The Recipe for a Successful Small Business

Every successful dish starts out as a trusted recipe, if the recipe is followed, the dish is successful every time. It is almost impossible to determine the amount of money lost through small business failures during the last five years. In 2009, the Kauffman Foundation estimated the start-up cost of a small business at $30,000, while the US Small Business Association estimated the start-up cost of a home based micro business at $1,000 to $5,000. In 2013, approximately 28 million small businesses in the USA. Assuming a one to one ratio of success and failures, it is clear that US entrepreneurs loose an enormous amount of money to failed businesses. If there was a recipe for a success in business, it would include outstanding customer service, strategic partner selections, strong processes, effective marketing and monitoring.

Outstanding customer service: Small business owners must be mindful that customers have the right of choice and a wide range of options from which to choose. Therefore, outstanding customer service must be both a defining principle and a clearly defined goal. Satisfied customers are your best referral and advertising tools.

Strategic partner selections: No one succeeds alone, the relationships we form are critical to our success. Whether business partners, team members, referral sources or key vendors, entrepreneurs need to be deliberate and strategic about these relationships. All of these relationships have the potential to affect customer service and profits.

Strong Processes: A good business process cuts across many, areas of business operation. Therefore, it creates efficiency, lowers costs and improves customer service. Business operations are impacted by people, technology and, processes; with processes working as the glue that holds the people involved and the technology applied, together.

Effective marketing: Understanding the difference between being a business owner and a technician is critical to success. A business owner’s time is better spent working on the business. But most entrepreneurs cannot afford to relinquish all technical responsibilities. A workable solution is for small business owners to set aside at least 30 percent of their time to work on marketing and monitoring. Marketing can impact current and future product and service offerings, it requires interaction with existing and would-be customers, improve customer retention and loyalty and add to profits. Monitoring is equally important as there is no other way by which to measure business goals and make timely adjustments which can result in minimizing losses in customers and profits.

7 Amazing Secrets to Attract Investors for Your Small Business

A good team of investors can play a great role in the success of your small business, but a bad choice of investors can obliterate even the strongest ideas to execute. Believe it or not, investors provide more opportunities to your business, while becoming resources for creating effective marketing ideas. Knowing what to consider while selecting investors and being able to attract the right type of investors are vital skills for established and emerging entrepreneurs.

If you are a small business owner and finding trouble getting convincing investors, here are 7 secrets that will help you attract the eye of an angel investor or venture capital, while making your business a more appealing investment.

1. Get the Most Out of Networking

Networking is the best way for entrepreneurs to pitch their startup in a less formal and organic way. If you are building a great business, networking within the local startup and investing community can be the best way to meet and find the right type of investors.

If you find investors interested in your business, keep the meetings going and let things happen organically for optimum results. Let them consider your business, after all, you are not only conveying your idea, you are actually relying on the social capital built through the networking process that impact the investment decision.

2. Be Practical, Get Real Paying Customers

You need investment to attract customers, but you need customers to acquire money. It is always worth making an effort to get customers prior to approach an investor, instead of seeking funds first and customers second. It is advised to create a plan to acquire customers first that doesn’t need a very huge investment.

This is very important, particularly for emerging entrepreneurs, it will become easier to get investments on good terms. Investors always want proof that your idea is effective enough and will work, and nothing will satisfy them than having real paying users.

3. Find the Right Co-Founder

When you find investors, you are not only selling them your business in terms of products and services, you are selling them on your team. Opting for the right leadership team for your small business is an important process and having the wrong co-founders can be more dangerous for your business than having no co-founder at all.

However, finding the right co-founder can make the process easier, even beyond attracting investors. As having partners will allow you to rely on them, which can be a huge boost for your startup.

4. Get a Better ROI

Though investors may start believing in your business, the purpose for their investment is to make money. Therefore, it is important to highlight what they will actually gain from investing in your startup.

No matter if you are approaching an angel, VC or a rich person, it is important to show how you are going to get their investment return. It is alluring to focus on yourself and your business vision, but at the end of the day, investors want to know what is in it for them. Therefore, the best way to standout and get interest is to clearly explain how and when you will get them a return.

5. Take Benefit of the Online Fundraising Market

Networking is important, but your location should not be you’re the restricting factor when it comes to securing investment. There are different fundraising platforms available and you are no longer restricted to only being able to raise money. If your company has best-in-class metrics for your industry, you will be definitely able to double your money. Post your business’s best metrics and find investors on the platform related to your industry.

6. Pick the Right Investor

In order to attract attention of the right investor, make sure your product solves real problems. As a lot of entrepreneurs only attempt to reinvent the wheel, therefore, it is advised to highlight the qualities of your product to attract the real investor. Doing so will get users and revenue. Think outside the box and do something wonderful.

7. Graduating from a Top Accelerator

Emerging and first-time entrepreneurs are advised to apply to reputable startup accelerators that will lead their credibility to your company. Joining an accelerator can be greatly helpful for rising startups, though it doesn’t guarantee that you will get investment, it does make your startup a more appealing investment candidate. As graduating from a reputable accelerator guarantee funding and can greatly improve the chances that you would raise a favorable valuation.

Small Business Benefits of Training Employees

Small businesses aspiring for growth need to keep an eye on performance improvement through online business training courses. To measure up to the ever evolving business world, small businesses need new skills to facilitate workforce gains and to generally meet the competent needs of operations in tandem with its competitors.

Small business training for employees provides an additional skill and exposure to the individuals and to the business. It is more flexible and less strenuous to do an online business training course. This consequently improves your company to continue effectively. Most small businesses fail to recognise the beneficial aspects of training its employees. Among many other advantages that come with training are the following benefits:

To Effectively Improve Your Company’s Competence

Training your employees will result in a better customer service, improved business skills, and growth in productivity. This ultimately makes your business more competent and competitive in the market. It is important to always advance the skills of the employees as the business world is dynamic and overly competitive. The direct tragedy of non-trained employees is the incompetence to match up the necessities of a contemporary society. It is important to consider an online business training course if the difficulty is time or cost of doing a recommended training.

Improving Loyalty and Staff Retention

As a business, staff retention is a saving to the business and its future prospects. Employees have their own aspirations for growth and they may want to venture out to look for that satisfaction. However, if the training opportunity is available to them, they find their professional growth in the business and are likely to stay longer. It is a fact that such training will definitely add them new skills and promote their contribution to the business as well as building their self-esteem. Giving them a chance to improve their skills makes them realise that you value them enough to invest in them.

Improved Business Prospects and Profits

The ultimate objective of running a business is to maximise an opportunity to make profits. Training employees makes them more competent and qualified to promote your business in the marketplace. This will have an effect and an increased business means more profits.

Makes Your Business Competitive

Stagnating is the worst effect that can kill your business, so by ensuring that your staff are constantly advancing, you continue to grow in business and remain competitive within the industry. It is expensive and very disorienting to employ new staff. An online business course for your employees can make them more eligible for internal promotions. Unlike new employees, you will have the benefit of a complete and knowledgeable staff for your business, who are people you know and you can trust.

Exposes Business Weaknesses and Skill Gaps

Training makes the business realise what they have been doing wrong and henceforth, the business can more easily identify any skill gaps in the market and even within the existing employees. This will propel your business to work on filling the gaps which will assist the staff to fulfil their role effectively.

Conclusion

Training is therefore a valuable and profound investment for the business. For the many businesses that may not have adequate time, an online business training course would be more appropriate. The staff will have a much higher sense of job satisfaction, which will improve their motivation towards their work and the business generally.

Starting a Startup Business? Choose the Right Business Consulting Firm for Success

Being your own boss is the dream of many and lately, the instinct seems to be taking the world by storm. People are now more inclined to start their own firm, it seems to lure many people and running an own business shows the larger than life picture, however, the reality is a bit different. As an entrepreneur willing to start a new business you need to understand the market, do the need analysis and many researches before executing your plan. You might be budding with business startup ideas but mere planning will not help you succeed, rather you need a right plan of action to succeed.

The upsurge of small business consulting firms has proven to be a panacea for startups. They offer the consultation and startup mentoring services which work as a guide for entrepreneurs to successfully implement and execute their business plan. Not only it supports the Business Startup Ideas but provides feedback to improve the business plan which helps in removing bottlenecks usually faced by startups.

Why do you need startup mentoring?

There is no denial to the fact that many startups fail in their nascent stage, and they may have a number of reasons for the same, the likes include entrepreneurs being naiveté and lack of supportive startup ecosystem, lack of funds, poor market conditions and much more. But, the most important factor that most of the startups miss is a lack of guidance, inspiration, and feedback from small business consulting firms and no startup mentoring. It might sound absurd to a few strong-headed entrepreneurs to take the support of a mentor to execute their business plan but these firms are a must to make your business successful.

Startup Mentoring – your ultimate supporter and motivator

In the lead to succeed, most of the entrepreneurs break rules or make mistakes which they are not even aware of, these mistakes, however, can adversely affect their business. Also, many times as an aspiring business builder you find yourself stuck in a situation where you don’t know how to proceed. Startup Business Consulting firms and mentors work as a savvy guide who constantly provides you feedback.

Initially, you may be having a lack of confidence but with the mentorship of a good startup mentor, you can move ahead with confidence and without hesitation.

How to find the right startup consulting firm or a startup mentor for your company:

You are entrusting your faith and vision on a person who will be your mentor or support or guide, hence, it is very important that you have a strong relationship with them and at the same time, it’s important that your startup mentor’s or consulting firm’s vision should coincide with yours. A good startup has the following qualities:

  • An expert-level experience
  • Already a successful entrepreneur
  • Are patient and action oriented
  • A harsh critic yet supportive

Before moving ahead and getting associated with any firm or person, as an entrepreneur you should check for the aforementioned qualities.

What does a good startup mentor do?

A good startup consulting firm or a mentor will:

  • Listen to your concept and give honest feedback
  • Will give you time and talk through your areas of difficulties. Since they carry with them good amount of experience, they also share their experience which helps you understand your problems and come up with right solution
  • They are action oriented and hence, always suggest practical ways on how to start a business by making optimum use of available resources

Takeaways-

You must accept the fact that it takes a village to become a successful entrepreneur, of course, your vision and idea is important but what’s paramount is its right and timely execution which only comes with the right support system. The upsurge of companies like Virgin startup is a move to support and guide the newbies in the business world to succeed and survive.

Let Us Bring Back Small Business By Reducing Regulation From the Bureaucracy

A few years back our think tank was discussing what we needed to do to bring back our economy and the jobs we need in the United States. We addressed the issue of our ultra-slow growth under the Obama Administration and the dismal economic recovery. One of the members of the think thank was busy listening to the in-depth dialogue and stated;

“Let’s entertain the idea that both Congress and the president’s office are conservative by a great majority. Both government branches could make all of the changes in the world to standardize business as they deem necessary and most efficient. What is to keep an extremely liberal party from taking Congress and the White House, and reversing all of the good the other party did? There isn’t really anything as long as there is a majority vote.”

She then talked about the ‘pendulum of politics’ and how one party is in power then the next and how the policies reverse over and over again and how this continues the challenges with uncertainty which slows our economic growth as money, investments and capital sit on the sidelines.

Indeed, this is true, however, shouldn’t we all agree that politics can’t keep its hands of Free-Enterprise. The Democrats want to hijack the flows of commerce; labor, efficiency, capital, and profits for their special projects, which usually involve buying votes with socialist populist gifts, and the Republicans have allowed themselves to get so deep in crony-capitalism (Democrats also) that they hardly notice they are destroying the efficiencies of choice and free-markets, while they pretend they are doing positive things for our nation.

Basically, both sides are doing good for themselves and their ability to stay in power. Yes, the system is broken, thus, the power should taken back until they all grow up, and start doing what’s best for the nation, and serving the people and this great nation and not serving themselves at our expense. But, I digress, because I am not allowed to say that, nor you or we both end up on “watch lists” so yes the system is rotten. Even good people in Washington DC are only good they say for about 18-months, the best of them maybe 36 max, as the system corrupts.

Uncertainty is therefore guaranteed, but some say that the reason that government moves so slow in the bureaucracy is because it was designed that way to protect the people from it moving too fast in one direction which is dangerous to all, including the businesses, even the future of the country’s stability, which is extremely important in complex systems.

5 Tips Small Businesses Can Take Away From The Tiny House Movement

What on earth could small businesses learn from the tiny house movement if your industry is unrelated? It comes as no surprise that the growth, mission, popularity and purpose of the tiny house movement have grown over the past decade. People are joining this movement for financial freedom, environmental and leisure enjoyment. These owners reduce skyrocketing maintenance costs and living expenses that come from soaring mortgage payments of capacious houses. This movement also frees up more time to spend with family and travel.

Over the past decade, we have seen the increase in restructuring, downsizing and corporate dismantling by many large firms. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 99.7 percent of all employer firms are small businesses. While this percentage is an impressive number, there are some great tips many small businesses can take away from the tiny house movement.

  • Compact and mobile: Owners of tiny houses downsize to reduce the overabundance of clutter, high mortgage payments, and freedom to do more things they want to engage in. They have the capability of hitching their home on the back of a vehicle and can save money on hotel costs when traveling. Depending on your type of business, with the ease and digitization of many applications and smart devices, you can mobilize your business and take it anywhere. Even if you relocate, your business can be just as portable. Small businesses may be compact in scale, but can be substantial in their return on investment.
  • Energy and cost-efficient: Tiny house owners save money by lower operating costs, energy usage, and maintenance costs. You will find innovative ways to curb your budget in certain areas that will free up money for other important business investments to grow your business. Small businesses may not use up as much energy and power as larger organizations. You can operate more efficiently as well as effectively.
  • Environmentally conscious and sustainable: Tiny houses may be built using environmentally friendly and repurposed materials. They are built to last but are as unique and aesthetically appealing as the details in a larger home. Small businesses can apply similar eco-friendly elements and recycled supplies to their organization. Make a statement with personalized and customized brand installations on a smaller scale, but with great innovative curb appeal.
  • Technological advantages: Technology is not as big and bulky as it once was. Tiny houses can embody the same level of digitization as larger homes, just on a smaller scale. At one time, big businesses had the upper-hand with harnessing more advanced applications in technology. Nowadays, not only is technology more advanced and constantly evolving, many elements are far more affordable than they’ve ever been.
  • Innovative: While tiny house living is not a new phenomenon it is increasing in popularity. The idea of living a quality life on a small-scale pushes us to new levels of residential creativity. We are inspired to try something new, creative, and innovative that will make us stellar in our industry. Since many quality products and services are more affordable and reliable, small businesses can make quality purchases and outsource services that will save on equipment and personnel budgets.

Just because a small business may adopt a few ideas from the success of the tiny house movement, some of these applications may not be feasible or appealing to your particular industry. You don’t have to sacrifice quality for affordability. Small businesses have the power, however, to promote their business with creative, personalized and exceptional customer experiences, regardless of size and budget.

18 Easy Tips to Start Your Business

Blueprint to starting a business -from ideas to implementation.

Starting a business, where do I begin? Information overload. I’ve complied what I’ve learned over the last 8 years of being on the internet.

    1. Write down a list of services in your area that could be filled.
    1. Write down a list of what your hobbies, interests are.
    1. Research and see if there is a need for the service. Check if there is competition. If there is, see if you can do something easier/better/different. Is there a problem you can solve for your customers? In our area, I would love a delivery place that offered healthy foods such as good old-fashioned green beans with a hamburger instead of fries. Research a need in your area and see if you can fill it. Research the laws in your state. If you’re thinking of starting a bakery, check with your local health inspector to find out what is allowed. If you’re thinking of running a business out of your home and will have customers pick up orders, make sure and check with your local business zones. Some areas may not allow excessive traffic, it’s best to do your research.
    1. Once you’ve decided what you want to do, research the business name and make sure it’s available. You’ll need to register it with the state. Most states allow you to do this online for a minimal fee.
    1. Taxes- get legal. If you’re selling a product, see if you need to collect state sales tax. In my state, I collect taxes on products purchased in my state only and then forward to the Department of Revenue once a year.
    1. Buy a domain name with your business name. 1and1.com and GoDaddy offer domains. This usually costs less than $10 for a year.
    1. Hosting-ask friends and family for referrals. I love my host. Uptime is very important as well as response time. I host with a smart entrepreneur who owns her own servers and monitors them regularly. If there is a problem or I have a question, I know that she is one email or phone call away. I don’t get referred to another person for another issue.
    1. Create a website. There are tons of ways to do this. There are many templates you can find, both paid and free. I’ve used both, plus created mine from scratch as well as paid to have my website created from scratch.
    1. Shopping cart-How are you going to sell your product/service? There are as many shopping carts out there as there are ways to start a business. A free shopping cart that is easy to use is Mals-e. It integrates easily with Paypal.com. PayPal also has their own shopping cart and buy now buttons. When considering a shopping cart, look at the features that you are going to need. Are you selling 20,000 different products? If so you’ll need a shopping cart that lets you use Excel or other programs to upload information. If you’re selling 10 or even 50 items then Mals-e will probably work for you. Mals-e creates a HTML button to insert into your page. The customer is taken to a secure form where they input their payment information.
    1. Are you secure? If you will be accepting credit cards, you will need to be certified PCI compliant for credit cards. Some shopping carts take care of this for you. I currently use Ultracart and they offer PCI compliance with their cart. I have a SSL certificate that I pay a yearly fee for. To get the certificate, I had to prove who I was and get it verified. This protects both you and your customer.
    1. Learn Search Engine Optimization (SEO)-Learn it and keep learning it. This is how you get the best search engine results, which can mean the difference between your business making a profit or losing money. If your website is optimized correctly Google and other search engines will find you and send traffic to your website, resulting in more sales. Cricket’s search engine optimization class is the best and it’s free!
    1. Now that your website is up and running and you have a working shopping cart, it’s time to advertise. When you built your website you used keywords that others would find you with, right? It’s important to understand that just because you have a website up and running, it doesn’t mean customers will magically find you. There are many new websites going up every day so yours has to stand out. You can start by adding original, unique content using your keywords. To find your keywords, use a keyword finder. Google has a free one. Another way is to brainstorm. What would you type into Google to find you? Who needs your services? Who is your target market? Where can you find them?
    1. Accounting- set up a method to keep track of sales and expenses. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as an excel spreadsheet or even old-fashioned pen and paper. QuickBooks is a popular program that is easy to set up and maintain, just do it from the beginning or you’ll spend time backtracking to put information in.
    1. Marketing plan-Create a map of where you’re going and how you are going to reach your goal Get your free business marketing plan workbook.
    1. Ideas- Keep track of all your ideas. I write them down and put them in my folder of ideas that could be implemented with time and money.
    1. Have a support system. I have a fabulous group of women who have their own specialties. I’ve learned so much from them. When I’m having a bad day I can go to them and vent. It’s extremely important to have a support system in place. Realize that you can do this but it will be hard work, long hours and little pay up front.
    1. Work, Love and Enjoy- My best advice comes from Kay Green, work your business like a business every day. Set up a business schedule and stick to it. Work on your business every day. My friend and mentor taught me this. She went from one product to having a storefront and being a leader in child safety and baby products, all within less than 10 years..
  1. Read these tips, make notes and read it again. Remember that although this is step by step, it can be accomplished by doing more than one thing at once. When you’re an entrepreneur you will wear many hats. If there’s something you don’t know, reach out to your network and ask for help.

Build a Sales Strategy That’ll Increase Your Customer Base

What does it take to turn your carpet cleaning business into a success? If you’re like most cleaning companies, you’re looking to grow your customer base. You can never have too many leads, but this won’t mean much if they’re not hot. Becoming a marketer for your brand is essential if you want to entice prospects to becoming customers. You’ve got commercial carpet steam cleaners and other carpet cleaning equipment you can use to perform excellent jobs.

Now, you need a quality sales strategy to start raking in more customers. There are five key systems that every business should have to grow their company:

  • Marketing: This is everything to do with spreading the word about your company and its services.
  • Administration: You need organization, so that numbers are being properly tracked.
  • Leadership: Without this, everything will be in disarray. Order begins with your teams, so leaders are needed to keep your business moving forward.
  • Operations: This is your business model of how you please your customers. The better quality your service, the more happy customers you’ll have (and keep).
  • Sales: You can’t expect to grow your business without a sales plan and team. Your company should be actively seeking ways to convert prospects into loyal customers.

Marketing and Sales Go Hand-in-HandDon’t get it twisted – marketing and sales are not the same. The two have a similar end goal, but the methods used to reach it are unique. Marketing is all about attracting customers and sales is about closing the deal. What keeps them around are your operations. If you’re not great in these departments, then you can always resort to hiring an expert or agency that can handle these tasks for you.

When you use sales and marketing together, you can potentially build a winning strategy that will attract more clientele.

Building a Sales System

There are times when businesses get their marketing and sales all wrong. Take for instance this scenario: A guy was looking around for a new car for his wife. He went to the Chrysler website and was impressed with the quick form on the side that put him in touch with a sales agent. The woman was courteous and professional and scheduled an appointment for him to come by the following day. This is all the marketing process. However, once he arrived to the dealership, the woman he spoke to wasn’t there – she was in the internet marketing division. Then the guy that did assist them was poorly trained to where the guy decided to purchase his vehicle from elsewhere.

With that said, you don’t want to focus too much on the marketing and forget about training your sales staff, so they can learn to seal the deal. In sales, it’s all about converting prospecting into paying customers. And it’s all about consistency, just like for your commercial carpet steam cleaners – they need to perform well each and every time.

There are seven key areas of a great sales system:

  • Establishing rapport: Build rapport with the prospects that contact you. Find out how they heard about your business and whether someone specifically told them about your company. If so, use that person to help build rapport.
  • Connect with customers emotionally: Consumers make purchases based on emotions, so learn how to trigger the right ones.
  • Build up your credibility: Start establishing trust and believability right away. Don’t oversell your services – focus on showcasing the benefits of your portable carpet cleaning machine and other carpet cleaning equipment.
  • Identify key problems: Then use it to sell them on the benefits of your services.
  • Focus on solutions not features: As they say, sell the sizzle not the steak!
  • Quote the investment: Not the price – carpet cleaning is an investment that can improve the quality of living in a home.
  • Learn to overcome objections: Not everyone is going to buy into your sales tactics, so you need to be prepared for potential objections.

Why Documenting Business Processes Are Important

I think there are two topics that make anyone cringe. The first is taxes (shudder), and the second is structure and by structure I mean establishing documents that detail the processes we use to do what we do.

Crazy fun (ick)!

But crazy essential.

Documenting the processes that keep your business running accomplishes several goals:

  1. It’s a basis for training new team members
  2. It can be a way to review the steps, hence creating timelines and assigning tasks, that make up your individual business goals
  3. It identifies opportunities for delegation
  4. It allows you to step away from aspects of the business (think vacation, or just an afternoon off), and get out of the weeds

Let me share a story of a client of ours, who provided business coaching to groups, globally. Each group event was targeted towards C-level executives, and there was a high expectation of perfectionism.We knew that based on the marketing initiatives in play, that business was going to grow. For each coaching engagement we knew the following tasks needed to be completed:

  • That travel arrangements had to be made
  • Onsite arrangements (space logistics) had to be tended to
  • A Statement of Work (including an invoice) needed to be initiated
  • A coaching package (handouts) had to be created

We devised a system where an email would go out to the team with the dates and locations of the coaching engagements, including a checklist of the items that needed to be in the package. We had one team member that would own the travel arrangements, another handling contracting, and another that created the package, etc. Each team member worked within their relative strengths.The checklist for the package was key. What we helped this coach do was create a listing of the different documents he used previously, and he could just check off which ones he wanted again, with a spot for comments for changes. We were then able to pull these templates and compile them in one document.

We all had a shared calendar, we knew who was doing what, and because many of the documents were templates (also stored online), there were no concerns if one team member was unavailable.

It become seamless. Yes, there were bumps in the road as processes were refined, we accepted that this would be part of it.

Our client was thrilled because he knew who was doing what, he had confidence in the process and confidence in us.

His clients experienced the professionalism they expected.

Processes work. And they work much better when everyone knows what they are, their role within them, and how each step connects to the whole.