Browsing Articles Written by

Barry Moltz

Barry Moltz helps small businesses get unstuck. He applies simple, strategic steps to facilitate change. Barry has founded and run small businesses with a great deal of success and failure for more than 20 years. He is a small business speaker, radio host and author of four books. As a member of the Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame, he has spoken to audiences of up to 20,000 people. He is a regular guest on business radio and cable TV programming.

Hiring-superstar

Why Hiring Only Superstars Can Hurt Your Business

By August 4, 2016 No Comments

Building a team with great people has always been the key to a successful business. To achieve this, some companies recruit superstars from their competitors or similar industries where their skills are transferable.

Unfortunately, like in sports, there are many examples where these business superstars who are successful at one company are not at their new one. For example, Ron Johnson, Apple’s Vice President of Retail, who revolutionized the industry with Apple stores, lasted less than two years when he was drafted by JCPenny’s to turn around their retail efforts. Marissa Mayer, Vice President at Google was not able to successfully guide Yahoo! as its President and CEO.

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Why You Don’t Get New Customers (or Keep the Ones You Have)

By May 12, 2016 No Comments

In order to grow, every company needs to acquire new customers and sustain the ones they have. This is particularly hard for many small business owners since they are usually afraid of sales and marketing. They are also bad at keeping their customers since they are so focused on getting new ones in the front door, the existing ones leave dissatisfied out the back door. Companies need to develop processes that attract, convert and retain customers if they are to be successful in the long run.

Here is why you don’t get enough new customers and what to do about it:

1. Fear. Small business owners run away from marketing because they don't get it. They reason that they have no time with all the tactical daily actions they need to take everyday. They can’t pause long enough to actually understand it. The action to take: Stop on a monthly basis to plan your marketing strategy. Specifically, what actions is the company executing daily to attract new customers and keep the ones they have.

2. Not measuring marketing results. There is a perception that any money spent on marketing will yield poor results. In fact, the old saying is that the business owner knows that 50% of their marketing is working. They are just unsure of which 50%! The action to take: Only invest in marketing that is traceable and trackable. Test initiatives and then measure the results. Stop doing what fails and scale up more of what succeeds. If nothing works, keep taking small actions until something is successful.

3. Too much dependence on referrals or word of mouth. Small business owners reason that if they offer a great product or service, new customers will automatically come or be referred to the company. This is very far from the truth. The action to take: Instead, proactively get referrals by asking customers and encouraging them to share their experience on social media.

4. No storytelling. Most companies sell features and products. Unfortunately, prospects buy solutions to their problems and the best way to solve these are by telling a company story. The action to take: Ask employees what the company’s story is. Craft a narrative that is both true and inspiring.

5. No systematic marketing. When things are slow, small business owners market their products. As soon as they land customers as a result, they get too busy doing the work to keep marketing. This keeps their business flat and makes the company almost invisible online. Remember, you can't sell anything to anyone; you just need to be there when they are ready to buy. The action to take: Monthly, assemble a systematic marketing plan which will be executed no matter how busy you get. This can include online paid marketing, email content marketing or social media.

6. Low digital marketing knowledge. This type of marketing is very confusing and holds many more choices. But now over 75% of consumer do research on the web before purchasing anything, so every company needs to be found if they are to get chosen. The action to take: Find an expert to educate and work with you on various aspects of digital marketing including search engine optimization and search engine marketing.

7. It's not personal. The goal of marketing is to drive prospects from discovery to purchase in a very personal way. Every prospect wants to think you are only talking to them and technology allows this to happen. The action to take. Find out how your company is personalizing every interaction with a prospect or customer to make them feel special.

8. No mobile website. Less than 50% of all small business have websites. Without one, the company is less likely to show up in mobile Google web searches. This is bad for finding the business since over 50% of all searches are done on mobile devices. The action to take: Do a mobile search for your company website. Make sure it has a responsive design so there is no scrolling or pinching on smartphones.

9. No social media presence. Less than 15% of small businesses have any social media feed. Without it, companies are missing an opportunity to have conversations with new prospects that need their solution. The action to take: Do searches on the top social media sites of the problem that your company solves. See what types of conversations are happening around them. Get involved in that site and those conversations daily.

10. Not managing their online reviews. Today every past customer is a fan or a critic and they talk about it online. A positive comment can attract other prospects. An unanswered negative comment can keep prospects away. The action to take: Daily monitor comments on all major sites and respond with empathy and a solution.

How do you find new customers and keep the ones you have

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How to Answer All Your Emails Every Day

By April 12, 2016 No Comments

Email Etiquette When You Have No Time to Answer

Most small business owners are buried in email. This is discouraging since they don’t always get to answer the important ones. Business etiquette suggests that each email should be replied to within 24 hours.

Letting messages go unanswered for longer than this can have a profound negative affect on relationships in their business. The sender is worried that the email was not received or a “no answer” means a negative reply. In many cases, it means neither of these things.

Proper email etiquette is critical because business fortune rise and fall with the economic times. You meet the same people on the way up as you meet on the way down. In other words, today you need something from me and tomorrow I need something from you. If I never returned your email when you needed me, what do you think will happen when the roles are reversed?

Here is how to answer every email within 24 hours, especially on a busy day.

1. Use auto responders. Set up an automatic response from your email system notifying senders with how long it takes on average for you to respond to email. By setting this expectation, the sender knows their email was received and approximately when they will hear from you. The key thing is to then stick to the promised timeframe when answering.

2. Be short. Don’t reply with a novel or something that should be said in a personal phone call or in person conversation. By keeping replies to a few words or a single sentence, it takes less time. Remember, it also becomes more difficult to read long email replies on smartphones.

3. Ask for numbered questions. This makes it much easier to reply where you can copy the questions from the emails and briefly respond to each one.

4. Deadlines. Look for a timeframe in which a reply is expected. Then set a follow up for this date to consider the reply at that time. Place email in specific folders for different categories or customers.

5. Got it, later. If you have no time to reply to it now. Type “Got it, will reply”. In fact, this can be set up as a short cut with a few strokes on your desktop or handheld device. These text expanders can save a lot of time. Then set a follow up so you can reply later.

6. Don’t add to the mess. Forget reply all. This just adds another email for someone else to read.

7. Keep anger out. Never reply when you are mad. It burns a lot of energy and can have unintended bad consequences. If you must express yourself, type out a reply to yourself and read it 24 hours later before considering sending it to the intended recipient. Phone or in person conversations are always more productive than angry emails.

8. Turn off notifications. Set particular times during the day you can actually focus on answering emails without multitasking. You will accomplish a lot more and be effective.

9. Use Rules and folders. Set up rules within your mail system so that specific emails with particular titles go into special folders so you can review those first or within a set timeframe. This prevents you from looking at a monolithic inbox, which can be overwhelming.

10. Schedule for the future. Many email programs will let you schedule for the future. Answer it now and have the system send it later.

Communicating effectively in a timely manner is always the best way will build the relationship capital that you need for your business success.

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How to Succeed If Donald Trump Was Your Boss

By March 16, 2016 No Comments

There are a lot of tough bosses out there. But what if you had a manager like Donald Trump? The type that is a forceful leader and wants it done their way. They insist on managing the company top down and don’t look for input from anyone. Many times, they issue proclamations and demands like a bully even when they have been proven wrong. With a boss like Donald Trump, working hard may not be enough.

Don’t wait to hear “You're fired.” Instead, follow these rules to succeed:

  1. Listen to what the boss needs. Ask questions. Repeat back to them what you think they are asking since they are always interested in the strangest details. This is a very important step since what they say is not necessarily what they mean.
  2. Write it down and document it. Follow up with a confirming email. This will ensure that there is no miscommunication that can later be blamed on you. Never withhold information because these types of bosses hate surprises.
  3. Know what their priority is this week. This is not necessarily what needs to get done in the company, but what they want to get completed. Their priorities change quickly and they must become yours. Keep all commitments and deliver to the boss on time.
  4. Make sure the boss looks good in front of others.  It should be no surprise that these types of bosses have big egos and appearances do matter. This includes how they look to employees, vendors and customers. Always give credit to them and take the blame if necessary.
  5. Know their trigger points. It’s imperative to know what is important to them and what makes them angry. Use this knowledge strategically when trying to get things done.
  6. Keep calm. These types of bosses can go ballistic when things go wrong. If you are the target, it is critical not to react and wait until the rage eventually subsides. There is nothing to be gain by clashing head on with them. Remember, people do not want to be angry by themselves, so if you do not get upset, they will eventually calm down.
  7. Find what’s in it for them. Don’t present your ideas confrontationally or from your perspective. Ask “do you think you might consider…” or “is it the right time to talk about…”. Again, there is no way to win an argument with this type of boss. Convince them by showing what they will get out of it.
  8. Do the tasks they dislike. This will earn you a certain amount of respect from the boss and a place at the company. Some bosses may not know what they are not good at, but they all do know what they hate to do.
  9. Don’t tell them they can’t do something. This drives these types of bosses berserk. Follow their instructions and propose alternatives when the time is right as described above.
  10. Find an outlet. There is a lot of pressure working for this type of boss. Find out ways that you can personally blow off steam.

Working for a Donald Trump type of boss may not be easy, but it still can be beneficial. These types of people can be very loyal to their employees since they know they can be hard to work for. They may be good stepping stones to other jobs because their aggressive nature allows them to often win at business.

See this as a temporary assignment and create your own boundaries. Decide what you want to learn from this boss at this company and how far you will go to stay there. When that goal is completed, it’s time to move on to a better opportunity.

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Why Most Business Mergers Fail (and What to Do About It)

By February 12, 2016 No Comments

It starts off as a brilliant idea. The small business owner is interested in buying another company or they want to sell theirs. Dollar signs and possibilities float around in their head. After a lot of hard work, the transaction is done and everyone celebrates. But then, it ends up hurting the future of the combined companies more than grow them. In fact, 70% to 90% of all mergers fail.

What goes wrong? Here is how to get the odds in your favor:

1.     Product offering synergy. Determine if the two products or services really fit together. Will they compete or cannibalize customers when the companies are merged or are they complementary? Many times, the offers have less synergy than the two companies initially think. How to test before the sale: Approach five current customers to see if they will buy the other product or service. Then, find out why or why not.

2.     Management match. Can the combined teams work together? Which executives will lead which functions? Many times there is overlap and certain managers and departments need to be eliminated. Remember, there should be clear leaders in the new company and not management by committee. How to test before the sale: Have both management teams participate in making a few important decisions for the proposed new company. Hire a consultant to observe how well this works and report back.

3.     Culture blend. Can the cultures of the company work not only together, but will they blend over time? Often, one culture dominates the other and valuable employees can’t thrive in the new environment and leave. How to test before the sale: Set up three teams of employees from the two different cultures and have them accomplish a task. It should be planning an event for the company or a new recognition program. Evaluate the results.

4.     Setting expectations. These are usually set too high for a short period of time. Many mergers actually push the company back in terms of profitability before it propels them forward. Assume no gains from synergies for at least the first six months. How to test before the sale: Review the growth and profitability of the two companies before the sale and cut their future growth by 50% for the next six months to get a closer estimate of what will happened post-merger.

5.     Market assumptions. How will the other companies and customers in the market actually react to the merger? Many times the expected changes never come. How to test before the sale: There is no way to test his since it is impossible to simulate what the market will do realistically. However, similar past transactions in the same or parallel industries may provide a clue.

How successful was the merger of your company?

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Why Your Email Signature Matters

By January 17, 2016 No Comments

The single marketing message that any business person sends the most every day is in their email signature. This is why it is critical to use only the information that reflects the company’s brand and further builds a relationship with the recipient.

The essentials

Name, title, company, email address, web site URL, phone number and social media links where you are active. Include your email address since many times it is not included in the header of the reply.

Forget these closing salutations

I am not a fan of legal disclosures since it adds unnecessary length to the email especially since it  probably will be opened on a smart phone. I question the legal effectiveness even if these are used. I also do not believe in using motivational sayings unless it is part of your brand.

Stay away from silly closing salutations like “Blue skies” or “Cheers”. Now I am not an ogre, but these are not always appropriate. Consider that you just told someone in an email they did not get the job and then close with “Cheers”. This does not help your ongoing reputation or brand. I am also not sure what “Regards” means. Is this “Best regards” or “Kind Regards”? I also don’t like “Sincerely” because it always seems patronizing. Also forget “Reach for the Stars”, “Peace Out”, “Your Boy”, “Your Girl”, or “Your Compatriot”.

Use these closing salutations

Think of something that is more closely tied to your brand. I use “here’s to getting unstuck and moving…forward”. If a branded one does not work, use old standbys like “Hope this helps”, “Thank You”, “Much Appreciated”, “Let me know where I can help”

Other email signatures that work

  • The brand tag line with a link to more explanation like a video
  • Use a company logo or a very small photo
  • “Here is recent recognition we received! Thank you!” with a link
  • “Come see us at _______________ (upcoming event)” with a link
  • “We are growing! Know someone that would make a good ___________ for our company”
  • “We were recently honored to be featured in _______________” with a link

Remember, the email signature should be changed no more than every quarter so it can make multiple impressions on the recipients.

Overall, keep it short and in plain text with no animations (except for a photo or logo). Remember, most will be opened on a mobile device. Test out what looks good on various devices, but also on different web browsers and on Gmail and Yahoo mail.

What is in your email signature?

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Best “No Tech” Business Holiday Gifts under $25

By December 11, 2015 No Comments

12-11 Customer Gifts smallIt is important to send gifts to your customers to show how thankful you are for them this time of year. Anyone can spend hundreds of dollars on lavish gifts. But, how do you show you care when the budget is under $25? 

  1. A Flock of Chickens. Heifer is an organization that gives food, animals and clean water to developing countries. With this gift, you can honor a customer and give food to people that are less fortunate. $20.
  2. iRoller. The dirtiest place in the world in your smartphone screen. A few swipes with the sticky gift and any touchscreen will be smudge free. The material was originally invented by a plastic surgeon. $20.
  3. Merlot Infused Coffee. An all in one gift, it doesn’t force the choice between another glass of wine and a cup of coffee. This gift comes from aging the beans in oak wine barrels. $20.
  4. Marital Bliss. A personal favorite! My wife and I used this after my youngest son went to college. This romantic competition challenges spouses and partners with rewards for sweet behavior. It sends them on secret missions to carry groceries, cook dinner, and more to accumulate points. $20.
  5. Table Topics. With all the technology, people have forgotten how to talk to each other. This gift has 135 conversation starters to get everyone thinking and talking for meaningful social time. You will be surprised what you can learn! $25.
  6. Super Magnetic Putty. Every customer needs more things to play with on their desk to quell the urge to multitask. This gift is moldable and magnetic at the same time. $15.
  7. Flavor Infused Water Bottle. Do away with disposable water bottles. Put fruit and any other flavor in this handy bottle and make water a lot more interesting. $15.
  8. Password Reminder Book. Decidedly low tech,  this helps remember all those passwords instead of losing that important scrap of paper. The "Open Sesame!" password reminder book is an alphabetized journal designed specifically for account name, username, and a password hint. $13.
  9. Random Acts of Kindness Kit. With all the conflict around the world, this may be exactly the gift that is needed. These 26 cards will find you picking up someone else's tab at a restaurant, writing a letter to someone who inspired you, or picking up the trash on your street. They can create a chain reaction of secret kindness throughout your company. $10.
  10. “F” This Test. The perfect pick me up for the customer having a bad day. It’s a collection of completely terrible test answers such as “What is a meteor? Answer: An animal that eats meat.” $10.

What gifts will you be giving to customers this year?

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