As a business owner, you already know how important it is for your customers to feel safe about doing business with you. After all, if a customer even suspects he may not receive everything he was promised, then chances are he’s taking his business elsewhere. So to prevent that you offer guarantees, secure payment methods, prompt customer service, and more. You do whatever it takes to show each customer that you are sincere and trustworthy.
But what steps do you take to protect yourself and your livelihood?
Too many business owners spend all their time worrying about their customers’ security without thinking of their own, even though small companies must often deal with customer fraud, non-paying clients, and more.
Just as you’ve taken steps to ensure that your customers are satisfied with their buying experience, so should you feel comfortable and secure by taking a few precautions of your own.
1. Get Everything in Writing
Written contracts are not just for helping customers understand what they can expect to receive for their money, they are about laying down the
I am mentoring small businesses and I am amazed at the ideas I read from the entrepreneurs I have the pleasure of meeting.
Unfortunately, not many have well laid out business plans and most use the Internet for planning.
A big percentage of the documents they use from the Internet are impressive, but what they do not understand is that one cannot use a business plan tailored for another region of the world to fully execute his specific business.
Business concepts are similar universally, but execution and sustainability differ depending on one’s environment and market.
The business plans I have read display glorified projections and their market analysis clearly depicts great profit.
In short, one look at a business plan will tell you that some issues have yet to be thought out clearly. For example, competition, risk, challenges and so forth.
Before embarking on your venture, draft at least three business plans.
This plan is the truest of them all. I refer to it as the naked business
You probably know that there is more to starting a business than you initially thought. There are so many pieces to put together, coordinate and do before starting a business. Many entrepreneurs are either overloaded with information or confused as to where to start from!
A business plan is a formal document that put these ideas together in a logical sequence. Just like a blue print is necessary for building a house, a business is the THE first step in starting a business. It is a realistic and a workable plan that outlines various aspects of business including industry performance, market statistics, and financial summary and so on.
Alan Lakein once said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”
Many entrepreneurs write business plans only when they seek financing or start-up capital for their business. I have always felt that a business plan is an essential document to any business whether or not it is seeking capital. Yes, investors and bankers need a business plan to understand your plan, but more important than that is you being sure as to what you
No matter the industry or the economic times in which the company was initially conceived, the fact remains that businesses fail on a daily basis due to general lack of knowledge and know-how. What follows are my opinion on three very common methods to ensure not only mediocrity but failure as a business entity in today’s world.
1. Lack of vision and focus
Most business, like most people today, lack a clear vision for their company (and products). I can count on one hand the number of my clients who have been able to answer the initial question of “What are your goals?” without stuttering or pausing in confusion. Strategy formulation (or business planning, if you will) begins from the top-down, starting with a company mission, and ending with a specific plan towards mission completion and execution. Some common flaws the indicate lack of vision and focus include:
-a vague and passionless mission statement, such as “Our company is committed to building a better world”, or, even better, “Our company strives to be the company of choice for our consumers”. Vague statements serve only to dilute collective energies within your company.
-a mission statement
If you’re like the rest of us, you’ve spent a lot of time trying different things to make your online business come together. There are countless methods of conducting a viable marketing career, but there are also as many ways to destroy one as well.
In any endeavor, there are costs. You need to weigh the costs before even getting started. Oh, you know about up front capital, advertising costs, webhosting monthly rental fees, and the like, but. . .
The costs that many entrepreneurs aren’t thinking about right off is the price of your reputation, your intergrity, and your name!
Whenever you put your name on something, you’re staking your reputation on the product and how others view your sales pitch about it. The best way to ruin your business and any future business you might come up with, is to make false claims about it, or use deceptive methods to get people to read what you have to say.
One example that comes to mind is the over use of the “Re:” in your email subject heading. I know who I write to, and I know what I write to others about.
Business Process Automation or BPA for short. This was a buzzword a few years back with anyone and everyone claiming they were experts in this area. Maybe so. But to really realize its true potential you need to understand what business process automation is and why you will need it?
If you own/run/manage a business, take a look around yourself at the daily activities you perform to run your business effectively and efficiently. If you do observe closely, you will quickly notice that you (or your staff) do perform a lot of tasks that are generally repetitive in nature or they may be administrative tasks; tasks that you have to perform and are necessary to run your business.
Let me elaborate that with an example. A customer calls and enquires about a product you market. You tell the customer you will send a product brochure. You take all relevant information like prospect name, address etc. and walk over to your secretary. Your secretary takes the information, chooses the appropriate brochure, creates a covering letter, puts it in an envelope and mails it to your customer. Sounds familiar, right?
Well, what if I told you that
The Customer Analysis section of the business plan assesses the customer segments that the company serves. In it, the company must
1) identify its target customers,
2) convey the needs of these customers, and
3) show how its products and services satisfy these needs.
The first step of the Customer Analysis is to define exactly which customers the company is serving. This requires specificity. It is not adequate to say the company is targeting small businesses, for example, because there are several million of these types of customers. Rather, the plan must identify precisely the customers it is serving, such as small businesses with 10 to 50 employees based in large metropolitan cities on the West Coast.
Once the plan has clearly identified and defined the company’s target customers, it is necessary to explain the demographics of these customers. Questions to be answered include:
1) how many potential customers fit the given definition? is this customer base growing or decreasing?
2) what is the average revenues/income of these customers? and
3) where are these customers geographically based?
After explaining customer demographics, the plan must detail the needs of these customers. Conveying customer needs could take
I was floored! I couldn’t believe what they were saying! But there they sat — three of the biggest film stars of our age — telling the world they had issues with confidence. I was watching an interview where Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman and Julianne Moore were talking with Oprah Winfrey. Their conversation gave me a lot to think about in regard to small business success.
It started with Meryl making a comment about a movie she’d starred in. Her joke was about the fact that she actually quit the movie before it began filming and then ended up following through with her commitment after all. At this point, Nicole and Julianne chimed in. “I do the same thing!” was the cry. As I watched these three huge film stars go back and forth with their issues of insecurity, it dawned on me that I had something in common with these movie icons.
As a small business owner, I constantly question myself. I wonder if I have the imagination, the talent, the skills, or the drive to make it online. Yes, I’m earning a full-time living on the Web. I’ve done so for quite some time
Think of your business as a living, breathing, organism. It requires you to give it a large portion of your time and effort in order for it to grow and flourish.
You must spend time “feeding” it fresh content and searching for ways to improve it.
I remember growing up as a child, all I ever wanted was a puppy. When I finally received it, I realized that it was a large responsibility to feed it, groom it, and provide it with attention.
At times I felt like just “skipping” a day in order to have more time to do the things that we enjoyed as children. Yet even then I knew that if I failed to give my puppy the required attention, it would suffer. The same goes for your business, without constant maintenance and upkeep, it will suffer.. and eventually die.
One surefire way to ensure that your not neglecting your business is to seek out shortcuts.
By this I mean gathering a list of the “little things” that you feel can be put off until a later date.
These are in most instances, the difference between making large profits
Are Office Supply Super Stores Killing Your Business?
Have you ever noticed how convenient those giant office super stores are? I mean we all use them. They’re on every corner out here in the suburbs of Boston. It’s Officethis or Officethat or something like Paperclips, you know, all the major players. Well, I’ve recently realized that over the past 10 years of prosperity that my small business has been paying a huge premium for this convenience. In the past several months, as a result of the recent economic downturn in our local economy, I have been doing everything I can to plug the holes in our spending and trying to “trim the fat” so to speak. Fortunately this is something that myself, my competition and other local business owners are not familiar with. We have all prospered and have rarely, if ever, worried about money.
One evening I was shopping with my family at Wal-Mart loading up on family stuff and I couldn’t help but notice that the same 100ct (or very similar) manila folders that I paid nearly $7.00 for several hours earlier at Officethat were available at Wal-Mart at an everyday low price of
Do you spend every waking minute in your business? Do you find it difficult to take time out for you? Are you constantly working in a mess?
Unfortunately there are far too many business owners working too long and too hard. They tend to be involved in every aspect of their business from being the bookkeeper, marketer, human resources manager, mediator, customer liaison officer and cleaner.
The smaller the business the harder it is for the owner to delegate these functions because they dislike spending any money. They fail to realize that if they invest their dollars wisely in accessing the right type of goods and services to grow their business and be more effective, they will see positive changes occur over time. It takes time to build a good “business mindset”.
I’ve noticed that those people who grow their businesses successfully do the following:
1. Highly successful small business owners are great role models
They practice what they preach. They lead from the front.
2. Highly successful small business owners invest time and money in their team and themselves
They develop their people and themselves through personal and professional development.
You see it often in large shopping complexes. Customers seem to be flocking to a certain stall in large droves. There is a special attraction that cannot be explained.
Isn’t it great to see your own customers flocking to you in droves, like bees to honey? Could you do with some extra attraction to your business?
In most of our marketing efforts, the sense of sight reigns supreme. Banners and billboards catch customer’s eyes at every corner of the street. These visual statements can be very effective if used correctly. The message they convey can be bold or or even subtle.
However, there is another way to attract people. It’s a subtle approach that is often overlooked.
It’s by using the sense of smell. Have you ever tried to use the sense of smell to bring in business? Could it be the break that you are looking for?
Shopping mall owners know how to use it to their advantage. People tend to feel happy or relaxed when there is a pleasant smell around them. Aromatic perfumes are sprayed at regular intervals to make people feel happy and in the mood to buy.
Smells do have a way of influencing our behavior!
Chemicals called pheromones have a
1. Don’t Spend Too Much Time Planning
When you are entering a new market, you won’t know the hidden problems and challenges you will face. You won’t understand those problems until you make a few mistakes. And you won’t solve them and go on to making success of your new business of your are capable of direction quickly.
Most successful new businesses – about 90 per cent of them – end up following practices that are different than anticipate. That’s why it doesn’t pay to spend too much time and money on planning. Do some research. Figure out the big action plans and give yourself a bail-out option. Then go for it. He who can adapt, wins.
2. Don’t spend too much money
The vast majority of business start-ups that succeed do so on a limited budget, and without the benefit of venture capital funding.
People involved in businesses that have limited funds must think harder, work harder and, most importantly, sell harder. Their primary initial effort is to bring in the cash. And that’s how it should be.
There is only one thing that will surely stop any business in its
Start thinking about buying an established business if you want to avoid the immense risks involved in starting one. Not everyone wants to start a business from scratch, and buying a business with the infrastructure in place lets you focus on building it up, as opposed to getting a new business off the ground. This is not to say that it’s easy to buy an existing business; it’s a fairly complicated process throughout which you need to know exactly what you’re doing.
First off, decide that you do want to buy before you begin your research. This way you will look at options more carefully. A particular business may not be exactly what you’re looking for, but if you’re sure that you do want to buy, then you won’t brush it off immediately, without first considering how you might grow with it. Vested Business Broker’s deals with a wide range of businesses and will surely help you make up your mind quickly.
Talk to the people in your life who are likely to be affected by the venture. Let them know the hours that you are likely to have to work and the risks involved. You
Over regulation of small business is so intense it is getting hard to make a buck.
For my example of the type of over regulation in small business, which turns the American Dream into an American Nightmare, I will use a simple business like a car wash. Partly because I am in the Car Washing Industry and partly because I am very familiar with all the crazy rules. We could pick any business for this topic since over regulation is so common place like Death and Taxes that it is expected. However it is not expected by the new entrant to a business and tends to double and triple the capital costs to start a business often putting the new owners in such financial hardship with unexpected initial expenses that they are doomed from the start. Which even if you believe in free enterprise in that you are allowed to amass whatever you can through people voting with their dollar for whatever it is you sell and that with this great privilege you are also allowed to fail and lose all your money. Which is a known quantity. But are we in essence setting people up to
Thinking of starting a business on line? If so there are two things you absolutely must commit to before ever opening shop on the web. Any one who refuses to realistically consider these two factors should not be in business. That may sound a bit rough, but the glut of businesses on line that ignore these factors will soon come to an end as customers demand service in return for their dollars.
The first factor in determining whether you should even be doing business on line is your ability to develop a site that addresses the needs of prospective customers. Is your site intuitive? That is, is it sensitive to the needs and abilities of the average person using the site? After all, what makes sense to you might be as clear as mud to the next guy.
One inexpensive way to test is to ask acquaintances of varying abilities to test drive your site. Observe their interactions with your website and ask for feedback throughout the process. You must be open to receiving honest critiques and be willing to use that information to make improvements. The easier your site is to use, the wider audience
Most successful businesses have created a business plan at some point, usually before their start-up.
A business plan is needed to address all of the central components to starting a business. It is essential to make sure that you, as a new entrepreneur have carefully thought through many if not all, of the important components of your business. Ideally, you need to do this BEFORE starting your business.
What is a business plan?
They are generally prepared for two reasons:
1. To obtain financing for the business
2. To help determine if essential components of starting a business have been considered.
Often times with new entrepreneur’s (and sometimes even with the more experienced!) they overlook certain aspects of starting a business. So the business plan helps to ensure that most, if not all reasonable questions have been answered and strategies thought about.
Although business plans are often considered optional – they serve a vital importance to entrepreneurs.
Many aspiring entrepreneurs and even experienced entrepreneurs fail to recognize their importance. It is often considered an “optional” component of their business and should only be prepared when absolutely necessary.
If you are an entrepreneur thinking about business planning for your startup or to develop your existing business, consider an effective way to write your business plan. With a plethora of software accessible, it is more often than not that business owners lose their core objective while they start business planning. Business planning is a continuous process not an event where you write and forget about it. Planning an effective business plan needs plenty of work and time. Do not rush yourself or your consultants while planning.
The key to having an effective business plan is dynamic adaptability. Recognize these key concepts before you start making a plan.
1. Make your strategy the soul of your plan- Strategy is the key. It is important to focus on your target market using specific products or services. Your strategy should be based on your niche or your unique characteristics that links you to your customers. It should define how you want to set your business apart from the rest. Strategy should be a concept, which can define you, your product, your market and your specific branding focus. While you can change most of the business planning aspect quickly;
Please raise your hand if you’ve ever been frustrated about what to put in a business plan? What will convince an investor to give you money? We’ve all been there. And it seems like the answer keeps changing depending on who you talk to.
The problem, or rather the truth, is that there is no “one fit all” solution. So the bad news is: even a step by step guide to writing a business plan won’t really make your plan “good”. The good news is, you really don’t need a step by step guide to make your plan compelling enough to close investment.
There are many different formats and there really isn’t a “universal” length for a perfect business plan. Depending on your product or industry, it can range anywhere between 10-100, and sometimes more, pages.
The question you should ask yourself is: what stage is my company at? If you are already generating revenue and are looking for a second or third round of financing to expand, the business plan can get much more elaborate and detailed, especially on the financial analysis and projections side of things.
But if you are just starting
Make Sure You Have A Business Plan
The first point to keep in mind about business plans is… have a business plan! This may seem obvious but is overlooked. Many people start businesses without a plan; sometimes it can come from sheer bravado, thinking “I don’t need a plan”, or alternatively you might hear “It’s all inside my head, that’s my business plan”. The reality is no matter how much you work with things in your head, no matter how confident you may be and how much you think you already have a great vision for your business, there are so many great reasons why you should get it down on paper.
Most of all if you are seeking funding for your business, it will be absolutely crucial to go along and show someone an actual plan, because there will be very few people who will loan you money on the basis of what’s just in your head. So it’s pivotal to have a plan and be committed to preparing that document. If you are someone who shies away from planning, or you don’t like writing or preparing documents, nevertheless you are going to have to