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Month: June 2019

3 P’s Drive Small Business Success in 2010

Posted on June 5, 2019 in Uncategorized

What a year! For many, 2009 is a year they would like to forget. Between over-leveraged mortgages, banks that failed or were too big to fail, and a restructuring of the auto industry, many individuals and businesses alike are ready to ring in 2010 with a more hopeful outlook.

In the coming months, the healthcare debate, business incentives and changes to the tax code will be at the forefront of local and national debates. Though important, these are issues in which the individual small business owner has minimal say. Instead of focusing on these larger issues, entrepreneurs should focus their efforts on enhancing small business productivity, prudence, and profit as we move into 2010.

Productivity

In the last few years, many companies learned to do more with less as cuts in spending and employment left many small businesses demanding more out of their employees. In 2010, small business productivity will remain vital as employees continue to carry a heavy workload. For companies to succeed, they need to arm their employees with the right small business productivity tools.

By identifying and implementing the right small business solutions, entrepreneurs can get more out of their employees and save money. Increased productivity among full-time employees can result in more sales, the development of better products and services, faster completion of tasks, and improved customer service.

Regardless of the industry, many companies will turn to small business communication solutions that can improve productivity. For example, a doctor’s office may select an Interactive Voice Response system (IVR) to more efficiently handle and direct calls during and after business hours. Companies with hourly employees, like field service repair companies, may use location-based services to track field technicians and redirect them based on cost drivers like fuel consumption. Or, many companies may look to deploy BlackBerrys to their staff to help them stay connected anytime, anywhere helping fuel better small business productivity. Finding small business solutions that improve productivity will greatly impact a bottom line.

Prudence

While the economic freefall has halted and the economy even had some bright spots in 2009, most companies are not popping celebratory champagne. And as much as we’d all like to see 2010 herald a recovery of small business productivity, many economists and so-called “financial experts” are predicting only a slightly stronger economy in 2010. Next year, prudence will be the name of the game when it comes to small business solutions.

With a sharp eye on spending, small businesses will need to be prudent in their decision making and ensure they are making the right investments. Finding employees that have the right skill set, investing in developing or marketing your best product, and selecting small business solutions that will help your company grow will all demand prudence.

But this careful decision making will not only focus on spending, but on all aspects of small business productivity. Many companies may reexamine their niche market or how they “have always done things” to find new and better small business solutions. Just as Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “…a little rebellion now and then is a good thing,” a shake-up of how your small business operates may be in order.

Profit

One consequence of the downturn is that many companies unfortunately closed their doors. As a result, those who survived the recession now have fewer competitors vying for customers. As the economy stabilizes, banks begin to loan more money and businesses are more comfortable with spending money, the small businesses that positioned themselves correctly will have a stronger opportunity for market penetration than they’ve likely seen in recent years. By making prudent decisions and focusing on driving small business productivity, companies will be well-positioned to profit in 2010 and beyond.

If the past 12 months have taught us anything, it’s that no amount of economic forecasting is completely precise. But, let’s all look forward to 2010 with a focus on productivity, prudence, and profit, as well as the promise of what a new year will bring to small businesses.

Why You Want to Partner With A Small Business Coach-Advisor

Posted on June 3, 2019 in Uncategorized

According to The National Federation of Independent Business [NFIB] Education Foundation, over the lifetime of any small business, 30 percent will lose money, 30 percent will break even, and just fewer than 40 percent will be profitable. The Small Business Administration [SBA] reports that 50 percent of all small business fail after their first year, 33 percent fail after two years, and nearly 60 percent fail after four years. Reasons for failure cited by the SBA include: limited vision, over expansion, poor capital structure, over spending, lack of reserve funds or too little Free Cash Flow, failure to adjust to market changes, underestimating competition, poor business execution, poor business location, failure to establish company goals, poor market segmentation and strategy, poor knowledge of the competition, no management systems, over dependence on specific individuals, and/or focusing on the technical aspects more than the strategic aspects of the business, and an inadequate business plan.

Developing and growing a small business enterprise, either from a new venture or as an existing one, is difficult in a bull market, where the economy is growing. The difficulty factor is there none the less. However, in a down economy, in a recession, where the risk of business failure is magnified several times, the difficulty factor is increased by a significant magnitude. Entrepreneurs and small business enterprises find themselves working in their business as opposed to working on their business. That is, when times are tough, the small business owner feels compelled to spend all his or her time on operations just trying to keep the boat afloat, while putting off where the boat may be going. It is particularly critical in a recessionary economic cycle to spend as much time as possible on the direction of your boat, as it is on operations. If the vision is lost or clouded, it won’t really matter how hard you try to keep things afloat, at some point you may well run aground because you were not watching where you were going. Having an extra pair of eyes to help stir your ship and keep you in the right direction is critical to not only maintaining your business, but helping you to grow it. And as the principal in your small business, this is where you want to position yourself; at the helm stirring your enterprise in the direction of your vision.

Successful athletes typically hire a coach to help them achieve success. Certainly this is the case in professional golf. It is the case in the world of professional cycling. And it is the case in professional team sports, such as baseball. For the entrepreneur and small business enterprise, having a coach, advisor, on the sidelines as well as in the game, to provide critical objective guidance to help them attain their business objectives can be the difference in achieving real success. As a small business enterprise, you want to be in the category of a ‘small business growth’ company, positioned for IPO, acquisition, merger or growing into a medium-sized company. A Business Coach and Advisor will work with you to help avoid becoming an SBA or NFIB Education Foundation statistic on their list of small business failures. From time to time we all need outside guidance, counsel, mentoring and advice. A Business Coach/Advisor will actually help you to become a success story. The benefits of partnering with a Business Coach/Advisory far outweigh the costs. Five critical benefits of partnering with a Business Coach/Advisor include, but are not limited, to the following:

1. Accountability. A Business Coach /Advisor will help you to maintain focus on driving your business forward, and helping you to work through the temptation to work in your business and not on your business. A good Business Coach/Advisor will insist on holding you accountable for achieving your goals and objectives, and work with you to delegate operation tasks that need to be performed by key personal, and guiding you towards providing the strategic vision your business needs to grow. Your Business Coach, acting in an Advisory capacity will work with you to develop or refine strategic short- and long term goals and then hold you accountable to achieve them. You want your coach to be tough, yet personable having the capacity to understand your business and where it is you want to take it. There job is to help you formulate that and to get you positioned to attain it.

2. Formulating Strategic Goals, Ideas, Objectives. A Business Coach/Advisor will work with you to develop and refine your goals, ideas and objectives. A combination of coaching and advising is necessary here, and your Coach has the acquired expertise and experience to work through these with you and knows how to adapt them to your business.

3. Contributing Business Growth Strategies. A good Business Coach/Advisory will have the ability to share and communicate their experience and expertise in developing business growth strategies. Remember, no one has all the answers. No one. Not a coach or a business executive. Sharing ideas are critical. Thinking out of the box is essential. So, when you’ve just “run out of ideas” on how to market and sell your products and services, your Coach will work with you, as a partner, to develop and then implement the business growth strategy or strategies that are specific to your company and market to meet your growth objectives. To be most effective, weekly communication with your Coach will keep you on track.

4. Resources. When it is needed, your Business Coach/Advisor will provide referrals to contacts or resources for your business, such as expansion capital, legal and accounting services, social media marketing, technologies, and other resources that are relevant to helping you meet your goals and objectives. My view here is that it is incumbent on a business coach and advisory to have a teaming or partnering viewpoint, and it is essential for them to do so for the benefit of you, the small business owner.

5. Objectivity. A Business Coach/Advisor provides you with the necessary objectivity to see your business as it really is. This is essential for an honest assessment of where your business is in its life cycle. When you get used to the same processes and procedures, tasks, basic routine, you lose the ability to see your business with the same objective clarity that you once did. Your Business Coach provides you with a double perspective; looking into your business from the customer perspective, and looking out at the customer from your perspective. And then provide you with feedback about what works, what doesn’t and what your options are. To be effective, weekly communication with your Coach will keep you on track.

Partnering with a Business Coach/Advisor should be on a retainer basis for three to nine months, preferably six months. It will normally take a good Business Coach/Advisor two months, sixty days, at least to become fully knowledgeable about your business, its practices, your strengths, weakness, your vision, and your objectives. Then another month to begin working with you to arrive at your business objectives. While three months is the minimum time needed for a good Business Coach/Advisor to begin making a difference under a single retainer agreement, nine months is the maximum under a single retainer agreement, where six months is the optimal. During a six month retainer, a Business Coach/Advisor should be able to meet all goals and place in to practice the critical elements that a small business needs to attain strategic objectives. Typically, once a small business has partnered with a Business Coach/Advisor, they retain them continuously, or as needed.

In today’s troubled economic climate, the use of a Business Coach/Advisor makes strong financial sense. While you might feel you can go it alone, the resulting cost may far outweigh what it would be had you partnered with a Business Coach/Advisor when needed. It’s sort of like the old TV commercial about changing your oil, you can either do it now at the cost of an oil change, or wait until your engine blows and pay the cost then. Waiting will certainly cost you infinitely more. If you are facing a limited vision, over expansion, poor capital structure, over spending, lack of reserve funds or too little Free Cash Flow, failure to adjust to market changes, underestimating competition, poor business execution, poor business location, failure to establish company goals, poor market segmentation and strategy, poor knowledge of the competition, no management systems, over dependence on specific individuals, focusing on the technical aspects more than the strategic aspects of the business, or simply need help in growing your business, then partnering with a Business Coach/Advisor makes good financial sense.

Effective PR For a Small Business on a Budget – Get Local and Get Online!

Posted on June 2, 2019 in Uncategorized

If yours is like most small businesses, you can’t afford the luxury of a PR department, much less a dedicated PR agency or even one employee responsible for external communications and PR. However, this business function is critical as the world of communications continues to expand with new applications, demands and opportunities like social media networks. The thought of a concerted PR strategy and execution can be overwhelming for a small business owner, but it doesn’t have to be. There are two primary elements of PR for a small business to engage upon – leveraging online and local offline outlets. The old world of face-to-face will continue to be critical in building your PR strategy and overall business, but let’s face it – the environment has changed, and you simply can’t ignore the power of the Web, particularly social networks. Proactively getting your business out in the community while leveraging the Web will ensure the success of your PR strategy. And, these tactics are not expensive; in fact, many present opportunities for free PR for your small business.

These PR strategy tips are designed for those small businesses that simply don’t have budget allocated toward hiring and retaining a communications expert. If you are a smaller company, hopefully you can take a few tips below to integrate PR into your small business to help build a brand and generate leads. Utilizing informative, valuable PR about your small business gives you the opportunity to influence people and lead them to your destination – your website, your store, your offering. Take advantage of what’s out there! Get online and get local – it’s that simple.

Growing Your PR Strategy

Grow Online

If you don’t have a website, you need to get one immediately. Today, you can get a starter site for free or within your communications packages from your voice and data provider. If it’s in the package, then it’s a no-brainer. If you have a website, then make sure it’s dynamic (video, blogs, and communities) to ensure your target audience comes back and builds a relationship with you and your brand. It’s a requirement in today’s online world; the days of stagnant sites are over. Then, once you have your interactive site, make sure you optimize your website and everything you say about your business online to ensure your potential customers are finding you online when they search. This is a key part of your online PR strategy. Don’t you search Google or Bing to find what you need a pinch? It’s called Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and it can be an affordable way to create additional PR for your small business — and it’s often found in your communications and IT packages. At the very least, getting a URL allows you to be FOUND online and that’s key. Google now provides maps when visitors are looking for a specific service in a specific area. By simply having an Internet address – you can be found online looking professional with a map to your location and link to your business, which is pretty cool.

The Wild World of Social Media

You have probably heard about “social media” and you may already be taking part. For many, however, the world of Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, blogs, vlogs and status updates may be a bit unsettling. Suffice it to say – these are powerful tools to help you carry out your PR strategy, especially when used properly to connect, communicate and yes, to sell.

As a small business, you can’t afford NOT to take part. It’s easy and affordable, so don’t waste anymore time. Of course, you do need to understand how best to engage before you jump in. Here are a few quick ways to start creating more PR for your small business:

1 – Create a Twitter profile and gain followers by “Tweeting” about your business, surrounding businesses and community topics that map back to your business. Build buzz about what you provide – can you Tweet special coupons? Can you give advice? Can you share relevant information to your community? Do you have an event you want to invite local prospects to? Twitter, an emerging PR strategy with an increasing audience, is a great way to quickly (140 characters or less) get a message out and position yourself as a leader. Remember, it’s not all about you; you must talk about the world around you to make an impact. Start off Tweeting about your business, but quickly begin integrating Tweets about your customers, your community, and your industry – and the most important part is to provide some kind of value or benefit in your tweets. Be respectable as well. And if you see someone comment about your business online (good or bad) – respond online for all to see. It’s a great way to show you are committed to your customers. The cost to you? It’s essentially free PR for your small business.

2 – Create free profiles on Linked In and Facebook. All you need for Linked In is a profile of you, and from there, you can create a group where you can share stories, news, and other PR about your small business. People can ping you for questions which positions you as an expert and, you can join interest groups that will help you track what other potential buyers in your community do, say and think. For Facebook, simply select “business” on the homepage to create a business “fan” page. Local residents, family and friends can then become “fans” of your company, which is an easy way to highlight the most recent PR about your small business. All you have to do is commit to posting news, updates, coupons, photos and other interactive content to get people engaged. Remember – provide a benefit – a reason for your “fans” to come back for more.

In addition to these PR strategy tips, there are local meet-up groups in every community that often originate from the Web, and then meet offline to have a real interactive discussion. Check out Meetup.com in your area to find one.

Confused about this new world of social media? Read Groundswell by two Forrester Research analysts, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. This book will set you straight and get you excited about the opportunities out there in terms of online PR for your small business.

Grow Local

Much like how consumers like to buy from locally grown farms, small businesses tend to buy from their peers – other small businesses. An effective PR strategy is all about supporting your local communities, and these days, that’s more important than ever. Keeping this in mind, focus on your community by generating PR for your small business at local events. Depending on your business, there are often specialty groups for different types of businesses such as professional service specialty groups. Often these groups gather monthly or quarterly to share best practices and to network. There are certainly general small business groups in your community such as your local Chamber that meet regularly as well. Beyond networking events, you can get ink for your business. Most Chambers have monthly newsletters or emails. Do you have something to say? Could you contribute twice a year with a special promotion to drive people to your business? Take advantage of these opportunities to fuel word-of-mouth marketing through PR for your small business. Hand out business cards, build relationships and follow-up. These opportunities are right outside your door.

Think grassroots.

Shake hands with other small businesses owners, refer each other and grow your business. To improve PR for your small business, think about what events are taking place this weekend where you could set up space, hand out collateral, serve up some hotdogs, and generate solid leads. Is there an art show or “Taste Of” type of event? Don’t take it all on yourself; partner with other local businesses right in your area to split costs and cross-sell to each other’s customers. A hand-shake goes a long way towards an effective PR strategy. Add a coupon and see the results. Most communities have annual events that bring hundreds/thousands of people – target those. In terms of PR for a small business, the best thing you can do is to connect directly to your audience by showing your personality and your value – get out there!

Leverage Local Media.

Another important element of your PR strategy involves local brand development, which means building relationships with local media. Yes, there is still benefit in reaching out to traditional media when it comes to PR for your small business. Take a moment to find out who your local reporters are and introduce yourself. Share with your new media contacts areas of expertise that you would be able to discuss if requested. If you create a relationship with your local media and have something compelling or contrarian to say, chances are they will call you when they need your input. Consider a quick email to your local reporters with an introduction, a quick reference of your expertise and what you could comment on. Being timely and relevant is critical to your PR strategy. Offer a cup of coffee. Those relationships can go a long way when you really want to make noise in the community. It’s important to know that if you want coverage and/or additional PR for your small business – you won’t get it with a cold pitch. You must: 1) – establish a relationship; 2) – have news to share that’s relevant, unique or at least different; and 3) – have a product/or service that is remarkable. These rules ring true for influential bloggers as well. For more on being remarkable, read Seth Godin’s Purple Cow – a great, quick read that will get you thinking about how to stand out from the rest to grow your business.

Blending Old and New: Building PR for a Small Business

Hopefully these PR strategy tips will help you build a brand for your small business and generate new and recurring business via PR. Communicating to customers and enabling them to communicate back to you is essential in today’s social world of media. However, what remains important today as it did 100 years ago is the face-to-face interaction. Nothing will replace it, so make sure you show your face and personality in the community. Coupling the old with the new will ensure a successful PR strategy for your small business.

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