Are you looking for a way to increase employee loyalty, develop your team’s skills and create bonds between workers? You can accomplish all of these goals and more by creating an employee mentoring program.

Mentoring creates a teaching/counseling relationship where one employee (the mentor) mentors another (the mentee) to help him or her develop professionally. Mentoring is used by many big corporations to develop leadership within the company, but can also be used more informally by small businesses to achieve the same goal. Both the mentor and the mentee benefit—mentees learn and get better at their jobs, and mentors feel valued and respected for passing on their knowledge.

So how can you get started? Follow these five steps.

  1. Identify mentors and mentees. Not everyone on your team needs a mentor. It is typically used for high-potential employees who you want to develop further. Assess who has the potential to be a manager or leader, and who could help them get to that point. Employee reviews and discussions with employees can be a good way to identify people who have mentor/mentee potential.
  2. Make it worth the mentor’s while. Mentoring takes time, so make sure the mentor receives more than just intangible benefits from the relationship. Some type of performance bonus might be appropriate, or you could offer rewards such as comp time off or even a salary increase.
  3. Set goals. You, the mentee and the mentor should work together to set goals for the mentee. Once you’ve identified general goals, let the mentor develop more specific intermediate goals and timelines.
  4. Plan ground rules. It’s easy for a mentoring program to drop by the wayside when people get busy, so develop a plan for how often mentors and mentees will meet and for how long. For instance, maybe they’ll meet once a month for an hour, but check in quickly every week to see how goals are progressing, or send regular emails. Holding mentees accountable is important to making a mentorship program succeed.
  5. Be a mentor yourself. Yes, you’re swamped, but if you want to really develop your next in command, make time to be a mentor yourself. It’s a great way to ensure your team develops to your satisfaction…plus, you’ll learn from the experience yourself. 

EmployeeMentoring


Mondays with Mike: Profit First

Money management is a huge concept to master when running your own small business! Enjoy these insightful tips from Mike Michalowicz, author of "The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur".


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: To Keep Customers Happy, Get Personal

Personalization is one of the top customer service trends identified by Forrester Research earlier this year for 2013. That should come as no surprise. Today’s customers don’t want to jump through hoops to receive good customer service; instead, they expect to be able to access customer service when they want, how they want—wherever they are.

Here are three facets of personalized customer service that Forrester identified. Incorporating all of them into your business will put your company will help you stand apart from your competition.

1. Offer different channel choices. Customers in all demographic categories still rely on voice communications as the primary customer service channel, Forrester says, but self-service channels like Websites and community forums or help guides, as well as digital options like chat and email, are quickly rising. Web self-service has risen by 12 percent, chat by 24 percent and community usage by 25 percent in the last three years. For best results, make sure you offer customers a range of choices for how to communicate with you, so they can reach out in the way that’s most comfortable for them.

2. Go mobile. While many companies are focused on mobile marketing and ecommerce, far fewer are thinking about how to provide customer service in a mobile format. But as customers increasingly move to mobile to research, seek and purchase products and services, it only stands to reason they’ll want to get customer service on a mobile device, too. Smart entrepreneurs will prepare by creating a mobile customer service experience that doesn't just duplicate their websites on a smaller scale, but offers the precise tools needed for the ways customers are likely to use mobile customer service. One mobile-friendly move is offering drop-down menus so customers don’t have to type a lot of words on their phones.

3. Get agile. In customer service terms, “agile” means customers can start a customer service interaction in one communication channel and finish it in another without a lot of hassle. Someone who emails your company to complain about a purchase that wasn’t delivered shouldn’t have to start from scratch when an agent contacts them by phone to follow up. In some ways, agility is easier for small businesses to achieve because of their small size, but in others, it’s more challenging because they may struggle to afford or implement the right solutions. Smart use of CRM software can ensure your business always has the data on customers’ past interactions and help make resolving prob




 
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