Posts Tagged ‘Small Business’


Where Small Businesses Are Stuck in 2014

During the course of their career, every small business owner gets stuck. The key is to know where and how to get unstuck.

My annual survey of 5,000 small business owners identifies the problem areas. Here are a few excerpts:

  1. Treating their company like a job. The Survey: Over 40% of owners do whatever customers need in order to earn money for their business. This does not allow them to strategically ramp up a profitable business. The Solution: Don’t take every piece of work offered by a customer. Focus on what the company is good at and get more of that profitable business.
  2. The daily plan gets interrupted when entering the office. The Survey: 53% don’t have a plan for their day or it gets destroyed when the start work. The Solution: Before opening email, voice mail or social media, do two important tasks that will make the day productive.
  3. Stocksy_txpe7f75a0ezH4000_Small_41935They never take a break. The Survey: Over 50% said they are too busy to take a break and always have their phone near them. This is because they have a fear of getting left behind. The Solution: Find a daily place without a smartphone where personal batteries can be recharged and let creativity flow.
  4. They fear failure. The Survey: Over 40% said that failure is not an option. They fear it so much that they stop taking risks in their business. The Solution: Accept failure. Learn something. Let go of that failure and take another action to get to another success.
  5. They are afraid of selling. The Survey: 41% are either afraid of rejection or not sure how to build a relationship with a prospect. 59% said that they are too busy servicing existing customer to find new ones. The Solution: A company can’t really sell anything to anyone. They need to be there when customers are ready to buy by executing a daily systematic marketing plan.
  6. They stop marketing as soon as they have sales. The Survey: 58% only market their products when they do not have sales. They also believe their products are so superior that they do not need to market them at all! The Solution: Execute a systematic marketing plan through content marketing on a weekly basis.
  7. They don’t know how to use or have stopped with social media. The Survey: 54% either do not have a social media strategy or have stopped using it. The Solution: Social media is part of promotion. Use it to form relationships by providing help to customers, prospects and connectors.
  8. They let poor performing employees stay. The Survey: 53% never fire employees since it is too uncomfortable or they are too loyal. The Solution: Be slow to hire and quick to fire. Find the team that makes the company profitable. Fire anyone that does not add productively to the company.
  9. They don’t ask for help. The Survey: 44% never ask for help because they believe they have to figure it out on their own. Many others are unsure of who to ask for help. The Solution: Find a formal or informal group of advisors and mentors to answer pressing questions. Do not go it alone!
  10. They allow personal smartphone usage at work. The Survey: 74% do not monitor personal use of smartphones which can destroy company productivity. The Solution: Have a written policy that personal smartphones are not to be used during work except in emergencies.

Bonus: They rarely review their financial statements. The Survey: Over 20% never look at their financial statements because they are hard to understand. The Solution: Get trained to understand every line of the company’s financial statement. Review them monthly.

Tell me where you are stuck!


Work Your Biz Wednesday: How to Develop an App for your Small Business

Use the mobile web to develop your small business! Learn how with these 5 tips from The Small Biz Lady, Melinda Emerson.


Work Your Biz Wednesday: How to Build a Network to Grow your Small Business

Are you building your network and obtaining new referrals? Learn how with these 4 tips from The Small Biz Lady, Melinda Emerson.


Work Your Biz Wednesday: 5 Things Your Employees Need

Support your employees and develop a win-win relationship to help your business succeed. Learn how with this week's Work Your Biz Wednesday video from The Small Biz Lady, Melinda Emerson.


Work Your Biz Wednesday: 5 Ways to Make More Money in 2014

Make 2014 the best year ever for your small business! This week's Work Your Biz Wednesday with Melinda Emerson offers five tips to make your business more money in the upcoming year.


How to Take Advantage of Small Business Saturday

small-business-saturday1-e1320932175381Black Friday is always a difficult day for small business owners to compete with the hoopla around early morning discounts at big box retailers. The day after Black Friday has become a day to focus on shopping at small businesses. American Express started Small Business Saturday in 2010.

Here is how to take advantage this year on November 30, 2013 to drive customers to your company:

  1. Give $10 gift to each customer. Promote that American Express is offering a $10 credit to card members who register and use their card to shop at small businesses on that Saturday. Multiply this $10 when they use it at your company.
  2. Build a specific campaign leveraging this day and American Express’ brand. There are few times when a small business can tie their company directly to a national brand and promotion. This gives them the leverage of a large big box retailer. Build marketing offer specifically for this day. This can be exclusive pricing, bundles, free add ons or availability.
  3. Customized marketing material. Use free customized online ad cards, logos and other recognizable images provided by American Express.
  4. Social media starters. Use Twitter and Facebook templates available to help spread the word about your company leading up to this day. Use the #SmallBusinessSaturday hashtag on Twitter. If your business has never used social media, these templates are an excellent way to easily get started.
  5. Welcome mats. Free Small Business Saturday Welcome mats (literally) are available from American Express.  If you do not have a physical retail location, use the mats in creative pictures on Facebook or Pinterest.    
  6. Join a neighborhood circle. Get involved with local merchants to drive traffic to each others retail locations (or online sites). American Express will help you form this relationships. This is an excellent way to work with other local businesses that can extend well beyond this promotional day.
  7. Get on the map. American Express has built an interactive map to help their cardholders find and shop at small businesses. They are also giving their members an exclusive offer redeemable only at merchants that appear on the Small Business Saturday Map. Get found!

How will your business be promoting Small Business Saturday? 


How to Protect Your Business When Trust is a Must

Building-TrustWhen you own a business, working with other people is an absolute necessity, whether you are working with employees, outsourcing specific tasks, or hiring legal or other advisors and more. And working with other people means that you have to put your trust into other people, which can leave business owners very vulnerable to all kinds of violations of that trust- including fraud, theft, and even incompetence. So, with that in mind, here are 4 tips to help protect yourself and your business when working with other people:

1.  Get Everything in Writing

Many people are very trusting and want to take others at their word. But in the business world, verbal agreements can wreak havoc not only on your business, but also on the very partnerships that those agreements were formed between. So, I always advise getting everything that you can in writing. First off, a lot of people don’t listen very well. Secondly, individuals can interpret the same exact conversation in very different ways. And lastly, while most people have good intentions, let’s face it, there are a lot of scammers and delusional folks out there, too. So, having your conversation written down (especially in a legal contract of some kind if anything major is on the line) will clearly identify the parameters and expectations of that agreement and help prevent misunderstandings.  A lot of times, and especially in small businesses, agreements are entered into at the beginning of a partnership or work relationship when everything is going great, but eventually, an employee will quit or a service provider will flake. Having that written agreement will help keep everyone accountable at a minimum, and give you some avenue for recourse if someone isn’t holding up their end of the deal.

2. Know Everything That Goes on

Business owners often decide to work with those that they trust the most, from family members or lifelong friends to a close legal advisor or mentor. But the only person that is entirely vested in your own success is you, so it is of the utmost importance that you not only are aware of, but fully understand every aspect of your business. Make sure that you know what every employee is doing, what every contract is about and where every single cent is being spent.  Delegation is important, but as the business owner, you are ultimately the only one responsible for knowing everything that goes on. If you don’t, it leaves you very vulnerable to theft, legal action or even the unintended ramifications of incompetence from an employee or partner. We all want to think the best of others, especially if they are a trusted friend or family member, but unfortunately, there are all kinds of situations that can put your business (or even personal) assets in jeopardy. So, make sure that you understand every aspect of your business!

3. Have a Process for Accountability

Another great way to cover your bases, particularly when it comes to the financial aspects of your business, is to have two unassociated individuals sign-off on every major decision.  This includes anything from writing and cashing checks to signing off on contracts and purchase orders. And this also means that you should have a separate lawyer, a separate accountant, a separate agent, etc. all from different companies and that don’t know each other in any way. This process will help provide accountability to keep your best interests in mind, identify any problem areas or issues more quickly and prevent any conflicts of interest.

4. Know Who You are Really Dealing With

During interviews and first meetings, people do their best to impress and this can make it extra difficult for you to know who you are truly hiring or doing business with.  With the internet, doing thorough reference and background checks is easier than ever, so make sure to follow through. And you can learn a lot about who a company or individual truly is from their social media sites like FaceBook or Twitter. You can even run credit checks to make sure that before you enter into a business endeavor with someone, they aren’t in big financial trouble. This will help ease your mind about putting your business and trust into someone new.

Do you have another tip for trusting others in your business?  Please share it below.


What You Can Learn from the Big Business of College Admissions

college-applicationsThe process of applying to colleges is a lesson in effective marketing. Any parent who has applied to schools can marvel at the lengths that college admissions officers will go through to attract new students. Small businesses can learn a lot from how they market to their future consumers:

  1. Start early. Colleges start to tell students about their schools over a year before they need to apply and two years before they are ready to attend. They want to get on the student’s short list in their junior year in high school. Small business lesson: Attracting customers is all about creating relationships and being there when they are ready to buy. Every customer needs to know about how a business can help them long before they actually need them.
  2. Tell stories. Every school paints a wonderful picture for parents and students of what it will be like to attend their school. Small business lesson: Every business needs to tell prospects how good it will be once they solve their pain. Consumers still love to buy dreams.
  3. Sample the product. Colleges want students to sample their product. They do this is many ways. They set up special days to visit the schools or send representatives to the student’s high school. Most schools show models of dorm rooms because they can’t actually risk showing a real one. Small business lesson: Do not give spontaneous live product demos that don’t have predictable results.
  4. Give references. The colleges talk about their famous alumni and the successful people that have graduated from their school. They take full credit for their success. Small business lesson: All businesses need to attach themselves to well-known brands. If you have notable client references, use them prominently.
  5. Stay in touch. Students receive email, direct mail and phone calls almost every week from colleges. They even wish the prospective students “Happy Birthday”.  Small business lesson: Don’t worry about reaching out too often to prospective customers as long as the company is helping, not selling.
  6. Know where the profit is: The urban schools push living on campus and using their meal plan. This is because these two areas (housing and food) are their most profitable for any college. Small business lesson: Know where the company’s profit is and sell those to prospective customers.
  7. Address the elephant in the room: For colleges, it's the outrageous cost. The biggest objection for attending college is the money, so school address that head on. Small business lessons: Address the objection to buying a product up front and do not wait for the prospect to bring it up.
  8. Everyone and everything reflects the brand. Every interaction a prospect has at the school shapes their total experience. Small bushiness lesson: Understand that each time a customer or prospect comes in contact with a person, email, or website from a company, it adds or subtracts from that brand.

Best Practices: Buying a Business Phone System

Your company is looking to buy a new phone system and you aren’t sure where to start. I recently wrote about how to choose an online vendor for The Huffington Post, and will incorporate those tips (and add more) in this piece to help business executives looking to switch to a modern business phone service.

First, embrace the cloudguy-on-desk-phone

Gone are the days of traditional landline phone systems. Cloud-based solutions allow companies the flexibility to seamlessly forward calls to cell phones, integrate offices (without having to cross physical phone lines) and apply fixes instantaneously (no more waiting until a storm passes to get your phone service back up and running).

Establish your goals

What do you love and hate about your current phone system? What do you wish it included? Phone systems are critically important to business operations and, although it may seem like an internal problem to solve, your phone service is something that impacts all of your customers so it pays to dedicate time to choosing the right vendor for your business.

Sit down with your management team and draw up a wish list for your next phone service provider.

Research providers

There are many cloud-based phone service providers out there, so it is important to talk with your network and research the best service for your company. Try narrowing your search to two or three providers and then calling them individually. Discuss offerings with customer service agents and ask every question that comes into your head. Good customer service employees will not rush you through the call, even if you don’t intend on making a purchase.

Check references

When talking with a customer service agent, ask for the names and phone numbers of three or four clients with comparable businesses to your own. Prepare questions and ring each one. Ask technical and non-technical questions such as:

  • How long was your set up process with this vendor?
  • How is the customer service?
  • How reliable is the phone service? Could you give examples?
  • When you run into problems, how are they handled?
  • What service/package did your company purchase?

Go with your gut

After speaking with several vendors and hearing testimonials of like-minded small business owners, you will likely know which service to choose. Strongly weigh a company’s customer service practices, then go with your gut and move forward. 




 
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