Posts Tagged ‘Small Business’

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. 

How to Measure the Lifetime Value of Customer

Smart small businesses don’t just focus on the initial transaction with a customer. They look at the potential profit that a particular customer can bring to the company over the next few years. For example, a bank doesn’t just earn interest on a customer’s money, but can make additional profit from overdraft fees, check printing, money orders, and home loans. This is why so many companies incent customers to switch their business in an effort to profit from them in the long term.


It is also critical not to value a customer just based on their individual purchases with the company. Here are 6 other areas every small business should consider:

  1. Revenue minus cost. Too many times, small businesses only look at the top line sales number when evaluating the customer and forget abut the cost of actually servicing them. Why it’s important. Remember that sales is vanity and profit is sanity. If a customer costs more than their revenue to service, that customer is actually costing the company money. It would make more sense to have them do business with a competitor!
  2. Revenue timing. Some companies are very busy in December and can’t fill all of their orders. Why it’s important. A customer that orders during the non-peak month of January could be worth more for that company since business is slow.
  3. The customer’s brand. Is the customer a famous person or an expert in the industry that can add credibility to your company? Why this is important. It is valuable for small businesses to depend on the credibility and reputation of more famous brands. The fact is that if your company does business with Apple, more customers will buy from you.
  4. Referrals and buzz. Does the customer refer other customers or talk about you in social media? Why this is important. Customers now believe other customer reviews more than advertising. This will increase company credibility and sales.
  5. Retention. How long does the customer remain with your company? Why this is important. It is of course more profitable to sell to an existing customer than a new one because there is less of a marketing expense.
  6. Feedback. Does the customer give valuable feedback on your product of service? Why this is important. Most customers will never give the company any positive or negative feedback. This is incredible important in targeting the right customer with the right product.

How does your company measure the lifetime value of a customer?


Barry Moltz gets small businesses unstuck. He is a small business motivational speaker, writer, and radio host. Barry can be found at

Creating a Customer Service Manifesto for Your Company

A customer service manifesto for every small business serves two purposes. It gives every employee a standard to which they can strive to meet and a roadmap to adhere to while interacting with each customer. It further sets customer expectations through a public declaration. If the company does not set expectations for customers, they will set their own!

Any manager can start formulating their manifesto by asking three questions:

  1. What would you want as your own customer?
  2. What is the most important things my customers expect from the company?
  3. What do I like or hate that other businesses offer as their customer?

A customer service manifesto for your company should publicly include these elements:

1. We will deliver on what we promised. Don’t make promises that you can’t keep. You also need to ensure that you can keep this promise and still make a profit. Promises that loose money over the long term typically fade.

2. If you are dissatisfied with our product or service, we will listen attentively to all your concerns. You may not always be able to solve them, but you promise to always listen to them.

3. When things go wrong, we will be easy to reach in an economically feasible manner. One of the biggest frustrations for any customer is to have an issue and not be able to talk to a live person through the telephone or web chat.

4. We will resolve your issues in a reasonable manner or give you a refund. Never be stingy with refunds. In the long run, it is many times the least expensive alternative and it totally disarms customer complaints.

5. We will admit when we made a mistake. It’s the magic words all customers want to hear: “We made a mistake”. These words are a salve for any issue.

6. We will empower our employees to solve your issue at the point it occurs. Companies must give employees the power to solve exceptional situations with customers and not always pass it to a manager.

7. We will make it easy to end our business relationship. Too many companies force a customer to get on the phone with the business in order to end the relationship. Make it easy for a customer to leave and they have more of a chance of actually returning.

8. We will not charge separate nuisance fees or surcharges. There is nothing that gets customers more upset than added surcharges. Price products and services profitably so extras can freely be added to a customer’s purchase.

9. When we decide to change something in our agreement (raise or lower our prices, alter our hours, drop or add a product), we will tell you in advance in a very public way. Changes should never come as a surprise to customers if trust is to be maintained.

10. We will not fill your e-mail with marketing material you don’t want to see. We will make it easy for you to opt in or out of information that we send. Ask the customer how and when they want to be communicated with and never ever sell their contact information.

What should be in your customer service manifesto?


Barry Moltz gets small businesses unstuck. He is a small business motivational speaker, writer, and radio host. Barry can be found at

5 Essential Skills to Hire For Customer Service

It’s always one of the most critical questions in any business. Do you hire based on specific skills or the candidate’s attitude and company culture fit?

When hiring for any customer service position, attitude is everything. Only an employee with the right attitude can come to work every day and truly help the customer service effort. In a survey, American Express revealed that the most successful customer service people have experience in the hospitality area (hotels, restaurant, and tourism). This type of industry experience encourages employees to build deeper relationships with customers. 

Most customers that call with a problem or question realize it may not be solved immediately. As a result, actual problem solving skills are not high on the hiring list. Instead, here are the skills that will enable employees to give the customers exactly what they really need for them to remain loyal to a company:

1. Courtesy. Throughout hundreds of individual calls and interactions with customers, can the employee remain courteous to each customer? The caller (emailer or social media poster) doesn’t care how many other customers the rep dealt with or if they are having a bad day. Can the employee set all this aside and treat this customer with the courtesy they deserve?

2. Focus. Does the employee have a proven ability to focus on a single task and follow it through to the end? Many customers complain that they constantly get passed around a company and have to explain an issue over and over again. When surveyed, this is always a very sore point for customers.

3. Empathy. Can the employee put themselves in the customer’s shoes even if they think they are wrong? Can they truly say, “I understand how you can see things that way”. When calling a company, empathy is what customers truly want in order to be satisfied.

4. Calm. Can the employee keep calm even when the customer gets angry and begins to shout? Many people have a tendency to mirror the other person’s reaction and ratchet up the emotion. This never leads to effective customer service. 

5. Improvise. Can they improvise and not just be robotic by following a script and standard practices? Can they recognize when an exception to the rules needs to be made? Can they see the bigger profit picture and offer what is best for the customer and the company?

At the interview, it is important to actually test for these skills through work simulations before an employee is hired for customer service. Are they able to remain courteous, focused and calm in the tested situation? Do they always show empathy in their responses?  Are they able to improvise?

Which skills does your company value in customer service?


Barry Moltz gets small businesses unstuck. He is a small business motivational speaker, writer, and radio host. Barry can be found at

Nextiva Customer Success Story: 19th Ave. Dental Care

Last week, we met with Doctor Marc Kay, owner of Phoenix-based 19th Ave. Dental Care to chat about his office’s Nextiva phone service.  One of his practice’s most important commitments is delivering seamless, comfortable service, so we were thrilled to hear that Nextiva’s phone systems were able to help them increase patient satisfaction and overall efficiency.

Nextiva’s cloud-based phone systems offer dozens of benefits for medical practices, including:

  • The ability to swap calls between a desk phone and cell phone so that doctors can stay mobile while remaining connected
  • An auto attendant to act as an automated receptionist for patients while the office is closed
  • Call continuity in the rare case of a disaster
  • Call logging to view all incoming and outgoing calls for easy tracking of billing and appointments
  • A customized greeting message, professionally recorded by Nextiva for free
  • Shared line appearance so incoming calls ring directly to all of a doctor’s phones and front desk simultaneously

Dr. Kay’s staff has found automatic rerouting to be particularly useful in their office during everyday office hours and in cases of patient emergencies. Watch the full interview to see how Nextiva has helped 19th Ave Dental Care stay mobile and save money:

How to Keep Track of Your Passwords

These days, there’s a password for everything. But in the interest of your own security, every password should be different, which makes remembering them a difficult task. The following are some creative ways that can help you create new passwords and actually remember them all.

Remember 100 different passwords with 1 rule
One way to generate unique passwords that you can remember is to choose a base password and then include part of the name of the service associated with it, recommends An example is use your base password – say “Love” – and add letters from the service. So your Yahoo password might be LOVEYHAO and your Google password cloud be “GOGLOVE”. Or, you can use your initials or favorite number to start plus the first 3 letters of a service name. So for Amazon, John Bob Smith could use JBS10AMA. To make a password even more secure, or applicable for services that require other characters, add special characters around it, like # JBS10AMA#.

Here are some other examples of patterns you could use:

  • Three letters, special character, three numbers
  • Three numbers, special character, three letters
  • Take a word and insert numbers and special characters in specific positions

Those are the basic components of your new password system. Even the simplest version is a fairly difficult password to crack. If you’re really security conscious you can make passwords stronger by:

  • Use both upper and lower case letters
  • Use more special characters
  • Make the way you combine them more complicated

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