The Business Edge Blog

February 18, 2013

10 Website Tips

website

As one of my fellow coaches was “cleaning house” on a client’s web site, she came up with 10 tips to pass on to you:

1.  Use pictures.  People LOVE to look at pictures of you, your team, and your product.  In today’s cyber world, people want to feel like they are connecting with a person, and pictures make you feel real and approachable.

2.  Offer a free gift with a sign in box so you can capture their names.
Ask for as little information as possible – ideally a first name and an email address only.

3.  Make your free offer very compelling. Have it be something they would say
“Oh, I have got to have that.”  Generally speaking a newsletter is NOT a good free offer.  Give them tips, resources and strategies as a gift, and then send your newsletter as a regular follow up.

4.  Ensure people that their email address is safe and will not be sold or spammed.

5. Use key words in your website copy that people search for, so your website pops up in search engines. If you deal with local clients, be sure to mention your geographical area in your language.

6.  Put your special offer high on your web page (this is called ‘above the fold’), where people do not have to scroll down to see it.

7.  Make it easy for people to contact you. If you do not have an address or phone number, this creates a negative feeling that people will not be able to contact you if they hire you.

8.  Address their problem and your solution on your home pageMake them feel like they have ‘come home’ when they read your home page.

9.  Use testimonials.  People love ‘social proof’ – hearing from someone else about your products and services. Even if you are just starting out, you probably have worked with someone who will put in a good word for you. If you are new,
make it a priority to get testimonials as soon as possible.  Consider giving your services away to a few people in exchange for a good word.

10.  Look professional.  Your website does not have to be an award winner, but it does need to look professional.  Make sure the formatting is consistent with no spelling or grammatical errors.  If you are doing your website yourself, have an
objective third party give it a look over.
By implementing these simple tips on your website, it will be sparkling clean and people will want to come visit, stay, and send their friends.

Share some of your website strategies, tips and woes in the comment section below.

Until next time – Remember to mind your business!

February 5, 2013

Every Business – 5 Key Parts

5 parts of a business“A business is a repeatable process that makes money.  Everything else is a hobby.” – Paul Freet

Josh Kaufman in The Personal MBA provides the following definition of a business.  It is a repeatable process that:

1.  Creates and delivers something of value…
2.  That other people want or need…
3.  At a price they’re willing to pay…
4.  In a way that satisfies the customer’s needs and expectations…
5.  So that the business brings in enough profit to make it worthwhile for the owners to continue operation.

At the core, every business is fundamentally a collection of five interdependent processes, each of which flows into the next:

1.  Value creation – discovering what people need or want, then creating it.
2.  Marketing – attracting attention and building demand for what you’ve created.
3.  Sales – turning prospective customers into paying customers.
4.  Value Delivery – giving your customers what you’ve promised and ensuring that they’re satisfied.
5.  Finance – bringing in enough money to keep going and make your effort worthwhile.

If you take away any one of these five parts, it’s not a valid business any longer.

When planning a new business or analyzing an existing venture, always begin with a review of the five parts – they will help you discover any major issues or gaps quickly.

______________________________

If you can master the concept of these processes, you’ll be well on your way to being ready to present your business to potential investors, bankers, mentors or your board of directors.

Questions for Consideration:

Think about the business you’re in:

  • What are the five core processes?
  • Can you describe or diagram them in detail?
  • How do they fit together?
  • Where do you need help?

Please share the five core processes in your business using the Comments section below. I look forward to hearing from you.

Until next time – Remember to mind your business!

January 22, 2013

How to Engage in Conversation with Your Customers

love customers

How to Engage in Conversation with Your Customers

We know that it is important to build a relationship with our clients and customers.  People do business with people they Know, Like and Trust – the KLT factor.  People also feel better doing business with people that care about them.

Clients have asked me to help their new employees, sales people and service people learn a few new tips to break the ice and engage customers in conversation.  After our workshops I follow up and ask what new approaches worked well for them.  A few that work well for many types of businesses include:

1.  Ask a Different Question – (other than “May I help you”)

“How are you today?”, ” What brings you here today?”,  “What is on your schedule today besides this?”

Cautions:   Be prepared to participate in the conversation, not just fire question after question.  Don’t press for more if their responses are short.  You still get points for trying.

2.  Extend a Compliment –

If appropriate, comment on how cute a child looks or how well behaved they are.  Extend a compliment on something that looks attractive – purse/briefcase, phone cover, glasses, shoes.  If you are in their home, find something to compliment them on.

Caution:  Avoid coming across as someone in dating mode.  Stay professional.

3.  Use a surrounding object as an anchor –

If you notice the car they drive, ask how they enjoy owning that model of car.  If they are carrying a shopping bag from a store, ask if they enjoyed shopping there.

4.  Ask for their help or advice –

Ask if they have tried a restaurant you’re curious about.  Ask for their input on something you’re working on like determining a great spot for a vacation.

_______________________

Please share what works well in your business. I look forward to hearing from you.  You can email me at coach@thebizedge.biz or join the discussion below.

Until next time – Remember to mind your business!

December 18, 2012

Cash Flow Essentials for 2013

Wad of cash

I’ve talked about it before, but I think it’s worth talking about again as we head into a new year…….Cash is the lifeblood of every business.  Cash Flow is the movement of money into and out of your business.  It’s the cycle of revenue and expenses that make your business a “going concern” or not.

Cash Flow Management is the process of monitoring, analyzing and adjusting your income and expenses to maintain solvency.  I have seen highly profitable businesses go bankrupt because of poor cash flow management.

In good times and in bad there are two strategies of Cash Flow Management that small businesses need to implement to head off cash flow problems:

1)      Project cash flow for the coming months.  If you haven’t invested in an accounting package yet, do so now so that you use it throughout 2013.  The most common programs have built-in reporting features that make projections easy.

2)      Develop and implement strategies to maintain an adequate cash flow.  Push to collect accounts receivables faster – consider Due on Receipt terms – or invoice more frequently if you only invoice monthly now.  Pay your accounts payable on their due date, not before and not after – both cost you more money.

Before working with me, some of my business coaching clients have made the following mistakes that I want to be sure you avoid:

  • Not creating projections at all.  They try to manage cash flow by their bank balance.  I have seen business owners go without paying themselves because cash was short and they had to make payroll for everyone else.
  • Not sending invoices promptly.  People are much quicker to respond to invoices when they have just received the benefit of your services.  This is an easy task to outsource to a Virtual Assistant if this type of paperwork bogs you down.
  • Finding ways to shorten the cash flow cycle.  This includes keeping a sharp eye on inventory levels and not overbuying because it looks like you can save a few cents by buying a larger quantity – tying up more cash for a longer period of time.
  • Leaving the planning to the accountants.  Particularly in times of tight credit, lenders will be more willing to work with small business owners who are savvy when it comes to their business finances.  Lenders know that business owners who have implemented good cash flow management, more than any security interest or other protective measure, have the best ingredient for a successful lending relationship that minimizes their risk.

I wish you all the very best in 2013!  Let me know how I can help you make this year your very best year yet in the comment section below.

Until next time, remember – Mind Your Business!

December 6, 2012

#1 Critical Ingredient for Sustainable Growth

growing plantSustainable Growth

There is an almost magical component to sustainable business growth, but it’s not obvious, and most business owners are not spending the time on it to reap the greatest rewards.  The key word is “sustainable” – you can have growth without this component, but it won’t be easy.

When you think of business growth…what comes to mind?

Great marketing?   Really effective sales?  New products?  Super flashy advertising?  Signing a huge new client?

All of these contribute to business growth, but there’s a more fundamental attribute found in sustainable, successful businesses. It can make the difference when it comes to taking your business beyond the brute force stage (where you’re putting in a lot more than you’re getting out).

That secret ingredient is Systems!

What are Systems? Simply put, effective Systems are a combination of written processes, tools, automation and applications that allow you, the business owner, to get things done the right way without actually doing it yourself.  A successful business is made up of a whole series of systems that work together in a seamless way, generally without any direct input or oversight from the owner.

Want to get a quick read on how well you’re doing when it comes to Systems in your business?  Here’s a short quiz you can use to judge your progress in Systems.  Score yourself from 1 to 10 on each statement…10 if you are in alignment with the statement, 1 if you aren’t even close.

#1 – As the owner of the business, I fully understand that my primary role is to ensure that the business is run by systems (step-by-step processes and procedures).  Score _____ 1 to 10.

#2 – All of the functions necessary to successfully run my company have been clearly identified and documented in a company operations manual.  Score _____ 1 to 10.

#3 – We regularly consider outsourcing options to reduce expenses and increase efficiencies.  Score _____ 1 to 10.

#4 – We regularly review our systems to ensure they are as efficient and effective as practical in delivering the desired outcome.  Score _____ 1 to 10.

#5 – I’m confident that my employees would know what to do if the leadership team or I were not present for an extended period of time.  Score _____ 1 to 10.

What’s your score?

How did you do?  This quick quiz certainly isn’t comprehensive, but it will give you a pretty good idea of where you and your business stand from a Systems perspective.  There are several key ideas represented here:

  • Do you view your primary role – where you spend the most time (as the business owner) as purposely building your business…and the systems that run your business?
  • Are you documenting everything down to a level that a new employee could jump right in?
  • Are you and your team consistently looking for ways to improve?

So how did you score?  If you scored above 40…then you’re in pretty good shape…keep up the good work!

If you scored between 30 and 40, then there are some things to work on, but at least you’re headed in the right direction.

If scored between 20 and 30, you at least understand it’s important, but you have some work to do.

If you scored less than 20, then it’s a good bet that you feel that you don’t have time to read this post and you are working really, really hard all the time…and your business is at risk!

When you’re ready to unleash some magic and start building systems into your business, the best bet is to carve out some time – schedule it – and identify the big components of your business (where your business comes from, how you close business, how you fulfill your sales, and how you collect business income from sales).  Once you’ve got this defined, in writing, then you can start digging into the details of each over time.

Make sure you get your employees involved…they probably know the details in a lot of areas better than you do and they’re going to have to live with whatever system or process is developed – so include them in the solution.

Get an outside perspective – consider hiring a business coach or joining some kind of advisory board like The Boardroom to help you focus and get some insight that might be hard to come by on your own.

What is your experience with developing business Systems?  I look forward to reading your thoughts in the comment section below.

November 13, 2012

Five Things to Consider When Hiring a Virtual Assistant

What is a Virtual Assistant (VA)?  Possibly the answer to the problem of not being able to get everything done you need to get done.  If you hire the right VA they can become a true business partner and help you grow your business. They are service providers – not employees.  You describe what your goal is and what you need to have done and by when, and if it is within their area of expertise, they go to work on it!  Some VAs work on an hourly basis, some on a project basis.  Some offer prepaid hour packages that provide you with a discount for a block of hours you use as you need them.

How do you get started finding a VA? A simple Google search is not enough to find the perfect fit. There are many things to consider, some particular to your industry.  Contact me if you need help developing the profile of your ideal VA, but here are five general items to consider before hiring a VA:

1.) What do you need done? Do you need someone to help you with your website, social media, blogging?  Do you need an expert with shopping cart knowledge and strong writing skills? Or are you are looking for a bookkeeper?  Be clear about what you need done and how you want the finished work to look. VAs have a difficult time meeting your expectations if you are unable to communicate what they are.

2.) Know the skills your VA will need to have to provide what you need.  What type of experience and training does your VA have? How long have they been working in the VA environment? What software programs do they need to know? Make sure to qualify your VA candidates and have a conversation about your business philosophy so that you are both on the same page.  If you qualify your VA well you’ll have a much higher chance of success than if you just hire ‘someone you know’.

3.) Ask for references of satisfied customers who the VA has done similar work for.  Check on the references.  Don’t limit yourself to people in your own area of the globe.  Great VAs are available around the globe and with technology the distance may not be a factor.  Language or understanding of US business issues may be, so ask to see a sample of their work.  Time zone differences can work in your favor if your assistant works while you sleep at night!

4.) Availability and response time.  Ask what hours your VA will be available.  Do they have a back-up in place in case they become ill?  Find out if there is someone you can speak with if you are not satisfied with the work your VA provides, or if the resolution is strictly between the two of you. Depending on your requirements, you may have better success using a VA sourcing group that has back-up plans in place if a particular VA becomes unavailable to meet a critical deadline.

5.) Know what the work the VA will be doing for you is worth. You do need to have a budget to hire a VA, BUT…if you hire someone matching your needs in the four areas listed above, budget should be a consideration, not the only one. The goal of hiring a VA is to take items off your plate so your focus can be on revenue generation. As you develop your budget keep in mind the savings you could realize compared to hiring a direct employee (vacation time, benefits, taxes).  There is a time for hiring an employee but until that time a VA can be very valuable.

Do you have questions about finding a VA, or additional tips you used for finding a great VA? Ask your questions or share the steps you took to ensure your VA was the right one for you in the comments section below.

P.S.  I found a video that provides a good overview of what one VA firm provides their clients.  I have not used this company, but I like the information they shared.  Check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7U0ljUTTjNY

Until next time – Remember to mind your business!

October 16, 2012

7 Keys to Success for Business Owners – Part 7 – Presenting

How do you know what to focus on day-to-day?   Presenting may help.

Sometimes business owners come to me when things aren’t clear to them about what they should be doing next.  I ask them to present their company by answering questions about each of the six points already covered in this series.

Often the light bulb quickly goes on when they realize which of the areas they are not doing much or anything at all in.  “Maybe that’s the answer,” some have blurted out.  I may have known it was the answer, but it’s always best to have someone discover it themselves. Presenting brings it all together because you have to truly understand something to present it.

What do you think? How do you present your organization to your employees, the bank, vendors, investors, or the general public? You’re probably better than you think, because if you weren’t doing some version of these 7 Keys to Success well, you would have been out of business a long time ago.  Perhaps you could use some fine tuning in a few areas or maybe a complete makeover.  I’ve been through just about any scenario you could imagine with my clients.

Your homework assignment is to revisit your Vision, Profit Plan, Marketing Plan, Organizational Plan, Leadership and Cash Flow Forecast.  If you have someone to present these to, do so.  Give them permission to ask you questions about what is not clear.  In the presenting it may become very clear what you should be doing next.

If you’d like to present your business to me, email me to schedule a conversation at coach@thebizedge.biz.

_________________________________________________

I look forward to hearing from you.  You can join in the discussion and post your thoughts below.

Until next time – Remember to mind your business!

August 27, 2012

7 Keys to Success for Business Owners – Part 5 – Organization and Leadership

Organization Plan
How do you let your people help you run and grow your business? Who is responsible for doing what in your business? Does everybody know who does what and would they provide the same response if asked?

In the book by Michael Gerber The E-Myth Revisited there is an assignment to develop an organizational chart that covers every element of your business.  From keeping the light bulbs replaced to paying the light bill, every element of your organization should be covered within a box on the organization chart.  The next step is to fill in the names of the people responsible for each aspect of the business.

If your own name appears on too many of the boxes it’s no wonder you feel overwhelmed or like you can never take a day off.  Are you micromanaging your people, or are there things you still need to delegate?  One of my solopreneur clients has hired two virtual assistants that will be doing work she does not personally need to do.  I’m excited to watch her grow as she focuses on the areas she must personally address to move forward.

Take time to draw your own organizational chart.  Enter the names of the people responsible for the boxes.  Make certain that you are allowing your people to help you grow the business by giving you freedom to work on the things that requires you to personally do.  The time you free up should be focused on working ON your business instead of IN your business.  Now make sure that everyone in the organization knows who to go to for what.  It will save time and help your business run smoothly as you move forward.

Leadership
How do you even know what to focus on to become a better Leader? Nobody really tries to be a poor Leader, do they?

Do you know what your natural leadership style is?  Do you know the strengths and weaknesses of that style?  Do you know the leadership and learning style of your team members?  If your leadership style is misunderstood, it could be that you are leading in a style that is like a foreign language to those you are trying to lead.   Do you know how powerful knowing your style can be in not only getting the most out of yourself, but also your team, your clients, your vendors, your life?  If you have never done an Extended DISC analysis that introduces you to your natural leadership style and how your style works best with other styles, invest the time and money to learn more.  I can help you with the analysis and understanding how to use your natural leadership style to become the best leader for your team.

I can’t remember the last day that went by that I haven’t utilized this information on how I lead to help me understand the world around me. A big part of Leadership is not only knowing what to say, but also how to communicate it to different audiences.

_________________________________

What does your organizational chart look like?  How well have you delegated by putting other people’s names in the boxes? Does everyone know who is responsible for what in your organization?

Do you know your leadership style?  Do you know the styles of your team members?  Are you speaking the same language?

I look forward to hearing from you.  Please add your comments below.

Until next time – Remember to mind your business!

August 15, 2012

7 Keys to Success for Business Owners – Part 4 – The Marketing Plan

Every once in a while I meet a business owner who says they don’t need to market their business. I congratulate them and ask them how they know that they don’t need to market.  Usually they have as much business as they can handle currently and think that more marketing will only increase the number of people wanting their product or service.  They are probably right on both accounts.  So, what about the option of expanding the capacity of the business?  Why choose to stop marketing?  I like the saying –

“Don’t wait to dig your well until you are thirsty.”

In my interpretation this means don’t stop marketing because your business is at capacity now.  If anything happens to the current clients you’ll be looking for more.  If you decide to increase the capacity of the business, you’ll need the additional clients/customers to fill the new capacity.  In most businesses marketing today does not mean new customers tomorrow.  Prospects need to know about you, grow to like you and trust that you will meet their needs.  That means you should be marketing your business all the time.

I ask my clients to create a Marketing Pie.  Draw a large circle on a piece of paper.  Divide the pie into quarters by drawing a big + through the middle.  Then divide each of the pieces in half by adding a large X through the middle of the pie.  You should now have an 8 slice Marketing Pie.  Each section of the pie will represent something you actively do to market your business – active marketing, not passive marketing like an ad in the phonebook.  If you represent your business in a BNI group, or attend other networking groups where you promote your business (and not just chat with friends) label one slice of the pie Networking.  If you have a booth at quarterly business tradeshows, label a slice of the pie Tradeshows.  If you educate your prospects by giving seminars, label a slice Seminars.  If you consistently write a blog promoting your business, label a slice Blog Posts.  Consider all the other marketing you do and if it is active, label a slice of the pie to represent the activity.  If you have more than 8 active marketing strategies, don’t make your slices smaller, create another pie!  If you have unlabeled slices in your one and only pie, let’s talk!  We need to fill the empty slices with something you will add to your marketing strategy.

You should have at least 8 active marketing strategies identified on your pie.  The next step is to schedule the activities (each slice of pie) on a calendar so that you know when, where and what you will be doing to actively market your business.  This becomes your Marketing Plan.  If you are blogging or giving a 60 second commercial for any of the marketing activities, you can enter the blog topic or perfect referral that you want to mention in each of the calendar entries.  One of my clients has developed a spreadsheet with the months across the columns and the weeks down the rows as well as room for the topics for each of the social media sites he uses.  He plans his marketing activities a couple of months in advance so he can keep an eye on his marketing plan.  Click here to download a copy.

What does your marketing pie look like?  How well did it fill a calendar and create your Marketing Plan? How many hours a week do you spend actively marketing your business?

I look forward to hearing from you.  Share your comments below.

Until next time – Remember to mind your business!

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.