Every time I work with a business owner and am presented with a new situation, I often find myself thinking back to how I would handle that in the sports world. You see, when I not running my business coaching practice during the day, in the evenings and on weekends you will find me on the soccer field. I have the privilege of coaching in the highly competitive soccer programs at the Brandon Football Club. I am passionate about the sport and passionate about watching the players challenge themselves to greater success. Prior to coaching here locally at the club, I coached at other area clubs and with the USA Under 17 Men’s National team, and the story was the same. The highly elite athletes pushed themselves to such thresholds of success and achieved. Why would that be different in business? Why would the coaching I provide them be any different than a business owner?
My sports background has been invaluable in business and in coaching. There are a lot of similarities between sports coaching and business coaching. Both are about looking for ways to do things better and more efficiently. I like to think about coaching as bridging the gap to what you already know and where you should be performing. Having a second opinion or strategy from a coach might be the difference where you are currently operating at and where you should be.
The success on the soccer fields with my teams is really helping me develop other business owners through coaching. I often work with people who just got into business but have no idea what is involved in running it. We work through a business plan, growth strategies, and implementation. Typically, within three months, the business goes from losing money to making a very good bottom line profit. Coaching is not about fixing businesses, it’s all about working with businesses to find and implement solutions while writing the systems for long term success. When we coach clients, we use a strong process and strategies to help the business owners get change in their organization by answering their own questions.
You need to remember most people are in business because it’s something they’ve always wanted but now they’re working in it, not on it, and have no idea how to pull up. It’s important to have fun when you’re in business – so it’s supporting a lifestyle and is a choice. Business owners generally have a high emotional attachment to their business. Their two main passions tend to be their family and their business, in that order. Often when we’re dealing with a business owner, a lot of their focus in the business is to take care of their family; a lot may have taken large loans or borrowed against their home. It’s a space we have to be very aware of when coaching.
Most businesses we speak with seeking coaching assistance want to know how they can maintain and improve their margins through this recessionary environment. There is so much great business here in the Tampa area and those are the success stories we are hearing from our clients through coaching. With the recession, people are re-evaluating their business models and considering how they might change to become more profitable.
If I can continue to remember my roots to the sports world and install the passion that my athletes have into business owners into their business, then we have a great formula for success. This success does not only help the business or the owners, but we all win because we are building an economy that is thriving and succeeding together.
Branding a small business is a real challenge. In fact, it may be one of the most difficult and least understood elements of marketing your business, large or small. In this week’s CEO Rule of the Week my partner, Ruben Estrada, wrote about branding and he prompted me to ask this question.
So, who has the best brand? It’s an interesting question and I hope I can get some of you to help me find an answer. If you have a brand “favorite” please share it with me and the other readers. When you do, try to answer these questions:
- What is it about the brand that you really like?
- What feeling or emotion does the brand create for you?
- What are the things that make a brand good or bad in your mind?
- How would you compare your own brand to the “best” brand you identified.
I am excited to read your responses to this question. I have my own favorite brand and I will be glad to share the brand and my answers to the four questions after I have had the chance to read some of your responses.
By the way, you can check out Ruben’s post on branding at http://esfi.me/rp12hG.
Most business owners and CEO’s start the week looking at the calendar or by hosting a team meeting to have a look at what their week’s are going to look at. As I conduct my team meetings on Monday morning I often ask myself and that of my team, what are you going to do this week that will leave you memorable? You know how it goes, have you ever attended a networking event, collected a bunch business cards, and when you go through them the next day, you can’t remember who many of them are? Or try to think of someone you met and had a conversation with, but you can’t remember their name or their business to look them up? How would you feel it that is what is happening to you? Well, I don’t want to be one of those that other people can’t remember and I’m certain that you do not want to be either. It’s great to pass out business cards, but if people don’t remember you well, they probably won’t be calling you to follow up and they certainly won’t keep you in mind for their future needs or possible referrals.
So here are some ways that my team and I share with each other on how to make each other memorable (in a good way) when meeting other people face to face courtesy Scott Allen. Scott is a master networking and regular contributor to about.com and The Wall Street Journal.
A brightly-colored, hand-painted tie, an unusual necklace or other jewelry, a good (but not overpowering) cologne, even just impeccable grooming can all help you stand out in a good way. It’s not that you want to be remembered and identified for that, but anything that helps people separate you from the crowd helps them remember the rest of you. You don’t have to be outlandish, although some people work that quite well. Just don’t blend in completely with the crowd. I was working with a client and regularly dressed professional in slack and a nice polo shirt. By changing him into a shirt and tie for this industry made all the difference and people know he stands out now.
Be fully present.
Be fully engaged and fully aware of the people you interact with. You can break this down into smaller, somewhat mechanical pieces like listen well, respond promptly, maintain eye contact, etc. If you are truly present in the moment, those things will happen naturally. Many people only seem to be “half there”, so being fully engaged helps you stand out.
Ask thought-provoking questions.
Networking expert Bob Burg has some good suggested questions in his book Endless Referrals: Network Your Everyday Contacts into Sales, such as “How did you get started?” or “What do you enjoy most about what you do?” But the very best questions can’t be communicated in a book because they’re specific to the person you’re interacting with and will arise in response to your initial conversation. By being fully present, this will flow naturally. As Dale Carnegie suggested, you must “take a genuine interest in other people”.
Reinforce your keywords.
I like this one, people aren’t going to remember long descriptions of what you do, or likely even that 30-second intro that many experts teach you to make. People will at best remember a few key things about you like, your name, your company name, your business/industry (in three words or less), your product, and your location.
What you want to do is find ways to unobtrusively increase the occurrence of these things in your conversation. For example, is there some kind of story behind your name? Have it ready to use if there’s an opportunity. Does your business have an unusual name? What’s the story behind it, what does it mean? Refer to your place of business when telling an incident that occurred (“I was driving down 17th Street leaving my store, when…”).
Anything you say that reinforces one of the five items above helps make you more memorable. And if they can remember just three of them, “Joe the barber from Soho” or “Maria the translator who wrote ‘Spanish in Six Weeks’” you’re doing great.
Contribute to the group conversation.
Don’t hog it, and don’t say just anything in order to say something publicly, but saying one really smart thing at your table or in front of the whole group will make you much more memorable than half an hour of semi-conscious small talk. Create value for others and you create value for yourself.
When we look at brand strategy in marketing, one of the most important concepts is that a brand is not just a memorable name or logo, it’s an experience. A great brand communicates values and emotions that get called to mind whenever someone thinks of the name or logo.
Here we’re talking about your personal brand. Remember that you are your business. The impression that you make on people is the impression they will have of your business, so make it good and make it memorable.
A CRM solution has every reason to be used by business organizations as it can help businesses to radically improve the way they process and managed customer needs. With regards to the use of a CRM solution, a suspect is a contact who is yet to express interests in business offerings, but are likely to be in need for a similar product or service offering. CRM solutions from websites like Car Research can shorten and augment suspect customer profiling by allowing businesses to be more precisely in uncovering trends, patterns, and common features among their customer base. Once a suspect profile has been created, CRM solutions can make it simpler to target business contacts for definite promotions by allowing contacts segmentation based on age, gender, disposable income level, geography, and any other characteristics.
CRM solutions facilitate marketing to pass or allocate a lead directly to a sales delegate. It will also help sales people to efficiently manage all aspects of the prospective deals as they move closer to closing. For instance, activities on phone calls and meetings can be tracked, associated documentation such as quotes and request for proposals can be stored and a probability of close and potential deal worthiness can be easily estimated for pipeline and forecasting purposes. Solutions at Car Research are capable meeting all these requirements such that your business can meet and even exceeding your customer expectations.
Many CRM solutions can help in lead capture as they are can be tightly integrated with websites and email distribution systems. That means surveys, form completions, click-through, and other response mechanisms are dynamically captured, and related information can be made immediately available to sales and marketing people. With intelligent routing capabilities of a CRM from Car Research, this means follow-up communication can be mechanically triggered, or leads can be dynamically forwarded to specific sales representatives basing on pre-defined business rules.
Customer relationship management tools also help companies to track initial and add-on purchases and allow businesses to provide any post-sale service and support issues that may arise. Furthermore, as customers become progressively more indecisive and loyalty continues to nose-dive, CRM solutions will provide businesses with an insight they need in provision of world-class customer support, deliver value-added services and maintain existing business Reporting is another powerful CRM facet, as it has the ability to extract data at will and generation of reports gives practical snapshot of what is going on in business at any given time. Reports are important in convening and conveying information to those individuals who may not have access to the CRM or does not use it regularly.
I love at looking at numbers and figuring out ways to be more efficient. By efficient, I’m talking about how many leads I can generate on the web without my personal involvement in speaking to them or me having to meet the lead in person. There is no better feeling than to open up my website and see someone registered for one of our events without ever speaking to them. Lately, it has been very cool to check out the insights section of our Facebook page. They do a really good job in showing you your number of impressions, number of new likes, number of monthly active users, etc. The key is to understand those numbers and know where you need to have them operating at to have a positive ROI and generate good business. After all, the purpose of analyzing the statistics is to look for trends and to research the success level of your marketing campaigns. Instead of looking at the numbers as concrete items, look at them over time to see if they’re increasing or decreasing and follow the trends.
While doing some research and checking out my follow business coach, Karyn Greenstreets, here are some numbers you should look at.
There are three areas that are important to review each month and during each marketing campaign. The number of unique visitors will help you to determine whether your site is receiving more or less visitors each month.
The location tells you what country, and sometimes what State, the visitors are coming from. This is important if you’re concerned about your global reach to other countries, or if you’ve done a marketing campaign in other States. Note that this is the State of the ISP where they connected to the Internet. Because AOL is in Virginia, you will have an inordinate amount of Virginia visitors, even though these people are actually all over the USA.
An important distinction is the concept of “visitors” versus “hits”. Each person who visits your site is considered a “visitor”. Each time a visitor looks at a page, that page and its contents are accessed, including the graphics on the page. As example, say that your home page has two graphics on it, plus some text. That is considered THREE elements on the page. When a visitor visits that page once, your statistics will show ONE visitor and THREE hits.
Time of Day Activity
This area of your statistics helps you to determine which days of the week have the most activity, and which time of day is the most active. This can be helpful to know when to schedule chats and teleclasses. For instance, if Wednesdays at 3PM are popular times for your site, they may be popular times for teleclasses. It’s important to note here that one of the most popular times for people to search the web is weekdays after lunch. (People are at work and having a sugar low after digesting their lunch and are surfing the net instead of working.) If this is a popular time for people to be surfing the net, then this might also be a popular time for an internet chat on your web site.
This section of your statistics will tell you who is sending people to your web site. It lists which search engines people use, as well as which keywords or key phrases people use to find your site. In addition, this section will also list what other sites are linking from their site to your site. (When someone links from their site to your site, it’s called an “inbound link” or “incoming link”.)
This section of your statistics will help you to determine which pages are visited most often, how long people stay on a page (presumably to read it), and which page people exit your site from. Again, trends matter here more than the concrete numbers. Are certain pages more popular than others? Are people only spending 5 seconds on a page that should take 3 minutes to read?
As you can see, there are many number to look at in your statistics, and many ways to interpret them. If you pay more attention to trends and problems, and less attention to actual numbers, you’ll be ahead of the game!
As you know the economy is sluggish the last couple of years. As business owners, we share the responsibility with local government to help with economic development and net job creation. Being in this economy has been very difficult for many of us, but together through our efforts at the small business level, I believe we can recover and be in a good situation.
Starting in 2004 and through the years in working with business owners and research we at Estrada Strategies have done on entrepreneurship and business development, we have found that statistically 80% of businesses that where founded every year fail within three years. To me, that’s a horrific statistic because every time a business is founded it represents the hopes, dreams, and vision of a family. To know they are being found and going out of business so quickly means the dreams of that person as fading quickly. To add to that, if you look at the statistics year over year going back to 1990, 100% net new private sector jobs growth occurs in the business with an employment force less than 50 workers. What that means is the big businesses add new employees but they do not have new net job growth. They just turn over jobs, people come in, people go out, etc. If you take out the large businesses that have over 50 employees and look at net job growth, what you discover is that the only sector that has been adding jobs over this time period is small business and government.
How does this relate to us today as small business owners? In 2004, we said 80% of small businesses fail, if you look at those same numbers in 2010, with the change in economy, the trend in the last three years is 90% are failing within two years. The interesting thing about this is while the economy has lost many jobs and unemployment up so high, what it does is it stimulates new business development. When people get out of work, they look for new ways to make money and one of those is opening a new business. We have a lot of business development and creation going now here but unfortunately a lot of those businesses are going into business and out of business just as quickly, creating a further negative situation.
I believe there are two key issues that take place that has lead to this current downturn in economic development. If you take the big statistic, 80% of small businesses fail in the first three years; the small business administration has been tracking it for a long time. It includes home based businesses that you may not call a business in the first place, those are the home based ones where the wife is trying to make extra money, garage based business, etc. About 50% of businesses make this up. If you take those out of the equation, there are two reasons why small businesses fail.
- They start with insufficient capital. They never had enough money to begin with in the first place. People start businesses and never realize how much cash they needed to begin in the first place.
- The second reason why small businesses fail is the business owner didn’t know how to do the right thing at the right time. These are typically the business owners that leave a great job because they got tired of working for someone else and had no idea of all the things small businesses need to know. Most are great at their trade, but had no idea how to sell, market, keep books, etc.
As the economy begins to recover, it is our responsibility to not become one of these two statistics. A good cash flow plan with a financial advisor and securing the right capital will help sustain long term business growth. You will also want to look into continued education and training to make sure you are learning all the things that go into business ownership and keeping up with the trends. With these two efforts, you will be doing your job as business owner in economic development and stimulating new net job growth.
Everyone knows that online presence is becoming more and more important, but not everyone knows where to begin. This is one area of my business that I have been thinking a lot of lately as I want to lead generate more without me having to pound the pavement to do it. With so many different options to choose, choosing the right strategy is very important. Perhaps an investment in pay-per-click may be the way to go or a social media campaign. Should I optimize my site so that it appears towards the top of Google for free? I think I probably should do all three but where do I start. It gets even harder when every person I speak to says something different. I know I need to keep writing my blog, sending my Tweets and use Facebook, but how often and with what content? So I did some reading and research and here are some things that I found, most should work well for you.
Blogs within a website or linked to your website through an outside blog site like Google’s Blogger are pretty powerful. They need to be written in informal and conversational in tone. Think of it has having a conversation with your keyboard; say to it what you would be telling someone in person. Blogs are great because it adds a more casual element to your website. It helps put your face to the website. The down side is blogs do not rank high on search engines except if you are talking about sports and politics and not everyone can sit in front of a computer and start writing. You need to have a sense of creativity.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is when you market your website so that it ranks high on search engines. Search engines typically have two places where your website can be listed; the organic listing are the ones that run down the center of the page below or to the left of the paid links. The good thing about SEO is almost everyone that clicks on a link from a search engine does it from the free list and it works with every website. They are usually looked as more trusted and convert to higher site visits than paid links. It takes a long time and a lot of work to get a website optimized. There are many strategies to take into account to optimize your website.
Using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and other social sites are up and coming and a great place for presence online. The thing to remember with social media is that it is like networking online, a lot more passive and no selling. You are adding credibility and establishing yourself as the expert in your field. It helps you connect with your existing users and also has the ability to run advertisements on the social media sites which can be very targeted. It may be hard to generate new business quickly from social media, but if you speak about things that users find useful or can attach to, it can be very beneficial.
Pay-per-click (PPC) are the sponsored links usually in yellow on the top and right hand side of search engines. Unlike social media, they can deliver traffic quickly, but only 20-30 percent of people click on PPC links. The huge benefit of PPC is it offers huge control of managing your campaign because your have control of lots of specifics like geography and demographics. The down side of PPC is that it’s probably the most expensive method for online presence. You need a company to manage a budget to and spend wisely. You have to focus on your keywords that will keep the costs low.
Make sure you focus your efforts on the ones that return the highest return on investment. There are also other forms of online presence but the ones talked about here are the most common and some of the easiest to achieve.
As business owner and CEO, there is no doubt you know that it’s your responsibility to insure that everybody throughout your organization clearly understands the vision of the company, its values, and the mission of the organization. It never fails that every time I speak to business owners that haven’t grown or have high employee turnover, they either don’t have one or if they do, it’s not clearly communicated.
The vision in its simple form is the ability to see beyond what is to what could be. The essence of all leadership begins with vision. As business owner, you must consciously craft and communicate your vision. You want to create a vision that others will say, “we want to do that too.” The power in the vision statement is the back story that comes behind it. For example, Coca Cola’s vision statement is Coke, within an arms reach of every human on the planet. Why is that Coca Cola’s vision statement? It was crafted in the mid 1970’s when Coke was dominating the United States. They had clear market share and their top executives and managers had become stagnant. They needed to regroup and develop a new vision that would motivate them and their employees for more. As we know, today, Coke is a global leader and is really close to being within an arms reach of everyone. You see, your vision is the magnet that pulls people towards a seemingly unattainable goal. Without vision and only having goals that employees need to accomplish, you will get resistance, discontent, unmotivated employees and loss of business. They will only push back instead of working towards that vision with you.
So here’s a tip: On a regular basis, once a week ideally, once a month if necessary, but at minimum once a quarter, take some time and push out a message to all of your employees. You can use email, a newsletter, or maybe even a recorded voice message. Use that message to reset the scales. Re-communicate the vision of the organization. If possible communicate something that the company has done recently to move closer to that vision. Review your mission and communicate a strategic initiative that was accomplished that gets the company closer to serving that mission. When you do send this message, be sure to let people know how they can contribute to living the vision and accomplishing the mission.
When companies begin to grow,at times, the technology that is needed to support it falls behind. As our business begins to grow, thinking of purchasing servers and expensive hardware scares me (as others). The IT world is abuzz with talk about cloud computing. Companies are turning to this technoloy to help cut expenditures and extend their computing resources, so it got me thinking about it and what I should do as we grow. Many small business can take advantage of cloud computing, accessing enterprise-grade software that would otherwise be too expensive and too complex for their IT departments.
Cloud computing can mean a lot of things, but essentially, it refers to any service in which data is stored in a remote virtual environment instead of on your business’ premises. Generally, these services are subscription-based, and may be billed on a monthly basis, with rates dependent on the amount of data you’re storing remotely, or in “the cloud.” Here are a few ways that you might use cloud computing for your company.
Document storage. Have you ever used a service that allows you to save, edit, and modify files that are stored online? Then you’ve used a cloud computing service. Many cloud document storage services allow you to store and access Word files, PDFs, audio files, spreadsheets, and other data through your Internet connection, so you can access your files from any computer as long as you can get online. A typical provider allows up to one gigabyte of free storage per account; if your business needs more space, it can be purchased on a per-unit basis.
Website hosting. Instead of purchasing a physical server to host your website, many users have now switched to “cloud hosting,” which operates on one or more connected servers online. This means that you can quickly scale up or down if your bandwidth needs increase or decrease. It’s also far more cost-effective than a dedicated server, as you only need to pay for the amount of computing power you’re using, instead of paying the full cost of running an entire server. On the downside, because you are not physically in control of your data storage, there are some security risks as far as cloud hosting is concerned. Nonetheless, it’s a great option for many small businesses.
Accounting and billing. If you and your employees need to keep track of your hours, expenses, and invoices, one way to make sure everything’s in order is to use an accounting system that’s hosted in the cloud, so users can access the service from anywhere. Many accounting services even offer programs that let you track your time as you are working, and monitor how timely your clients are with paying your invoices.
Project management. If you’re managing a team of workers who frequently need to upload files for feedback and editing, it makes a lot of sense to switch from an internal project management system to one that’s hosted online. This is particularly useful if you have employees who work remotely or travel for business, or if you’re managing a project that involves freelance contractors. In addition to file sharing, such systems can be used to send messages within a group, and to set up milestones and email reminders.
When it comes to size, small businesses may be small, but they also need to accomplish some of the same things that big businesses do. Technology is an important factor in helping businesses succeed. Identifying your business’s information technology needs and requirements typically involves evaluating your IT services or ways you plan to expose your business to the World Wide Web. It supplies a more efficient platform that can provide automation, increased accessibility to customers and increased productivity As you attempt to align your IT infrastructure model with your business strategies, identify the gaps and opportunities for improvement. Developing a plan for growth and a summary report of your findings while validating your recommendations helps ensure that future your IT investments meet your organization’s business needs effectively. On an ongoing basis, clearly define any IT project’s vision and scope before you gather requirements, make purchases or begin development.
Including a these must-have technologies in the start-up costs is not only a good investment but also a step in the right direction.
Telephone communications are essential to running businesses, especially if you or your clients cannot meet in person. A phone allows you to interact with clients and vendors regularly. Phone communications can be through a regular land line, VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), cable line or wireless. A telephone is also usually the fastest way to communicate to get a response.
Computers and Peripherals
A small business should have computers that do more than just jot down notes or write down business letters and reports. They should connect small businesses to the Internet. If you want your business to succeed in this technologically-advanced era, it needs a website. Giving your business an Internet presence allows you to reach more customers than if you were only to advertise through the local papers or yellow pages.
Aside from connecting to the Internet, computers help small businesses communicate via email, write correspondences and contracts, create presentation slides and perform administrative tasks such as creating sales logs and billing invoices. Along with computers are basic peripherals that are very useful in running a small business: printers, scanners, fax machines and copiers.
Your business will grow faster if you do not stay tied to your desk. There will be times that you have to leave your desk and meet people to sell your products or offer services. Mobile devices allow you to take your business with you wherever you go. Laptops, hand-held devices and smartphones allow you to connect to the Internet, make phone calls, read or send emails and perform other tasks away from your desk. Mobile devices let you stay in touch while on the road.
A good hardware is not enough without good software. Some of the most widely used software that small businesses need include accounting, tax preparations, inventory, calendar or appointment scheduler, and payroll. These software items are essential in fulfilling your business’ day-to-day tasks.
IT professionals can help maintain your equipment, which includes computers, servers and printers, by performing periodic checks and tune up. They will also be responsible for performing regular backup of your data, which is very important, especially if you accidentally delete files or if the computer crashes and your files disappear. Backing up files will help you restore lost files. Some IT companies perform backups remotely, wherein they will backup your computer systems from their office using remote-backup software.
IT professionals are also responsible for updating your computers with the latest patches and anti-virus software to prevent viruses. They can also help install a firewall to prevent hackers from accessing and stealing valuable information. They will keep your network functioning properly to eliminate network lag and downtime so that your company’s productivity remains high.