What Makes a Small Business Tick?

There has been a great deal of talk recently about small businesses:  how they are formed, how they should be treated in the tax codes, whether they should be required to purchase health insurance for their employees or how they will keep going in the face of a struggling economy.  One thing that many so-called “experts” ignore, however, is the fact that small businesses have always existed, in the best of times and the worst.  What makes a successful small business keep going day-to-day and what separates a successful business owner from one who folds?

Many people do not realize that a successful small business venture is really a series of small decisions that add up to big results—for the good or the bad!  Here are a few examples of how small decisions made every day can impact your small business in a big way and result in ultimate success for you.

  • Start where you are.  Too many people borrow far too much money to start “at the top” of their small business field, then ultimately end up failing.  In everything you do, ask yourself, “How is this going to benefit my business?”  Set reasonable, reachable goals and then achieve them before moving on to bigger things.
  • Be concrete.  Successful business owners know the secret of being concrete in all of their goal setting.  They never say, “I want to make more money.”  Instead, their statements are more like, “I want to increase revenue this year by 20 percent.”  Not only do they make concrete goals, they measure their success periodically by seeing how they have met, exceeded or failed to meet those goals.
  • Analyze.  Every business has failures.  The question is not whether you will make mistakes but whether you will learn from them.  If you lose a client, miss a deadline or have some other catastrophe, you must be able to look honestly at yourself and determine why it happened.

These may not be the “fancy” characteristics of business owners, but they are the ones that work!

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What Makes a Small Business Tick?

There has been a great deal of talk recently about small businesses:  how they are formed, how they should be treated in the tax codes, whether they should be required to purchase health insurance for their employees or how they will keep going in the face of a struggling economy.  One thing that many so-called “experts” ignore, however, is the fact that small businesses have always existed, in the best of times and the worst.  What makes a successful small business keep going day-to-day and what separates a successful business owner from one who folds?

Many people do not realize that a successful small business venture is really a series of small decisions that add up to big results—for the good or the bad!  Here are a few examples of how small decisions made every day can impact your small business in a big way and result in ultimate success for you.

 

  • Start where you are.  Too many people borrow far too much money to start “at the top” of their small business field, then ultimately end up failing.  In everything you do, ask yourself, “How is this going to benefit my business?”  Set reasonable, reachable goals and then achieve them before moving on to bigger things.
  • Be concrete.  Successful business owners know the secret of being concrete in all of their goal setting.  They never say, “I want to make more money.”  Instead, their statements are more like, “I want to increase revenue this year by 20 percent.”  Not only do they make concrete goals, they measure their success periodically by seeing how they have met, exceeded or failed to meet those goals.
  • Analyze.  Every business has failures.  The question is not whether you will make mistakes but whether you will learn from them.  If you lose a client, miss a deadline or have some other catastrophe, you must be able to look honestly at yourself and determine why it happened.

These may not be the “fancy” characteristics of business owners, but they are the ones that work!

 

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5 Branding Rules to Live By

It is tough to succeed in our challenging economy. Because of this, owners of small businesses have to manage their brands effectively. People do business with brands they know and trust. Therefore, Blair Stover gives you five branding rules to live by.

The first is to stay centered. Your brand must be focused to be successful. Clear values and a definitive purpose need to be established.

Remember that “Givers gain”. This is as true in business as in personal lives. A brand will gain much as it contributes to its community and world. Define a “give back” strategy for your brand that will align with your core base of customers.

Be sure to connect with other brands that are complementary to yours. If you can, connect with brands which share your core client base and your brand values. Try to be innovative with your strategies that will get customers engaged, and both brands will benefit.

Give your brand clout. Create influence for your brand in any way you have the power to do so. Whenever appropriate, seek out relevant cause endorsements or celebrity endorsements. Look for activities that you can connect your brand and that will raise exposure and brand profile. Use your personal reputation and connections to enhance your brand.

Be consistent. Ensure that your brand’s products or services consistently delivers with quality. A brand’s reputation can take a very long time to build. However, it can be destroyed in an instant. Keep loyal customers by rewarding them. Keep excitement consistent for your brand through brand offerings. Strive to exceed your personal standards of excellence.

How do you keep your fans loyal and engaged?

 

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How to Excel This Holiday Season

The holiday season is upon us. Small business owners understand that the holiday season generally represents half of annual sales. Thus, the last quarter of the year is a make-or-break season for most businesses. Blair Stover has strategies that can help you excel this holiday season.

Merry Christmas!

(Photo credit: Kelvin Servigon)

Most businesses experience this holiday busy season, it is not just for retail business. Personal services, such as salons experience the holiday rush. Even lawyers, accountants, and other business-service providers often find their busiest time to be during the holiday rush. The holidays seem to make everyone busier and that will likely apply to your business as well.

With the holidays closing in, it is time to get out there and present your services or products. Anything that may be given as a gift, including services, should be presented to potential customers as soon as possible. Keep in mind that many consumers are already getting their holiday shopping underway. In fact, research shows that 39% of people start their holiday shopping prior to Halloween, 40% begin in November, while only 21% wait until December to start.

This year, shoppers may begin even earlier. With the first night of Hanukkah being the night before Thanksgiving, this is a pretty big deal. Hanukkah has not begun this early since 1899, and it typically aligns more closely with Christmas. Because of this, Jewish shoppers will be completing their shopping at a much earlier date than in the past.

In addition to this, only 26 full shopping days will exist between Thanksgiving and Christmas, with the later Thanksgiving date this year. This is a more condensed shopping season, with possibly more frazzled customers.

So get out there and start getting your products and services into the market, as this holiday season is not only shorter but likely to be even more crazy than the last.

 

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5 Tips to Improve Your Startup Pitch

Your start-up pitch is your foot in the door and a strong start-up pitch is imperative to your business. Blair Stover has some simple ways to improve your start-up pitch.

First, call mom. Explain your startup pitch to your grandma or your mom. Try your pitch on them. If they don’t get it you need condense and find a different way to explain your concept in an easy to understand way.

Once you have your wording down, record yourself giving your pitch. Review the tapes and assess your pace of speech, tone, and facial expressions. Seeing yourself can help you pinpoint nuances you were not aware of and improve.

Put yourself in the hot-seat. Pitch to someone who you know will say no. These skeptics will ask you the most challenging questions. Keep your pitch the same as you usually would. This is the best way to find out what the real questions you will be asked by real targets.

Also, practice with strangers. Strangers who are not in your industry will be the best. Try your pitch on the person waiting in line at the grocery store, the coffee shop, or your neighbor on an airplane. Once people begin asking to hear more about that, you will know your pitch is getting better.

Put yourself to the test. At the next event or party, ask your new friend to explain what your company does to the next person to join your group. If they are not able to give a clear and concise pitch, you must not have been very clear in your pitch either.

 

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Get Your Team Going Again: 4 Tips to Help Motivate

Being in charge of a group, whether it is a small team or a massive set of employees, means that you have to be on top of your game at every turn. Think of your group as a professional sports team – they can hit rough patches just like anyone else. The key to getting them back on track is focusing on deeper issues.

As Blair Stover explains below, asking the following questions when problems arise in your group may help get things back on track and productive once more.

Goals: Make sure your team knows the common goal and your group is all for it. If the team doesn’t see a connection between the goal and the tasks they perform it will cause conflict quickly.

Roles: Documenting and defining your team’s role is very important in the grand scheme of things. Expectations have to be consistent and the authoritative level has to be clear for each role. Make sure that each team member embraces his or her roles.

Procedures: Make sure each procedure is clearly defined, communicated and documented. This will help the team share info, coordinate hand-offs, make decisions, prioritize work, resolve conflict and review their work.

Relationships: Make sure that each one of your team members respects each other when it comes to their job. They do not have to like one another when it’s quitting time, but when they are on the clock everything has to run like clockwork. Make sure trust is there and each one knows and appreciates each other’s knowledge and work skills.

 

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Would You Borrow From PayPal?

PayPal has jumped into the small business loans mix. This is welcome news for many who have been victim to mounting interest and constricted bank credit, and for many PayPal’s newest venture may be just the answer to that start-up financing problem. Blair Stover explores this alternative to traditional banking.

Image representing PayPal as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

This new lending program is known as PayPal Working Capital. This program offers 90,000 of the company’s merchants a borrowing option of as much as 8% of their PayPal annual volume. This does, however, max out at $20,000.

Charges are repaid as a set fee in the form of a deduction of 10-30% of incoming receipts automatically. This fee continues until the balance is paid in full. Fees are lower based on the greater percentage of payback. Once the balance of one loan is paid in full, merchants are free to apply for a new loan as often as they like.

What’s in it for PayPal? The company keeps itself well-secured as they only offer credit to existing customers. Such customers have already proven a healthy cash flow to the company. Financial records of this are readily available to the company. This program is easy for the borrower and the lender to implement and understand.

The entrepreneur’s cost is presented as a singular number. There are no additional fees for loan set up and there are no fees for prepayments. As repayment is set up in a recurring automatic deduction of incoming funds, management of the repayment is managed for the entrepreneur. Late payments and forgotten payments will be a nonissue as PayPal is already in control of incoming receipts for the merchant.

So what do you think: is PayPall Working Capital an option you’ll be exploring?

 

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Tips for Hiring the Best Fit

After reading Gallup’s annual State of the American Workplace report, one finds that the numbers are less than encouraging. Nearly 70 percent of employees are actively disengaged or are simply disengaged from their jobs. Blair Stover cautions that some of your employees may be among them. However, it does not have to be that way.

Some of the disengagement can be accounted to personal issues. Looking closely, however, at disengagement inside the workplace itself, the main reason is found in employee perception. Employee concept of where one should be and the actuality of where they are in their career often leads to disharmony.

To work on avoiding disengagement, recognize the stock pattern. Listen to your employees. Thank them for their work. Provide competitive perks. If you can, attempt to be flexible about work times and working from home for each employee.

The most important step to take is to hire employees who will walk into the position engaged and excited to be there. This is the type of employee who is more likely to stay in the position and remain that way in the future.

Look for evidence of engagement patterns in those you hire, and the jobs they have held before. Some people are just driven to work harder than others, regardless of the job they hold. This will be evident to some degree when you meet he person. But, more so, when you check into references. A worker who leaves a trail of fans will have their drive and desire to thank for it.

 

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Do You Have the Personality to Lead?

Attention, introverts! Today, Blair Stover examines the opinion that personality does not determine leadership ability. Just because you’re an introvert doesn’t mean that you can’t be a successful leader. In fact, both extroverts and introverts can prove successful leaders, as leadership and management skills can be learned, adjusted, modified and improved upon – not just inherited along with your personality type.

Simple emoticons of the five temperaments: San...

Simple emoticons of the five temperaments: Sanguine (top right), Choleric (bottom right), Melancholy (bottom left), and Phlegmatic (centre), with the new temperament Supine (top left) and Phlegmatic blends in between. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, the co-authors of the Leadership Practices Inventory survey and report, leadership is a set of skills that can be learned by anyone who has the desire to do so, whether that person is an introvert or extrovert. In fact, both extroverts and introverts are capable of providing truly successful leadership. While extroverts tend to express themselves with vigor, introverts usually express themselves via quiet conversation, which can lead to more person-to-person mentoring and interactions – which are also efficient ways to lead others.

No matter one’s personality type, anyone can learn how to communicate his or her vision, values and expectations. Whether you’re an extrovert who lead brainstorming opportunities or are more vocal and direct in these brainstorming sessions, or if you’re an introvert who tends to exchange ideas one-on-one or imagine brainstorm on your own before opening it up to other people, you can be successful in leading others, as well as you’re willing to hone your management skills. The fact that both introverts and extroverts can prove successful leaders should pave the way for all personality types to forge ahead in their professional endeavors.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Are you in a leadership position already or hoping to attain one? What are you doing to get ready for that position?

 

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Resolving Conflict Within Your Start-Up Team

Heated Argument

Heated Argument (Photo credit: kurichan+)

Need some tips for resolving conflict within your start-up team? Whether it’s agreeing on which candidate to hire or which business strategy to take on, read on for some conflict resolution tips from Blair Stover.

1. Ask for a different perspective. As comfortable as you are with your viewpoint, your team member is most likely just as comfortable with his or her own viewpoint. Before sharing your reasoning, ask – and truly listen – about another teammate’s viewpoint. Ask that person about the benefits they see from his or her own approach, or perhaps how they have reached that perspective or viewpoint on the matter.

2.  It’s not enough to simply ask for a different perspective. You must also listen and consider that other viewpoint. Do not negate that person’s viewpoint, but rather repeat back to them what you believe you have heard until you both come to a consensus about his or her viewpoint, making sure both parties understand it.

3. Don’t shy away from criticism. Make it a habit to ask others for their critical take on your own viewpoint or plan. Doing so will make it a more welcome environment for everyone to talk critically and wisely about each others’ viewpoints, in order to reach one cohesive viewpoint or plan of action. Use these insights to develop new proposals.

4. If the first three steps don’t work, bring in an impartial third party. Talk it out with the third party and don’t pressure that third party to pick one side over the other, as doing so will diminish the credibility of the entire process.

While these methods are useful, they aren’t the only ways to resolve conflict. Share, in the comments below, tips and tricks you’ve learned to keeping your team working smoothly.

 

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