CategoryBusiness

10 Survival Tips for Small Business Owners

The reality for many small business owners is that they were forced into starting something of their own. Perhaps they were retrenched, fired or unable to find a job.

What this means is that often small business owners really haven’t even had time to obtain some training in basic small business practices such as finance, human resources management and marketing.

The other real danger is that the small business owner works so hard in the business, trying to push for more sales, handling negotiations with suppliers, making month-end payroll and trying to get big customers to pay on time that they don’t catch major problems in their business before they become a threat to their businesses survival.

Newspaper reports recently indicated that about 4,000 businesses went insolvent in 2013. The causes for these business failures were not reported on but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure the usual fatal mistakes: bad business decisions, running out of cash, a market that has dried up or even an employee when employees who have embezzled the company.

Here are 10 practical survival tips for small business owners:

1. Stay inside your “circle of competence”: the investor Warren Buffett avoids making investments outside his “circle of competence”. Starting something new, venturing into a new market requires competence that the existing small business owner may not have. Stick to the knitting in bad times.

2. Keep focused on cash flow: When the cash dries up, the game is over. In hard economic times its important to monitor cash flow more frequently, if not daily. Set up a simple system and watch your cash like a hawk. Big customers want to take ever forever to pay and suppliers want their money now. This makes it vital to manage cash carefully.

3. Don’t sign sureties: when cash runs out, the temptation is to go to the bank to increase your overdraft. Don’t sign sureties that for a small loan require confiscation of all your business and personal assets. Enough said.

4. Temptation: Act ethically at all times: even what may seem harmless will become a major issue if it involves and an unethical business practice. Ensure you have a clear red line where you will not cross over. In this economy with people desperate, unethical, explotative small business are on the rise. Detect them early and avoid them at all costs. Some are not paying their taxes, operating illegally and not complying with health regulations and should be shut down by the relevant authorities.

5. Take time to work on your business: Working in your business gives you very little time to work on your business. Make time each week to review where your business is going and how you can improve your operations and increase your market.

6. Insurance cover: Have insurance cover in place for fire, theft and personal liability: It sounds like a no-brainer but how many small business owners have adequate insurance? Don’t be wiped out because of this.

7. Business advice: The biggest risk that a business often faces is poor business advice. Airlines and utilities are virtually bankrupt because of bad business decisions and have to be bailed out. Double check business advice and rely on your own common sense and savvy.

8. Avoid the dangerous number 1: there is a danger in having one big customer or one key supplier. Check your business for this kind of risk and make backup plans.

9. Keep a watchful eye out for unusual employee behaviour: One of your employees could be handling too many critical tasks, employees could be taking out stock without you knowing it and finance or bookkeeping employees could be involved in an invoicing scam. Watch out for suspicious behaviour.

10. Be frugal: keep costs down and avoid unnecessary purchase of new assets. Set your small business a cost reduction percentage target and stick to it.

These 10 tips for small business survival are just a few that any small business owner should keep in mind during these economic times.

If you are in any way concerned that there could be un-seen or hidden risks in your business, get in the right professionals or a business adviser before it’s too late.

9 Mistakes Plumbing Company Owners Make When Selling Their Businesses That Cost Them Time and Money

Introduction:

If you are the owner of a plumbing company, then you are probably like many other business owners.

You realize that you can’t work forever. In fact, it may be that you do not WANT to work forever despite enjoying what you do.

Even the most successful plumbers eventually get to the place where they are ready to hang up the wrench and do something different.

They may be burned out from the daily stresses of running a business, have physical or family issues that demand more of their time, or they simply want to move on to a new challenge.

However, for many owners, it’s difficult to find the time to sit down and map out a strategy for exiting the business. If you own a successful plumbing company, you probably don’t have a plan in place that will facilitate your goals of selling your business quickly, without a lot of hassles, while creating a lifetime stream of income from the proceeds.

A significant portion of your retirement planning is likely predicated on a successful sale of your business. Exiting a business is truly one of life’s most important transitions; a transition whose outcome can make or break your retirement future.

That’s why it is so important to create an action strategy that will help you avoid making mistakes that can result in you running out of money in retirement.

But, do you know exactly what it will take to create such a sale? When the time comes to leave will you become so frustrated, overwhelmed and desperate that you make poor decisions that will cost you lots of money?

Knowing the answers to these questions is important, especially if you are nearing retirement and more than ready to start the process of selling your business. You must seek solutions that promise a better, more financially lucrative and less stressful way of achieving your selling goals.

Plumbing company owners who want to sell in the 21st Century must seek alternative systems for selling a business that address some of the common mistakes owners make when they try to sell their companies.

I say “try” because more often than not, sellers wind up either not selling at all or having their businesses sit on the market for months, even years, before they find a qualified buyer. Even if they do manage to find a good buying prospect, there are currently so many businesses on the market that they may wind up getting a lot less money than anticipated.

9 of the most common business exit planning mistakes plumbers make and how to avoid them:

It is not uncommon for plumbing company owners to have no exit blueprint at all. They usually either haven’t given it much thought or they make assumptions about the future that may not be true.

1. Not planning at all

As the old saying goes, “it isn’t a plan until it’s written down.” For a succession plan to be effective and implementable, it MUST be written down and reviewed by all parties involved. A plan must be clear, concise, and free of ambiguities that could cause problems later.

A business exit plan, while being distinctly different than your estate plan, should nevertheless complement the estate plan and ensure that your overall retirement goals are being met.

That’s why it’s a good idea to have your CPA and/or estate planner review the blueprint and make suggestions that align with your goals and aspirations.

2. Making too many assumptions

In talking with business owners who are thinking about selling, it’s interesting to see how many of them are making assumptions about both the process of selling and the outcome of the sale. The skies in their world are a different color than reality when it comes to the futures of their businesses.

For example, some plumbing company owners take for granted that a son, daughter, granddaughter, grandson, or other relative will take over the business. They may have the idea that in the event their heirs don’t want it; a group of key employees will step in to buy out the company. Or, some savvy investment group will recognize how great the business really is and snap it up.

Another common assumption made by sellers is that the selling process is easy and quick -a handshake, a check and it’s done. They take it for granted that there will always be someone looking to buy at exactly the time they decide to sell, and that the price they are asking is correct and reasonable.

Unfortunately, none of these assumptions may wind up being true. Selling in the 21st century, with its economic flux and massively shifting demographics, is anything but simple. You can’t afford to predicate your plan on assumptions based in the past.

3.Not including your family in the planning process

“Stan” was the owner of an extremely successful commercial plumbing business.

His oldest son had worked alongside him for several years, proving himself especially adroit at bidding for large jobs, handling customer issues, and managing employees. Stan assumed, without ever really discussing it, that his son would take over from him when he decided to retire.

When he finally made that decision and approached his son, he was stunned to learn that Stan, Jr. had applied to a local business college and had no interest in taking over his dad’s company. Neither did the other kids, for that matter.

It’s easy to avoid this situation (and many others) by keeping your family apprised of your intentions from the very beginning in an honest, transparent manner.

You should work to achieve consensus on all important issues, including discovering whether or not a family member or spouse wants to take over, which family members will stay on as employees or move into management.

Business succession planning is definitely NOT something you want to keep secret from your loved ones.

Meet regularly with the family all during the planning process. Explain to them what your vision of the future looks like and what must occur in order for you to achieve this. By doing these things, you will go a long way toward avoiding the kinds of family feuds that can derail the sale of a business.

4. Poor organization and record keeping

The day before you decide to sell is not the time to discover that your records are a mess and that key documents are missing. If you intend to sell, or even if you want to keep the business in the family, organized records are essential.

Buyers will want to see your financial records for at least the past five years, perhaps even for the last ten years. They will want to know where to locate your marketing pieces, customer lists, employee records, leases, and everything else pertaining to the business that should be filed and easy to locate.

To ensure less stress when selling, start organizing your records right now.

Note: To get a free exit planning checklist detailing exactly what kinds of documents buyers will want to see when valuating your business visit the website listed at the end of this article.

5. Forgetting to give the business “curb appeal.”

A temptation for all business owners who realize they want to sell the business and retire is to stop putting any more money into the company that is necessary to keep the daily operations going.

They might stop repairing or replacing tools and machinery, not wash their fleet vehicles as much, or allow their building and landscaping to become shabby.

Owners might postpone doing things such as buying new uniforms and badges for employees or upgrading safety equipment and signage.

Just as a home that has had some basic TLC before going on the market usually sells for more money, it’s the same for a business that wants to attract more qualified buyers.

Buyers of businesses are in short supply and they know it. They can afford to be very picky when it comes to which businesses they decide to purchase.

A savvy plumbing company owner who wants to sell more quickly and for more money will invest a bit of time and money in ensuring that their company looks appealing and professional.

6. Not sustaining your succession planning focus

Many times plumbing company owners who, coming to terms with their need to plan their exits, throw themselves into succession planning with a vengeance.

They hold formal planning review meetings, talk to their families and seek out the counsel of their trusted advisors and mentors,

Then, for whatever reason, the succession planning process just dies on the vine. It goes nowhere, frustrating the owner as well as all his key employees and advisors.

Why does this happen? I believe it is because business owners tend to see succession planning as a “one of” event, rather than a vital part of the company’s business planning cycle.

Exit strategies risk gathering dust unless they are integrated into the overall plans of any business long before the time comes to leave

7. Failure to integrate your plan into your company culture

It’s absolutely true: Long-term business objectives can’t be reached without an effective succession plan. That plan has to be as integrated into your company culture as your mission statement or guarantees.

Having an exit plan in place will allow you to retain your best and brightest employees by allowing them to know that when ready to sell, they will still have a future with the company.

A company built around the idea that there will be an orderly succession that keeps the business intact and thriving is a company whose managers and key employees are not inclined to abandon.

8. Not understanding that selling takes time

In the same way you take time to plan before performing a complex plumbing project, you must allow an adequate amount of preparation when you get ready to sell your company. In fact, your success is directly related to how much quality time you put into the process.

You need to sit down and write down what your idea of a successful sale looks like. How do you want the sales process to play out? Walk through everything thing has to happen to make this a reality.

You need to be able to articulate what success in exiting your business looks like to you and share this vision with your key players, employees, and family members.

Yes, this will take a lot of time and thought. But it is definitely NOT something you want to rush through just to “get it over with.” After all, if you are like most people, you are only going to get one chance to sell your business and retire successfully. Take the time to do it the right way and avoid any mistakes that could wind up significantly impacting your lifestyle in retirement.

9. Not staying on top of the plan

Exiting your plumbing business, in many ways, is a lot more work than when you first started it. There are many moving parts and complex tasks that must be executed successfully in order to avoid failure.

You need to be sure that all of your employees and family members have bought into your vision and are performing their tasks as assigned.

You are going to need the support of all key players if you are going to break past the lousy 3% success rate for selling a business in the United States.

Check in often with those entrusted to help you exit, and hold each one accountable for completing their assigned tasks within a stated time frame.

Business Fundamentals for Entrepreneurs

Having a great idea and the motivation to strike-out on your own is a good first step in pursing the feasibility of a business. However, it takes more than motivation and a great idea to get things started. This article will reveal some of the simplest considerations that most would-be business-owners overlook.

The very first thing that should not fall under consideration is venturing out on your own without the proper tools beyond the scope of a great idea. According to statistics provided by the Small Business Administration, over 90% of small businesses fail due to a lack of planning. How many times have you heard or witnessed individuals that sat up over a weekend and wrote a stellar business plan then headed out on Monday morning to seek funding or investors? Impatience is the second thing that needs management. So often “I am tired of working for someone else” is the premise for people to start a business. This frame of mind will almost ensure failure because this approach to business involves looking backwards at getting out of a bad situation.

There is a prevailing philosophy that has to evolve, “Not all people are cut-out to become business-owners”. This is a harsh reality to face in a country such as the United States that prides itself on autonomy and ownership. Starting a business requires a commitment that may or may not pay dividends quickly. The key threat to small businesses is the initial funding or start-up cost and therefore many under-capitalized ventures hit the markets and get that rude awakening.

Before spending your first dollar a best practice is to do your “free research” on the Internet and in public libraries. Read recently published academic studies on the industry in which you plan to pursue. It takes more than just knowing a certain aspect of the business being that your competition may be more well-versed about the industry as a whole. You may want to ask questions such as “What are the regulatory requirements to do business within that particular industry?” You may want to research about “systemic exposure” or how the rest of the economy could or would impact that industry during troubled financial times. It is also a good practice to review some of the strategies of other potential competitors during The Great Recession of 2008. How did the industry leaders survive jn respect to operational changes and sacrifices. It is understandable that this may take several days or even weeks to accomplish, but by applying the best practices initially you will have a clear understanding of what to expect during certain economic times.

It is essential to understand who are the industry leaders within your business channel and what makes them unique. There should be an emphasis on this because your branding and marketing could benefit from such a consideration. A distinguishing characteristic may be customer service, quality assurance, product branding, or even presentation. These may sound trivial, but think about if you were a retailer for mens apparel and you specifically wanted to appeal to young urban males under the age of thirty. Labels equals status in many of these communities so a nice logo on the item that is visible may assist in the popularity and purchase of your garments. Even though this may have more to do with marketing and brand positioning, this is a must have against the competition.

However, before we get to marketing and branding there are other things needing consideration such as your mind-set, ego, time-line, available start-up capital, and feasibility. After you have trolled through the data and information from your research, the next step is the feasibility study. It is suggested that you do this prior to writing a business plan. In this way you can quickly determine whether or not you can enter the particular market or not and if so, at what level. A common mistake for new business people is to envision competing with the industry leaders. This is an ideal way to go broke quickly. In stead, set more realistic goals for yourself and get the notion out of your head that the Internet is going to make your business global. Facebook and the other social networks became popular because they were free to the end-user first and while trying to figure out a way to capitalize or convert those users into revenue. This would be a bad business-model to follow. Think about your region and the local competition first to see how much it would cost for you company to operate for the first 3 to 5 years without constant revenue.

Again this will require more local research this time on your specific region and take not of the deviations between your first broader macro research and the more localized micro research. The deviation between those two areas may actually become the niche that needs filling. In this way you can actually have a specialized niche within the region and a hybrid on a larger scale. Now, you may ask yourself “Why?” Simply put, the goal is to avoid what others are already doing in the sense that giving a “Thankyou” to a customer in a better way that the competitor is not enough. Another temptation to avoid is the centric mind-set that the business and industry has to behave according to your own belief or philosophy. This strategy rarely works out in a positive way. You have seen these business owners that rarely listens to their customers and as a result they have a revolving door of both customers and employees and the business stagnates and does not grow.

Growth must have a major role in the definition of your business because that is the incentive to attract customers, employees, and even investors. As a potential business-owner you will have to cleanse your mind of working for a company and view your company as your tangible boss. This may sound counter intuitive, but the cascade is like this, the economy drives the consumer or businesses that drive behavior which drives your company which eventually drives you to make the right decisions to meet the demand.

So far you have done your research, and you know how much it will cost you to compete in your local market. The next thing is to consider your liabilities as it relates to the company. You may use this also to determine what form of business ownership will work for you. It is a good business practice to incorporate whenever possible and in some states there are differences in levels according to projected revenues. Incorporating also gives you more protection than a DBA or partnerships. At this point you will learn another strategy that many successful business-owners do, delegate tasks that require professional expertise to professionals with their fields. A good business attorney, accountant, and business consultant are essential for start-ups. This is a gap that many would-be business people fall through the cracks. Another benefits is that these professionals may also assist in giving information that may be crucial in developing a comprehensive business proposal. They can help with the work you have done to reflect the requirements needed.

In review, you have your research, feasibility study, chosen your business ownership type, adjusted your expectations, hired professionals that know the laws and regulations better than yourself and you are ready to get started on the business proposal. Not so fast, “Where are your customers?” You guessed it, marketing research needs to take place for the particular individuals or companies that will use your products and or services within your area or online. One question to ask yourself, “How much will it cost me to contact a potential customer before a sale is completed?” And secondly, you need to discover the best way to contact these people or businesses. The prevailing statistics are that radio advertising a person is a passive-listener and only hears about every fourth word, direct mail only about 9% responds. Signs and other ad-hoc methods vary and television may be expensive depending on stations and providers. This means that a considerable budget may need to exist in order to solicit business. Again, this is another area where many would-be business people fall off the wagon and failure is waiting to catch them.

There is not an exact science to forecasting revenues so the goal is to have a very plausible theory and approach to this process. Avoid the temptation of raising expectations too high as some did in the dot com era for instance and went broke. The increases in expected revenue should be modest and function on the Standard Rule of 10, meaning that expenses should never go over 10% of revenue. Now, there are some businesses with a lower profit margin at 50%, but that is akin to paying US$10 for every US$20 received in revenue. As you can see pricing strategies for your products and or services are important and trying to make profits off of volume only works for those entities with high capacity transactions. This is the reason why 99 Cent Stores do so well low inventory cost and high turn-over of products. As a foot-note the difficulty with starting a business with very low prices is that it usually attracts the cost-conscious customer who is rarely brand-loyal and will use a comparable competitor. You see this behavior in customer that may shop at Wal-Mart, but purchase other specific items at the 99 Cent Stores. The danger in depending on these cost-conscious customers is that when prices rise they usually leave. Therefore, your pricing model needs to be established as feasible to sustain the business based on the value-added customer that you can possibly up-sell items or services. This is essential to your company’s growth and expansion.

Small Business Phone Service

Even with telecommunications revolutionizing the entire manner in which businesses communicate and with the advent of the Internet too, the telephone still remains the most reliable and the quickest mode of communication. The business phone system should be equipped well enough to handle a large volume of incoming as well as outgoing calls apart from directing and re- directing calls appropriately and accurately without mystifying or disconnecting the customers. Any Business Phone Service is the life line of its productivity as well as its functionality. The choice of the most appropriate service provider would go a long way in heralding newer clients for the businesses as well as augmenting their businesses.

OPTING FOR SMALL BUSINESS PHONE SERVICES FOR BUSINESSES

Small and medium enterprises are over the year’s increasingly making use of small business phone service as they are comparatively more cost-effective than other services. These services are capable enough to look after the communication needs of their businesses and they are increasingly cost-effective as they could be used for businesses of every genre and size that demand small Business phone service.

With the passage of time, telecommunication has revolutionized and incredibly advanced its services technologically. The fact of the matter is that the services of the small telephone phones have been installed in most companies globally. It is far less expensive when compared to other telephone services, especially by those being used by major organizations. A small business phone service could still be useful for small business enterprises because of its reliable and accepted functions and other specialized features. Realizing the fact that top-notch telephone services would be rather expensive, small business services continue to go in for and settle down with small business telephone services.

There have been new components that have been developed in the recent past in the realm of communication and this was what service companies have been making use of in their own services. Some suppliers offer small business phone service that comes with extra services incorporated. A small business would definitely vouch for these services as they come with extra capabilities which would later prove to be priceless assets to the organizations. And it is because of the phone service coming at cost-effective prices, the services of small business phones have not been difficult to obtain.

SMALL BUSINESS PHONES FOR ORGANIZATIONS

Every business needs telecommunication lines to communicate efficiently and effectively. Over the years, business enterprises have been using analogue systems for telecommunications. But ever since telecommunications have metamorphosed the way in which businesses operate and communicate, business has taken giant leap forward too. Installing a phone system would not only ease the work flow but also increases the productivity of the company per se.

Call forwarding facility could be another facility that could be considered by companies when they sign up for a new service provider. This would be useful for small business enterprises as the number of telephone connections as well as the extensions would not create problems for them.

FACTORS TO CONSIDER BEFORE GOING IN FOR A SMALL BUSINESS PHONE SERVICE:

• Whether the company could afford the service.
• The present employee strength of the organization
• The competence of the business
• Would it be the service that your business really needs

It would be better that these questions be evaluated, analyzed and assessed before any company would desire to go in for a business phone provider.

As most service providers come with free customer service toll-free number, service hotlines where they can get round the clock customer support that would help them get their queries speedily redressed.

BENEFITS OF SMALL BUSINESS PHONES:

• BUSINESS OPERATIONAL FROM ANYWHERE

It simply does not matter where you are and from where your business operates out of. An answering phone gives you the convenience as well as the feasibility as of conducting your business from wherever you are your business takes you. As the service is so programmed as to function as per the operational schedules of the business per se, the calls automatically get forwarded on to the business owner’s phones even though they might not be in their offices.

• A BIGGER AND A LARGER CORPORATE IMAGE

A novel business telephone interfaces of small business telephone answering service that offers’ efficient customer care, to gain the attraction of the potential customers into your businesses which would mean that all the incoming calls that land on to your telephone would be answered and greeted with utmost professionalism. These calls could also be customized to business hours and post business hours greetings. The callers get to listen to melodious and soothing music while their calls get connected. The phones could also be auto programmed to an auto attendant so as to provide additional information about the features and benefits and services to the callers.

• COST EFFECTIVE AND TIME SAVING

Small business phone services could be obtained at extremely cost-effective and affordable prices. As all operations are controlled by the service providers, the service that the client gets is devoid of installation, repair as well as maintenance charges. All that it would need is a dedicated phone line and an Internet connection to have your business be provided with multiple phone line connections within the office network which would otherwise incur huge expenses for each individual phone connection.

A hosted PBX service gives your business the attention and the promotion that it so immensely deserves. This could happen if the service providers offer a superior level customer support that could not only enhance your company’s productivity but also its revenues and client base.

Do You Want To Improve The Performance Of Your Business?

A Checklist to Begin the Journey of Improved Business Performance

“Culture isn’t just one aspect of the game – it is the game. In the end, an organization is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value.” Lou Gerstner, Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?

Reviewing the management process of a large, nationally operating company recently highlighted once again the continual challenge of remaining objective about the business we lead. Our repeated observation is owners and managers of businesses may declare they want to implement new ways to enhance business performance, but rarely understand and accept that as leaders of the enterprise, their own personal change must accompany or precede business change.

Although senior management may name a set of values they assume will create the organizational culture, the real culture will be determined by how all workers perceive daily operations are actually practiced and rewarded. An old maxim states, ‘Perception is stronger than reality’. Our work teams will see, feel, sense and then practice the culture of our business long before they adopt any stated values or formally announced strategies and processes.

Behavioural change will not come through talking, written communications, lecturing or demanding a particular process. Effective long term change to increase company value and stability requires carefully thought out modelling of the proposed practices and processes plus showing all team members what needs to be done and how to do it. Rose-coloured glasses will maintain business performance at mediocre levels, based on historical practices in the company.

Bill and Kristine Schneider of the Corporate Development Group (CDG) emphasise how company value and growth is likely to be highest when the cultural practices, leadership style and strategy adopted by a company are aligned.

The following is a detailed checklist allowing any business to begin the journey of improving business performance. It is not intended to be comprehensive but will highlight sufficient key issues for your business to review. Please use the checklist as a positive assessment of how you can kickstart new growth and understanding of your business strategy.

Company Leadership:

  1. Does your business have a clearly defined written strategy as a foundation for all decision-making?
  2. Does your leadership team pro-actively research, discuss and adopt what is required to enhance business certainty and clarity?
  3. Do you conduct frequent regular reviews of operational and strategic planning?
  4. Are you confident about what is required to take the business to the next level?
  5. Have all business owners and senior management team members formally indicated they will learn and adopt all required changes to enhance growth?
  6. Have all business owners and senior management team members formally indicated they will commence the journey of personal change required to enhance their own leadership?
  7. Have you listed 5-6 practices of yourself or other leaders/managers in the business clearly inhibiting growth and clarity for the future?
  8. Do you know how to lead all staff into a program of change and improvement?
  9. Can you succinctly explain the Vision and Mission of the business?
  10. Have you done any specific leadership and management training in the past 10 years?
  11. Do you read about and study businesses, leadership and management frequently?
  12. Do you have certainty and clarity about the business in all areas?
  13. If not, how do you deal with this? (This may include personal skills you struggle with, tasks you are required to do for which you do not feel equipped, team issues, business functions, how suggestions or recommendations are handled… or anything!)
  14. How would you describe your leadership and management style and practice? (be honest!)? How do you think others would describe it?

· Autocratic/Controlling

· Participative/Democratic

· Developer/Trainer

· Visionary/Big Picture

Staff Training:

  1. Many companies limit growth by neglecting staff training. The resultant focus on short term targets delays expansion or stops it completely.
  2. Do you have a specific program of in-depth staff training?
  3. Does formal staff training include learning methods additional to lecture style and written instructions?
  4. Has the business designed and implemented on-the-job training processes to model and demonstrate all systems and processes?
  5. Can staff have some autonomy and be free to make mistakes as they learn?
  6. Does every staff member have a personal training and development plan?
  7. Do all business owners and senior managers have a personal training and development plan?
  8. If each staff member was asked about on-the-job training would they say it is frequent, relevant and equips them well for their role?

Marketing and Customer Service

  1. Do you view marketing as unnecessary?
  2. Do you have a multi-strategy marketing plan?
  3. Is there a procedure and schedule in place to frequently review your marketing?
  4. Do you have a specific written description of your key target market groups?
  5. Can you identify your primary customers (ie customers who create 80% plus of your business)?
  6. If so, is the plan known by all key personnel?
  7. What perception do your primary customers have of your business? How do you know?
  8. What uniqueness are you giving clients to create competitive advantage?
  9. Can you list the performance drivers of the business? i.e the factors that determine success – they must happen or everything heads south.
  10. Are Innovation, Creativity and Research being specifically nurtured, developed, tested and measured?
  11. Do you have a system of testing and measuring all marketing and advertising strategies?
  12. Do you have a clear picture of how many leads are required to obtain 1 customer and what the process of lead generation costs?
  13. Are your staff trained in how to use an effective sales process?
  14. Does the business have a specific program for writing effective advertising copy for all marketing strategies?
  15. Would relevant staff say all marketing and sales processes are frequently reviewed and therefore work well?

Financials, Performance and Business Control:

  1. Is business growth decided and planned? (the alternative is merely hoping it will happen)
  2. Do you have a Gross Revenue & Net Profit target for each Market/Industry segment as relevant to your business?
  3. Do you have other targets for various indicators relevant to your business?
  4. Do you have a written comprehensive strategy with detailed action plans and teams to move toward strategy achievement?
  5. Have you identified key issues and risks hindering achievement of growth plans?
  6. Do you have a risk management plan to protect the business against all reasonably foreseeable scenarios?
  7. Do you have a plan to ensure all systems and processes to keep up with proposed growth are reviewed, installed, updated or changed?
  8. Is there a plan to adequately fund all proposed areas of growth for the business?

Combined, the answers to these questions will give you a general, overall picture of the strengths and weakness of your business. This will give you clarity as you move towards improved business performance.

If you’d like assistance with business performance or any of the issues these questions raise in your business, we’d love to hear from you. Leadership Services is committed to seeing businesses thrive through team building, effective leadership and strategic operational planning. We help businesses Dream. Plan. Achieve.

Business Broadband Deals

Any business, whether it is home based or, a large enterprise that employs several individuals, choosing the best broadband deals would go a long way in helping the owner of the business save a great deal in terms of the money as well as the time invested. Irrespective of the nature of the size of the business venture, the number of employees that it employs or the genre of the business, it would need a phone as well as an Internet to operate and function these days. It becomes imperative that business owners thoroughly analyze the existing market and only then opt for the best broadband package that would best suit their company’s financial as well as future prospects.

While going in for Business Broadband Deals, it would augur well for companies to compare several other packages available, procuring quotations from other service providers and comparing them, apart from visiting the websites of the companies and comprehensively scrutinizing the feedback of the customers as these measures would only help in accelerating their savings. By choosing both the phone as well as the Broadband packages as one collective deal, the customers secure the benefit of saving hugely on the price per deal. But on the other hand, if the customers take the time off to compare a variety of providers before getting to closing in on one, they stand a better chance of finding a better service provider at a more affordable cost. Based upon the number of employees in the office, the number of computers installed apart from the number of phones used by the employees, it would always be better that the business owner chooses to go in for a Business Broadband Deal that is wireless, as so that each employee not only has an access to the internet, but also to the wireless phone connection at their work stations.

There would be multiple Business Broadband speeds. Depending upon how many computers are there on the network and the network speeds that the business houses are wanting to conduct their businesses in, it would be far more practical and viable that the business enterprises go in for faster network speeds so that their customers could get to have a quick insight into the inventory orders placed and any other information as fast as they possibly could or perhaps redress issues that might come with a client or a client order. A speedy and a quick broadband connectivity would also mean a better productivity of the employees, maximum output as well as better client response and revenues.

Businesses these days prefer to opt for bundled up packages of both the phone as well as the Broadband Deals as they come by at lower rates as well as services. These packages also rest assure the customers that the quality of the services as well as that of the Internet would be as fast and as easily accessible as ever.

HOW DO COMPANIES GO ABOUT CHOOSING THEIR BUSINESS BROADBAND DEALS:

Getting the best of the Business Broadband Deals is not that difficult a proposition. No matter what the size of the company might be,there are Broadband package to befit every business and every budget.

SUPPORT

This would mean that the company is not left in the dark, if and when the Internet connection snaps off. As most levels of business packages offer some level of extra support, the businesses would not have to be left in the lurch without any adequate backup support, never mind if it only is a dialup support.

SECURITY SUPPORT

This ensures that the companies go in for a good as well as an economical service provider, that saves both the time as well as the money of the business owner in terms of ANY lost files and information being both saved as well as retrieved, as when necessary. Since hackers generally target business computers rather than home computers, it would auger well for business houses to keep their internet connection secure with the basic security. And most Business Broadband packages come with the extended facility where, the customers could get to choose the levels of security that would best suit their company at all levels.

RESTRICTIONS

This is one other aspect that business owners need to worry about and not the home owners per se, as the businesses would have to use various connections like the FTP and the Web Servers from their existing servers. Normally, it is pretty simple to organize and set up these types of ports that come with these extended services. But to do this, the customer has to ensure that the business has a static IP address which would mean a single address to any Business that does NOT change and one that is constant, unlike a home based Broadband.

PRICE

This feature as well as factor is incredibly important as this would play a crucial role in helping new establishments and companies save up on HUGE revenues when they desire to set up their business ventures. A better way to get the best Broadband deal, would be through comparing the prices of other service providers, their price, the quality of their service, the customer support offered. Nevertheless, what has to be reckoned with is that not all Business Broadband packages come with similar affordable rates and services.

5 Keys to a Successful Business

Business owners are some of the most optimistic, and often the craziest people in the world. No-one starts a business believing that it will fail. We are all absolutely convinced that our idea is a great one, that we will be successful (where others have failed) and that this business will change our lives for the better. If we did not feel that way, we would never take the risk to invest our own money, or borrow from others to start our business. The reality is however, that, according to the SBA, most businesses eventually fail and more that 50% do not survive beyond the first 3 years. Even if you manage to get that far, things can still go horribly wrong, as many seasoned business owners found out during the recession which hit us during 2009 to 2012.

So, does this mean that you should not start a business at all? Absolutely not. I believe that your business can be an outstanding success, if you approach it in the right way, avoid repeating previous mistakes and impose discipline on yourself as the owner. Here are some of my suggestions on how you can make sure that your business succeeds:

Discipline:

Lets start with you. Successful business owners are disciplined people and more often than not, businesses fail because their owners fail. Your business must compete to succeed. There is always someone out there, trying to win over as many of the customers that you are targeting. Business is competitive and if you do not intend to work hard and discipline yourself, then don’t get into the arena. Anywhere there is competition, there must be discipline. You could have the most unique skill, or the best product idea, but your business will never achieve its full potential, if you do not have discipline.

Discipline is a determination to work hard to get it right. It is not settling for mediocre results but rather working until you achieve the qualities and results that you need to compete. No-one will buy your product if it is substandard, or hire your services if you cannot deliver what you promise. Business discipline requires an eye for detail. I learned a valuable lesson very early on in my career. I was once required to do a financial presentation to a senior executive and felt that since I knew this stuff, I could get by with a minimum amount of research and preparation. I went to the meeting and had my presentation ripped to shreds. I was unable to answer questions that were obvious and fell way short on the detail needed to be credible and convincing. I left that meeting upset and angry, not with the executive, but with myself and vowed that this will never happen to me again. As a business owner you will not get things right every time. You will make mistakes and mess-up on occasion. But if your product or service fails, let it not be for lack of effort and discipline on your part, or that you were too lazy to do it right.

Due Diligence:

“A fool and his money are soon parted” – Dr. John Bridges
“All that glitters is not gold” – William Shakespeare
“There is a sucker born every minute” P.T. Barnum.

These old sayings are trying to warn us that not everything we think is an opportunity or a good business idea, is likely to succeed. There are many con-artists out there, whose sole purpose in life is to deceive you into making financial commitments and who have no problem in robbing you blind. It is therefore foolish on your part not to do proper due diligence on any business idea, franchise or entity you intend to buy or invest in. This is where many business failures occur. At the very beginning.

Due diligence is a serious matter for start-ups as well as on-going businesses. Large successful businesses are constantly doing “due diligence” on their internal processes (systems review, business process improvement, financial and strategic planning) as well as on any expansion thrust or acquisition they may contemplate. Start-ups need to do this as well, before they invest significant funds. Be wary of taking advice from people with vested interests in your decision. For example, you may be considering investing in a franchise. Don’t rely solely on the advice of the franchise vendor with its polished website and a persuasive story, to tell you what a great opportunity this is and how much money you will make. Get independent advice and do your homework before you invest.

Many people start businesses based on a personal passion. While this a great plus factor for success, because your passion drives you to overcome obstacles, it does carry the risk of making business decisions with your heart rather than your head. Sometimes we are too close to the project to be objective and we become emotionally committed too early. This is where an independent expert like an experienced business coach or adviser comes in handy. Some would-be business owners need to hear the brutal truth (in a compassionate way), before they go on to make the mistake of their lives. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6). Finally, don’t be taken in by those who pressure you into investing in “a once in a lifetime, limited space available” opportunity. Anytime someone says that to me, I take a step back, and take a good hard look, to see what I’m missing about the offer. It is better to miss out on a “limited offer” opportunity than to rush in and lose your money.

Marketing:

A well thought out and researched marketing plan is one of the most important ingredients that you need to succeed as a business owner. Unless you happen to own the only source of water in the desert, don’t expect people to automatically think of you and come flocking to your doors to buy your product. I worked in a corporate career as a CFO for many years before going off on my own. One of the biggest challenges that I faced when I decided to start my own consultancy business, was how to market my services. That is because, for many years, my job was about cleaning and cooking the fish that someone else caught. All of the businesses I worked for, had large, well staffed marketing departments, whose jobs it was to go out there and win customers. My job was to manage the money and make business decisions. That works fine if you are a part of a large well structured business. If however, you are the owner of a small business, marketing is not a secondary pursuit to be left to others, it is your primary point of focus. You may have a brilliant product or service to offer, but if you do not have a winning marketing plan, no-one will know about your business or care about what you sell. So, whether you are a small or large business owner, you must get involved and often drive the marketing function. You need to know the following:

What specific need does my product or service meet?
Who are my customers, what do they want and how much are they willing to pay for it?
How sustainable is the demand for my product or service?
What is it about my product/service that makes it unique? How can I take advantage of this?
Who are my competitors and what are they able to do better than me?
How do I reach out to potential customers to persuade them to buy my product /service?
How much money do I have available to promote my business?
What specific marketing/promotion activities will work best for me?

Answering these and other marketing questions would help you understand your product/service customer appeal and market potential and how it ranks against your competitors’ offerings. This forms the basis of your marketing strategy and business plan and is critical to your long term success.

Capital:

Raising sufficient capital to start and develop the business is very often the biggest challenge that entrepreneurs face. I have seen many, potentially successful businesses, grind to a halt because the owners did not have capital to take it from start-up, to sustainability. A business needs capital to acquire productive assets and fund its operations until the business itself can generate enough positive cash flow to continue as a going concern. Say as an example, you decide to start a restaurant. You would need capital to buy cooking equipment, furniture, renovate the premises to suit your needs, buy inventory, secure licenses and so on. This is what many people understand capital to be used for, the initial investment to start or acquire the business.

However it may take a while for your restaurant to become popular and attract enough clients to provide the revenue to fully fund operating costs. In the mean time you have overheads to pay such as monthly rent, wages to employees, advertizing costs, replenish inventory (drinks you sell and food ingredients you serve) and so on. This is where many businesses fail. The owners hope that the sales they generate in the future will cover their operating costs from day one and do not properly estimate the time it would take for the business to become established, during which the owner needs to have additional capital to carry the business.

Underestimating the point sustainability or “breakeven point” is a common and fatal mistake made by both seasoned and novice business owners. Before you start your new venture, you have got to realistically project your future cash flows and determine if you have sufficient capital to succeed. Here is what typically happens if you don’t do this. You start your new business by investing your life savings. Things go well for a while, but you soon realize that it is taking longer for the business to become established than you anticipated. Customers are coming in, but not in the numbers you first expected. A lower number of customers means less revenue to pay expenses and you quickly find yourself running out of money to pay suppliers and bills as they fall due. Next comes the juggling act of trying to figure out which suppliers to pay first and which ones you will stretch out far into the future. The calls begin to come in from creditors and you now find yourself working for free for a business that you love, but which is slowly dying, because it ran out of capital before it became sustainable. This is the most common reason for business failure and it supports the SBA statistic that it takes 3 years for a business to fail. That is the time the owner takes to realize the painful truth, that he/she never had sufficient capital to start the business in the first place.

Faith:

These four items, Owner Discipline, Due Diligence, Marketing Strategy and Adequate Funding are the main, universally applicable business ingredients needed to operate a successful business. There is however one more ingredient, which is personal to each business owner, and that is “faith”. I said earlier that business owners are either the most optimistic or the craziest people on earth. That is because we take risks with our capital as an act of faith, hoping for a successful outcome. It takes faith to start a business. But what is faith? It is an expectation that things will work out, or materialize, as we hope or believe. It is what gives substance to our hopes and dreams. The Bible tells us that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”. (Hebrews 11:1).

As believers in Christ, we have already established a platform of faith in our lives. We believe that an unseen God, who controls the universe, has a plan and a purpose for our individual lives. This plan is made real in us as we place our faith in our Lord Jesus as our personal savior and leader. Now, to everyone else, this is absolutely nuts. But to those of us who have taken this step of faith, it is as real as the air we breathe. Once we get to this point, every additional thing we do that requires faith, is built on this platform. As a result, our decision to start a business, is not based on an abstract optimism that things will somehow work out, but on the trust we establish in our Lord Jesus to lead and guide us.

I believe that when we become reconciled to God through faith in Jesus, an eternal destiny opens up to us. We who were all once distant from God, now draw close to Him and get plugged into His purpose for our lives. Our purpose for our businesses also transitions from simply being a source of personal wealth, to a tool that God uses to bless us and to bless others. As we actively cooperate with God as an act of unselfish faith, He leads us into decisions and opens doors for us, that we ourselves could not open, all according to His will and purpose. Being Christian business owners does not guarantee that we will all be rich and “successful”. It does however give our businesses and our lives an added dimension and very often, if we are committed to God’s processes, things work out to our benefit. Our role is to trust God for the unknown, follow His leading, even when this conflicts with our personal agenda and build our businesses on Biblical principles. When we take this approach, we have the assurance “that all things work together for good for those that love the Lord and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). This hope applies to our all aspects of our lives, including our businesses.

Business Loan Rates and Small Business Growth

Americans know that friendly business loan rates and small business growth are essential to the growth of the economy, and new business owners have many avenues for creating a successful start-up. Recent investigations by the Small Business Administration, which offers SBA loans to small businesses around the country, suggests that small businesses account for over half of all the sales made in the United States each year. Even more importantly, small businesses provide employment for over half the jobs in the country, as well as a significant number of all new jobs created in the country since the 1970s.

When a bank determines what business loan rates it will offer a client, one of the primary characteristics investigated is the history of the borrower. For new business owners or anyone looking to create a start-up, getting a great rate on commercial real estate loans is often dependent upon business history, which might not exist for some new business owners. In such cases, the only way to get low rates or even get a loan in the first place is when the business owner puts up his or her own collateral or uses his or her credit history to secure the loan.

This reliance upon an individual’s credit for new business loans is why it’s important to have all of one’s financial “ducks” in a row before applying for an SBA loan or any loan connected with a new business. Business loan rates fluctuate just like the economy, and one of the primary indications of whether a bank will loan an individual money is whether the business will be able to survive the expected fluctuations of the economy. A few months or even a few quarters of poor sales shouldn’t mean a new business needs to shut its doors. Some type of emergency reserve, collateral, or savings is an essential buffer for any business.

Sometimes it’s best to think of commercial real estate loans in the same way a borrower might approach a traditional mortgage. Securing a low mortgage rate means coming to the table with great credit. The same might be said for commercial loans. Business loan rates that are low are awarded when an applicant or business has good credit. However, new business owners must also consider a variety of other issues that will come under investigation by the bank such as cash flow and the industry in which a business will operate. Due to these additional factors, a borrower might need to go beyond a standard mortgage rate calculator to one with additional variables.

It might seem like an impossible feat to convince a bank of the creditworthiness of an individual who has never owned a business before; however, some options exist for ensuring a new application is granted the lowest possible business loan rates. For example, a new business owner may provide past examples of business success, even if the owner wasn’t at the head of a company during those successes. Perhaps a business owner once worked in the financial department of his or her last company and was able to save the company thousands of dollars with innovative ideas.

According to the Small Business Administration, small businesses occupy somewhere between 20 to 34 billion square feet of commercial space in the United States. Keeping that number on an upward trend is essential for America, and small business loans, as well as commercial real estate loans, help keep the country growing in a post-recession environment. Business owners who make smart decisions about credit and arrive at a bank with the best possible application will ensure the business opens its doors with the best possible financial future. Entrepreneurs should investigate business loan rates and help make sure the economy continues to grow through new small businesses and valuable jobs.

Joe Mackey has spent 22 years in the real estate industry, covering market trends, acquisitions, valuation and lending. As one of the top commercial mortgage lenders online helping commercial real estate investors obtain the best options on the best business loan rates [http://commercialmortgageconcepts.com/] for commercial real estate loans, he constantly strives to help those he’s associated with obtain a better understanding of their investment. Call him today and you’ll quickly see why his commercial property expertise is vital for your commercial real estate transaction.

Importance of Online Business Data Listing Management for Small Business

The entrepreneur who really wants to be successful with his or her small business should be ingenious to look for new and innovative ways to advertise products and services to reach a wider market share. It has been found credible by many research studies that it is worth the time of any creative entrepreneur to build his or her business online. Particularly, the Internet has today offered remarkable ways an entrepreneur can build any business online and generate revenue.

Recent available statistics speak positive about the fact that, over 81 percent of small business owners are reported to have their presence known online and over 30 percent are reported to generate over 25 percent of their revenue online. The ingenious entrepreneur cannot therefore ignore the fact that the Internet has been found in many important ways to help improve the image of small enterprises in a greater scale. Company websites, for instance, have been found relevant by most businesses and does underscore the importance of online business data listing management.

Essentially in this respect, the Internet has become a way of proven enterprise management for small business development and growth through which an entrepreneur can also provide information about products and services online. Online business data management listing has become a very efficient way entrepreneurs provide good customer service and support that help businesses retain customers and build the enterprise with increased customer satisfaction and profitability.

Benefits of a Wider Market Share

Further importance of online business data listing management is the possibilities it offers by growth in terms of a wider range of market share and the ability to promote products and services at any given time. Other benefits associated with online business data listing management are reflected in the effective use of low startup costs to build an enterprise online and the ability an entrepreneur has with no-cost social marketing advertising. With online business data listing management an entrepreneur can literally benefit from small business branding on a limited budget. An entrepreneur’s business name and logo are tools he or she can effectively use to project the visible face of the products and services the entrepreneur is going to provide to potential clients.

Benefits of Small Business Apps

Also, there are small business apps an entrepreneur can integrate into his or her online business data listing management framework to enhance enterprise development and success. Some of these capable business applications focus on financials and accounting fundamentals an entrepreneur can use to manage business general ledger data, accounts payable and receivables.

There are also business apps with the principal focus on tracking billable work processes and productivity. With productivity apps an entrepreneur can generate and organically manage documents with business data in a very efficient way and can secure sensitive and high profiled data sufficiently protected within the company’s virtual domain.

Also, the utility and support in communication and collaboration among employees, customers and external contacts can be a resource within any online business data listing management framework.

There is also availability of the more traditional business apps such as office suites online, payroll and small business accounting software or invoicing and expense software-all are varied enterprise applications a capable online data listing management framework can be built upon as business solutions tailored for successful business management and growth. In this case, there are leading business accounting software packages such as QuickBooks and Peachtree which can make business accounting and tax filing purposes simple for any entrepreneur. These software applications can also allow import of data into one or more tax preparation programs.

There are as well free accounting applications such as GNUCash software-a free open source accounting program with a simple interface but with load-full of in-depth accounting functions and features; and BizFusion which is another accessible online small business accounting system with nine modules all on a single interface that works just like Microsoft Outlook 2007 and focuses on inventory, project and asset management with a full built-in small business accounting solution that can provide the entrepreneur with a more complete business picture (including an analysis of competitors) in a single system.

Any entrepreneur can therefore be resourceful and ingenious to implement an online business data listing management for his or her business to improve business efficiency and effectiveness. Even with smaller steps an entrepreneur can take over time to build a full online business data listing management program for his or her small business will see growth benefits accrue. Auspiciously, hardware and software costs are today quite affordable and the processing capacity and performance for both servers and networks have literally opened up a variety of opportunities for small business automation entrepreneurs looking to start their own business and small business owners that have limited budget can work with to build and grow their businesses.

Top Tips In Finding The Best Business Mobile Phone Plans For Your Small Business

The mobile phone is a significant and indispensable communication tool for small entrepreneurs. It can be useful when following up with suppliers and customers, or when communicating with employees, and a way to make their small business accessible to their potential customers.

The only setback with this kind of communication is the high price tag small business owners have to pay. Many small business owners discover that their monthly phone bills comprise a huge chunk of their overhead and operation costs.

Deciding on the best mobile phone plan for your small business can be a truly daunting task. Several considerations have to be made in order for you to make sure that you get the maximum cost savings for your business. In this article, we will help you find the best business mobile phone plans for business.

Communication is crucial for any small business. To be able to succeed and make more profits in today’s economically competitive environment, businesses need the right tools to succeed and outsmart the competition.

Selecting the perfect business mobile phone plan is an essential part of any business be it big or small. Yet, with the wide array of competing business plans on the market these days, getting through the labyrinth and finding the perfect plan for the needs of your small business can really be tricky. As you scour the market for the best business mobile plan for your small business, you also have to carefully assess your needs and set your priorities right.

Read on below to learn things you should consider when choosing a small business mobile phone plan and find out how you can further improve your business with the best business mobile phone plans today.

Here are top five tips to help small business entrepreneurs find the best phone plan for their small business:

1. Discover the plan that matches your individual usage.

Ask yourself what do you use more often? Long distance, day time minutes, data, or do most of the calls take place after office hours? Analyse your own usage patterns and find the plan that best matches your business needs. Most pricing are organized so that users may select the best alternatives possible such as an unlimited calling after business hours, low rate long distance, unlimited weekend calls or even unlimited long distance for $10 a month.

2. Research and find telecommunication companies that cater to small business

Go to various telecommunication websites and look for the special business or enterprise sections of their website for information on business phone plans. Their sales representatives at the store fronts, dealerships, or other strategic locations will be more than willing to assist you with your inquiries regarding consumer based products and plans. They will surely have the exact same plans available to meet the various needs of any business.

3. Regard yourself like any other business

Do not belittle your business or take yourself for granted, even if you are small, it does not mean you don’t qualify for a business pricing. Major carriers will provide small business price plans to even solo entrepreneurs who are heavy users. Just the same, if you are a family business on a family plan, do not be afraid to ask about business pricing to get everyone the amount of minutes, long distance, as well as data needed to communicate to customers and within the business more effectively. Streamlining your plan to do away with overrated charges is the key.

4. Demand for perks and freebies

Small business plans may also come with the added perks and freebies much like big businesses and business owner find this immensely helpful. If they offer freebies, by all mean avail of it! You are very much entitled to these as would your bigger business counterparts. Check for better hardware replacement guarantees for your consumer plans for best possible plans.

5. Get the best deals possible for business owners like you

Bear in mind that business pricing does not solely apply to wireless plans. Several substantially sized telecoms offer business pricing on all of their products, such as cable and internet. These plans basically provide even bigger bundle discounts compared to regular consumers can access.

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